Reigning champion and polesitter Scott Dixon claimed top spot in the 75min practice session at Kentucky Speedway for tonight's Meijer Indy 300, with a lap of 219.434mph. The Chip Ganassi Racing pilot just edged Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves for top spot by 0.0149sec, leaving many wondering which of these two teams will have the better setup for the 12th round of the 2009 IndyCar Series.
Given that this is the first time the teams have gotten to run at the track this weekend, it turned into a frantic session as drivers concentrated on honing their race setups, practicing running in the draft and stabbing the push to pass button, which in tonight's race will allow 20 pushes of a 12sec powerboost. It is one of many technical adjustments that the Indy Racing League has added to improve its oval racing. The new wing and bodywork package regs appear to have worked too, as this afternoon's session frequently featured cars running two- and even three-wide around Kentucky's 1.5-mile course.
KV Racing's Mario Moraes headed the times for much of the first half hour, being the first driver to break the 218 and 219mph barriers, but given that the grid has been set on car entrant points, he's going to need that speed to climb from 16th starting position. Encouragingly for Dan Wheldon (who will start seventh tonight) he turned the fourth fastest lap this afternoon in his Panther Racing entry. With nine victories at 1.5-mile ovals to his name, the Briton will be looking to expunge the memories of limp performances at the last three road/street races.
Returning to an oval appears to have triggered a mini-revival for the Andretti Green Racing team, with Tony Kanaan leading the team's charge in sixth.
Last week's winner in Edmonton, Will Power, will have to drive his No. 12 Penske Racing entry from 20th on the grid, and so concentrated on runs in higher downforce trim as he will spend much of the night in traffic. He finished 12th in practice.
The start of tonight's race has been brought forward to 8.30pm as there are rain clouds building to the west of the track.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 24.2807s
2. Helio Castroneves Penske 24.2956s + 0.0149s
3. Mario Moraes KV 24.3017s + 0.0210s
4. Dan Wheldon Panther 24.3036s + 0.0229s
5. Ryan Briscoe Penske 24.3342s + 0.0535s
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 24.3760s + 0.0953s
7. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 24.3953s + 0.1146s
8. Ed Carpenter Vision 24.3974s + 0.1167s
9. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 24.4033s + 0.1226s
10. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 24.4480s + 0.1673s
11. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 24.4646s + 0.1839s
12. Will Power Penske 24.4882s + 0.2075s
13. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 24.5173s + 0.2366s
14. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 24.5319s + 0.2512s
15. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 24.5491s + 0.2684s
16. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 24.6309s + 0.3502s
17. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 24.6486s + 0.3679s
18. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 24.6796s + 0.3989s
19. Justin Wilson Coyne 24.6941s + 0.4134s
20. Milka Duno Dreyer & Reinbold 24.7103s + 0.4296s
21. EJ Viso HVM 24.7325s + 0.4518s
22. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 24.8158s + 0.5351s
23. Jaques Lazier 3G 25.0645s + 0.7838s