IRL: St. Pete: Friday practice report

CASTRONEVES LEADS OPENING DAY AT ST. PETE ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Friday, April 1, 2005 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves led the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first-ever non-oval...


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Friday, April 1, 2005 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves led the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first-ever non-oval IRL IndyCar® Series event.

Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Toyota-powered Dallara, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 3.0836 seconds, 102.721 mph on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit and earned the right to determine the qualifying order for Saturday's Marlboro Pole Qualifying.

Andretti Green Racing teammates Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, the reigning IndyCar Series champion, were second and third, respectively, in their Honda-powered Dallaras.

Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. (EST) on April 2.


ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I am super excited to be here in St. Pete. Driving the streets of St. Petersburg has been a blast all day. The engineers and crew made some big changes right before the second session that really paid off. Unfortunately, when we were en route for one of our fastest laps today we got held up in traffic. We are going to do everything we can to run in the front and go for the podium. Everyone is very energetic after the bad luck in the first two races, and we are very optimistic about the rest of the weekend."

PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "We had some bad luck today that kept me off track all day. I wasn't able to get in any serious laps. It was unfortunate, but I am still hopeful for the race. I've always done my best under race conditions so I think we can pull things together for the race. Since I wasn't driving I went out to turns one, two and three today and was able to watch what everyone was doing through there. That was about all I was able to learn today."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "So far, everything is going very good. I just had a little spin there. I was so excitied, I spun in my own drool. Every change we made the car was good. Out of the truck, the car was really fast. On the first street course, mistakes are easy to make. We're just trying to make sure we go as smooth -- and smooth is fast here -- so we're doing OK. Tomorrow is another day, the track is really fun. It's going to be a good race track."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Typical of a street course, the track gets quicker with every lap we do as there is more rubber on the track. I think most of the cars saved a set of tires for the end because the qualifying order is set on practice times. It wasn't a bad lap. There are still a couple areas I can make up time on. It's an interesting course to drive."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was good to turn right again. I was talking to Dario this morning. It was hard the first three laps because I told my guys to give me new brakes and rain tires, so I could have the worse conditions I could have, so I would go slow because I was so excited. It's been really fun. We're just trying to get the measurements back because it's been a while since I've done this. We're working hard to catch the man (Castroneves). I almost hit the man when he spun. We'll see what's going to happen tomorrow."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We didn't get everything out of the XM Satellite Radio car today. We had just put our new tires on when it went yellow, so we didn't get our new tire run in. There are still a few things that we've got to improve on the car, but it was better than the first session, so we're heading in the right direction."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Not too bad for my first day on a street circuit in an IndyCar. We've still got some work to do, but the Marlboro Team Penske guys gave me a good car, and we were able to work on a number of things today. From what I saw in practice, it is going to be a long race, and the key will be to stay out of trouble. Hopefully, we'll qualify well tomorrow and see what happens from there."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Panoz Honda/Firestone): "The practice times today determined your qualifying position tomorrow so we put a new set of tires on at the end (of the practice session) to go for a good time. I made a 64.0 (seconds) which was pretty good. After that, I was on a better lap when the yellow came out at the end. I think, if the yellow didn't come out, I would have finished around fourth today. The car potential is pretty good, and I am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow. My background is road course racing and I also have had experience with city circuits. I was so excited when I arrived in St. Petersburg."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "The Menards/Johns Manville car felt really good today, but the biggest challenge for me is keeping the car steady and shifting when I go across the bumps. I am literally holding on the wheel with both hands and that makes it tough to shift. Those of us in the second half of the split afternoon session had a real advantage because there was more rubber down and therefore more grip. We have a pretty good car and I know my crew will fine tune things and give me a better car tomorrow. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. It is going to be a real fight for the pole."

DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm pretty happy with the way today went. The Target Toyota was really quick right out of the box, but I feel like I left just a little on the table on my hot lap. We didn't get in a whole lot of running this afternoon but with a little less traffic we got a bit more accomplished. We'll make a few changes overnight and try to improve the car a bit more. It really is fun out there, and I'm looking forward to that green flag on Sunday."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "We ran a decent amount of laps today and with a little less traffic in the second session we got a lot of changes made and a chance to improve our time quite a bit. The Target Toyota feels good and we feel like we would have gone a bit faster but got a bit caught up on those last few laps. We've all been looking forward to this weekend, and it's a fun track. It should be good race come Sunday."

TOMAS ENGE (No. 2 ROCKSTAR Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Today was very good, and we are progressing every day. It's fun, and it has been a long time since I've raced at a road course. It's been at least a year since I was driving on a street course, and I enjoy it out here. And even if it doesn't seem like it, we're improving each day, and today we focused on race setup. Now we want to qualify our RockStar car well tomorrow and finish the race very strong on Sunday."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 33 Target Chip Ganassi Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "This is not how I wanted to start off my weekend. Coming through turn two, I clipped the tire barrier and that spun me around. It caused enough damaged that we'll have to go to the back up Target car. It's really disappointing because it was a very good car and fun to drive but we'll be ready for qualifying."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I really like this track. It has some high-speed areas, low speed areas and plenty of intermediate stuff. There will be some spots to pass and I think we will be able to put on an exciting show for the fans. I know the drivers seem to like it a lot. It's an awesome facility for a street circuit. This is one of the smoothest street circuits I have ever raced on and it is wider than most street tracks I've run. It is a lot like Long Beach in some regards. The Argent/Pioneer car wasn't as solid as what we were looking for when we came here today. I think we just need to find some more grip. I have confidence in my engineer, and I know we'll get it better for Saturday."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I think once we could get on the track and string a few laps togther, the Argent/Pioneer car felt better. As the car got better, I gained more confidence in each corner. While being on a street course is certainly more in line with my experience, the IndyCar is a different beast than an Atlantic car. You have to work up to a quicker lap and can't throw it around as much. You have more power, more tire and that helps when the car is working well. Of course, it is tough if the car is off. We are still learning on how to make this exact car work the proper way on the road circuits."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Chip Ganassi
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing