Kanaan Leads Barber Testing

LEEDS, Ala. - Seven IndyCar Series drivers tested Friday at Barber Motorsports Park, the first time for the series on the 16-turn, 2.3-mile road circuit.

Tony Kanaan, one of three Andretti Green Racing drivers at the session, turned in the fastest lap of the day, 1:09.7430, 118.722 mph.

Kanaan was joined by Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick from Andretti Green Racing, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon from Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves and Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira were on hand for the session.

The session was also first opportunity to test IndyCar Series cars with paddle shifters and variable assist steering. Dixon was testing the paddle shifter, with Castroneves expected to try out the new steering system in the afternoon session.

"It's made it a little bit easier to drive, but I'd rather stay back with the old stick," Dixon said."But it's definitely the direction the IndyCar Series needs to move. It's still got a bit of work to do with it, but it felt pretty good."

Kanaan was the first driver to get into the 1:10 bracket with a lap of 1:10.894. Castroneves bettered back shortly before 11 a.m. with a lap of 1:10.2065.

Kanaan then regained the top spot with a lap of 1:09.7430 to lead the morning session. That lap stood as the best of the day.
"This is a fun race track and a beautiful facility," Kanaan said. "Track-wise, it's fast. I had a good day. We always believe we can go faster, and we did not use our last set of tires. For sure, I think we could have gone faster. But our lap time is there. I wasn't really concentrating on the lap time today, I was concentrating on the changes we made on our cars."

Castroneves also was pleased with the session, with the second-best lap of 117.938 mph..

"This place is incredible," Castroneves said. "The high speed that they have, the different layout. It's fun and it's fast. I'm having the time of my life. No question, this is an incredible facility. We have to have a race here. This is a track we need to be at. Hopefully, we can come back here and it will be for real."

Dixon was third fastest, 117.938 mph, followed by Meira, 117.594 mph; Wheldon, 117.564 mph; Andretti, 117.145 mph; and Patrick, 116.802. The seven drivers were separated by only 1.1450 seconds.

"We don't race here yet, so there's no point in worrying about the lap times," Patrick said, after showing gradual improvement throughout the morning and was third fastest at one point. "We were testing things out and seeing what works and what doesn't, so we can apply it to the places we race at."

"This is a tough test track for a driver," Marco Andretti said. "It's very tough to be consistent here, very tough for car placement. It was an interesting day, and it was a beneficial day for Andretti Green."
The only incident of the day was when Dan Wheldon had a suspension failure entering Turn 5, where he went straight and impacted the tire barrier on his first hot lap of the morning. The team had the No. 10 car repaired to return to the session following the lunch break.

"It was just unfortunate," Wheldon said. "I think we had a little problem with the left front suspension. These things happen at the racetrack, but from the few laps I’ve done this place is a great venue. I’m looking forward to getting back out there."

Wheldon bruised his thumb in the incident when he kept his hands on the steering wheel.

"Rookie mistake," Wheldon said. "The Armco is pretty hard, I was trying to steer it away from there as best as I could."

The lone incident of the afternoon occured when Danica Patrick broke a wishbone and coasted to a stop without making contact.

A large spectator turnout took advantage of the sunny skies and moderate temperatures to enjoy the session.

"I've never seen so many people at a test day," Kanaan said. "It's great. Hopefully, we'll get excited and come back for more testing, or -- God knows -- one day we can race here."

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