IRL: Phoenix Test: Day one report

Castroneves fastest on first day of IndyCar Series Test AVONDALE, Ariz., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004 -- Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon posted the top two laps in the morning session and those laps remained the quickest of the day as the IRL ...

Castroneves fastest on first day of IndyCar Series Test

AVONDALE, Ariz., Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004 -- Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon posted the top two laps in the morning session and those laps remained the quickest of the day as the IRL IndyCar Series began a two-day Open Test at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 11.

Castroneves' Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone lapped the 1-mile oval in 20.3095 seconds, 177.257 mph. He was closely followed by Dixon, the 2003 IndyCar Series champion, who posted a fast lap of 20.3126 seconds, 177.230 mph in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti was fastest in the afternoon session and third-quickest overall with a lap of 20.3518 seconds, 176.889 in the Archipelago Dallara/Honda/ Firestone.

Several drivers struggled with the reconfigured oval as the caution flag fell four times in the morning session for four separate incidents.

Tora Takagi, Scott Sharp and Darren Manning all spun in the newly widened Turn 2, but none of the drivers were injured and continued to practice in the afternoon session. Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing left the test early after driver Robbie Buhl severely damaged his car following contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 4.


HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a test here in December, so we started out pretty quick right off the bat. Unfortunately, it was a little bit chilly, so we started a little bit slow. Plus, the cars seem to have a little less downforce than we used to run with the configuration from last year. We were just trying to make sure everything was working and getting to know the track again. In the afternoon, we worked more on our race setup and made sure that we understand the car in this configuration and see how much can we do and how much we can take out, so when we come back on race day, we don't have to waste time on that." (About the reconfiguration of the track): "Going into the turns seems to be the same. On the exit, you have a little bit more space, so you don't have to keep turning the car. That's why a lot of people had some problems last year. They smoothed it out, and they did a hell of a job compared to December. The bump was very rough, but now it's very smooth. I didn't feel that much of a difference."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We were trying to go for speed for most of the day. We had balance issues throughout the morning and this afternoon. We could never really get where we wanted. We were working on that, trying different variations of setups, and I think we started to head in the right direction. I think we ended up setting our quick time on our fourth or fifth run on a set of tires." (About the reconfiguration of the track): (Turn) 4 was really good in December, but now I think it's a little worse. It's definitely improved in the exit of (Turn) 2. I think with the exit of (Turn) 2, it gives you a little more room and a little more confidence. I think it made the track a little easier, because that wall used to come up pretty quick."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Archipelago Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's been a long time since I was on a 1-mile oval. Things come at you pretty quickly, and it was nice this morning to take a couple of laps to get into it and get to know the car and the track a little bit. We just worked with the setup and put a new set of tires on. I'm pretty happy. The cars are a bit more difficult to drive. They've got a bit less downforce, and you've really got to think about it and work with the setup a bit more. I'm very happy with the direction the crew has taken with that. It was a good day for us." (About the reconfiguration of the track): "There's a couple of bumps on the exit of Turn 2, but as far as driving the track, it feels very similar to what we had last season. It's just a lot nicer to get in under the track with that tunnel there."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Today went good. We struggled with the handling a little this morning. Then we changed just about everything for the afternoon session, and it helped the Conseco car a lot. It was more stable and secure. I was more confident, and the speed came to me."

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "Today was a big disappointment for us. The good news is that all of the safety efforts did exactly what they were supposed to do. The bad news is that despite our team putting in a lot of extra effort, we don't get to finish working on a bunch of different combinations. To miss a day and a half of testing for us right now hurts, given the track time that most of the teams have had. We'll have to pick it up and move on to Homestead."

THURSDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m. to noon: Practice
Noon to 1 p.m.: Lunch break
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Practice


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tora Takagi , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing