Friday practice: Rahal duo in charge

The Team Rahal cars of Max Papis and Kenny Brack led the Champ Car field after two practice sessions at Michigan International Speedway

Friday practice: Rahal duo in charge

Brack's morning lap of 31.809s (226.351mph) stood for best time of the day as temperatures soared in the afternoon. Papis came closest, clocking a 31.853s effort in his similar Lola-Ford. Alex Tagliani improved from third to second in the afternoon, edging out Brack, Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta and a surprising Tora Takagi.

"The track was definitely less slippery in the morning, but whether it was the heat of the rubber from the ARCA stock cars, I don't know," said Brack, who has qualified no lower than sixth at any oval venue in 2001. "My car was good in both conditions, so I'm looking forward to Sunday.

"There's a lot more turbulence this year with the bigger Handford Device," Brack added. "Horsepower-wise, you can't feel much of a change on a big oval like this. Handling-wise, it's going to be a little more interesting in the race, for sure."

Papis completed a day of testing at Michigan prior to the Detroit Grand Prix in June and he was delighted to find his car fast off the trailer.

"It was very hectic in the morning, and we got a lot less track time than we were expecting (due to technical issues with timing and scoring and later Roberto Moreno's accident), but the car was good," said Papis. "The car was fast in the afternoon, and we focused on full tank runs.

"The track was hot, so the lap time we did was very special," Papis added. "It was almost like race conditions, so that was very encouraging."

Both of the Team Rahal drivers noticed the difference the latest version of the Handford Device made on the two-mile Michigan speedbowl. Papis' best lap was 8.5 mph slower than Paul Tracy's lap record of 234.949 mph, and some 10 mph slower than practice speeds achieved last year.

"From an engineering standpoint, it's hard to understand why the rear wing acts like a handbrake," said Papis. "The new wing definitely causes more turbulence, and the car is more disturbed. It requires more attention to run at 224 mph now than it did to run 236 last year."

The Player's Forsythe team ran as well on Friday as it did last week in Canada, with Alex Tagliani improving one position from the morning to finish second overall in the afternoon session. Team mate Patrick Carpentier's morning time stood up for third on the day.

"My lap this morning was all because of traffic," Carpentier admitted. "We had a good time this morning, so we stayed on full tanks for the afternoon. I pretty much just waited around so we could see how our car reacted in traffic."

Friday's times can often be misleading, as many teams elect to put off working on a qualifying set-up until Saturday morning. The Penske team seemed to be following that game plan, with Helio Castroneves 15th and Gil de Ferran 29th.

"Not too bad," de Ferran reported. "We still have some work to do, but I'm fairly satisfied."

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