IRL: Nashville: AGR/Kanaan preview

7-Eleven's Kanaan hoping to pick up where he left off at Nashville Superspeedway INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 15, 2003) -- Having the fastest car in testing doesn't guarantee a driver anything when he returns for race weekend. But, it sure doesn't...

7-Eleven's Kanaan hoping to pick up where he left off at Nashville Superspeedway

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 15, 2003) -- Having the fastest car in testing doesn't guarantee a driver anything when he returns for race weekend. But, it sure doesn't hurt, either.

Such is the case for Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan, who posted the quickest lap in the Indy Racing League (IRL) Open Test last week at Nashville Superspeedway. Kanaan, who takes a 31-point lead into Saturday INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 15, 2003) -- Having the fastest car in testing doesn't guarantee a driver anything when he returns for race weekend. But, it sure doesn't hurt, either.

Such is the case for Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan, who posted the quickest lap in the Indy Racing League (IRL) Open Test last week at Nashville Superspeedway. Kanaan, who takes a 31-point lead into Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville, turned a lap of 205.453 miles per hour in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone to top the list of 15 drivers who tested there.

Although he came up to speed quickly in his first appearance at Nashville, Kanaan knows he'll have to back that effort up during the race weekend for it to mean anything.

"Anytime you are fast in a test you are going to feel pretty good going back for the race," said Kanaan. "But, we still have a lot of things to learn there. The concrete is a little different than asphalt and it's a little bumpier, but it's a fun track to drive. The test was my first time there and the series is so competitive, so the whole Team 7-Eleven will need to work hard when we get back to Nashville to give us a fast car for qualifying and the race."

A fast car is something Kanaan was very familiar with during the first half of the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series season, as he drove to a league-leading three pole positions, one win, seven top-five and seven top-10 finishes. His seven top-five and seven top-10 results are also series- leading stats.

Even with his strong showing during the first eight events of the year, Kanaan finds himself in the middle of a tight IndyCar Series points battle with Scott Dixon, who used three victories in his first eight starts to ascend to the #2 spot in the rankings.

"Scoring points for the championship is very important, but the main thing is winning races," said Kanaan. "If you get the most points out of the race, that is how you extend your lead and grow your advantage. Right now, we're concentrating on winning races, but being smart to evaluate the situations that we have and make the best out of it if you can't win."

Andretti Green Racing president Kim Green is happy with where the team is at heading into this weekend's event, but believes they'll need to stay aggressive in order to turn their impressive testing results into a successful race weekend.

"We tested well down there," said Green, "but we've tested well at other places this year and still find that it is very competitive on the race weekends, so I think we're still going to have to go back to Nashville with a few more tricks up our sleeve.

"Having watched the race from last year, there is not a lot of grip off-line, so it's a fairly narrow track from the racing standpoint. We made some long runs during the test, but we've certainly still got some things to learn and some things to improve."

Qualifying for Round 9 of the IRL IndyCar Series is set for 4:45 p.m. (EDT) on Friday with the Firestone Indy 200 slated for 8 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, airing live on ESPN2.

- AGR -

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Kim Green