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Infineon: Castroneves leads opening practice
Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves paced the opening day of preparations for the Motorola Indy 300 Presented by Jackson Rancheria at the Infineon Raceway.

Castroneves, who has won the pole for the three previous road/street course events this season, turned a lap of 1 minute, 16.5298 seconds, 108.193 mph, in the Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. IndyCar Series point leader Dario Franchitti was second fastest with a lap of 1:16.6876, 107.971 mph in the No. 27 Canadian Club car.

Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, the only drivers to win IndyCar Series races at Infineon, were third and fourth, respectively. Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon was fifth.

Single-lap qualifying followed by the Firestone Fast Six session are scheduled for Saturday.

Pos Driver Diff Best Time Best Speed
1 Helio Castroneves (3) ... 1:16.5298 108.193
2 Dario Franchitti (27) 0.2359 1:16.7657 107.861
3 Scott Dixon (9) 0.3313 1:16.8611 107.727
4 Tony Kanaan (11) 0.6935 1:17.2233 107.222
5 Sam Hornish Jr (6) 0.7595 1:17.2893 107.130
6 Marco Andretti (26) 0.9030 1:17.4328 106.931
7 Dan Wheldon (10) 0.9202 1:17.4500 106.908
8 Buddy Rice (15) 1.2018 1:17.7316 106.520
9 Ryan Hunter-Reay (17) 1.4777 1:18.0075 106.144
10 Tomas Scheckter (2) 1.5982 1:18.1280 105.980
11 Vitor Meira (4) 1.6873 1:18.2171 105.859
12 Danica Patrick (7) 2.0122 1:18.5420 105.421
13 Kosuke Matsuura (55) 2.1954 1:18.7252 105.176
14 Ed Carpenter (20) 2.4290 1:18.9588 104.865
15 Scott Sharp (8) 2.6232 1:19.1530 104.608
16 Darren Manning (14) 3.2380 1:19.7678 103.801
17 AJ Foyt IV (22) 3.2821 1:19.8119 103.744
18 Sarah Fisher (5) 4.2919 1:20.8217 102.448

Selected quotes from the IndyCar Series championship contenders availability:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth in point standings): "As far as our championship goes, we need the four guys (ahead of us) to run themselves off the track before the race starts. We've had a year where we've had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs. We'll keep going and try to get as many top-five finishes as we can and gear up for next year."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth in point standings): "The main focus for everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing is to assist Scott (Dixon) win his second championship in a professional way . I think our cars are pretty quick, but there's obviously room to improve and at the same time help Scott improve his position in the championship."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third in point standings): "The last couple races we've took half the points away from the 100 (we were behind). I think it's going to be very difficult. Dario (Franchitti) has the same equipment as I do, and Scott (Dixon) has been very strong. I'm being realistic and I'm just looking at winning races now. As long as we keep doing that, it will keep us in the championship hunt, but in my opinion, it's going to be very difficult to win this thing. Like Dan said, I'll do everything in a professional manner to help my teammate win. If he needs any help. Well maybe he does to stop flipping, but he doesn't need any help on the race track."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second in point standings): "It's been very tough. The three (wins) in a row for us seemed to be a huge gain, even though Dario was finishing second, so it didn't make the advantage that significant. The last two races, we've been able to gain, at least on the points table. I think coming into this weekend, we seem pretty confident. This morning we were pretty decent and had typical problems. This afternoon we went with an aggressive setup and were pretty bad. We'll go back to what we had. We tried to put together a lap at the end but somebody put a bunch of dirt on track. We should be alright this weekend, but all the guys in the championship competition are very strong, so it will be hard to make any gains.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series point leader): "I preferred the view from Richmond with a 65-point lead. Scott put the tremendous run together, and we were second, but he was slowly cutting into our lead. We had the problems at Michigan, Dan too, and we all got a points loss. It wasn't a real points gain or loss, but I made a mistake coming into the pits at Kentucky and that allowed Scott to get an advantage. It's really close but does that change our game plan? Maybe. We just need to win the races and try to be up front and do the best we can." *
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "Right now, we've seem to have hit the right spot with the setup of the Team Penske car. I know the Andretti Green guys will be surrounding me. I know they are going to give me a hard time. It's been good so far, but I know that tomorrow is going to improve and the times will improve."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest of the day): "I'm not real happy with the NYSE car just yet. We definitely made progress throughout the day, and we're getting closer. The good thing is that we know what we need to have a fast car here, so we'll keep working tomorrow and hopefully challenge for pole."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth fastest of the day): "We weren't very happy with the way the weekend started off, but the second session helped some. We made a change and that seemed to help us out overall, so now I think we've got something to work with. We have a direction to go in with the Motorola car."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest of the day): "I think we could've been a little quicker today, so we still have some work to do. We made some small changes to the Team Penske car between the two sessions, but they didn't make as big of a difference as we'd hoped. The good news is that Helio (Castroneves) was fast today, so hopefully we'll be able to learn something from him. We're going to keep working and look to make some more progress tomorrow."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol 10th-fastest driver of the day): "Overall it was a good day for the Ethanol team in Sonoma. We started out with some electrical problems in the morning that held us back a little but like we have done every weekend since I've been here, we kept digging, kept working on the car and it keeps getting better. I think we're in a good place for tomorrow and I think we are in a prime position to contend for a strong result."

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