Hornish For Real

Sam Hornish Jr. proved that his offseason testing times were not a fluke, apparently.

Hornish turned in the fastest overall time in practice at Phoenix International Raceway during Friday’s first session with a 173.451 mph lap in the Pennzoil Panther Racing No. 4 that Scott Goodyear piloted last season.

Hornish has been strong for much of the offseason. At Homestead in late February, he turned in the fastest lap of the open test session and was second fast at the Test in the West at Phoenix in early February.

In Friday’s afternoon session, however, veterans dominated. Stan Wattles was fastest at 172.188 mph in Hemelgarn Racing’s No. 92 Dallara-Aurora, with Eddie Cheever Jr. at 172.114 in the No. 51 Dallara-Infiniti; defending champ Buddy Lazier at 172.059 mph in Hemelgarn Racing’s No. 91 Dallara-Aurora; Billy Boat at 172.021 mph in Beck Motorsports’ No. 98 Dallara-Aurora; and Eliseo Salazar at 170.269 mph in A.J. Foyt’s No.14 Dallara-Aurora rounding out the Top 5.

Hornish went from being the fastest in the morning session to 13th fastest in the afternoon session, but his morning time was good enough to top the day’s speeds. Salazar’s morning time was second quickest on the day, while Wattles’ afternoon time was third best Friday.

The Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers were practicing in preparation for Sunday’s season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200.

Morning Session

Hornish was tops, followed by Salazar at 172.324 mph; Wattles at 171.852; Greg Ray at 171.734 in Team Menard’s No. 2; and Sarah Fisher at 171.688 in Walker Racing’s No. 15. The top five drivers all drove Dallara-Auroras.

Positions six through 10 in the first practice session were Cheever Jr. at 171.460; Helio Castroneves in Roger Penske’s No. 68 Dallara-Aurora; Lazier at 170.051 mph; Jeff Ward in Heritage Motorsports’ No. 35 G Force-Aurora; and Scott Sharp in Kelley Racing’s No. 8 Dallara-Aurora.

Castroneves and Gil de Ferran are competing at Phoenix in preparation for CART owner Penske’s return to the Indianapolis 500 in May. De Ferran, the reigning CART champion, had the 18th fastest time of the first session.

The much ballyhooed rookie class of Casey Mears, Didier Andre, Felipe Giaffone and Brandon Erwin were quiet in their first significant action of the year. Giaffone was fastest of the four, putting together the 13th fastest lap at 168.385 mph.

Defending rookie of the year Airton Dare was 20th after the first practice session. Al Unser Jr. was 24th.

The IRLS drivers will be going for the pole position at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 is 4 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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