Can't blunt Sharp's progress with new Panoz AVONDALE, February 10, 2005 - Final open practice for the tenth Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season ended early today as rain cut short any attempts to optimize cars on the fast Phoenix ...
Can't blunt Sharp's progress with new Panoz
AVONDALE, February 10, 2005 - Final open practice for the tenth Indy Racing League IndyCar Series season ended early today as rain cut short any attempts to optimize cars on the fast Phoenix International Raceway mile oval. Following a full day of practice on Wednesday, the eight members of the Panoz Racing family were forced to end their tests earlier than planned.
As he did in the initial 2005 open test last month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Scott Sharp paced the Panoz team members with his Fernandez Racing #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone challenger, scoring the fifth fastest lap of 174.271mph this afternoon. The IndyCar Series veteran declared his pleasure with the sole American designed and built IRL chassis currently in use: "I'm thrilled," the Connecticut native said.
"Right out of the box I felt comfortable with the car; the team made some improvements throughout the test and we learned some things that give us a great place to pick up for the race next month. This has been a great couple of days," Sharp continued. "We really worked through a lot of programs today and tried to concentrate on what we can do to help us here and at the other short tracks. We got a little bit of race setup in, so it was a good test."
2004 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner Buddy Rice was second amongst the Panoz drivers and seventh overall at 173.973mph, after taking the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda to a total tour of 319 laps.
The Arizona native had a full list of details to accomplish over this test and had to carry much of the Rahal Letterman Racing load when teammate Vitor Meira (#17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda) suffered an engine problem yesterday. The third member of the team, Danica Patrick turned more laps of the fast mile oval to learn her car and was still within a couple miles per hour of her two more accomplished teammates.
The three Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers, 2003 IRL champ Scott Dixon, sophomore Darren Manning and rookie Ryan Briscoe were trying out a wide variety of setup options; all three had to curtail their progress with soft engines but were pleased with the progress of their chassis development, highlighted by the added downforce available to them this season.
"Track time here is the same for all of the teams," noted Richard Wilks of Panoz. "Each of our clients is trying something different as they prepare for this race yet all realize the cool, overcast conditions we are experiencing here are unlikely to occur when we return in March, but at least we all learned what direction to go."
The tenth IndyCar Series season of 17 races begins March 4-6 with the Toyota Indy 300 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile banked oval. The XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 takes the green flags on Phoenix International Raceway's flat mile oval March 19th.