In his debut Indy Racing League appearance, 2000 Toyota Atlantic Champion Buddy Rice sensationally topped the timesheets after the first day of practice for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 as Eddie Cheever's Red Bull squad dominated proceedings.

Aided no doubt by the best Infiniti has to offer, Eddie Cheever's Red Bull Indy Racing team emphatically showed the way to the rest of the 25-strong Indy Racing League field on Friday at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway. Making the day even more special for the troubled squad was the fact that Buddy Rice, making his IRL debut, was fastest of all following a superb 221.833mph lap in the second of two practice sessions.

Rice made the best use of the situation that saw many drivers running in packs preparing for race day conditions as well as tuning their cars for single-lap qualifying runs and turned a fastest lap of 32.4568secs in the second session to lead the day after finishing a sensational second quickest in his first ever IRL practice early in the day.

Rice's team boss, a glowing Eddie Cheever, led the opening hour with a fastest lap of 32.5448secs but was unable to improve on that time in the afternoon. However that lap was good enough for third overall behind the second Red Bull car of Tomas Scheckter.

Scheckter and Cheever have been on decidedly icy terms since Nashville, where Tomas crashed out of second spot trying to lap his teammate. However after some people expected Rice to REPLACE Scheckter and not join him this weekend, the young South African put on an impressive performance to finish second fastest overall, his afternoon's 32.5362secs best good enough to beat everyone bar Rice.

Best in class behind the Red Bull trio was Felipe Giaffone in the Mo Nunn Racing G Force-Chevrolet. A flag bearer for both chassis and engine, Giaffone was third fastest in the afternoon with a best lap of 32.6190secs. However it was fractionally slower than Cheever's morning time and Giaffone could not join the Red Bull trio in the 221mph bracket.

Helio Castroneves finished fifth on the day, ahead of Sarah Fisher in the leading G Force-Infiniti, Nashville winner Alex Barron and the rapidly improving Tony Renna, all of whom broke the 220mph barrier in the afternoon session. Sam Hornish Jr was a fraction slower than Renna in an uncharacteristically low ninth position.

Buddy Lazier, fifth in morning practice, could not improve in the afternoon and was the first of those in the 219mph bracket in tenth spot overall ahead of the Infiniti-powered trio Billy Boat, Laurent Redon and Robbie Buhl.

Current IRL points leader Gil de Ferran went about business in a typically calm and quiet manner and ended up 14th overall while series returnee Arie Luyendyk turned laps in his primary and spare Treadway Racing cars but could still do no better than 23rd fastest.



Loading Comments...