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Latest IRL News and Commentary

Andretti tops 207 mph at Homestead

February 18, 2003


Michael Andretti is all smiles
Photo by
Ron McQueeney

HOMESTEAD, Fla.,  Michael Andretti knows the fast lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway, regardless of the type of car.

Andretti, a two-time winner at the 1.5-mile oval in CART, was the fastest driver at the two-day IRL IndyCar Series Open Test at Homestead-Miami after turning a top lap of 26.0394 seconds, 207.378 mph Feb. 18 in the No. 7 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Andretti, who is joining the IndyCar Series this season as a driver-owner, was the only driver to reach 207 mph in the test.

“This was a good two days for us,” Andretti said. “We learned a lot. We still have to improve things a little bit, but overall we’re pretty good.

“We’re ready for the season to begin. The team has the speed. We just need to make it a little more comfortable for the race. We’re ready, basically. We’re just as good as anyone else out there.”

Drivers and teams tested at Homestead-Miami in preparation for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on March 2 at the track.

Gil de Ferran ended up second on the day with the top lap of the morning session, 26.1178, 206.756, in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. de Ferran was fastest Feb. 17 on the first day of the test at 26.2440, 205.761.

1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp climbed to third overall today at 26.1843, 206.230 in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

de Ferran’s teammate, Helio Castroneves, was fourth at 26.1943, 206.152 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Andretti’s teammate Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five at 26.3469, 204.958 in the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone.


Andretti Green Racing teammates try to figure out steering wheel
Photo by
Ron McQueeney

Andretti Green Racing drivers captured three of the top spots, as Dario Franchitti joined teammates Andretti and Kanaan among the speedy elite with a top lap of 26.4012, 204.536 in the No. 27 Alpine Dallara, good for sixth.

Two-time defending IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. enjoyed his strongest day in five days of Open Tests this month. Hornish, two-time defending champion of this event, was seventh overall at 26.4619, 204.067 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

“We got a little bit further ahead than where we’ve been,” Hornish said. “We’re just chipping away at it. The hard part about this season for us is that we’ve got a new car, along with a new engine. We know it’s the same for everybody, but we’re one of the only one-car teams, and that makes it really tough. We don’t have double information.

“We are sharing some information with the other Chevrolet teams, but it’s mostly about engine work and not necessarily about car setup. It’s going to take us a bit to get where we want to be. It’s a challenge, and if it wasn’t challenging, we’d probably go find something else to do.

“It will be a long season. Last season we got off to a great start. We had a 30-point lead at the end of the third race and started to take some chances we didn’t need to and found ourselves 60 points behind. Then we spent the whole rest of the year trying to catch up and get back in the lead. So we learned that it’s not necessarily the first part of the season that matters. You have to do good, and you have to finish races, but we just want to make sure that our product is reliable and gets us to the end of the race.”

Hornish also holds the IndyCar Series track record at Homestead-Miami at 202.884, which he set while winning the MBNA Pole in March 2002. But don’t count on that record lasting long when drivers return for the race weekend in two weeks, as 13 drivers were faster than the track record during testing today.

There were two incidents during the afternoon session.

Rookie A.J. Foyt IV was unhurt and cleared to drive after hitting the outside retaining wall in Turn 2. His No. 14 Conseco Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone suffered heavy damage in the rear.

“I was on my warm-up lap going into Turn 1, not even up to speed, and the car wouldn’t turn; it slid up into the gray,” 2002 IRL Infiniti Pro Series champion Foyt said. “It did a real slow spin and hit with the left rear and then the left front. Looking at it afterward, they think it bottomed out because there was a big scrub on the skid plate.”

A few minutes later, Buddy Rice also was unhurt despite brushing the outside wall exiting Turn 2 in his No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Twenty-two drivers turned a total of 2,320 laps today. Drivers completed a total of 4,030 laps – or 6,045 miles – during two days of testing. Damp morning track conditions and three afternoon rain delays reduced track time Feb. 17.

Results

Rank

 

Total Laps

Car

Driver

C/E/T

Time

Speed

Session

1

 

94

7

Andretti, Michael

D/H/F

26.0394

207.378

2

2

 

96

6

de Ferran, Gil

D/T/F

26.1178

206.756

1

3

 

146

8

Sharp, Scott

D/T/F

26.1843

206.230

2

4

 

143

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/T/F

26.1943

206.152

1

5

 

141

11

Kanaan, Tony

D/H/F

26.3469

204.958

2

6

 

141

27

Franchitti,Dario

D/H/F

26.4012

204.536

1

7

 

148

4

Hornish Jr ,Sam

D/C/F

26.4619

204.067

2

8

 

106

9

Dixon, Scott

G/T/F

26.5031

203.750

2

9

 

94

10

Scheckter, Tomas

G/T/F

26.5080

203.712

2

10

 

116

15

Brack, Kenny

D/H/F

26.5106

203.692

2

11

 

97

55

Yasukawa, Roger

D/H/F

26.5572

203.335

1

12

 

86

21

Giaffone, Felipe

G/T/F

26.6050

202.969

1

13

 

143

52

Rice, Buddy

D/C/F

26.6051

202.969

2

14

 

109

12

Takagi, Tora

G/T/F

26.7259

202.051

1

15

 

160

31

Unser Jr, Al

D/T/F

26.7777

201.660

1

16

 

64

23

Fisher, Sarah

D/C/F

26.8024

201.474

2

17

 

96

2

Lazier, Jaques

D/C/F

26.8676

200.986

2

18

 

168

24

Buhl, Robbie

D/C/F

27.2082

198.470

2

19

 

6

10

Dixon, Scott

G/T/F

27.6162

195.537

2

20

 

8

14

Foyt IV, AJ

G/T/F

27.8556

193.857

2

21

 

110

14

Hattori, Shigeaki

G/T/F

28.0151

192.753

1

22

 

48

18

Mayer, Scott

D/C/F

28.0990

192.178

2

Quotes

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “We had some good improvements from yesterday to today. We spent this morning working on our setup and took time for pit stop practice this afternoon.”

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “Today we tried to work on our race settings, but we were still 5 mph off the pace. I am still getting used to the Panoz G Force chassis.”

PETER PARROTT (Team Manager, Mo Nunn Racing): “We’ve had a very productive test. We’ve tried a lot of things, and that was the idea of coming here. We came here before (to test), and we wanted to come back and retry a few things. That’s exactly what we did. We spent all day yesterday and all of this morning working on the car. We spent this afternoon concentrating on our pit stops and shuffling guys around on the pit crew to see what they can do.”

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “I’m really happy with the way we ended the test. We learned so much here. I feel best for the guys who worked their tails off and made so many changes. But that’s all in the course of learning about a new car and of the engineers and team learning about me. We ended up getting the car going pretty quick. We made some race runs that gave us some really valuable feedback for the season opener two weeks from now. That’s really what we’re all doing here. That’s our big barometer to see where we’re at. Everyone’s going to go home now and keep learning, and they’re going to make changes for next time we’re here. We have a ton of data to look through, and hopefully we’ll learn from it and get a good run planned for when we come back here for the race.”

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “We’re pretty happy. Sharpie (Scott Sharp) ended the session up toward the front, and I’m pretty quick. That’s been the game plan. I work on the race setup, and he works on the qualifying setup. Kelley Racing is definitely competitive.”

SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We were struggling earlier. It is just all about shaking down the car. We were excited because we got out at the end of the day, and we made some really positives changes. Those helped us out a lot. Hopefully they will be beneficial to us in Homestead, if we are there. If we are not there, at least they will be beneficial to Robbie.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “It was a good simulation, especially in the afternoon with the race setup and the conditions. We’re very happy about it. I think we learned a lot. I think we still have a lot to learn, but that’s the name of the game.”

JAQUES LAZIER (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “It started off as a disaster and got worse and worse. Then it ended on a really high note. That is why I'm smiling now. For the first time, I really think we've got something figured out. I really think we have a solid base to work off of from here. The entire two days I've been struggling with the car, chasing it. I feel like I'm correcting it eight or nine times in every single corner. At the end there, I think we got something figured out. The car was a lot more consistent. We basically put a new setup on and went out there and ran 20 laps and ran our fastest lap seven laps into it. I'm very happy with it. I think we can work on it from here.”

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “It’s going pretty well. I think we’ve got a good balance. We kept working on our race trim, and we’re all happy with that. We spent the whole afternoon doing pit stop practice, which is something new to me. This is the last opportunity I get to do that before the race. We got to where we are all happy working together, and we’re all ready for the race. We’re just doing our job. We were in the top 10 both days at Phoenix and both days here. I think we’ve set our goals to do our job and that took us to the top 10.”

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): “We spent the morning working on qualifying setup and the afternoon working on race setup. I feel that we’re as happy as we can be with both. There’s always stuff that you think about that you can improve on and so forth, but this was a very productive test for us. It was a very good test. I think it was a very good initiative by the IRL to come here and do this open test. In fact, I think that’s all we should do, is open tests, from January to January. That’s great.”

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): (About crash): “I was on my warm-up lap going into Turn 1, not even up to speed, and the car wouldn’t turn, it slid up into the gray. It did a real slow spin and hit with the left rear and then the left front. Looking at it afterward, they think it bottomed out because there was a big scrub on the skid plate.”

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “We struggled a little bit, until the last half of this last day. We picked up where we left off the last time we were testing. We’ve had some technical issues before then, so we struggled a little bit but we’re back where we finished the last test at least. We just didn’t make any improvements.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “We focused quite a bit on race setup today. We ran a lot of full tanks to get a feeling for the car under those conditions. You need to have a balanced car in race setup to be fast here. Team Target has done a great job over the last two days, making a lot of changes and preparing the cars. We learned a lot over these last two days, and I think that we’ll be in good shape when we come back here next week.”

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “The last three hours of the test today were pretty much our whole test. We just couldn’t find the right balance on the car until the afternoon today. I was a bit frustrated that we couldn’t get the Target car to go any faster. Scott’s (Dixon) team helped me out and found a much better balance. The team did a great job to get the car competitive.”

BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “I think we made major strides. Obviously, we had a little bit of a mishap at Phoenix, but I think we made major strides from Phoenix to here and also from the last time we were here testing at Miami. I think with GM, the Dallara chassis and Red Bull Cheever Racing, we've made massive strides. The car is much better than the last time we were here. I think now we are going to have a solid car when we come back here for qualifying, and we are going to make sure we have a solid car for the race. We are quite pleased with the last two days of testing here." (About brushing the wall late in the day): "It was just a brush. We tried something new, a little bit radical. We had a light little brush with the wall.”

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Purex Aventis Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “I wish we had a lot more days. We are on a steep learning curve with everything. Today we focused on the race car, not on speed. We didn't have the car trimmed out at all. We are just trying to get a mechanically good car. We made a lot of progress. We didn't really try to lay down a fast lap. We did that with Sarah’s (Fisher) car, and those guys went faster. We feel good about everything, but as always you want more time to keep working on things.”

TIM CINDRIC (President, Penske Racing): (About being a favorite for the Toyota Indy 300): “Well, I hope we’re one of the favorites. I don’t know if we’re the favorite. The last two days we proved we could go quick. We tried to work on some consistency in the afternoon. The track got a little bit faster today. It would have been nice to go out in the afternoon and give it a shot and see if we could stay with Michael (Andretti) and those guys, but it was important for us to continue to work on the race setup. That’s what we did in the afternoon for the most part. I think we’re in pretty good shape. I think Sam (Hornish Jr.) is still going to be the guy to beat here.” (Are you surprised at all by the speeds?): “No, not really. It’s the evolution and the competitiveness that has brought everyone up to another level I think.”

BUTCH MEYER (General Manager, Team Menard): “It went great for us. We have a new car, and we are learning a lot about it. When we come back to race in a week and a half, I think we are going to be very competitive. The announcement of the driver will be made in the next few days. John Menard will make that announcement.”

KIM GREEN (President, Andretti Green Racing): “Overall, we had a good test at Homestead. We came down here with a big test list – lot of things to try, some good and some bad. Overall, we are very, very happy. Michael, obviously, shows that even as a 40-year-old he can be very, very competitive. Every time he hops in the car he gives 100 percent, and I’m really happy to see that. I’m pleased to see that ownership hasn’t interfered with his speed. It was a good test, but I still feel that we have some work to do. This is a very, very competitive series, and what we have to do is make sure that when we come back to Homestead for race week, that we can adapt to the conditions of that race week.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “I was just trying to find what is best for the race. The team did a great job, and we worked together to find the right setup for all of us. Michael (Andretti) had a chance, and he was fastest overall. I think we’re in pretty good shape. Conditions will be different when we come back, so we’ll just have to see. It’s going to be exciting.”

MAX JONES (General Manager, Red Bull Cheever Racing): “We came away with a great test. From where we started when we came here to Homestead to test a month ago and where we left off today, we really improved a lot. The team is starting to come together. We've got a lot of new people and a new engine and new car, and so we are just trying to work all of it out. We were getting close when we had our mishap at Phoenix. We've come back here and started where we left off there. We've made a lot of headway. I'm really proud of all of our guys and what we accomplished.” (About Rice brushing the wall): “We were on a full load. He just got in the marbles and brushed the wall. It was not serious. It won't ruin our day.”

MIKE HULL (Team Managing Director, Target Chip Ganassi Racing): “This was a very productive test for us. We got through our test plan and learned a lot. We spent a lot of time in race trim, but we also tried to find some speed in qualifying trim as well. I’m really happy with how we worked together as a team. We’re looking forward to coming back down here next week for the season opener.”

STEVE NEWEY (Vice President of Racing Operations, Kelley Racing): “We had a great day of testing. The Kelley Racing team did a great job. We were second quick with Scott’s (Sharp) car and made a lot of progress with its balance. With Al (Unser) Jr. we were working on the race setup. He did several full-tank runs and accumulated almost 500 miles on the engine, so we were doing some reliability runs with his car. The Toyota engine ran flawlessly. All in all a very good day for us, and we’re looking forward to coming back here at the end of the month for the Toyota Indy 300.”

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 7 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “This was a good two days for us. We learned a lot. We still have to improve things a little bit, but overall we’re pretty good. We’re ready for the season to begin. The team has the speed. We just need to make it a little more comfortable for the race. We’re ready, basically. We’re just as good as anyone else out there.”

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “We got a little bit further ahead than where we’ve been. We’re just chipping away at it. The hard part about this season for us is that we’ve got a new car, along with a new engine. We know it’s the same for everybody, but we’re one of the only one-car teams, and that makes it really tough. We don’t have double information. We are sharing some information with the other Chevrolet teams, but it’s mostly about engine work and not necessarily about car setup. It’s going to take us a bit to get where we want to be. It’s a challenge, and if it wasn’t challenging, we’d probably go find something else to do. It will be a long season. Last season we got off to a great start. We had a 30-point lead at the end of the third race and started to take some chances we didn’t need to and found ourselves 60 points behind.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): “I certainly learned a lot, this being my first days in an IRL car. We made some progress throughout the day. The car is pretty good in qualifying trim, and Michael proved that. It’s always nice to do some qualifying simulations and put your name at the top of the chart. We felt that this afternoon was really about the race, and we worked on that really hard, as we have done the last two days. But we absolutely focused on that this afternoon. We’re getting there, but we still have a bit of work to do.”

SCOTT MAYER (No. 18 PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): “Today was awesome. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to get in the car. We are obviously behind the 8-ball. This afternoon we finally got out, and the car felt incredible right out of the chute. We got up to a respectable time within 10 laps. I couldn’t have been more thrilled about the day. We kept the car clean. We made a lot of progress, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s why we’re going to stay in Homestead until Thursday and put some miles on the car. So that next week when we come back, we’re not only capable of racing here, but we’re capable of running a respectable race and running with anybody.”

SHIGEAKI HATTORI (No. 14 Conseco Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): “Today I drove a couple of laps with A.J.’s (Foyt IV) car. I checked a couple of things in it. That was the first time that I’ve driven with the Toyota engine. It is very strong. We checked a couple of things. Unfortunately, A.J. had his crash this afternoon, but I think the car will be OK for the race.”  

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