IRL: St. Pete: Friday practice report

FRANCHITTI LEAD OPENING DAY AT ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Friday, March 31, 2006 -- Dario Franchitti led the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first non-oval IRL IndyCar® Series event of the 2006 ...

FRANCHITTI LEAD OPENING DAY AT ST. PETE

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Friday, March 31, 2006 -- Dario Franchitti led the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first non-oval IRL IndyCar® Series event of the 2006 season.

Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Honda-powered Dallara, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 2.7967 seconds, 103.190 mph on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit and earned the right to determine the qualifying order for Saturday's Marlboro Pole Qualifying.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (1:02.9515, 102.936) and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan (1:03.1453, 102.620) were second and third, respectively.

Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. (EST) on April 1.

INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI: (No. 27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest in practice): "The first lap of the day today, the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car felt right. We've been moving small setup changes and finding a little bit of time. This track is a typical street course, so it's getting faster and faster. I'm having a ball out there."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "We had our quickest lap this morning. We kind of messed up a bit in the second session. We had the wrong gears in the gearbox, I think we had two thirds in there, so the car didn't go anywhere. Right at the end there, there was a caution, so we didn't get to run on new tires. The car is fast. We still ended up second quick, and I definitely think we've got a real shot at pole here."

TONY KANAAN (#11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "It was a good day for us. We worked on the qualifying setup on the #11 Team 7-Eleven car and it was a good session. We're working towards qualifying and hopefully we'll have a good day tomorrow, be in the top-six and we'll see what happens from there."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, fifth fastest): "The track was really slick and dirty this morning. That's why we ran rain tires in the early part of the morning session. But the track did rubber well in the afternoon. We got the changes on the car that I wanted and that really improved the handling. The track is a little bumpier than last year but we can deal with that. I'm a little upset because what always happens on the a street course happened on the last lap. I felt I was on a 63 flat (seconds) lap and the yellow came out and we didn't the lap in. That seems to happen a lot on the street course. Right when you have everything together for a flying lap, boom, the yellow comes out. It is frustrating. But we'll be better on Saturday."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic/ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest): "This was a good first day for us. We had too much understeer in the morning and then I brushed the wall towards the end of the practice session before I put my second set of new tires. That ended our session and was a big mistake for me, and I apologized to all of my mechanics. We changed a few things for the second session and made a huge improvement -- almost a second from the first session. We set quite a good time, and I have a lot of confidence with this car for tomorrow's qualifying. My goal is to get into the Firestone top-six qualifying."

MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 NYSE Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 14th fastest): "We made a big change to the #26 NYSE car between practice sessions that we thought was for the better and now I'm learning the drivers that I can and can't trust. I thought that all I had to do was get a clean pass and then away we go; I have a clean track and could get a feel for the car. But he (Eddie Cheever Jr.) turned in to my left rear and that was unfortunate. But I did get a good enough feel for the car and I think we're going to be in pretty decent shape. We easily had a top-five car, which is good."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, 13th fastest): "Racing is my job, and it is always good to get back to the action be it after a long offseason or a tough week like we just endured. It felt good to be back in the Argent Mortgage Honda. Obviously missing the race last week will factor in the championship for both Buddy and I. It will make it more difficult, especially with 14 races, to overcome the loss of points. We had our moments on track today. Overall, we still have some work to do, but my team has a lot of experience when it comes to street racing. Last week we had a tough Friday but we felt pretty good after qualifying. A lot can change in a day."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "We had a good session this morning and the Marlboro Team Penske car is handling very well. We had some trouble with the engine electronics this afternoon, but fortunately we were able to get the problem fixed and get a few laps in before practice ended. I think we're still in good shape and hopefully we'll have enough time tomorrow to catch up."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth fastest): "This morning's practice went pretty well, but this afternoon didn't go quite the way we would have liked it to. I just couldn't get in a rhythm and was probably trying a little bit too hard. During the afternoon session, the car was loose, and I had a problem in turn seven and went into the tires. I thought I was going to hit a little bit harder than I did, but fortunately there was minimal damage to the car, so we were able to run a few more laps. I feel pretty good about the set-up of the Marlboro Team Penske car, but we still have some work to do tomorrow."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Not quite as good as we like, but Target Chip Ganassi Racing is going to work hard. We'll see what we have in the morning. It just was not quite the way I'd like the car. It's always great to race in your home city, just need to get the car better."

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Series Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 1 and 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2. The race coverage will be telecast at 4 p.m. on April 7 by ESPN2.

-irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing