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Franchitti leads Mid-Ohio Open Test
Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti topped the speed chart at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course during an IndyCar Series Open Test in preparation for the IndyCar Series debut at the facility on July 22.

Franchitti, who won the pole at the facility twice while racing in CART, lapped the 2.258-mile, 13-turn course in 1 minute, 7.6667 seconds, 120.130 mph in the No. 27 Canadian Club car.

Previous experience at the track also paid dividends for Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner at the track. Castroneves was second quick with a lap of 1:07.7671, 119.952 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske machine.

Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammate, Marco Andretti, was third quick with a lap of 119.591 mph. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Buddy Rice was fourth and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon was fifth.

Sam Hornish Jr., Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and Darren Manning completed the top 10.

Overall, 18 drivers combined to complete 978 laps. A light rain forced an end to the session approximately 20 minutes early.


Did you know?: Built in 1926, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a permanent road circuit set in Lexington, Ohio, originally constructed for weekend sports car racing. The facility was purchased in 1981 by the late Jim Trueman, founder of the Red Roof Inns economy lodging chain. Under Trueman's direction, the track underwent major renovations, including the addition of permanent grandstand seating and construction of garages. Today the facility is managed by Trueman's daughter, Michelle Trueman Gajoch, who oversees the day-to-day operations.

Off-season renovations: During the 2006 off-season, Mid-Ohio underwent major capital improvements. The track and pit lane were completely resurfaced and connectors were added to the track's famed Keyhole section to allow for three separate road course configurations. Also completed was the removal of concrete patches from the track, the relocation of the wall and guardrail at Turn 1, the expansion of gravel traps in the exits of Turn 1 and the Keyhole, the replacement of all remaining old-style catchfencing, and the standardization of curbing throughout the circuit.

NHRA's Coughlin gets Indy Experience: It wasn't the pin-you-to-the-back-of-your-seat ride that Jeg Coughlin Jr. is used to, but he'd gladly get behind the wheel of an IndyCar Series car.

The NHRA Pro Stock driver, who won the Torco Race Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals on June 10, was Stephan Gregoire's passenger in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater that navigated the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course circuit during a break in IndyCar Series testing.

"I've been around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course a few times in the school cars, but it was quite a different view riding behind a professional driver in this type of car. Next time, I wouldn't mind being in the front seat. Even the speeds we reached in the two-seater car was very exciting."

A quarter-mile speed of 207.37 mph (6.658 seconds) in the finals at Route 66 Raceway provided Coughlin the 35th Pro Stock victory of his career (48th overall). He came away with a heightened appreciation for the physical stamina required of IndyCar Series drivers on the rolling Mid-Ohio course.

"Here you have the pitch from left to right, of course the back of your seat and then braking you're moving forward a little," Coughlin said. "Going to the school, I knew the flow of the course so I was able to use my body English accordingly to get around the course too. I can only imagine under competition loads like they have here and the speed of the cars the demands on their bodies and their minds is quite intense.

"It made me more excited to try to get behind the wheel of an IndyCar one of these days. Obviously, in practice."

Carpenter, the fan, visits Colts: Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter, an Indianapolis Colts season ticket holder, recently visited the team's practice facility to watch one of the summer schools sessions.

"I was a fan when they weren't very good. It's the second time I've had the opportunity to do that (2004 the other). Tony Dungy and his coaching staff is just a great group of people; it's fun to be around them. I met (wide receivers coach) Clyde Christensen, who spoke at chapel before the Indianapolis 500 and is an awesome person. It was just fun to go as a fan and see some of the new players we got, form some opinions and scout a couple of people who I think are going to be good additions.

"Hopefully, it's looking good for a (Super Bowl) repeat."

Mutoh ready for bonus test: Panther Racing will remain at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course June 14 for a bonus test with IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira and Indy Pro Series driver Hideki Mutoh.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Mutoh, who ranks second in Indy Pro Series points after recording four-top five finishes in five starts. "The reason I came to America was to drive in the IndyCar Series, so this is a great opportunity. It was good to test here in the Indy Pro Series car (June 12) to learn the lines of the track a bit."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club, quickest): "I certainly don't think it hurt us to come here today and know what the track was like. The new surface was a worry coming into this test, because I hadn't driven here, but it was no problem at all. It's just smoother, good grip levels, so that was really nice. I'm glad of the experience, because we missed the whole morning because of technical problems. The day started badly but ended very well. I think the times very impressive, and I think there's more to come.

"I can remember from five years ago pretty much what it felt like in every corner, so it wasn't a big stretch to go out there and do it again, feel the car for a couple of laps and then get out there and go."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second quick): "I have to say, this place is awesome. This is one of the places I always enjoy. This is a true road course. It combines fast corners, slow corners, difficult to pass, elevation. It's really, really fun. The surface of the track changed. It's much smoother. Every time you go out, you're improving your times. I can't wait to come back and race.

"The second outing was better than the first outing. I remember there used to be cones at the edge of the corner. Now they don't have that, so that took some getting used to. They changed the characteristics of the place, but it's still fun.

"Our cars are unbelievable in the corners. Our cars are fun in the corners. It's very hard. You really have to push, push."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group, third quick): "I think we have confidence in our speed and our balance. I'm pretty confident in my race car. We made the tires last and we were still fast. We only ran two sets of tires and were still third fast."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, fourth quick): "I haven't been here since I raced Atlantics. I haven't been back here since they've paved it. It's one of those tracks that I've done well at and I like coming here. I think it's exciting. I'm looking forward to the race. This place, with the new paving being done, is a little slick compared to what it used to be. We're definitely looking for a good result when we come back here. We have a fast road course car, even though we had issues in St. Pete, and we know we're going to be competitive."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fifth quick): "We had a pretty good day actually. The track was good, plenty of grip and is much smoother since I was last here and they repaved it. We were top four most of the time and didn't get a chance to run stickers at the end there or we'd have finished higher. Pretty happy with the day of testing and looking forward to getting back here for the race."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske, sixth quick): "The first real memory of this track it was probably the early '90s and I came down here for qualifying day with my dad. Sat right across from pit road, just sitting on top of the fence post. I was too little to see over everyone else, so I sat on the top of the fence pole all day long watching the cars go by and thinking how cool that would be to someday drive there.

"I ran a go-kart here four or five years after that. Did a race here in October, and it was pouring rain all day. It was probably one of the worst experiences I've had in a car as far as being cold. I think I had pneumonia after that.

"Then I ran Formula Fords and Toyota Atlantic here. It's always nice to come back here. It's only a couple of hours from home. It's a fun little track. I always enjoy coming here.

"They've taken out all of the concrete. The track is a lot smoother, but it does seem to have a little bit less grip, so it's something where you're kind of fighting the front end a little bit in some of the slower speed corners, and then obviously the rear end is a little bit looser in some of the high-speed stuff. It seems like saving tires through the race is going to be a key to winning the race.

"It's a good combination of different things. You've got corners where you pretty much apex the corner at the top of a hill or as you're cresting a hill, so a lot of times the car lightens up. You've got the Keyhole and the Carousel, you've got two corners that are long in the amount that you're turning, so it puts some strain on the tires. It's basically a double apex corner. You get going and the car will slide out a little bit, then you make your way back to the apex. It's a fun track. I think it's pretty technical. It's a good mix. There's some straightaway, some high-speed corners, some low-speed. All-in-all, it's a pretty quick track. We don't use first gear anywhere. A lot of places we're using third and sometimes fourth gear. I think these cars are pretty well suited for this track."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, eighth quick): "Number one everybody seems very excited to have us back here. Everybody is wanting autographs, they're excited, they brought their kids out, so it's obviously a great thing to come back here. We always want to be places where we're wanted.

"The track has been repaved since I've been here. It feels pretty good. It's smooth. The grip is coming up slowly but surely out there. Overall, the feelings inside and outside the car are good."

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