Series St. Pete Friday report

IZOD IndyCar Series press release

TEAM PENSKE’S POWER, BRISCOE LEAD OPENING DAY AT ST. PETERSBURG

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Friday, March 23, 2012) - A new car was no problem for Will Power.

The Verizon Team Penske driver picked up where he left off on the streets of St. Petersburg, pacing the opening day of practice for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Will Power, Team Penske
Will Power, Team Penske

Photo by: IndyCar Series

The Australian recorded a lap of 1:02.0077 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet -- .0854 of a second quicker than Ryan Briscoe in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet - to earn the right to select his qualifying group for IZOD IndyCar Series Pole Qualifying.

Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti was third at 1:02.6099 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with his teammates Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon just behind.

Qualifying for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, featuring knockout qualifying and Firestone Fast Six is March 24. The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (ET) on March 25.

Also on March 23, Esteban Guerrieri led the two practice sessions for the Firestone Indy Lights' St. Petersburg 100. Guerrieri, who finished second in Firestone Indy Lights in 2011, turned a lap of 1:07.3874 in the No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Gustavo Yacaman of Team Moore Racing was second and Sebastian Saavedra of AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport was third.

Sunoco Pole Qualifying and the St. Petersburg 100 both will take place on March 24.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 100-lap race at 12:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The Firestone Indy Lights series will compete in the St. Petersburg 100, a 45-lap race at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda - part of the Mazda Road the Indy ladder system - are also racing twice this weekend. Star Mazda will race at 1 p.m. Saturday and 10:05 a.m. Sunday. USF2000 will compete at 12:10 p.m. Saturday and 9:15 a.m. Sunday.

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Live timing and scoring reports from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are available on the Internet at racecontrol.indycar.com. The live timing and scoring module provides statistical information, including track segment speeds, lap information and much more.

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Pursuant to rule 15.6.1, the No. 77 car of Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports driven by Simon Pagenaud has been penalized 10 grid-spots for an unapproved engine change following practice #2.

Rule 15.6.1 (Unapproved engine change): Any Unapproved Engine Change Out, except those caused by Engine failure in a Race, will result in a 10-place grid penalty. If an entrant makes two Unapproved Engine Change-Outs during an Event the penalty for the second Unapproved Engine Change-Out will be served at the following Race.

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Marco Andretti is wearing a special helmet to honor the late Dan Wheldon, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who called St. Petersburg home. The helmet incorporates elements of Andretti's traditional helmet and Wheldon's racing helmet.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola): "Obviously, we're going to be driving with very heavy hearts because of Dan Wheldon. He was proud to call this place home, so we're going to go there and try to enjoy ourselves and we're going to compete because Dan was a competitor. (About his helmet design): "The first thing I thought is I don't want to do too much because a lot of it is being thrown in Susie's face, his wife. But I called her and said I'd like to do something. And basically my painter worked with Dan's, and we came up with something. "

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Sebastien Bourdais will drive the No. 7 Lotus-Dragon Racing car for Lotus Dragon Racing this season, starting with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Bourdais lives in St. Petersburg - a short 10 minute bike ride from the circuit - and he led the first lap of the 2003 race on the St. Pete circuit.

"My hometown is Le Mans (France), and to win there is very important to me," said Bourdais, who won four consecutive Champ Car titles from 2003-2007. "But winning here in the States is equally as important. It would be great to win here in St. Pete."

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ABC will broadcast the first of its six IZOD IndyCar Series races this weekend. The network will also broadcast the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 3, Milwaukee IndyFest on June 16, Honda Indy Toronto on July 8 and Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 5.

Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear will be the announcers. Reporting from the pits will be Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little and Vince Welch. For the Indianapolis 500, former race winner Eddie Cheever will be an analyst with Reid and Goodyear in the booth for the third year. Jerry Punch returns to Indy as a fourth pit reporter.

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At a press conference earlier today, Mazda Road to Indy officials announced several new partnerships for the official driver development ladder of INDYCAR.

The Skip Barber Racing School will be the official racing school of the Mazda Road to Indy and INDYCAR, and create the Skip Barber INDYCAR Academy, a year-long program that will culminate in a driver winning a scholarship to race in the Skip Barber Racing Series.

Mazda Road to Indy also has formed new partnerships with:

· British Formula Ford: The series champion will receive a full test day in a USF2000 car and one full day in a Star Mazda car as part of the Mazda Road to Indy test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2012.

· La Tam Challenge Series: The top three drivers from the LaTam Challenge Series will each receive a one-day test in a Star Mazda car as part of the Mazda Road to Indy test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2012.

· Canadian F1600: Both the Quebec F1600 and Ontario F1600 series champions will each receive one day test in a USF200 car at the Mazda Road to Indy test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2012.

"There's a clearly defined path from karting all the way to the IZOD IndyCar Series," said Jason Penix, director of grassroots initiatives for INDYCAR. "Skip Barber already has ties to the Mazda Road to Indy by awarding a scholarship for a driver to race in USF2000 and today's announcement solidifies the ladder. In addition, adding these partnerships give us tie-ins with series in Canada, Mexico and Europe."

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KV Racing Technology w/ SH announced that Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition, Inc. will join the team for the entire season as a sponsor on the Chevrolet-powered No. 11 car driven by Tony Kanaan.

"I have used BSN products for a long time to help out with my workouts long before they were associated with KV Racing, so I'm more than glad to welcome them to the team," Kanaan said. "Winning involves preparation and BSN has what it takes to get you the next level."

BSN president Charles Hemmingway said the partnership is a natural.

"It's no secret to us at BSN that hardcore IndyCar fans embrace cutting-edge products that produce results, and that's why we made the decision to jump into the sport," he said.

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A young Salvador Dali can be seen in his large-sized painting, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus - depicted as a friar kneeling in prayer holding a crucifix - at the Dali Museum inside the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg circuit.

"Like many of Dali's paintings, there's always something to discover," says Dr. Hank Hine, Dali Museum director who hosted a private tour for Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Oriol Servia.

Servia, 37, from the Catalonia region of Spain - the same as Dali - has the evocative Dali self-portrait prominently displayed on his helmet. Of course, he's studied the master, who worked in most mediums in addition to writing screenplays and designing women's hats.

"I used to have one of his works - stop watches - on my helmet because race car drivers are always trying to beat time," says Servia, who will kick off his first season with the Indianapolis-based team in the No. 22 car this weekend. "The irreverence of Dali inspires many people today. I'm happy that they built a race course around the Dali Museum."

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He said it: Josef Newgarden, you always have a smile.

"How can I not have a smile? I'm an IndyCar driver, which is an unbelievable statement to be able to make. Even before this opportunity with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing I was driving race cars for my job and not many people get to do that. I try to cherish every moment and certainly this opportunity is a very big deal for me. I'm trying to take advantage and make the most of it."

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Honda by the numbers: From 2006-2011, Honda supplied engines to every IZOD IndyCar Series competitor. A total of 98 drivers raced with the Honda Indy V-8 during that period, with 15 drivers recording race victories. Honda engines logged about 1.2 million miles of practice, qualifying and racing in the series; and almost 500,000 race miles.

Honda is joined on the grid this season by Chevrolet and Lotus - all three are supplying 2.2-liter, turbocharged V-6 engines fueled by E85.

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Bryan Herta Autosport announced a multi-race sponsorship with Motegi Racing, beginning with this weekend's event, for the No. 98 Team Barracuda - BHA car driven by Alex Tagliani.

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Panther Racing has promoted Chris Mower to general manager. Mower formerly was team manager since joining the team in 2008. Panther Racing managing partner John Barnes worked with Mower's father Derek at Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing and again at Bob Fletcher Racing more than 30 years ago.

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Helio Castroneves accepted the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Favorite Driver award on behalf of the late Dan Wheldon at the INDYCAR Fan Village. Castroneves was second in the voting.

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUOTES:

ESTEBAN GUERRIERI (No. 11 Pistas Argentinas/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "We weren't pushing 100 percent because we want to save that for qualifying. We were just trying to work on the car and try to be a bit quicker, the track is getting better, we put a bit better tires and went out to do two laps with those tires and then that's it. So, here we are, and at least we have good information to analyze tonight and for tomorrow's qualifying." (About St. Pete circuit): "It's special always when you drive around the walls, you know? It's like you got to get used to going so close to the walls. The track actually is quite nice, they said it was bumpier but I don't feel like at all. Probably a bit bumpy in the first corner but it has good grip here. We are going quicker already than last year's pole, and so I think it's fun." (Does you have to change your driving style): "A little bit, yeah. Actually now it's harder because you can't risk it, but if you missed the apex and before you could go off the brakes and jump the loaves, now if you try to jump one of the curbs you probably are in trouble. You have to be more precise, which is more challenging."

GUSTAVO YACAMAN (No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling): "On his style on curbs: I like to have fun jumping all over them, this track is not the case. They're not very good to use them at this track. For some reason the way the caress goes up it unsettles them a lot, but I mean it's fun. I do like the rumble strips a lot more than the curbs. Like Esteban said, you could run all over them and sort of cut the corner a bit and gain more time. But, it's still a good track and we're working on it. I think qualifying tomorrow morning will be really quick." (About what's different): "All the curbs, before there were the rumble stips, the sticks, now it's a big round tall curb."

DAVID OSTELLA (No. 22 TMR-Global Precast-Xtreme Coil Drilling): "Unfortunately in the first session I just pushed too hard on cold tires. It was a stupid mistake on my part. I feel bad for the team that first session; everyone was looking forward to getting out there. They were sweating like crazy on Thursday to get this thing together so I felt bad for them. We were able to push it aside and look forward to the second practice. It was pretty good. It was essentially my first time on track so we worked on some balance changes and got out on new tires to see how the car would handle. It's not bad. We struggled just a little with my downshifting. Other than that everything's going well. I've got to thank the team for doing all this hard work in the heat. I can't thank them enough for getting the car ready to go for this session."

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We didn't do many laps in the second session, we wanted to conserve tires until we have a better understanding of how they degrade and it puts us in a good position for tomorrow in practice. All in all, we'll make some changes over night and see what we can come up with for tomorrow. (About his philosophy in practice): "In practice, you don't have the intensity that you have in qualifying, but you certainly take it seriously as far as getting a good setup. You have to get the car right because that's what you'll be using in qualifying and the race. (About all of the cars together for the first time at an event): "It's actually very tight and very close. It's pretty good."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): "The IZOD Team Penske car is good. It already feels faster than the old car around here, braking later. It feels really good, especially the extra horsepower from the Chevrolet twin-turbo V6. It's definitely a different feel. There's a lot of tuning we can do around the engine drivability and the car setup. I'm enjoying it like a kid with a new toy. I'm having a good time with it. I feel like it is suiting my driving style, and I've been able to learn a lot about my driving style as well with this new car. It's good timing with a new engineer, Jonathan Diuguid. He's doing a great job. It will be his first race as an IndyCar engineer so we're hoping to kick it off with a good one."

JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "Overall it was a pretty good day for the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car. There are a couple things we need to work out with the car, but I am very confident that we will have a good qualifying session on Saturday afternoon."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus): "It was the first day in the car and there was a lot to do. Overall, I'm pretty damn happy that everything went the way that we wanted to. Honestly, if you had told me that we would run two sessions with no problems, I would have signed straight away. We're near the top of the Lotus teams, pretty much. We're seven hundredths behind Simona, who was the fastest. We're just learning about the car and making it better every run and making progress. This is what the team needs. We'll all get a good night's sleep after the boys worked until 3 a.m. last night. It's a good day. A good day."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I thought it was a great day. It was really nice working with the guys for the first time officially on a race weekend. We made a lot of progress today and hopefully we'll have a lot more to show tomorrow. We feel really positive though and have a good starting package that we just need to keep tuning and make it better. (How did you feel running for the first time on a full race weekend with the IndyCar drivers as opposed to Indy Lights?): "It's definitely a little weird when you're running behind guys like Dixon and Servia, but it felt really normal. The transition from Lights has been really good into IndyCar. I felt really comfortable."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Sonny's BBQ Honda): "We started off OK this morning, but didn't make as much progress as we were hoping to. But I don't think we're as bad as the times look either. At the end of the session we struggled to get the tires up to temperature and got a lot of traffic. I got one clear lap and set a time which was good enough for P9, but for some reason they didn't count it. We were experimenting with a lot of things today, and we feel we've got a direction now. We've just got to keep working at it."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "We made really big improvements this afternoon on the car side. I know we still have a bit of work ahead of us for qualifying, but I think we're moving in the right direction on the car and also on the engine. We've started creeping up a little bit and it's been going better and better. It's fun."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It was an OK day. Obviously, we would like to have a smaller gap to the front guys. We just need more laps and more things to work on. But we have a direction to go which the team feels good about. I think we'll make some good changes tonight and be ready to go on Saturday. Despite being our first race together, the guys are doing a great job working as a unit. I'm very pleased with the team coordination. We are sorting out the bugs with so much new stuff that has been thrown at them. All in all, I think our program is going really well."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "It has been a good day so far. Every time we go back out, we improve. We are right there, but it's just a shame we can't run more this afternoon. Something didn't feel right, and I shut it down to be on the safe side. It is what it is, and that's racing. But I'm very happy with the way things are going. The HP car is nice to drive around this street circuit of St. Pete. I love street circuits; they provide you so much adrenaline rush. I still think we'll be good tomorrow."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda: "It was the first day of the season, and basically, it was a trouble-free day which is very important. We collected as much data as possible and had a long list of things to do today but the learning process was quite good. It was good to see the boys able to work on pit stops in a race environment for the first time too. We will continue to work hard tomorrow."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "First day, first race, not too many headaches or new car niggles just sort of getting up to speed and figuring it all out. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Team is going to make some changes overnight. We got some ideas and I think tomorrow again in qualifying we're still shooting for a top-qualifying spot in the No. 83 Novolog Flexpen Honda."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "Overall, I feel like it was a really good day for the Service Central guys. We made a lot of improvements and we feel like there's more time in both myself and the car and so I think we feel good about where we stand both tomorrow and then on into Sunday. There's still work to be done but, overall, I think the guys did a really good job and we're looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We worked today on balance for the most part. Coming back to St. Petersburg with a new car, there are a lot of unknowns obviously. The Target car is good though. We made a number of adjustments in the second session and I think we over-adjusted and got the car too loose. Looking back now I think we should probably have been higher up on the scoring charts."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "We're still learning both the engine and the chassis. The Target guys are working hard on it and we have tonight and a practice session tomorrow to get it right for qualifying. You always have these things when you're developing a new car. It's a lot of work."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Lotus-DRR Lotus): "We're obviously not where we want to be, we wanted to be higher. I thought that the TranSystems car and the Lotus engine made progress from the first to second session, but it doesn't really show on the time sheets because it's very tight. It's amazing, you come up with a new car and new engines and you look at the field and it's so tight because two tenths of a second hold four or five people. It really shows how competitive the championship is and it will make us work that much harder to succeed."

KATHERINE LEGGE (No. 6 TrueCar/Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus): "In all, today was good. We achieved a lot of what we wanted to achieve. We had some minor issues in the first session with brakes and drivability, which the team quickly addressed. In the second session we were working on several things, including my learning of the track. It is certainly not representative of what this team is capable of. It's been challenging, because we have only had one day of testing in the car before today, when the other teams have had so many more days. We are little bit behind those teams, but we are definitely making progress. I am very happy with the progress, because when the team is making progress, it keeps everyone motivated."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra Team Penske Dallara Chevrolet): "It was definitely a good first day for Team Penske. The Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra car was very promising. Our second session was much improved and the guys did a good job. I'm very encouraged about our chances for tomorrow and in Sunday's race."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "I think certainly the Go Daddy car saw an improvement from the first session to the second today which is what we are here to do. If we can improve a little each session, then when it matters we're going to be there. We'll just keep chipping away and hopefully get the No. 27 Chevy in the Firestone Fast Six by tomorrow afternoon. This track is fun, as you know, it's my first time here in an IndyCar and it feels a lot tighter in this car than it did in a Firestone Indy Lights car! The car has a decent amount of power and grip to hold onto the (green) track the way it does. Overall, it's cool to be here at the first event and I think everyone is excited that we're finally racing."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/ Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "No doubt we could have had a smoother day, but we're still trying so many things with the car, the engine - the entire setup. It's all new, so you have to expect that on the opening day. We were much better in the second session (than the first), but we still have a lot of ground to make-up to be where we want to be for qualifying."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): "I'm pretty excited about qualifying because we didn't get the most out of any our runs today on new tires. Every time we went out with fresh tires, someone would spin or the caution would come out and we weren't able to get a clean, fast lap. Each of those laps would have easily been much quicker than what we ended up with."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Team Barracuda - BHA Lotus): "For our first day at the track here in St. Pete, it's obviously not what we wanted. We know that we're behind because of the engine situation - it's no secret anymore, but I think we left too many tenths on the table. We had some understeer on the car and tried to fix it. I think the team is doing a great job. We can't do any miracles but we're trying all kinds of things and at some point we're going to find what this car wants, and we'll improve it. If we can finish the weekend and get everything out of the car that we need, I think it will be mission accomplished. We have a great team and even with very little time on the track, nobody has given up. We're pushing really hard and trying to make up all the lost time from the winter season, which went from eight days to a day and a half, but we're going to catch up. We have good enough people that at some point, we'll find what the car needs to go quick."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "We found quite a good direction on the ABC Supply car towards the end of the last session so we definitely improved from this morning; we've just got to see what we've got tomorrow. All in all, everyone's working hard and we're getting there."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO/Mouser Electronics - KV Racing Technology w/SH Chevrolet): "It was an interesting day. We tried a lot of new things to make the car better. It was a typical first race of the year, but with a new car, new engine and new team. It is the same name, but a lot of new people, so everybody is getting used to everything. At least for me, it was a positive day and we can use the good things that I did to help my teammates and then tomorrow we can put the three cars in the top-10.

RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet):"With the (mechanical) problem we had this morning, it was pretty much a setback. I spent the afternoon session learning the track, while everyone else was now improving their cars. I was playing catch up big time that's for sure. Hopefully tomorrow I can improve a little more from today."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet/Firestone): "The first day of practice in St. Petersburg is always nice and refreshing. I ran some laps in this beautiful place. The morning session went pretty well. Then in the afternoon we tried some things with the car that didn't work out the way we hoped, but at least we know what direction to go in for tomorrow."

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):

7 a.m.

Garages open

9- 9:40 a.m.

Firestone Indy Lights Sunoco Pole Qualifying (all cars, European-style qualifying)

9:55 - 10:55 a.m.

IZOD IndyCar Series practice

1:55 - 3:15 p.m.

IZOD IndyCar Series pole qualifying (knockout qualifying and Firestone Fast Six)

3:30 - 4:40 p.m.

Firestone Indy Lights St. Petersburg 100 (45 laps), TV: Taped (5 p.m., March 29)

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Series INDYCAR
Tags briscoe, chevrolet, franchitti, honda, indy lights, lotus, penske, power