Team Penske St. Pete Practice Report

April 4, 2008

St. Petersburg, Fla. -- Team Penske had the fastest lap of the day Friday as practice began for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Helio Castroneves recorded a lap 1:03.3068 in the No. 3. Team Penske Honda/Dallara, topping the laps of Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh and Justin Wilson. Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe had the 12th-fastest lap of the day in the No. 6 Team Penske Honda/Dallara.

The solid showing in practice put Castroneves at the top of the list of favorites to win the pole position Saturday.

"I'm happy with where we're at after the first day," Castroneves said, "but I know tomorrow will be even faster."

Castroneves scored his lap shortly before his car stalled and had to be towed back to the pits. "It was a very dirty track, but we were able to put together a good lap," Castroneves said. "We're still working on a couple of slower guys, so we weren't able to get a clean lap, but I feel very happy for the result."

Briscoe said his crew worked primarily on race setup Friday, so the progress was not reflected in the speed. "We're not at the top of the time sheets," he said, but there were a lot of different tire strategies out there. Some people were really going for it on new tires, while others were holding back. We'll be able to run with the leaders and make a run for the pole tomorrow."

Castroneves and Briscoe will negotiate the series' new qualifying format Saturday, and they might be doing it during the rain. The format eliminates the old single-car, single-lap opening stage with a knockout format similar to that used by Formula One. The fastest six drivers at the end will be pitted together in a 10-minute run for the pole position.

"It will be hard to predict how things will go because we haven't done it yet," Castroneves said. "It will be new for everyone, which levels the playing field, but hopefully things will go smoothly tomorrow."

Qualifying is scheduled for 10:55 a.m. EDT Saturday after one final practice session, with the race set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday.