Giaffone Continues To Impress

If there was any doubt that Felipe Giaffone was destined for great things after his sterling rookie season in the Indy Racing League, they were surely erased Thursday.

Giaffone, driving for Mo Nunn’s new IRL team, led five drivers in testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday after turning in a 193.757 mph lap on the 1.5-mile oval.

"Yesterday, in the first laps that I did with them (Mo Nunn), the car was pretty good right out the box," Giaffone said. "I was really surprised."

Nunn is an owner in the CART FedEx Championship Series but is branching out to the IRL next season. He has been part of Indianapolis 500 wins with Emerson Fittipaldi and was the technical mind behind Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s four CART titles from 1996-1999.

Giaffone, the 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year, wasn’t the only driver making news Thursday. Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and reigning CART champ Gil de Ferran tested Roger Penske’s two cars for the first time since it was announced the pair would compete in the IRL in 2002.

Castroneves was second fastest at 192.857, and de Ferran was third quickest at 191.966 mph.

Penske’s drivers were pleased with their runs.

"Everything is new for us, so we spent today just trying to learn how the cars handle at this track,” Castroneves said. “Marlboro Team Penske made some good progress today, but we still have work to do. Hopefully we can accomplish all of our objectives (Friday).”

“We had a very good day today,” de Ferran said. “Because we haven't had the opportunity to run this car on any of these tracks, the more experience we can get, the better off we'll be in the long run. It almost feels like my first year in America because everything is so new to me.”

Buzz Calkins and Eddie Cheever Jr. also visited Homestead, Fla., for the test.

Calkins was fourth fastest at 189.474 mph, and Cheever was fifth at 187.435 mph.

“We're primarily working on a new engine combination that we have and working on getting that tuned in,” Calkins said. “So we had some issues with that in the morning, and it seemed to go better this afternoon.”

Cheever, the 1998 Indy 500 winner, was disappointed.

"Last time we were here was for the race, and we didn't have a good setup then,” Cheever said. “I'm pleased to announce that we're very consistent and still have a poor setup.

“We don't have a consistent aerodynamic balance or a lot of grip, and coming off the corner so slow makes it slow on the straightaway, too. So we have to reassess everything and just try to go in a new direction. All we learned today is what not to do (Friday).”

All the speeds were well off Jeff Ward’s pole-winning speed of 201.551 mph of this past April. In fact, Giaffone’s quick time would have only placed him 21st on the grid in this past season’s race.

Testing concludes at HMS on Friday.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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