Dixon Sharp Lead Session
March 3, 2006 | 1:44 P.M. EST
Dixon ran a lap of 1:10.8409 in his Target Chip Ganassi Honda Panoz, bettering Marlboro Team Penske's Helio Castroneves' quickest time from Thursday.
"We going through the motions of our test program today," Dixon said. "We're mostly trying some dampers (shock absorbers) today. The car feels good, and no real issues so far."
Spring Training continues Saturday with media day for the 18 IndyCar Series competitors participating in the session, while the IRL Indy Pro Series tests on the oval. Sunday, the IndyCar Series teams test on the 1.5-mile oval. The session concludes Monday with Indy Pro Series testing on the oval.
Scott Sharp was second fastest Friday morning, posting a significant gain from Thursday, when he was 10th fastest in the Delphi Fernandez Racing Honda Panoz. Sharp ran at the top of the chart most of the morning after running a lap of 112.240 mph - two miles an hour quicker than Thursday.
"We came here to learn," Sharp said. "We're not making changes on the car for the best lap times here, but we're looking to learn for the other road courses on the schedule. The road courses are an area we need to catch up to everybody else, and we're learning a lot. It's nice to be near the top. Given the fact that we don?t race on this road course, we're trying to learn as much as we can for St. Petersburg, Watkins Glen and Infineon."
Dan Wheldon was third fastest in Friday morning's session, followed by Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Sam Hornish, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice, Marco Andretti and Kosuke Matsuura. Danica Patrick was 14th quickest of the 18 participating drivers.
For Vitor Meira, this is his first team with Pennzoil Panther Racing, and he quickly got up to speed with his new team. He was fifth fastest Thursday after running 11th most of the day. Friday morning, he was 12th fastest.
"Yesterday, we were doing what everybody did (in the IRL open test) at Phoenix, leak checks and sorting the car out, because this is my very first test with the team," Meira said. "We've got off to a real good start. We just have to keep plugging away and keep focusing on doing the job we came here to do, which is learning about the car."
After showing promise running partial seasons from 2002 through 2004, Meira ran his first full season last year for Rahal Letterman Racing. He finished seventh in the points, posting second-place finishes in the Indianapolis 500 and at Kentucky.
“Honestly, our biggest gain here has been everybody getting in synch with each other,” Meira said. “We’re learning quite a lot about our car, but we are learning more about each other. We’re going to keep working on our race car. When we get all our information together, we will be fine.
“The Panther team has a very good reputation,” Meira added. “We hope to keep it up there for them.”
The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 2006 campaign with the March 26 running of the Toyota Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead- Miami Speedway.