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Wheldon tops opening IndyCar practice
Dan Wheldon
Dan Wheldon, who has a trio of third-place finishes at Texas Motor Speedway, will attempt to give Panther Racing its sixth victory at the track June 6 in the Bombardier Learjet 550k. He started quickly on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval.

Wheldon, driving the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, posted the quickest lap (215.783 mph; 24.2744 seconds) in a twilight practice session. Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick was second (214.884; 24.3759) in the No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola car.

Ryan Briscoe (214.652), Dario Franchitti (214.433) and Scott Dixon (214.399) - the top three in the championship standings in reverse order - also were in the top five in the 45-minute all-car session that followed 45 minutes of practice for rookies and drivers not in the top 10 in points.

Helio Castroneves (214.311) was sixth and Graham Rahal (214.224) was seventh, while Tony Kanaan (213.767) was eighth and Milka Duno ninth (213.539). Andretti Green Racing teammates Marco Andretti (213.387) and Hideki Mutoh (213.317) followed.

Activities continue here Friday with final practice and single-car qualifying.  Saturday's 228-lap race, the first night IndyCar race of 2009, starts at 9:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on the Versus Network beginning with a pre-race show at 9 p.m. EDT.



Car Driver Name Time Speed Diff Gap Laps
1 4 Wheldon, Dan 00:24.2744 215.783 --.---- --.---- 44
2 7 Patrick, Danica 00:24.3759 214.884 0.1015 0.1015 46
3 6 Briscoe, Ryan 00:24.4023 214.652 0.1279 0.0264 48
4 10 Franchitti, Dario 00:24.4272 214.433 0.1528 0.0249 27
5 9 Dixon, Scott 00:24.4311 214.399 0.1567 0.0039 51
6 3 Castroneves, Helio 00:24.4411 214.311 0.1667 0.0100 57
7 02 Rahal, Graham 00:24.4510 214.224 0.1766 0.0099 46
8 11 Kanaan, Tony 00:24.5033 213.767 0.2289 0.0523 57
9 23 Duno, Milka 00:24.5295 213.539 0.2551 0.0262 80
10 26 Andretti, Marco 00:24.5470 213.387 0.2726 0.0175 50
11 27 Mutoh, Hideki 00:24.5550 213.317 0.2806 0.0080 88
12 20 Carpenter, Ed 00:24.5702 213.185 0.2958 0.0152 49
13 06 Doornbos, Robert (R) 00:24.5964 212.958 0.3220 0.0262 50
14 14 Foyt IV, AJ 00:24.6387 212.592 0.3643 0.0423 36
15 2 Matos, Raphael (R) 00:24.6587 212.420 0.3843 0.0200 60
16 34 Tagliani, Alex 00:24.6757 212.274 0.4013 0.0170 25
17 67 Fisher, Sarah 00:24.6785 212.250 0.4041 0.0028 48
18 21 Hunter-Reay, Ryan 00:24.7087 211.990 0.4343 0.0302 38
19 5 Moraes, Mario 00:24.7088 211.989 0.4344 0.0001 70
20 18 Wilson, Justin 00:24.7108 211.972 0.4364 0.0020 34
21 24 Conway, Mike (R) 00:24.7477 211.656 0.4733 0.0369 21
22 43 Scheckter, Tomas 00:24.7796 211.384 0.5052 0.0319 54
23 13 Viso, EJ 00:24.7915 211.282 0.5171 0.0119 47


DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, fastest in practice): "Panther has won a lot of races here, and with the times changing, it seems a lot harder to win IndyCar Series races. We rolled off the truck pretty strong. When you look at the time sheet, you can see I had a pretty strong draft, but the car seems to be quick on our own. I would say that in terms of speed, it's the most competitive car we've had this season. That's certainly a good sign. It's still the first practice sessions. There's not too much to be excited about right now, but we certainly have a car capable of being quick. We just need to work on it so it's as good in traffic."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola, second fastest): "So far this weekend has started exactly the way I hoped it would. The Boost Mobile/Motorola car unloaded fast and felt very comfortable in traffic.  The bottom line is that Eddie (Jones) and Marco (Andretti) were able to set up a very good car last year.  We ran their 2008 race set up and didn't change a thing for tonight's session. I'm really excited for the rest of the weekend and think we'll be strong Saturday."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "It was a good first session tonight. We did a lot of pack running to simulate what the car will be like during the race. Overall, the Team Penske car was pretty solid. I think we have a bit of work left heading into the race, but so far we're in good shape. I don't know how much work we'll do on qualifying set-up, because it's all about having a good race car. Obviously, we'll want to come out tomorrow and qualify near the front, but for now we're focused on preparing for Saturday night."

Marco Andretti: "I think tonight's practice session went well for the #26 car; we got everything accomplished that we had hoped.  We started with the same set up we used for the race here last year and were able to make few improvements. I think Team Venom Energy is heading in the right direction and will be a contender come race day."

Hideki Mutoh: "I think that so far we have the beginning of a good race car. We focused today's practice on the race set up rather than a qualifying set up for the #27 car. Tomorrow we will work on finding the speed we need for qualifying. Overall I think we are getting closer."

Tony Kanaan: "Tonight was a frustrating practice for Team 7-Eleven.  Today we started with the same set up we used at Indy; we had a few problems with it there and I think the same problems have found us tonight.  We have an idea of what we're up against and the #11 crew will work hard to get us where we need to be for qualifying tomorrow."

Ed Carpenter - No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone  "We made some good changes to the No.20 Menards Johns Manville car tonight but it was a bit hard to gage because we could only use one set of tires. We end up battling the car and chasing the tires at the same time as a result. We took some positives steps but we need a bit more to make it better for the race and be able to run in the top-five. We do have some good things in mind for what we can do so I'm looking forward to tomorrow's practice. Tonight's practice was a bit crazy. I'm sure Brian Barnhart was stressing out up there in race control. I don't know if I'm getting older or wiser but I found myself stressing out a little myself at the end of practice when I saw a few close calls. There are guys in fast cars that don't have the experience on mile and a half ovals that need to figure out what their doing pretty quickly or they are going to cause an accident."

Ryan Hunter-Reay - No. 21 IZOD/Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone "We got a good read on the No.21 IZOD William Rast car in traffic and that's the most important thing but we're not where we need to be running on our own. We do know what steps to take for Friday's practice. We ended up further down the timing charts than we'd like but we made more progress in this practice than we did in Kansas and we view that as a positive."

Mario Moraes - KV Racing “KV Racing Technology spent tonight’s practice working on the race setup,” Moraes said.  “We weren’t as concerned with going fast as we were about getting the car to handle well in traffic.  We still need to do some work on our qualifying setup, but we have a practice session tomorrow to do that.  I think we learned a lot tonight, which will help us in the race on Saturday.”

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