Dario Franchitti beat rookie Raphael Matos to the fastest time in the opening free practice session for the IndyCar Series' Richmond round.
Fresh from winning at the similarly short Iowa track a week ago, Ganassi driver Franchitti produced a 16.2518-second lap with three minutes to go, edging ahead of Matos by 0.0313sec.
Matos had previously jumped to the top spot amid a flurry of quick laps after a yellow for a track inspection a quarter of an hour from the end of the session. Benefiting from having tested at the track with both current team Luczo Dragon and Andretti Green, Matos looked set to finish the afternoon in front until Franchitti's late run.
Franchitti's teammate Scott Dixon took third, ahead of Penske's Helio Castroneves.
Tomas Scheckter -- one of the stars of the Iowa event -- impressed again by taking fifth for Dreyer & Reinbold, having previously led the way in the opening half hour session for rookies and drivers outside the top ten in the championship. HVM's EJ Viso, desperate to turn his season around having not finished a single race in 2009, took an encouraging sixth.
Emphasizing his strong short oval form after taking a podium at Iowa, Hideki Mutoh (AGR) had led the way for most of the session -- beating Dixon's early benchmark and then staying ahead until Matos hit the front. But with so many improvements in the last 15 minutes, Mutoh was pushed right back to eighth, behind Panther's Dan Wheldon, and ahead of championship leader Ryan Briscoe (Penske).
Last year's winner Tony Kanaan had the most frustrating session of all, completing just 13 laps before a fuel leak forced him to park his AGR Dallara-Honda. He was classified 15th.
This was the sole practice session before qualifying, which takes place later this afternoon, with an additional half hour of floodlit running scheduled for tonight in preparation for the Saturday night race.TIMES:
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 16.2518s
2. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 16.2831s + 0.0313s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi 16.3570s + 0.1052s
4. Helio Castroneves Penske 16.3618s + 0.1100s
5. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 16.3695s + 0.1177s
6. EJ Viso HVM 16.3716s + 0.1198s
7. Dan Wheldon Panther 16.4355s + 0.1837s
8. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 16.4515s + 0.1997s
9. Ryan Briscoe Penske 16.5035s + 0.2517s
10. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 16.5134s + 0.2616s
11. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 16.5388s + 0.2870s
12. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 16.6002s + 0.3484s
13. Justin Wilson Coyne 16.6295s + 0.3777s
14. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 16.6315s + 0.3797s
15. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 16.6526s + 0.4008s
16. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 16.6637s + 0.4119s
17. Mario Moraes KV 16.7620s + 0.5102s
18. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 16.8310s + 0.5792s
19. Ed Carpenter Vision 17.0220s + 0.7702s
20. Jaques Lazier 3G 17.6426s + 1.3908s