Saturday, March 31, 2012

Penske, Power Quickest in IZOD INDYCAR Friday Session at Barber

A cloudy, wet weather greeted the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series drivers and teams for their first day at Barber Motorsports Park for Sunday‘s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Due to rain that intensified over the course of Friday, the fastest session for the 26 race cars around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course occurred in the late morning.

The defending winner of the 2011 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with a masterful flag-to-flag victory, Will Power kicked off one day at Barber Motorsports Park with the top time in overall Friday practice. Power’s lap time of 1 minute, 11.2886 seconds was faster than the times from in qualifying for the 2011 race. Power was 21/100ths of a second faster than his Penske Racing teammate and recent St Petersburg victor Helio Castroneves. “The Verizon No. 12 Chevy felt very good this morning before the rain.” said Will Power confident on his ability to repeat at Barber Motosports park. “We have tested here a lot and know the track very well and the set-up very well. We just made minor adjustments to the car because we basically know what we want.” said Power. With two of the three Team Penske Chevrolet entries at the front Friday, the third entry handled by Ryan Briscoe settled for 15th quickest among the IZOD INDYCAR Series racers.

While the presence of Team Penske at the top of IZOD INDYCAR result sheers is a trend early in the 2012 season, Friday’s remaining top-five fastest lap times threw a surprising curve ball into the year’s second race weekend for the open wheel stars. Recommitting to the IZOD INDYCAR Series schedule for the first time since 2008, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team’s #15 car piloted by Takuma Sato grabbed the third fastest speed for day one. Both cars are powered by Honda engines. In 4th place in the combined practice results was series rookie of the year Simon contender Josef Newgarden driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Considered to be the teams presenting best chances for challenging the Team Penske juggernaut into the 2012 IZOD INDYCAR Series season, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing both had race cars in the top-10 during Friday practice at Barber Motorsports Park. Andretti Autosports was led by the #26 car of Marco Andretti in 6th place in the first track session. Planning to mount a stronger race than the season opening effort at St Petersburg, defending IZOD INDYCAR series driver Dario Franchitti logged a 9th fastest time ahead of an affiliated #38 car driven by Graham Rahal.

Despite rather light track activity at Barber Motorsport Park, several IZOD INDYCAR Series drivers and teams desperate for testing took full advantage of Friday to acquaint themselves with their 2012 Dallaras. Setting the record for Friday laps was the former Formula 1 driver Rubens Barrichello for KV Racing Technology. Logging 34 laps, Barrichello was also fastest around the Barber Motorsports Park course recorded at 5th fastest amongst the practice times in both practices. “I have only done one test here, but it makes a huge difference compared to last weekend at St. Petersburg.” said Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello’s teammate and fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan was 7th quick on Friday in the #11 car. First practice for the IZOD INDYCAR Series ended with Kanaan stopped on track after running out of fuel.

While Tony Kanaan’s event was not severe, the #18 of Justin Wilson did encounter a failure relating to his Honda powerplant driving his Dale Coyne Racing car. The Dale Coyne Racing team has been devoted to replacing a damaged fuel injector in order to preserve their potential grid position earned in Saturday’s qualifying. While Justin Wilson might be saved from loosing starting position, Oriol Servia will suffer the IZOD INDYCAR’s 10-grid spot penalty after the Lotus engine of his #22 car stopped in early in practice.

Simona de Silvestro completed the second-most laps over the course on Friday. In both sessions at Barber Motorsports Park, the #78 Lotus-powered race machine recorded 32 laps with the majority coming in the late morning practice. The Swiss driver’s fastest time was only 20th on the speed charts leading to desire that the remainder of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend could turn the fortunes of de Silvestro and the HVM Racing team. Of the Lotus-powered Dallaras, Sebastien Bourdais recorded the fastest time around the 2.3-mile road course at 1 minute, 12.4818 seconds for Lotus Dragon Racing. With Bourdais in the #7 car for the Lotus Dragon Racing team, rookie teammate Katherine Legge ended the day at the bottom of the IZOD INDYCAR competitor’s time chart for Friday. Legge’s fastest time in the #6 car was more than five seconds off the speed of Will Power.

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