Dixon Leads Indianapolis Test

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon paced an IndyCar Series Open Test at the Indianapolis Speedway. Dixon set the fastest time of the day, 39.8209 seconds, 226.012 mph, in his No. 9 Honda-powered Dallara. Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. was second quickest with a lap of 39.9369 seconds, 225.355 mph.

Dixon's teammate, reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, was third quickest with a lap of 40.0980, 224.450 mph, with 2005 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick fourth and Kosuke Matsuura fifth.

A total of 1,408 incident-free laps were turned on the 2.5-mile oval. Helio Castroneves recorded 127 laps, the most of any driver at the test.

A total of 17 cars participated in the one-day test, including Indy Pro Series veteran Marty Roth, Rahal Letterman Racing's newest addition Jeff Simmons and Vision Racing's Ed Carpenter, who sat out the first two IndyCar Series events following an accident with the late Paul Dana on March 26.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which was slated to participate in the test with driver Buddy Lazier, did not participate choosing to concentrate on preparations for the Indy Japan 300.

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Indy Japan 300 at midnight (EDT) on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. ESPN2 will telecast the race at Noon (EDT) on April 22. The race will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network beginning at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 21. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com.

What They're Saying at the Track

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, fastest in testing): "I don't think we were going out for straight out speed, the car just felt comfortable, so we trimmed it out for speed. I think with everybody, you get a little lucky with tows and things like that, but we trimmed out towards the end and did a similar speed by ourselves. For me, the car felt good so we just went ahead and did it. It's hard to know if this is where we want to be, the weather conditions today are pretty ideal for good speed, it's hard to tell what everyone is focusing on. We were trying to focus on grip, and we had good grip You just try to get the big test items out of the way, and we didn't have too many to be honest. The car was good from the get-go. We made improvements and moved on."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "It feels real good. The car handles well. We're pretty much back with the same setup we ran last year so far because it was quick for us. We're excited about our chances here this year. We've got a great team as far as pit stops and car setups, we just need a little luck here. It's always great to be back here. It's not the month of May yet, but we're pretty excited about it." (Another month before May, does this testing help that much?): "Well, there's only so many things that we're going to be able to do today because the track's really green from nobody running on it for eight months, so we just have to be careful with what we're doing today. We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to put both cars on the trailer with all four wheels on them. We're excited about the possibilities for the race, and we'll keep trying to get better, try some new things and see how we are in and out of traffic."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "It's always great to be back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's not the first time since I won the 500 that I have been back. I came back here last October with Andretti Green Racing for some tire testing, but it's a place that I love. The grandstands are empty now, but the place has an amazing aura, atmosphere. There are a lot of things you can say about this place. For me personally as well, it's great to be back in a Dallara, I hope the Panoz people don't get mad at me, I just feel at home in one and obviously Andy Brown is very familiar with that, and we seem to run quick right off the bat. You know it's a good day. The thing I like about Indianapolis is, I think that everybody thinks that you win Indianapolis 500 and all you think about is Sunday. But that is so wrong because the Indianapolis 500 is really starting today. Everybody is preparing. People may say we are not going for times today. Yeah, right. I guarantee Penske and Ganassi are going at one another very, very hard."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "It was good to come out and make sure everything was the same as last year. It's kind of funny. We basically all went out there and trimmed out and ran something similar to qualifying downforce or close to it. It's alright. We do get plenty of time in the month of May. I guess what today does, it gets all the cobwebs out for Indy and gets you below the white line and a little more comfortable." (About speeds in practice): "We're down on horsepower, but for an Open Test, (speeds) are up, but that's because everyone trimmed out. It was a cold day, so there was lots of downforce. The car felt really solid. Not a lot of rule changes from last year at this track, so we came with a very similar setup. We're just going to do the natural inch-by-inch progression in speed. For the most part, it was the same car, so I assume everyone had the same comfort level in trimming out."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest): "The car had too much push, and we didn't have enough front wing. We did a little change in geometry and the setup, and I think we're pretty good."

Notes From the Track

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice returned to the 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis where he was injured in a crash last May.

"It's good, the weather's nice actually, to be able to get this test in. It's a refresher for everybody to get out here and get this deal started," Rice said "I don't want to be taking anymore vacations like that. I need to stay on the stick here and we should have a solid month. We're all pretty fired up and I think the 15 car should run good with Argent, Honda and Panoz. I had two tests over the offseason, did some testing for Firestone, so I've been able to get back here and get around here, so it's good."

***

IndyCar Series rookie Jeff Simmons began his career with Rahal Letterman racing by turning 77 laps in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Honda-powered Panoz. Simmons recorded a top lap of 220.333 mph.

"Really enjoying getting used to working with the guys, everything has gone well so far. It's nice to finally get into the car and think only about that, think only about driving. I kind of blew the last entry into the pit box but other than that it's gone pretty smooth."

(Rahal Letterman Racing always has a great setup here): "They've got a great car, I noticed that right away. We were flat pretty quickly. They've got some extra downforce in my car, but it's a good car right off the bat. I'm sure we'll have the same thing at Japan. They've always been really competitive at Japan and Indy."

(You had only a couple hours to get ready for this race the last time you were here. Now you have two months. How does that change your mindset?): "I certainly like this. There's less pressure and I can take my time. But there's not a lot of time before Japan. I think this is the only time I'm in the car before we go to do a race weekend, so it's still happening pretty quickly. But I'm definitely looking forward to having a full month this time and having a great run at the ò“.'"

***

Marco Andretti did not participate in the test, but he was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to observe teammates Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.

"I'd be in a car every day if they'd let me, but no, I think it's better for the team for dad (Michael Andretti) and I to test when the conditions will be more similar to when we're going to be racing and qualifying. It's pretty chilly today, but obviously they're still able to learn. The team wouldn't benefit if dad and I were running today because they're learning from it. Patience is a virtue."

Andretti spent most of the day listening to his teammates get up to speed.

"If I can get up to speed just half as quickly as they did, I'd be in good shape," he said. "And just purely listening to their feedback, how the car is and the characteristics of the track, just being around it, listening on the radio. I think it's big for me."

***

Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter returned to the cockpit of the No. 20 Honda-powered Dallara at the test.

"It's always good to come test at the Speedway, first time of the year it's always exciting for everybody. But for me I'm really excited just to be back in the car and get back to work. Just picking up where we left off, getting refocused on working in the car instead of talking about all the events that happened and just getting back on track again."

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