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Franchitti fastest in St. Pete practice

Dario Franchitti had the fastest lap during practice Friday as action got underway at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

His lap of 1:02.797 - 103.190 mph - around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit in the No. 27 Andretti Green Racing Honda/Dallara gives him the choice of whether the field qualifies in order Saturday or is inverted.

"We've been moving small set-up changes and finding a little bit of time," Franchitti said. "This track is a typical street course, so it's getting faster and faster. I'm having a ball out there."

Scott Dixon was second-best in practice, 1:02.952, which he set during the morning session.

"We kind of messed up a bit in the second session," said Dixon, whose Target Chip Ganassi Racing team switched to a Panoz chassis from the Dallara it used last week during the IRL IndyCar Series opener at Homesetad-Miami Speedway.

"We had the wrong gears in the gearbox, I think we had two thirds in there, so the car didn't go anywhere.

"Right at the end there, there was a caution, so we didn't get to run on new tires. The car is fast. We still ended up second quick, and I definitely think we've got a real shot at pole here."

Tony Kanaan was third fastest, while Helio Castroneves was fourth, Buddy Rice fifth and Kosuke Matsuura sixth.

Reigning IndyCar Series champion and Dixon teammate Dan Wheldon, who edged Castroneves at the finish at Homestead, was 12th-fastest in Friday's sessions.

"We got the changes on the car that I wanted and that really improved the handling," said Rice, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing car.

"The track is a little bumpier than last year, but we can deal with that. I'm a little upset because what always happens on the a street course happened on the last lap.

"I felt I was on a 63 flat (seconds) lap and the yellow came out and we didn't the lap in. That seems to happen a lot on the street course. Right when you have everything together for a flying lap, boom, the yellow comes out.

"It is frustrating, but we'll be better on Saturday."

FAST SIX:

Pos  Driver             Team                   Chassis   Time
 1.  Dario Franchitti   Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:02.797
 2.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi                Panoz     1:02.952
 3.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:03.145
 4.  Helio Castroneves  Penske                 Dallara   1:03.157
 5.  Buddy Rice         Rahal-Letterman        Panoz     1:03.309
 6.  Kosuke Matsuura    Super Aguri Fernandez  Dallara   1:03.470

PRACTICE 2 TIMES:

Pos  Driver             Team                   Chassis   Time
 1.  Dario Franchitti   Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:02.797
 2.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi                Panoz     1:03.102
 3.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:03.145
 4.  Buddy Rice         Rahal-Letterman        Panoz     1:03.309
 5.  Kosuke Matsuura    Super Aguri Fernandez  Dallara   1:03.470
 6.  Bryan Herta        Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:03.499
 7.  Sam Hornish Jr     Penske                 Dallara   1:03.522
 8.  Helio Castroneves  Penske                 Dallara   1:03.571
 9.  Tomas Scheckter    Vision                 Dallara   1:03.725
10.  Roberto Moreno     Vision                 Dallara   1:03.945
11.  Dan Wheldon        Ganassi                Panoz     1:04.127
12.  Danica Patrick     Rahal-Letterman        Panoz     1:04.188
13.  Vitor Meira        Panther                Dallara   1:04.491
14.  Scott Sharp        Fernandez              Panoz     1:04.554
15.  Marco Andretti     Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:05.263
16.  Felipe Giaffone    AJ Foyt                Dallara   1:05.984
17.  Eddie Cheever Jr   Cheever                Dallara   1:06.194
18.  Buddy Lazier       Dreyer and Reinbold    Dallara   1:06.566
19.  PJ Chesson         Hemelgarn              Dallara   1:07.597

PRACTICE 1 TIMES:

Pos  Driver             Team                   Chassis   Time
 1.  Scott Dixon        Ganassi                Panoz     1:02.952
 2.  Helio Castroneves  Penske                 Dallara   1:03.157
 3.  Dario Franchitti   Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:03.351
 4.  Tony Kanaan        Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:03.389
 5.  Sam Hornish Jr     Penske                 Dallara   1:03.672
 6.  Buddy Rice         Rahal-Letterman        Panoz     1:03.713
 7.  Vitor Meira        Panther                Dallara   1:03.978
 8.  Dan Wheldon        Ganassi                Panoz     1:03.999
 9.  Tomas Scheckter    Vision                 Dallara   1:04.003
10.  Bryan Herta        Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:04.142
11.  Kosuke Matsuura    Super Aguri Fernandez  Dallara   1:04.196
12.  Marco Andretti     Andretti-Green         Dallara   1:04.314
13.  Roberto Moreno     Vision                 Dallara   1:04.315
14.  Danica Patrick     Rahal-Letterman        Panoz     1:04.974
15.  Eddie Cheever Jr   Cheever                Dallara   1:05.116
16.  Scott Sharp        Fernandez              Panoz     1:06.107
17.  Felipe Giaffone    AJ Foyt                Dallara   1:06.585
18.  Buddy Lazier       Dreyer and Reinbold    Dallara   1:07.417
19.  PJ Chesson         Hemelgarn              Dallara   1:09.308

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