Kanaan fastest at Phoenix

The names at the top of the list were familiar, but the ones just below proved somewhat surprising

Kanaan fastest at Phoenix

Team-mates Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon, who finished one-two in the final IRL IndyCar Series standings in 2004, were one-two in Wednesday's test session at Phoenix International Raceway. Kanaan, the 2004 IRL champion, was fastest on the day, turning a lap of 20.6994s in his Andretti Green Racing Honda-powered Dallara.

Perched just below Kanaan and Wheldon was Scott Sharp, who didn't finish better than eighth in an IRL race last year but has rediscovered speed with his off-season switch from Toyota to Honda. Also raising eyebrows with quick laps were Ryan Briscoe, Tomas Scheckter, Patrick Carpentier and Tomas Enge - Panther Racing's Czech newcomer going quickest overall in the first session and ending the day 11th.

Sharp didn't win a race in 2004, the first time in nine years in the IRL that he was shut out of Victory Lane. When Kelley Racing folded following the season, Sharp joined Fernandez Racing, going from a Toyota-powered Dallara to a Honda-powered Panoz. He was among the quickest drivers in both road-course and oval testing last month at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and continued that trend on Wednesday at PIR.

"The last couple years have been really tough," Sharp said. "To come out right away and be fast is very encouraging. I've been smiling lately."

Kanaan has won at Phoenix on both the occasions he has raced an IndyCar on the tricky 1-mile oval, so clearly has a great affinity for the place.

"Phoenix has been really good to us," Kanaan said. "I was pleased with the lap time. We have a good car, but there are a lot of people around, so we have to keep improving. It's all going to be different when we come back here, different weather and different racetrack. It's not going to count until we come back here."

His AGR team-mate Wheldon agreed that the mostly cloudy, cool conditions weren't indicative of those the drivers will face when they return to PIR on March 19 for the second race of the IRL season.

"The conditions are very non-representative of what it's going to be like when we come back here," Wheldon said. "It's going to be a difficult race, but I'm looking forward to it."

Following Sam Hornish's fourth-fastest lap of the day - the best by a Toyota - was a third Andretti Green driver, Dario Franchitti. Briscoe, the former Formula 1 test driver who's joined Target Chip Ganassi Racing in a third entry, was sixth fastest, followed by Scheckter - the fastest Chevrolet - Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Carpentier and Enge.



Tony Kanaan (Andretti-Green Dallara-Honda) 20.6994s
Dan Wheldon (Andretti-Green Dallara-Honda) 20.7183s
Scott Sharp (Fernandez Panoz-Honda) 20.7703s
Sam Hornish Jr (Penske Dallara-Toyota) 20.7806s
Dario Franchitti (Andretti-Green Dallara-Honda) 20.8257s
Ryan Briscoe (Ganassi Panoz-Toyota) 20.8353s
Tomas Scheckter (Panther Dallara-Chevrolet) 20.8482s
Helio Castroneves (Penske Dallara-Toyota) 20.8722s
Scott Dixon (Ganassi Panoz-Toyota) 20.8816s
Patrick Carpentier (Cheever Dallara-Toyota) 20.8854s

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