IRL: Phoenix test, day one report

INDYCAR SERIES TEAMS BACK ON TRACK IN PHOENIX AVONDALE, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006 -- "Happy" was the word of the day, as 15 Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series teams shook off the rust from the offseason at an IRL test at Phoenix...

INDYCAR SERIES TEAMS BACK ON TRACK IN PHOENIX

AVONDALE, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2006 -- "Happy" was the word of the day, as 15 Indy Racing League IndyCar® Series teams shook off the rust from the offseason at an IRL test at Phoenix International Raceway.

Teams turned 1,255 trouble-free miles on the first day of a two-day test held to allow teams to familiarize themselves with their equipment. Among the teams testing new packages were Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Marlboro Team Penske, which are running Honda-powered Dallaras for the first time.

"Honda was very good to Marlboro Team Penske in 2000 and 2001, so it is nice to be back with them," said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who recorded the second-fastest lap of the day of 20.6908 seconds, 173.990 mph. "It's also good to be back in a car, too. It's been a long vacation, and I'm very happy to be back in a car today."

The day also marked the debut of 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine.

"It was good to get started with Target Chip Ganassi Racing," Wheldon said. "You can see why they've won so many championships and the Indy 500 with Juan Pablo (Montoya). It's good to be back in the car. It was very enjoyable. We just focused on some stuff that we need to work on for the short oval. Obviously, the Dallara is new to the team. It was good to get my relationship started up again with Andy Brown. Everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing has made me feel welcome. We just have some work to do to speed up the learning process for everybody, but overall it was a good first day."

2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan turned the fastest lap of the day with a lap of 20.6161 seconds, 174.621 mph.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Honda was very good to Marlboro Team Penske in 2000 and 2001, so it is nice to be back with them. It's also good to be back in a car, too. It's been a long vacation and I'm very happy to be back in a car today."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It went pretty well. We've been trying to work through the biggest projects that we have with the new car. We're not running for time right now. The car has been really consistent and the new package with Honda and Dallara has been nice, so far. (About being back in an IndyCar Series car): "It's good to be back in the car. You kind of forget how long it has been after a few laps. Phoenix has always been fun for the drivers, so I'm happy to start the year here."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was nice to be back in the car, albeit a different car with the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car. I kept wanting to go into the ArcaEx pit every time I came into the pit box. It's good, but we had a very good car in the race here last year. Ultimately, we're testing for the races at Milwaukee and Richmond, and to a certain degree Nashville. We're not really too worried about an ultimate car for Phoenix. We've got to have the confidence that we can to do the job. There's always that part of you that wants to go look at the time sheet, but you have to have the discipline not to."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a good day. We were working on some different things on the setup and we learned some stuff. We were able to put it all together there at the end of the day. I'm very happy with today, hopefully we can build on that and have another successful day tomorrow. (About being back in an IndyCar Series car): "It's too long being out of a car for me. I like the break after the season's over, but I've been ready to go for a while now."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Everything went real well for Marlboro Team Penske from start to finish. We have a long day tomorrow and have a lot of things to do. We just didn't want to get too far into the program and use up too many tires. We only have three sets for the test, so we went out and ran around out there for a little bit and make sure we're set for tomorrow."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I definitely missed being in the car. It was a long time, especially on a track like this. You can really feel the speed. It's good to be back where I belong. We were doing a little work, trying to figure out the new engine configuration and the new wing configuration. It was a pretty comfortable day for us. This track is very similar to Milwaukee in Turns 3 and 4, and Turns 1 and 2 are like Richmond, so we can take a lot out of it.

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Mortgage Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It felt good to shake the rust off and get back to driving today. I guess this officially starts my second season. Dan Wheldon told me a couple of months ago that the second time around was a big difference from your rookie year. I definitely felt a lot more comfortable today than I did when I was here last March. The No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Honda improved over the course of the day, and I think as a team we are pretty happy with the first day of testing. Last year, we had a big advantage running a Honda engine, but with everyone having a Honda this year that advantage is gone. Our season will rest on the success of the Panoz chassis."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Mortgage Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "It sure felt nice to be able to roll out of my own bed and come to a test. Being a native of Phoenix, I will really miss this place on the schedule. My first professional race was here, so I have a lot of great memories at this track. Unfortunately, the result of when we raced here last March isn't one of those fond memories. I certainly felt a lot better on track today. We were able to get a lot accomplished, and we definitely laid a solid groundwork for our preseason testing program. The No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Honda improved over the course of the day. Considering how lost we were last spring it is nice to leave PIR with a positive feeling. We still have a number of things to work on tomorrow."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was good to get started with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. You can see why they've won so many championships and the Indy 500 with Juan Pablo (Montoya). It's good to be back in the car. It was very enjoyable. We just focused on some stuff that we need to work on for the short oval. Obviously, the Dallara is new to the team. It was good to get my relationship started up again with Andy Brown. Everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing has made me feel welcome. We just have some work to do to speed up the learning process for everybody, but overall it was a good first day.

"***

The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 152, "XM Extreme" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition also opens on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing