IRL: Phoenix Friday Practice Story

David Reininger - Motorsport.com Sam Hornish Jr. set the fastest speed in practice for Sunday's Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway today. Hornish moves to the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara for the 2001 season...

David Reininger - Motorsport.com

Sam Hornish Jr. set the fastest speed in practice for Sunday's Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway today. Hornish moves to the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara for the 2001 season after displaying remarkable talent with an under-funded team last year.

"The biggest comfort level for me this year, is knowing I'm going to be able to make it to every race," said Hornish. "If you wreck a car or two, it's not going to be the end of the world and it's not going to make you not finish the season. Having financing is always a plus in a team, but this year I'm with a team with a lot of experience, a lot of background. I'm driven to succeed because of the history that's involved with the Pennzoil ride."

"The car is running pretty good right now," said Hornish, after touring the one-mile desert oval at an average speed of 173.451 mph.

The day's top two drivers set their fastest laps in the morning practice session.

"We know we're not going to be as quick because of the hotter temperatures," said Hornish of the afternoon session. "We're going to go out in the afternoon and work on our race setup and get ready for Sunday. We feel like we have a pretty good qualifying setup, but we'll work on it a little bit tomorrrow.

Eliseo Salazar was the second fastest driver of the day, turning in a speed of 172.324 mph. "Practice went pretty well this morning," said Salazar, who will drive the single A.J. Foyt entry in Sunday's race. "We ran half the laps of anyone else. We were the second fastest just one one-hundredth off the quick time. We expect to be in the top three in qualifying."

Stan Wattles, fastest driver in the afternoon session, ended up third on the day's speed chart with a speed of 172.188 mph. Wattles views Phoenix as a challenge for the driver and the engineer. "You have two different corners," said Wattles, "turn one-two is a mechanical corner, turn three-four is aero. It's a good challenge. You've got to find that balance where it will work in both places and you won't give up too much."

"It takes a lot for a driver to really put everything together, so he can pass at will or do whatever he wants."

With four divisions sharing the speedway this weekend, rubber from different tire compounds often causes problems for the drivers. "It's makes the track slippery for everybody," said Wattles. "We're in the second group, so we're a little bit lucky because we get the rubber from our first group put down. The combination of the heat and the softer rubber on the track is making for a little bit more of a difficult ride. If you keep that in mind, you'll be all right."

Fourth fastest on the day was Eddie Cheever, one of two drivers in the field with Infiniti-powered cars. "The day was good," said Cheever. "It was a continuation of our test here when we turned our first laps with the Infiniti Indy 35A. We've changed the Excite @ Home car a little bit since then and it's better."

"In the afternoon, we did some full tank runs. The No. 51 car is better on empty tanks than it is on full, but things are coming along well. There's a lot of work to do, but it's a good start."

"We've have decided to continue with the new engine even though it only has 500 miles on it to date. The Infiniti 35A is our future, so we're going to jump at the deep end and race it this weekend," said Cheever who first tested the new Infiniti engine here two weeks ago.

Buddy Lazier was fifth on the day, followed by Billy Boat, Greg Ray and Sarah Fisher in eighth.

Felipe Giaffone was the fastest rookie of the day. His lap at 168.748 mph placed the driver of the Treadway-Hubbard Racing Hollywood G Force 15th fastest of the day.

CART invaders, Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished the day 9th and 20th respectively.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Billy Boat , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Stan Wattles , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing