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After Fontana
Final Driver Standings

Rank Driver Points
1 Will Power 671
2 Helio Castroneves 609
3 Scott Dixon 604
4 Juan Pablo Montoya 586
5 Simon Pagenaud 565
6 Ryan Hunter-Reay 563
7 Tony Kanaan 544
8 Carlos Munoz 483
9 Marco Andretti 463
10 Sebastien Bourdais 461
11 Ryan Briscoe 461
12 James Hinchcliffe 456
13 Josef Newgarden 406
14 Charlie Kimball 402
15 Justin Wilson 395
16 Mikhail Aleshin 372
17 Jack Hawksworth 366
18 Takuma Sato 350
19 Graham Rahal 345
20 Carlos Huertas 314
21 Sebastian Saavedra 291
22 Ed Carpenter 262
23 Mike Conway 252
24 Oriol Servia 88
25 Kurt Busch 80
26 J.R. Hildebrand 66
27 Sage Karam 57
28 Luca Filippi 46
29 James Davison 34
30 Jacques Villeneuve 29
31 Alex Tagliani 28
32 Townsend Bell 22
33 Pippa Mann 21
34 Martin Plowman 18
35 Buddy Lazier 11
36 Franck Montagny 8
Rahal on top in St. Petersburg

by Mark J. Cipolloni
Friday, April 03, 2009

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Graham Rahal
Defending St. Petersburg Grand Prix winner Graham Rahal turned the fastest lap Friday on the street/airport combination circuit to top the timesheets for the IndyCars in his NHLR Dallara Honda.  In fact the entire top of the grid was dominated by ex-Champ Car drivers as Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti, EJ Viso, and Tony Kanaan, followed Rahal, all having come from CART/Champ Car to IndyCar. 

Ryan Briscoe was 6th for Team Penske.

Rahal lapped the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit in 1 minute, 3.4078 seconds, 102.196 mph in the No. 02 McDonald’s Racing entry to set the pace for the 22-car field.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson, who led 18 laps in last year’s race, was second with a lap at 1:03.5881, 101.906 mph

“For the whole McDonald’s crew it’s been a pretty good day," said a happy Rahal.

After winning here last year, we asked Rahal what makes him so good at this track?

"I love street circuits.  Throughout my career I have always done well on street circuits," said Rahal.

Is Rahal at that point in his career yet where he feels he is ready to win on a consistent basis now?  "I think I am," said Rahal.  We did a lot of car development over the winter and we have to.  We'll never close the gap to the well funded big teams, but if we spend our money wisely we can out engineer them."

"This morning we came out of the box and we were 10th and I think some of the guys were a little worked up but we knew that the car was quick.  As Justin (Wilson) just said, even in the first session we couldn’t ultimately get our good lap. We got held up a little bit but that doesn’t really matter. In the second session we knew we had a pretty good car. It was all about trying to find some little tweaks that were going to help us in the long run.

"We ran old tires for quite awhile. We were still right up there in the top five so we were pretty happy with that. Then we threw the new tires on and obviously things went pretty well. We got caught behind Danica (Patrick) which kind of hurt us a bit because it seemed like you could be three seconds back and still catch her in a lap (underscoring just how bad she really is) so that kind of got me out of my rhythm. I kept having to back up into him (Wilson) and I’m sure that got him out of his rhythm. But we got one good lap in and obviously we’re pretty happy with that. There’s still a little bit left on the table but overall for the McDonald’s team its been a good day.”

Rahal became the youngest winner in series history when he drove to victory in his IndyCar Series debut in St. Pete in 2008 at the age of 19 years and 93 days old. 

Rahal earned the first Indy car win for a driver transitioning from Champ Car in 2008 and his then NHLR teammate Wilson earned the only other in Detroit.

The ex-Champ Car teams are at less of a disadvantage on a street circuit like St. Petersburg than on the high speed ovals because they require more driver skill and are less dependent on expensive aerodynamic development that the big IRL teams have done over the years with their deep pockets.

The fact that Justin Wilson put one of Dale Coyne's low-budget Dallara's in 2nd ahead of all the big IRL teams just goes to show you that when mechanical grip is more important than aero grip, the new teams have a fighting chance.

An additional practice session is scheduled for Saturday morning before the three-round PEAK Performance Pole Qualifying session to set the starting grid for Sunday’s race.

Quotes

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, fastest): “I think for the whole McDonald’s crew it’s been a pretty good day. This morning we came out of the box and we were 10th, and I think some of the guys were a little worked up but we knew that the car was quick. As Justin (Wilson) just said, even in the first session we couldn’t ultimately get our good lap. We got held up a little bit but that doesn’t really matter. In the second session we knew we had a pretty good car. It was all about trying to find some little tweaks that were going to help us in the long run. We ran old tires for quite awhile. We were still right up there in the top five, so we were pretty happy with that. Then we threw the new tires on and obviously things went pretty well. We got caught behind Danica (Patrick), which kind of hurt us a bit because it seemed like you could be three seconds back and still catch her in a lap, so that kind of got me out of my rhythm. I kept having to back up into him (Wilson) and I’m sure that got him out of his rhythm. But we got one good lap in, and obviously we’re pretty happy with that. There’s still a little bit left on the table, but overall for the whole McDonalds team this has been a pretty good day.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, second): “I think we had a pretty good day. The Sonny’s Bar-B-Q car was working well and we were able to keep working on it. We were trying to get the ride quality even better to absorb some bumps out here, because that’s a pretty big part of it. I’m very pleased with the progress. I think this afternoon is not a true reflection of what we can do or of what everyone else can do because it was pretty messy out there at the end. With 22 cars, everyone is eager to get the season started. So there were lots of little incidents going on out there, but I think we are in good shape and hopefully we can stick it in the top six tomorrow and challenge for that pole position.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fifth): “It was a good day for Team 7-Eleven. We didn’t run this morning in the first session, but we have a decent car, so I am pleased and looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, sixth): “It's really exciting to be back here in St. Petersburg and get this season started again. It was a fun day; we didn't run a whole lot this morning, because of the weather and we wanted to save tires for qualifying and the race. The Team Penske car feels pretty good thus far. We're not perfect yet but I think we'll be fine for tomorrow. We certainly have high hopes for this weekend.”

WILL POWER (No. 3 Team Penske, eighth): “It was a good first day for me with Team Penske. We had a bit of weather in the first session, which held us up a little. We're quietly confident about tomorrow, and we're going to sit down tonight and have a good think about qualifying. I think there's a lot of fast guys out there, so we’ll have our work cut out for us to get into the top six.”

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing, ninth): “Overall I’m really happy. There were a lot of expectations leading up to today, and I think our winter has paid off. It’s still the first day of practice but I think there is more in the car. I’m still very encouraged.” (About the pit lane accident) “I don’t know whose fault it was but I know it wasn’t mine. I was in the high speed pit lane and Wheldon was in the transition lane. I know he saw me but then he turned into me so quick. I heard afterwards that there was another car involved and he did it to avoid hitting the other car. I didn’t see the other car but that would explain a lot. It didn’t hurt my car too much, knocked out the toes a bit but everything else seemed fine.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, 10th): “I would have to say we are heading in the right direction. The Motorola car got faster throughout the day, so hopefully we will be where we need to be for qualifying tomorrow.”

Practice 2 Results

Pos

Driver (Car No.) Diff Gap Time Speed
1 Graham Rahal (02) --.---- --.---- 1:03.4078 102.196
2 Justin Wilson (19) 0.1803 0.1803 1:03.5881 101.906
3 Dario Franchitti (10) 0.2929 0.1126 1:03.7007 101.726
4 EJ Viso (13) 0.4078 0.1149 1:03.8156 101.543
5 Tony Kanaan (11) 0.4376 0.0298 1:03.8454 101.495
6 Ryan Briscoe (6) 0.4525 0.0149 1:03.8603 101.471
7 Scott Dixon (9) 0.5993 0.1468 1:04.0071 101.239
8 Will Power (3) 0.6773 0.0780 1:04.0851 101.116
9 Vitor Meira (14) 0.7563 0.0790 1:04.1641 100.991
10 Danica Patrick (7) 0.8699 0.1136 1:04.2777 100.813
11 Darren Manning (23) 0.8742 0.0043 1:04.2820 100.806
12 Mike Conway (24) 0.8963 0.0221 1:04.3041 100.771
13 Alex Tagliani (34) 1.1329 0.2366 1:04.5407 100.402
14 Marco Andretti (26) 1.1877 0.0548 1:04.5955 100.317
15 Hideki Mutoh (27) 1.2495 0.0618 1:04.6573 100.221
16 Robert Doornbos (06) 1.2933 0.0438 1:04.7011 100.153
17 Mario Moraes (5) 1.3673 0.0740 1:04.7751 100.038
18 Raphael Matos (2) 1.3890 0.0217 1:04.7968 100.005
19 Dan Wheldon (4) 1.5112 0.1222 1:04.9190 99.817
20 Ryan Hunter-Reay (21) 1.5804 0.0692 1:04.9882 99.710
21 Ed Carpenter (20) 2.6864 1.1060 1:06.0942 98.042
22 Stanton Barrett (98) 6.9124 4.2260 1:10.3202 92.150

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