Nazareth Friday Practice

Da Matta Sets The Friday Pace At Nazareth Speedway Cristiano da Matta won his first career race at Nazareth Speedway one year ago and went on to win two more races and 1997 Rookie of the Year honors. He comes to Nazareth this weekend as a...

Da Matta Sets The Friday Pace At Nazareth Speedway Cristiano da Matta won his first career race at Nazareth Speedway one year ago and went on to win two more races and 1997 Rookie of the Year honors. He comes to Nazareth this weekend as a favorite to win the race and the season championship in his first year with the Tasman Motorsports Group. "The car is very good right now," da Matta said. "We have a few small, small changes to make but we are at a good starting point for the weekend. (The afternoon) was a good session to see what the car is going to be like in qualifying. The weather conditions are, I hope, similar to what we are going to have tomorrow and in the race. The car is still very consistent." The weather at Nazareth today was in the low 70s with mostly sunny skies and a slight breeze. Although da Matta was happy with his race car in the afternoon, he set his quick lap in the morning session under slightly cooler conditions. His afternoon lap was the fastest of that session at 151.542 mph (22.473 seconds). Clint Mears (Penske Auto Center/Mobil 1/ARE Lola) made a great return to the series by turning the day's second fastest lap at 151.192 mph (22.525 seconds). Mears is set to take his first green flag of the season after missing the first two races of the year after an accident in the morning warm-up at Miami, March 15. Mears suffered a separated left shoulder that has now healed. Impressive rookie Philipp Peter (Remus/Red Bull/Estebe Lola) was third fastest on the day at 150.391 mph (22.645 seconds). Peter, and Austrian who lives in Monte Carlo, drives for Dorriott Racing which won consecutive poles here in 1994 and 1995 with Bob Dorricott Jr., who retired prior to the start of the season. Andy Boss, who was second to da Matta in the afternoon session, Casey Mears, Oriol Servia, Brian Cunningham, Didier Andre, Guy Smith and Geoff Boss rounded out the day's top-10 fastest drivers. In other news, Mark Hotchkis took to the wheel of an Indy Lights Lola for the first time since last year's season-ending race at California Speedway as the substitute driver for the injured Chris Simmons. Simmons suffered a neck injury in unofficial practice at Nazareth last Saturday and will miss at least Sunday's race. Hotchkis had only limited time behind the wheel of the Mattco Alco Capital Group/Nassi Group Lola, however, as the team made final preparations on the repaired race car. They missed the morning practice and ran only a few warm-up laps in the final five minutes of the afternoon session. The team plans a full day of on-track activity tomorrow, and Simmons - who has been fitted with a neck brace - is on-hand to assist. In Friday's only on-track incident, Shigeaki Hattori (Epson Lola) hit the Turn 3 wall with under a minute remaining in the session. Hattori was uninjured and his Indy Regency Lola will be repaired for tomorrow. Source: Indy Lights Online

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Guy Smith , Shigeaki Hattori , Didier André , Oriol Servia , Brian Cunningham , Philipp Peter , Mark Hotchkis , Cristiano da Matta