Mid-Ohio: Series Friday practice report

ANDRETTI FASTEST AT MID-OHIO LEXINGTON, Ohio, Friday, July 18, 2008 - Marco Andretti topped the first day of practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 2006 Bombardier ...

ANDRETTI FASTEST AT MID-OHIO

LEXINGTON, Ohio, Friday, July 18, 2008 - Marco Andretti topped the first day of practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The 2006 Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year posted the fastest lap of the day (1 minute, 7.9120 seconds, 119.699 mph during the second practice session on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit. Andretti's teammate Tony Kanaan was second (119.488 mph) followed by last year's pole sitter Helio Castroneves (119.413 mph).

Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe posted the fourth quickest lap, while defending race winner and IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon was fifth.

PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone is set tomorrow.

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This is the second IndyCar Series event at Mid-Ohio. Scott Dixon last year's event. Four Indianapolis 500 winners are entered: Dixon (2008), Dan Wheldon (2005), Buddy Rice (2004) and Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002).

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The IndyCar Series brings its unique road course qualifying format to Mid-Ohio this weekend. After two practice session featuring all cars today, the field is randomly divided into two groups for tomorrow's practice and Segment One of qualifying. The random draw occurred this morning prior to the driver's meeting when the drivers drew either a red chip or a blue chip out of a bag. Drivers with a red chip will be in Group One. Drivers with a blue chip will be in Group Two.

In Segment One of qualifying, each group receives 20 minutes of track time. The fastest six cars from each group advance to Segment Two, while the remaining cars are assigned positions 13-26. Group One drivers will occupy the odd-numbered positions (13, 15, 17...) while Group Two drivers will occupy the even-numbered positions (14, 16, 18...) based on their fastest lap times.

During Segment Two, the 12 advancing cars receive 15 minutes of track time. The fastest six advance to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout while the remaining six cars are ranked in positions 7-12 based on their fastest laps.

During the Firestone Fast Six, the six cars receive 10 minutes of track time, with a guarantee of five minutes of green flag time. Each car receives one additional set of Firestone Firehawk tires for use during this final segment. At the end of the session, the cars are ranked 1-6 based on their fastest laps.

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Each IndyCar Series pit stall is 35 feet in length, shortest this season.

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E.J. Viso returns to IndyCar Series action this weekend driving the No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing entry after missing the race at Nashville due to a case of the mumps.

E.J. VISO: "I was flying from Watkins Glen to Indianapolis. During the flight, I had a little bit of pain in my neck. I thought it was the normal muscle pain after the race. I just took a couple of Tylenol and thought I would be fine the next day. When I woke up, I saw myself in the mirror - I looked like a balloon. I called my team, and we went to the medical center. We all thought it was mumps, but they took my blood to check. Tuesday morning they told me it was mumps."

(About where he could have caught it) "We travel so much I really don't know. It could have been in an airport, a restaurant. It's a virus. You can get it anywhere."

(About a week of isolation) "I was so bored in the hotel in Indianapolis. I didn't have much energy, but I thought I was going to be able to race (at Nashville) - that was the plan, but suddenly everything got a bit more serious. The American health department got involved, and it turned into a big deal. They preferred us not to take the risk, and I understood that part. Every meal room service. I was with some friends. They had the vaccination, so they were fine. They were sure that they could be in contact with me. I slept a lot, and I think I rented over 14 or 15 movies in the hotel."

(About not racing at Nashville) "I'm disappointed that I didn't race last weekend. We lost some very important points. I was right next to Will (Power) to pass him in the points, and now it's going to be tough. But, it was a decision that was out of my hands and out of the team's hands."

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Vision Racing will bring its Vision Racing Wellness Tour sponsored by Lilly and CardioChek to Mid-Ohio to offer free diabetes education and cholesterol screenings to participants, volunteers and spectators.

Screenings will take place from 9 a.m-2 p.m. July 20 at the Vision Racing Wellness Tour mobile marketing unit located at the Indy Fan Zone Area in the midway.

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Each IndyCar Series car receives 10 sets of Firestone Firehawks dry-condition slicks and four sets of rain tires for the three-day weekend. The dry slicks are the softest in the Firestone road-course inventory and will provide plenty of grip for Mid-Ohio's twists and turns. The same tire spec also will be used at Infineon in August. The rain tires selected are the softer street-course rains.

AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "It's quite a transition to shift from Nashville's 1.33-mile concrete superspeedway, which requires Firestone Racing's most durable tire compound and construction, to the tight twists and turns of Mid-Ohio, for which our engineers will bring our softest road-course specification. Last year's race at Mid-Ohio was an unqualified success on every level, and we will be returning with the same tire that was used here in 2007. The teams and drivers are facing a daunting challenge with six diverse races in as many weeks, but week in and week out, they know they can rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires to provide them with the grip and durability they need to tackle any track configuration and surface."

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The No. 17 Ethanol-sponsored Rahal Letterman Racing car is carrying the Driver's Edge logo this weekend.

The Driver's Edge National Tour conducts free driving safety clinics for drivers 15 to 21 years old and works with local law enforcement to educate drivers about the effects of impaired driving, use of seat belts and avoiding distractions while driving. Driver's Edge is an official promotional partner of the IndyCar Series.

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Justin Zwick, quarterback for the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League, took a ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio course with driver Stephan Gregoire. Zwick, 6-4, 230 lbs., barely fit in the car.

JUSTIN ZWICK: "I always stuck to sports like football and basketball. I was so big, I always just thought racing was out of the question, and I barely made the cut. It was amazing. I thought my helmet was going to fly off a couple times."

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The Bobby Rahal Foundation and Rahal Letterman Racing are staging a raffle in the midway at Mid-Ohio to raise funds for the Nationwide Children's Hospital of Columbus, Ohio. Autographed items include firesuits from Bobby Rahal and Tony Kanaan, diecast cars, hats and even items signed by team co-owner David Letterman. Winners will be notified July 21.

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Tim Coffeen, the chief mechanic and left front tire changer on the #02 car driven by Justin Wilson, was struck by the wing of the car during the first practice session. He was treated for minor injuries at the infield care center and released.

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Veteran IndyCar Series driver Bryan Herta has joined Vision Racing as a road-course consultant. Herta will be working with drivers A.J. Foyt IV and Ed Carpenter and the engineering staff as the team prepares for four more road/street races this season.

BRYAN HERTA: "This is a different kind of challenge for me, and I'm not setting off on this looking to become a driving coach, instructor or something like that. It was an opportunity to start building a relationship with Vision Racing. I'm pretty open-minded about where that could go. (I'll work) with Anthony and Ed, who don't have a lot of road-course experience and that's my background - particularly at this track. The mental approach to a road course versus an oval, how do you approach when you put new tires on the car or qualifying versus race setup, nuances or whatever sticks out. I thought it might be a place where I could help them a little and contribute to the program. And I love racing, so it gave me a good reason to come out here and re-establish some relationships. I still want to race cars, so this isn't, 'Ah, Bryan i s going to start doing this instead.' It was a chance for me to build a relationship with an IndyCar team that I think is going places right now and be at the track."

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Danica Patrick met with members of the media this morning. Select quotes are below.

DANICA PATRICK: (About attending the ESPYs this week) "I sat next to David Beckham. I was up for a couple of awards, which I didn't win, but it was good to be nominated. I was an award presenter and it is just a really big deal. As an athlete it is really nice to have an awards show because you so many movie and TV and music stars that have the opportunity to go and have some fun and get awards for their accomplishments and this is our chance to do that as athletes."

(About qualifying second at Mid-Ohio last year and what to expect this season): "I think that it helped that last year we came here and tested about a month before we came and then we just built on that on the race weekend. And then we started to develop more of a road course car for me and then leading into Sonoma we qualified second again so I think that it all really started here. The last race we did on a road course was Watkins Glens and the morning warm-up we did before qualifying I was fourth and I thought we were clicking on it like we did in the last couple of times we ran on road courses. We just didn't get it in qualifying. I think that can happen for me though. I think we can kind of get the set-up just right and then I can't push it the last bit and a chunk of time falls off for me and there I am and I think that could happen again. Obviously we have a good set-up to build on and I hope I am in the Firestone Fast Six. It is even more rewarding now that we have the competitive road course drivers in the series."

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Blockbuster, fastest): "Practice wasn't bad because we were the fastest of the day, but there is still some stuff that we need to work on. We still have a lot of understeer in the car. It just seems easy to tip the car into oversteer, so we need some grip. We need to find grip on this track because of the way that they sealed it. The more grip the better. I think if we can get some mechanical grip then the lap times will be better."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, second): "It was decent. I believe we do have a pretty good car. Qualifying position here is going to be really, really important. I'm happy - so far, so good. With the heat and all the different rubbers with the different series, the track is changing constantly, so we're going to have to be smart about what kind of changes we want to make, because you can really make a mistake and go off with your car."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, third): "The Team Penske car was really good today. With the experience we gained here last year as well as the historical data that the team has at this track, we were optimistic that we would have a fast car right off the truck. We mainly concentrated on race setup today and concentrated on testing some little things that we thought might make us quicker. We would have liked to top the speed charts today, but the final session was shortened by a caution, and when we got back out, we only had a few laps to try to go for a quick lap. Unfortunately, I got caught up in some traffic, but we'll take third quick as a good start to the weekend and try to move forward from here."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, fourth): "Today was the first time I'd ever been around this track in an IndyCar Series car, and I have to say I really enjoy the circuit. Our goal for the practice sessions was to test as much as possible and try a variety of things. Overall, I think it was a good day for Team Penske, and we learned quite a bit. We worked mainly on our race setup today, and we'll focus on our qualifying setup tomorrow morning. Hopefully things will go as we hope, and we'll be able to get into the Firestone Fast Six."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth): "We had a decent car today. We saved tires; we only used two sets of our four. We are ready for tomorrow and plan to have a good day."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, sixth): "I really enjoy the track; it's pretty cool. We made some progress in the first session, and I was quite happy that the McDonald's car finished fourth in that. We made a few changes between sessions, and it didn't go too well, so the second session we recovered and were pretty pleased with the end performance considering we were on old tires the whole time. I figure we are in good shape. The pit boxes are really, really short, and I tried different lines coming into the boxes, and one time I came in I clipped Tim's (Coffeen) knee with the front wing and knocked him over. It's not a nice thing to have happen to him. I felt really bad and am glad he is OK and was back on his feet and working on the car by the end of the session."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, seventh): "The morning session was good for the Formula Dream team. We had a good car in the afternoon session but had a bit of a problem with the gears, so we didn't get as much time out there as we wanted."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, 10th): "The Motorola car was a little too nervous for my style of driving today. But we are working through the issues. Hopefully we will be able to find a better setup before qualifying tomorrow. My crew is working hard to get it where it needs to be."

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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8:45-9:45 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
11:45 a.m. PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio Presented by Westfield Insurance July 20 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with a doubleheader race weekend at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. The first Mid-Ohio 100 is scheduled for 5:25 p.m., on July 19. The second race will take plac eat 10:35 a.m., on July 20. Both races will air at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 24 on ESPN2 and live on www.indycar.com.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Bobby Rahal , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , HVM Racing