Barber Day 1: Power fastest in changing conditions
The defending race winner led the opening day of practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the picturesque 2.38-mile road course with a lap of 1 minute 11.2886 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power's Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, the 2010 Barber race winner and current IZOD IndyCar Series points leader, was second in the No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet with a lap of 1:11.5010.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato was third (1:11.5608) in a Honda-powered car followed by Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden (1:11.5884) also in a Honda. KV Racing Technology's Rubens Barrichello was fifth (1:11.6028) in a Chevrolet.
Sato led a rain-soaked afternoon session with a lap of 1:18.868 that saw only 17 cars record laps in wet conditions.
Qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is scheduled for 10:40 a.m. (ET) on March 31. It will be telecast by NBC Sports Network at 4 p.m. (ET).
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Verizon No. 12 Chevy felt very good this morning before the rain. 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. I think with the rain qualifying will be mixed up tomorrow and if the track has weepers there will be wet patches. Driving the new car really isn't all that different - you carry a lot more speed everywhere on the track. I just hope the results are similar."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "The test we had here previously went quite well for us but we came back here and we lost a little bit of the balance from whatever the tire change was from then to this weekend; we still need to work on a few things but we found a direction to go at the end of the first session, so we just have to get working with that."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "I think you need to keep your head clear and not try to take too much from the rain. We went out like most people did just to get a feel for what it was like. It looks like we'll be dry tomorrow but you never know. It's good to have a little experience if that situation presents itself tomorrow. (How did your car feel in the dry conditions of the first session?):"I think we had a good first session. We're certainly in the ballpark. We're not quite there, I think we need to make some adjustments and dial it in a bit more. We're on the right track though and we're definitely in the hunt. "
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "With very little practice, everybody will be in the same boat tomorrow. The track is very different from when we last tested here. I think everybody was chasing their cars, I know I felt like I was chasing my car but you can't tell that from the timesheets. There's a lot of different series running here this weekend, so there's a lot of different tire compounds and manufacturers with the GT series. You're mixing (other series rubber) with our Firestone rubber. Sometimes the different rubber on the track doesn't affect you, and sometimes is does. It depends on the set-up of the car. But sometimes the mix is good, and it makes everything perfect. Today wasn't the case, but it was the same for everybody. For us, it wasn't easy out there, so I'm pretty pleased to be that far up front on the time sheet. We'll do a little work, and I'm pretty positive for tomorrow (qualifying) already."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Team Penske Chevrolet): (About not going out in the rain): "We just wanted to do some stuff, but at the end of the day, the rain was getting a little bit too much. By the weather forecast, it sounds like we're going to have a dry qualifying tomorrow and for Sunday it seems even better, so there is no point for us to go out there and take any chances at all. (About running in the dry): "In the dry, it went really well. It looks like the testing we did here so far is paying off. But again, it's too early, it's only one session, but right now I feel comfortable. Team Penske is doing a good job, and Chevy is doing even better. I'm super excited for tomorrow. It's going to be a tough qualifying, and at this point the AAA crew are doing a super good job, so we're just going to continue carrying this good momentum from St. Pete."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "We had a rain session in the morning warm-up at St. Pete, but that obviously was much drier than today. I don't mind, really. There is a little bit a team can get out of (running in the rain) with the aero configuration - how the car is affected by the (alternate) red tire and so on - but not a lot."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "It was a bit of an up-and-down day for the Service Central team. The rain was pretty fun. The car in the dry, we have some work to do. We're not far out of it but it's just a little frustrating for everyone that when we tested here we were so strong and we come back and still have work to do. We're going to keep our heads up and keep moving forward."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "It was puddling up and we were hydroplaning everywhere. The car is actually a lot of fun to drive out in the wet. There's down force. You can see by the amount of rain we were sucking in the air down in the straights. It takes a while to figure out the brakes. We figured out the brakes in the dry, now we just have to figure out the brakes in the wet. We still have little bit of work to do. I love racing in the rain."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The first session was a bit of a challenge just getting the car where we needed it to be. We ran the second session in the wet and it was the first time in those conditions with other cars around you, so it was pretty interesting. Looking forward to tomorrow and hoping the weather clears back up a bit."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It was OK today. We were able to make some changes in the morning session. But the car wasn't really what we wanted. It is too bad we didn't get a chance to try the changes we made for the afternoon. That's a little disappointing since we felt good about going into the afternoon practice. I have never raced here before, so the test we did here a few weeks back did help a bit. But it rained then too. So I had a half day of testing and then one practice so far. That isn't a lot of track time compared to some of the other guys. It took us some time to learn the street setup in St. Pete, and it will take us some time here for the natural road circuit. Just wish we could have run the second practice in the dry. The forecast looks pretty good for the rest of the weekend, so I am positive we can improve the car into qualifying and the race. We didn't run the car at all in the second session."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): "I think it was a positive day. We started off with a pretty strong setup. We're going to do a couple of changes for tomorrow that I think are going to go in the right direction. We just have to keep working hard. I think we have a lot of work on the engine side more than on the car side right now so we have to really focus on that and hope for a good qualifying tomorrow.
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "We only did a handful of laps today in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske car. There wasn't a whole lot of time to work on the car with the schedule and the rain today, but I feel like we know what direction to take in qualifying tomorrow. It still would have been nice to get a few more laps in today. I'm looking forward to what's ahead this weekend, starting with qualifying tomorrow."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Lotus Dragon Racing Lotus): "This place is strange because I experienced the same thing last year. I was the only one last year to turn laps in the rain, and the car felt really, really nice in the wet conditions. It's very tough to drive here in dry conditions because it's really slippery and tough to get the balance right. And today, same thing; this morning we went out and we were struggling with balance and the car had some rear issues and understeer. It's OK, but it's not easy. And then we go out in the wet and the thing is like fixed. It has just a little push. The rear is there and we can push it. I had a great time driving in the wet conditions."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola): "The new car really has a lot of grip in the wet. I think the braking was really good in those (wet) conditions. I think we have a chance to be in the top-five tomorrow (in qualifying) whether it's rain or shine. If you looked at the first session, we still have a few tenths (of a second) to make up on Willy P (Will Power), but we're going to get the most we can."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "It turned into a test session, you could say, out there in the rain. We were sorting out the balance of the car, and running in the rain lets you test things like the brakes. It really had a lot of grip in the rain, and it gave us a chance to see how the car reacts in the wet. (The rain) puts a lot of pressure on us for the (Saturday) morning session tomorrow. It's a short one - only 20 minutes - and if it's dry that's not a lot of time to find the speed we need. It's not ideal, but we'll make it work."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet*): "We tested here a couple weeks ago but never with this new tire compound so things are a bit different today. Our third session, the last before qualifying tomorrow, is only 20 minutes when it's usually an hour. Those of us outside the top ten (in points) only got 30 minutes this morning and this afternoon's session was rained out. So we really have limited track time, but we'll make the best of what we have. Everyone from the team and Chevy is working really hard and I'm confident we can find the speed the Go Daddy car needs."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "Well what a difference it makes when you know the place. I have only done one test here, but it makes a huge difference compared to last weekend at St. Petersburg. Today was a day where I don't think anybody really had the chance to push the car to its limit. It brings a new challenge to the weekend because we only have 20 minutes tomorrow before qualifying so we have a lot of work to do with the engineers tonight to make sure the car is good enough for qualifying."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 GEICO/Mouser Electronics - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet):
"It was an OK day. Obviously the wet session didn't help if it doesn't rain tomorrow, but it was fun to drive in the rain. We have a pretty competitive car so we just have to keep it right. It is so close again between the top-six guys that whoever makes the least mistakes on a lap will probably take positions second to eight. I am excited for tomorrow."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA - KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "It was a long day today, but we didn't run as many laps as we wanted. In the afternoon practice we were expecting to run for an hour, however it was raining so hard that we just did a few laps to get a reference for the height of the car and the braking. It was pretty much a slow day, but I think as a team we found some answers, Tomorrow everything will happen very fast. We only have a 20 minute session before qualifying so the laps we run then will be the key to a good qualifying result..
JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "I wish we would have had more track time today. Our first practice session wasn't the best at P17 and then the rain in the final practice session didn't allow us to really fix any problems. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for the #19 Boy Scouts of America Honda. It looks like wet weather for tomorrow morning for qualifying, so we will do our best to earn a good starting spot for the race on Sunday."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "One of the things for us that's a bit of a carry-over from last weekend was that throughout the weekend we picked up on a couple things that maybe didn't go quite right and adjusted for them and learned something. We brought that mentality here with respect to a couple things and I think the biggest for us it to continue to make forward progress on the National Guard Chevy, even with some of these shorter sessions. And we have a pretty good feel for where we need to improve and the types of things we need to do to be able to do that. That for me is the biggest thing, lap times as this weekend goes on are going to be what they are, but we've got a strong baseline coming in here and I think we can turn that into a good result on Sunday."
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama continues tomorrow with a warm-up session from 8:00 – 8:20 a.m. following by qualifying, which is slated for 9:40 – 10:55 a.m.
The 2012 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 2:00 p.m. (ET).
Results Practice 1
Results Practice 2
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