Andrettis Test At Homestead

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. - While Marco Andretti tested his No. 26 ArcaEx Honda Dallara as part of IRL IndyCar Series rookie testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his father quickly got to speed in the No. 1 Vonage/Jim Beam Honda Dallara he will race in the Indianapolis 500.

Marco Andretti and Rahal Letterman Racing’s Paul Dana are the two rookies participating in the two-day session, with Michael Andretti using the occasion as a “refresher” test.

“I feel good, just going through a few things trying to help the IRL pick the right aero package for the race here,” said Michael Andretti, a two-time winner here. “No (rust), I felt good. I ran at Phoenix, and I was real happy with my run there, and here, they’ve made it real easy to go out by yourself. Obviously, when you’re running together, it’s going to be different.”

His 18-year-old son agreed.

“It’s pretty easy to get around here by yourself,” Marco Andretti said. “We’re just making little changes to free the car up and make it go quick. Then, I’m going to run with dad, which will give me my first experience of running in traffic, and the feel of losing the downforce and work with that a little bit. Nothing has surprised me driving the car by myself. Now, we’ve just got to play in practice.”

This will be the first time the father-son duo has run together on the race track. The two are in radio communication throughout the test, “You won’t hear much to me, but he tells me if he’s coming inside, coming outside. We learn something every time out.”

This is also a new experience for Michael, who said he never tested with his father – the legendary Mario Andretti – when he was starting out.

“The racing wasn’t like this back then,” Michael said. “It wasn’t side-by-side racing then. Now, it is, and you need to have that communication.”

Dana had passed his rookie test last year, and finished 10th in the Toyota Indy 300, but an accident sat him out for the remainder of the campaign. For 2006, he is again considered an IRL IndyCar Series rookie, with Dana racing the Rahal Letterman No. 17 Honda Panoz with Ethanol sponsorship.

“This is the organization of a lifetime, running with an organization like this,” Dana said. “There were a lot of factors that went into our early-season struggles last year, and then I got hurt. Just to A, be healthy, and B, to have another shot at it with a multi-car team where I can learn from guys like Buddy Rice is a huge opportunity, so I’m thrilled. Personally, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. I was cleared by Dr. Trammel in mid-November, and started working with Jim Leo and PitFit, and he’s one of the best trainers in the sport. We’ve been hitting the workouts hard, and I’m ready to go, in the best shape of my life.”

Rice was on hand for the test, assisting the IRL ‘s rules package for the March 26 event here. While his other teammate, Danica Patrick, was not present at the test, Dana looks forward to working with her.

“I love Danicamania,” he said. “It puts people in the seats. If they’re watching her, they’re watching us.”

The IRL IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series competitors return to Homestead-Miami Speedway March 2-7 for an extended session using both the 1.5-mile oval and 2.21-mile road circuit. The 2006 season opener for both series will be the March 24-26 Toyota Indy 300 and Miami 100. The weekend also includes the Grand Prix of Miami with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and USAC Silver Crown Series in a pair of Saturday races.

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