By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
LONG POND -- On the day America celebrated its 237th birthday, an iconic name in American racing topped the speed charts at Pocono Raceway.
Marco Andretti, whose grandfather Mario Andretti won here in 1986, turned the fastest lap of the test session with a speed of 220.963 mph in preparation for Sunday's Pocono INDYCAR 400 fueled by Sunoco.
It's the first time that Indycar racing has been at Pocono since Danny Sullivan won the race for Team Penske in 1989.
Andretti also had the fastest time in the morning session with a lap of 219.282 mph.
"I think this just became my favorite race track," Andretti said. "This is so much fun as every lap is different. You have to be on your toes and use all the tools from one end of the track to the other. I think Sunday is going to be a heck of a race."
Andretti was the only driver to break the 220-mph barrier.
All 24 cars topped the existing track record of 211.715 mph which was set by Emerson Fittipaldi on Aug. 19, 1989.
Cheverolet-powered cars held eight of the top-10 fastest speeds in the combined practice times with the two Honda representatives being Scott Dixon and James Jakes.
Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan of KV Racing Technology had the second fastest lap at 219.802 mph.
"We tested here last week and we came back with a solid set-up and I am very happy with that," he said. "I think that Sunday's race is going to be a close race."
Kanaan noted that he's been in IndyCar for 14 years and this is one of the more unique tracks he's been to.
"You have to have a good car in Turn 3 and I think that is going to be crucial to pass cars in the race," he said. "You have to have a good car for Turn 1 in qualifying."
The only caution of the day came just as practice was wrapping up when Graham Rahal brushed the wall in Turn 1.
Sunday's race will feature a return to a tradition of a three-wide start, a feature of the original Triple Crown that was revived for this year's Triple Crown.
"By doing the Triple Crown, we are trying to keep the 500-mile races the same; the start shouldn't be too different from Indianapolis," Kanaan noted.
Kanaan won the first leg of the Triple Crown at Indianapolis in May. Pocono is the second leg and the series finale in Auto Club (Calif.) is the third leg.
Al Unser is the only driver to have ever won the Triple Crown, turning the feat in 1978.
A.J. Foyt driver Takuma Sato said he enjoyed his first laps around the Tricky Triangle.
"You had to have a late apex and you need to have an aggressive in Turn 1," Sato said.
Foyt, a four-time winner at Pocono, spoke with his driver, giving him tips on how to set the car up for Turns 1 and 3.
"I am happy to take his advice on how to set up the car. We are focusing on Turn 3 and how to get a launch down the frontstretch," Sato said.
Foyt had successful hip surgery on June 8 and will not be at the track this weekend.
The IndyCars have the day off today as the Firestone Indy Lights have the track for a practice session. Qualifying takes place Saturday at 1:15, with the race slated to go green Sunday at noon.