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Castroneves tops practice times at Nazareth.

Helio Castroneves put his Marlboro Toyota on top of the speed charts in both of Friday's practice sessions in preparation for Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at the Nazareth Speedway – 100th IRL race.

Castroneves, the defending race champion, registered the fastest lap of the day at 165.667 mph during the afternoon session for the race, which also marks the final time the IRL will race at Nazareth.

Vitor Meira led the Honda effort on his first visit to the circuit, the Rahal Letterman Racing driver just pipping series leader Tony Kanaan on the time sheets.

“I had never seen the track before this weekend,” Meira said afterwards. “But Buddy [Rice] took me around in the rental car and showed me a few lines to run. It is a lot like a road course, it has uphills, downhills, flat turns and banked ones. So it is very different than the other short ovals. It is a very fun track, a driver's track. The car felt very good from the start and a lot of that is because of Buddy's test here a few weeks ago.

“We have been quick in qualifying [this year] but today I wanted to concentrate on the race setup. That is the most important for me right now. From the exit of turn three all the way to turn two is one big turn and you have to be hooked up for that. Then you can try to pass on the outside of turn two and the inside of turn three.”

Sam Hornish took fourth ahead of Darren Manning, although his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon struggled down in 18th.

"We've been working predominantly on race set up and it's been a bit more of a struggle than expected,” Dixon said, “but then again we have been trying out a variety of set ups. Our biggest challenge at the moment is turn two.

“We just can't seem to find the right balance there for our Toyota/ G Force at the moment. The Target team has made gains in other places though and we're going to build on that. The good thing about these three day events is that we have more time to try a bunch of things and that's what we've been up to today."

Buddy Rice was sixth on the time sheets, ahead of Adrian Fernandez – looking for a third straight podium finish after a win at Kentucky a fortnight ago and a second place last weekend at Pikes Peak.

“It was a good day,” the owner/driver said. “The car has been good which makes me pretty happy because we didn't test here like a lot of teams. We have a good baseline, and I think we are looking good for the whole weekend. It is nice to be back at Nazareth. I have been in many races here going back to Indy Lights. It is nice to be here for the last race.”

Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon and Tomas Scheckter completed the top ten.


Related Pictures

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Helio Castroneves - Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Toyota  [pic credit: IRL/Ron McQueeney]
Helio Castroneves apexes the hairpin during practice at Long Beach -- Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Russell LaBounty for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, March 30, 2014 during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 finished third. (Photo by LAT/ Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves celebrates (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Charlie Kimball, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Takuma Sato, Mike Conway, Will Power, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves sits in his machine on pit lane during the 2014 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday March 18. (Photo Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves takes to the course during the 2014 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park on Monday, March 17. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves` broken front wing is changed during the IndyCar finale, MATV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California on Saturday, October 19, 2013. (Picture Credit: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon commiserates runner-up Helio Castroneves after winning the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship, after finishing in fifth place in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Saturday night, October 19 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves in action during qualifying for the MAVTV 500 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. (Photo Credit: John Cote for IndyCar Media.)
Helio Castroneves on pit lane at sunset under the floodlights at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California during practice for the MAVTV 500 2013 season finale. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media.)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified second Friday, October 18, 2013 for Saturday night’s IndyCar finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California. (Photo Credit: Michael L. Levitt for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske Chevrolet, maintains the driver`s point lead with an 18th place finish Saturday October 5, 2013 during the Grand Prix of Houston IndyCar Race 1 in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Gregg Ellman for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves during practice for the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT on Friday, August 30 2013. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, qualified 5th Saturday, August 24, 2013 for Sunday`s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Todd Davis for Chevy Racing)

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