IRL: The value of four shows through at Homestead

The Andretti Green Racing four-car juggernaut took over the second - and final day of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series testing on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 12-turn, 2.21-mile road course. In the morning it was Dan Wheldon's ...

The Andretti Green Racing four-car juggernaut took over the second - and final day of Indy Racing League IndyCar Series testing on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 12-turn, 2.21-mile road course.

In the morning it was Dan Wheldon's #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone racer that held the top spot on the speed charts at 70.4223 seconds (112.976mph), but teammate Dario Franchitti's #27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda was just two tenths of a mile in arrears at 70.5871 seconds (112.712mph).

2004 champion Tony Kanaan's #11 Team 7/Eleven Dallara/Honda came third at 70.6109 seconds (112.674mph) while Bryan Herta's #7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda was fourth with a time of 70.6919 seconds (112.545mph).

At least Patrick Carpentier's morning lap of 70.6949 seconds (112.540mph) put his #83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota into the top five as the balance of the field was pretty much demoralized by the lack of sandbagging at AGR.

Things didn't change during the afternoon as teams tried different items on their testing programs. But those varied efforts changed the cast of characters posting quick times a little bit.

After amassing 1128 total miles on Wednesday, another 1376 tours of the undulating Homestead road course that uses both ends of the 1.5-mile oval took place, marking a total of 2504 laps over two days.

During the afternoon session Franchitti held sway, the Scot first to hit 113mph with his lap of 70.1748 seconds (113.374mph). He had been one of six drivers to perform compatibility tests last September for the League in preparation for its first road and street course competitions.

"We've been sort of making changes to the car and seeing the reactions," Franchitti noted. "We all made progress and, though we're a little bit rusty from driving only on ovals the last couple of years, we've seen the benefit [here] of the four-car team on the road course."

Wheldon was second at 70.4223 seconds (112.976mph) while Helio Castroneves broke the AGR stranglehold with his 64th of 88 total laps in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota at 70.4905 seconds (112.866mph). Kanaan lay fourth at 70.5745 seconds (112.732mph) while Herta took fifth with 70.5829 seconds (112.719mph).

Wheldon thought his team did "a very good job on the road course. Everybody chipped in and we had a really productive test." Castroneves believed his team made "a lot of improvements from yesterday. We're definitely heading in the right direction." Kanaan found it "a very positive test for us; we accomplished a lot of things and ended up making the right decisions."

All the big numbers really don't mean much because the League doesn't compete on this circuit, but these four sessions gave some teams their first opportunities to check out road course chassis configurations.

And while the AGR quartet put up big times today, Ryan Briscoe's quick lap on Wednesday was still good enough to give the Australian rookie third place overall in his #33 Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota behind Franchitti and Wheldon's afternoon blazers. Briscoe was among the few to rely on a Wednesday lap for a fast lap in this sector of the test session; the Indy cars take to the 1.5-mile oval on Saturday.

"I'm having a great time," Briscoe exulted. "It's great working with this team on our first test of the year and we've been changing the car a lot over the last couple of days. These cars are good," he declared. "For a car that's never raced on a road course, I'm surprised at how good it is."

With his hot Thursday afternoon lap Castroneves earned fourth in the overall standings, Kanaan's afternoon lap gave him fifth overall while Herta's quick one this afternoon earned the veteran sixth. Carpentier held down the seventh position and said his team "made some great strides" even with the track changing. "It got hotter and greasier, leaving us with some uncertainty about how far to push the car."

The 2004 Bombardier Rookie of the Year, Kosuke Matsuura finished eighth for the two-day meeting in the #55 Panasonic/Autobacs/ARTA Panoz/Honda with his Thursday afternoon mark of 70.7506 seconds (112.451mph). Even though it was his team's first road course test and the Japanese driver's first time behind the wheel since last year, "I think we did a great job over these two days. Now we have a lot of data."

Tomas Enge, quickest yesterday morning in his first drive of the #2 Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet earned ninth for the road course portion of the test with this afternoon's lap of 70.8539 seconds (112.287mph). While he'd been unable to get in the car for testing before yesterday, the Czech was "pretty happy with the way the day went and 90 percent of our job went according to plan."

Vitor Meira earned tenth overall in the #17 Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda from Rahal Letterman Racing, which has bumped up to a 3-car team for the 17-race 2005 campaign. His lap of 70.8598 seconds (112.278mph) came this afternoon, as well. "You've just got to get in sync with everything on this road course and make everything work 100 percent," the Brazilian explained.

Scott Sharp improved the #8 Delphi Panoz/Honda to 11th today. "I am really pleased with how things ended after two days," his first with Fernandez Racing. Tomas Scheckter's 12th place in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevy came after "another productive day. We're learning so much out here and everything we do is very positive."

2003 champ Scott Dixon took 13th overall in the #9 Target Panoz/Toyota while Alex Barron brought the #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota to 14th. Darren Manning relied on his Wednesday fast lap for 15th in the #10 Target Panoz/Toyota while Buddy Rice's Thursday lap in his #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda was good for 16th place overall in this two-day road course test.

Danica Patrick had another "off" this morning in the #16 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz/Honda as she learns the capabilities of the car and herself, taking 17th in this part of open testing.

Sam Hornish Jr. struggled with the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota to take 18th while Roger Yasukawa stayed at the rear of the field with his #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Honda. It must be noted this is the first time Yasukawa has been behind the wheel of this car and with this team; some Dallara road course parts didn't arrive at the team's shops until last Friday.

The teams have all day tomorrow to change over their cars for oval testing on Saturday. Will the teams at the top change between now and then?

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Kosuke Matsuura , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske