Birmingham: Series Friday report

POWER TOPS OPENING-DAY PRACTICE AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Friday, April 9, 2010 - Will Power, who has dominated the early portion of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season with his two races victories and a pole start, topped the...

POWER TOPS OPENING-DAY PRACTICE AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Friday, April 9, 2010 - Will Power, who has dominated the early portion of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season with his two races victories and a pole start, topped the combined practice (two sessions) time sheet as teams began preparations for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union.

The Australian recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 11.1856 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car on the 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park circuit. Tony Kanaan, who has started sixth and second the first two races in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosport, was second (1:11.3011).

Power's teammate, Helio Castroneves, was third (1:11.3697) and Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (1:11.4243) was fourth. Another Andretti Autosport driver, Marco Andretti, was fifth quick (1:11.5446).

Sixteen drivers were within 1 second of the pace-setter, and six teams were represented in the top 10.

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Vitor Meira, who made his series debut in 2002 at Kentucky Speedway (finished 15th), will make his 100th start this weekend in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Legacy Credit Union. Meira has 29 top-five and 58 top-10 finishes - including being the runner-up in eight races - with four teams. He jumped 13 positions to finish third in the season opener in Brazil on March 14 and led 12 laps at St. Petersburg on March 29 (his first laps led since Kentucky in '08) before finishing 15th.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing): "A hundred starts is proof that I've been doing a good job because I never had to pay to drive, so I always had to prove that I could do the job that people were expecting," said Meira, who is in his second season driving the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing. "I think that (100 starts) is one way to prove that and to feel good about it. There is a lot to be done still. I have not done nearly everything that I want to do so I'm still pushing with the same will I had at my first race."

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Longtime Indy car engineer Iain Watt has joined KV Racing Technology and will work with Mario Moraes and the No. 32 crew this weekend. He had most recently been crew chief for Robby Gordon's NASCAR Sprint Cup team.

IAIN WATT: "I'm looking forward to working with a new team and driver, though I've known (team co-owner) Jimmy (Vasser) for years. I liked what I saw of the team when I was at St. Petersburg, and it's a good opportunity to work with old friends again. The cars I've been working with the last few years are so different than these. I can see the evolution of changes, but I don't expect anything too surprising. An open-wheel car is an open-wheel car."

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KV Racing Technology driver Mario Moraes had minor surgery in Brazil to remove a cyst from his ear canal.

MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "I needed to take last weekend to chill a little bit, but I'm OK. I could work a little in the gym the past few days and feel ready for the weekend."

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The primary (black sidewall) tires are the same used at the Barber Motorsports Park Open Test in February, and are the same primary spec as Mid-Ohio last season. The alternate (red sidewall) tires are new for 2010. The Firehawk alternates are identical in body construction to the primaries but contain a softer tread compound that provides more grip and faster lap times, yet trades off compound durability in exchange for those shorter-term advantages.

"While all of the teams have experience here with the primary spec, no one has yet used the alternate specification we are bringing to this event," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. "Look for the red-sidewall Firestone Firehawk race tires to add a variable that will hopefully lead to more passing on the track."

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Of note: Drivers will have 20 pushes of the Honda overtake assist button for 15 seconds each during the 90-lap race. There is a 10-second recharge period between pushes. … Charter Communications will be the primary sponsor this weekend of the No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car driven by Justin Wilson. … Roll Coater will be the primary sponsor of the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car driven by Mike Conway. He has relocated his residence to Miami. ... Suave will be the primary sponsor of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car driven by Dario Franchitti this weekend.

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Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway has been running around South Florida between races in St. Petersburg and Birmingham, setting up his new home in Miami.

"You can be based anywhere in America because we race all over America," he says. "You don't have to be based when the team is located (Indianapolis for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing). I was lucky enough to have a chance to live where I wanted to be, which is by water and somewhere warm.

"I literally got the keys (April 1) and my stuff arrived earlier this week. I'm settled in, near some friends and making new ones. (Marco Andretti) is a stone's throw away."

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, fastest of the day): "The Verizon Wireless car definitely felt better during the second practice session. I think the fact that everyone was running around the track was better, because after the first practice session we were running on Grand Am rubble and it wasn't real compatible. This was a good start to the weekend, but I am really aware that qualifying means everything around here. This track is very physical and demanding. To me it's really a drivers track because there is a lot of commitment and technicality involved. The blind corners leading into fast entries require commitment if you want to be quick. I have a new group of guys this year and as the season progresses things keep getting better. My approach to this season has been to get points and keep finishing races, that's how you win a championship."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, second fastest): "I am very pleased. It feels good to be in the top five. Tomorrow is going to be very different. It will be a lot cooler and many things can change, but I will sleep well tonight. We just have to make the right changes for the morning. Today was a good day."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, third fastest): "We are working very hard and I give a lot of credit to my guys. We made some big changes to get the car right for me and we made gains. We will continue to improve the No. 3 car and we will see what we can do tomorrow for qualifying."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, fifth fastest): "We're definitely making gains and improvements, especially over where we were during testing here back in February. We've made the Venom car better today and are only a couple minor changes away from being a pole contender. I think we're looking good as far as getting out of the first qualifying session tomorrow and from there it's all about making the right decisions. The field is so close that everyone has to be on the ball and make good decisions."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, seventh fastest): "I think we are in good shape. We did not quite find the balance that we were looking for today. We did find a good direction for tomorrow. The No. 6 Team Penske car should be fast tomorrow."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic, eighth fastest): "We made improvements to the Formula Dream / Panasonic car today. Lap-time-wise the field is very close. There are eight cars within five-tenths of a second. If you make a small gain, it might put you in the top-three, but if you lose one-tenth it would put you maybe 15th. The field is very close. Between the first session and second session, we made gains and the car was better. I am now working more on how to drive better instead of how to improve the car. We are still working on that, but I think we are in the ballpark, so we will just keep working. As everyone is saying, qualifying is almost everything this weekend. It's very important to have a good grid spot. I think the only passing zone is entering Turn 5. It is very narrow and high-speed, so you lose a lot of downforce if you get behind somebody. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. this morning so I could get used to getting up so early tomorrow to qualify. On race weekends, I try to go to bed by 11 p.m. but tonight, since I need to be at top performance for qualifying so early, maybe I need to go to bed at 9:30 p.m. like kids."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 Lotus - KV Racing Technology): "The track conditions were so different from the last time we were here (for the Feb. test) It was so much warmer today. And that made it so much different with the balance of the car. It changed the whole grip level. In the first session, I wasn't particularly happy with the car. It was a handful. So I sat down with the engineers and looked over the data. We then tried several different things and the car was better. I was pleased with the overall balance of the car in the second session. It was a very productive day. We won't any practice before our qualifying run on Saturday. So, having a good second session in today's practice, will be good entering Saturday's qualifying."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, 11th fastest): "We were alright, but we've got a big chunk to go yet with the IZOD car. We could really use a practice tomorrow morning before qualifying. We just need to go make some good changes to the car. This is when it pays to have great teammates. We'll look at what Tony and Marco liked in their cars and apply it for tomorrow. We should be in the ballpark."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, 14th fastest): "I'm very happy about the second session. This morning I was worried a little bit. I think in the first session our car was the worst it has felt since the beginning of the season actually even in testing so I was quite nervous going into the second session. But the crew did a fantastic job. The challenge was since we hadn't run here we were coming here a little bit blind but we recovered well and now we are in the window. I think we've gotten the car where it needed to be this morning and now we just need to try to make it happen for qualifying. The engineers and crew have done a great job and now we know where the issues of the car are and hopefully we can fix them tonight and be good in qualifying tomorrow."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, 16th fastest): "It was a tough day today, starting with a set-up we weren't sure about. We made some good progress during the afternoon session. It was good for the team to see what direction we need to go for qualifying tomorrow. I had some trouble getting a clean run. I think we would definitely have been in the top ten if I could have gotten some clean laps. We'll go over all of the data overnight and be ready for qualifying tomorrow."

DANICA PATRICK: (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, 19th fastest): "We learned a lot from both practice sessions today. I'm not too far off on where we need to be but we do have some work to do tonight. Tomorrow's qualifying session will be tight so I hope we get the GoDaddy car dialed in by tomorrow morning."

E.J. VISO, (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation KV Racing Technology): "Today's was a pretty difficult day for us. We were a little out of the ball park. We tried various things and we know what doesn't work in the car. We are going to go back to a setup we had at the test (in February) here. Qualifying is very important at this track, with the narrow pavement. And it is very difficult to overtake. Your starting position will be important here as well as strategy and pit stops. We have get through qualifying and then work on getting a good race car."

MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "I haven't been here in over a year. So I needed to get used to the track. I have a new engineer this weekend with Ian (Watt). And we are working pretty well together. At the end of the second session, the car was a little loose. But I hope we can make it better for qualifying."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "Overall it was quite a challenging day for us. We really struggled this morning and tried to improve as much as we could this afternoon. I think we got closer, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I feel like we're headed in the right direction, it's just taking a lot of effort to get there and quite frankly the reactions of the car to the changes we're making are very little, so it's pretty frustrating. Obviously, by no means, are we giving up."

9:20 -10:50 am. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Autograph Session

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The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues April 11 with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Grand Prix of Alabama April 11 at Barber Motorsports Park. The race will air live on indycar.com.

-source: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Robby Gordon , Sarah Fisher , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Will Power , Mario Moraes , A.J. Foyt , Vitor Meira
Teams Andretti Autosport , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team