Power leads opening day at Mid-Ohio
Power's lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was more than two-tenths of a second faster than his 2012 pole-winning lap time. The track record of 1:05.347, held by Dario Franchitti (August 1999) and Gil de Ferran (August 2000), will be challenged in the three rounds of knockout qualifications for the Verizon P1 Award on Aug. 3.
"We got a good time in at the end. A few mistakes during the session but we're narrowing it down," Power said. "I'd love nothing more than to get on the pole here and have a chance to win a race. But good so far, and we'll keep working hard."
Scott Dixon, who has won the past three races to vault to second in the championship standings with six races remaining, was second fast (1:05.4469) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. In addition to seeking his third consecutive victory at Mid-Ohio (and fifth overall), Dixon is seeking to become the first driver under INDYCAR sanction to win four races in a row. Sebastien Bourdais won four consecutive events in the Champ Car World Series in 2006.
Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was third (1:05.5018) in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport, while Franchitti was fourth (1:05.7019) in the No. 10 GE car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
"I'm very excited because this is my first Indy car race. For me it's something very special and something I dreamed about my entire life. In Italy, Indy car is very popular. We have it on live TV and we really like it. It's the kind of racing I've always wanted to do and finally I get an Indy car drive. I'm very excited. It's good we are doing it at Mid-Ohio, a permanent circuit; it's still different from what I'm used to, but a bit closer.
"It's very good we had an Open Test, so I had a chance to learn the car and work with the boys, the new engineers. Actually I fit great with them. It's a fantastic team. Very nice people. We had a good time last week in Indianapolis when we made the seat. We had a lot of time to talk. They are very open-minded people that are trying to make me feel at home and I really appreciate (it). So far, so good. I still have a few things to learn and it's not going to be easy this weekend. I think we have everything in place to do well."
(About the team's and his own expectations for the weekend): "Bryan (Herta) has been absolutely nice to me. He has all the faith. He's been following myself since my GP2 career. He always said he always appreciated what I've done. He said that I just need to take my time. There's no pressure. There's no rush. I have to say nobody is putting any pressure on the weekend. It's myself that I'm the first that wants to perform. I'm a racing driver. I feel that it's a competition and the biggest pressure comes from myself and the biggest expectation is the one I personally have. I know that these guys are fast and these guys are tough to beat. I'm not expecting anything special, but I have my goals in my mind and I still need to work between today and tomorrow to get closer."
(About the potential for more races this year): "It's going to be a team decision. Obviously this is a great opportunity for myself. It's obvious it's going to be related to the performance that I do during the weekend. If I do well, probably I will have more chances. Again, it's not going to be my decision. It's the team's decision and we will do our best for the team for now on until the end of the season."
(Is it extra nice after the opportunity with Rahal fell through?): "I've been trying for a while to get here. But now the taste is even better because it took a while and finally I'm here. Obviously, we're talking about a super-competitive series. It's also normal that it's tough to get in here. What I have to make sure now is to stay here longer, which is the most difficult part. So one step is done and we have many, many steps to go and I have to make sure I do my best to do everything."
Six different teams were represented in the top 10 as 24 drivers completed 797 laps combined in the two sessions. The top 18 cars were separated by less than a second.
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was definitely hard to get the car right, this year period for me. We're starting to understand, so definitely on the right track. Got a good time in at the end there, few mistakes during the session but we're narrowing it down. I'd love nothing more than just to get on the pole here and have a chance to win a race, it's unbelievable. But good so far, and we'll keep working hard."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "It was a nice day to get some running in. We were cut short a little bit on our open test, but today we escaped the rain which was great. We learned some valuable stuff for the car and we are sitting pretty nice looking into the weekend now, so hopefully we will score good points."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "Overall, I'm pretty happy with today. The car is really good. We focused on making improvements from the Open Test, on Wednesday, to today and we've seen some positive changes. The No. 83 guys have been really good and quick on the changes, so even though we had a few red flags today, we were able to run as many laps as we wanted to. We're taking care of sets of tires for the race weekend, as its looking like it's going to be a three-stop, four-set race on Sunday so we have to keep that in mind all the way through practice."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "The second practice was much better. The car is getting to where we want it. The guys worked really hard engineering it to get there, so now I feel like we're a little bit more into fine-tuning. We're closer lap-time wise, so we just have to keep working at it. Hopefully we can find a few more tenths tomorrow and be in good shape."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It was pretty disappointing today for our Fuzzy's Vodka team. We had a few issues on the test day Wednesday, but I thought we had everything figured out for today's practice. At the end of the test, we were much closer to the front runners on time than we are now. The track surface is acting like it did last year here. It has been slick at the start of every session and then it gets better as the Indy cars make more laps. Regardless of the cars we follow on the track or the weather conditions, this place feels the same at the start of each session. We have had American LeMans cars here and then we have had Indy Lights cars here and the track does the same thing. We have to be out there for a little while for the track to come back in. It takes the whole session to get the track to come back in with a proper grip level. We don't have this type of trouble when we follow Indy Lights at other tracks. It's just kind of weird, to be honest."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela PDVSA CITGO Chevrolet): "Here we are, getting ready for this weekend; we've been through a lot of changes in the setup. I believe that we are in good shape for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race. This last session, we went with new tires, but for some reason we didn't have the grip we were expecting. However, up until that point, we were in the top five. Looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Angie's List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): ""The Angie's List car was very good today. Everyone is very close, and at P15 we're only five or six tenths away from P1. It's very tricky and tight here. Everyone is so competitive at this track. I have some more to learn about the track. I think our car is very close, it's just a matter of putting several little things together. I'm very happy to have Angie's List with us and the car looks great. I can't wait to represent them on the track."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "Its incredible to see how close everyone is here at Mid-Ohio. It's so challenging to run here but I think the HP car is going to dialed in. We just have to be prepared to execute perfectly in quals and follow that up with a strong race. This is one of my favorite places to run on our schedule and I can't wait to see how this race weekend unfolds."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "The morning session was good. The car balance is nice and we haven't really changed much so I don't think we would have lost it. It was frustrating not getting to run in the second session. We lost fuel pressure and did four laps of which three were in and out and one timed lap when we were caught in traffic. I'm not worried about a lap time, it's going to come. The only down side is that we've lost some track time in trying to push the car forward that next step. The track has got quicker - more people dropped into the 65s so it's always nice to experience that but we'll get it back tomorrow and in qualifying we'll be there so I'm confident of that."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I've only started on the pole here once and last year I think we were 5th and the year before we were 6th. It's just a difficult track to pass on. You know it's just not like the street courses we've had this year. It's just a tough race being an old-school American road course. (What is it about Mid-Ohio that makes it suit you): "We've had other ones like this, but they've been taken away. It's just an old school racing track. We've always done pretty well here. You just get to hang out and camp and have fun."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "It was a bit of an interesting day for us. Clearly it is significantly faster than last year and we have to explore some different routes in the set up. We are learning and paying the price as we go, but we have got some answers on what directions to go next. We hope to put this together tomorrow, but weather may be a factor so we will see how it goes. Overall the field is tight enough that it takes nothing to be at the front or the back."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet): "I think any day you get a bunch of green running is productive. I think the team is all in the ballpark. It's great to see all of the Andretti Autosport cars quickish, but it's always tight here. I think we're just that one change away from being able to fight with the top two or three guys. With Ryan (Hunter-Reay) being quick, we have some data to look at, but all-in-all pretty happy with the progress we've made in the GoDaddy Chevy. We found some good things - tried some things we've been wanting to try for a while. It's nice to be back to a full, normal race weekend after a doubleheader when everything is so crammed and you can't really get things done. We have another day of practice, and we'll keep chipping away at it... it all comes down to what you can do on the reds (alternate red tire) because qualifying is so important here."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "It was a pretty productive day. We lost some overall grip in the track today... I think everybody experienced it - it's the same for everyone, but it's a bit of an engineering exercise to stay on top of the track (conditions). I think the whole team is in the same ballpark, and we have competitive race cars; that's all we can ask for. We just have to go and make it better for qualifying and the race. We've got the No. 1 DHL Chevy up front and we can work from there."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): "I think today was definitely better than the test day for us. I think, time wise, we were three tenths (of a second) off which is frustrating, but it's within reach and I think we know where the time is and we'll get there. Overall, it's nice to be back in Mid-Ohio and we're looking forward to debuting United Way on the RC Cola car with us this weekend."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda): "We got through a lot of work today. People have to remember that today is our test day because we didn't get to run on Wednesday so we're really a day behind everybody here. Obviously the track is pretty similar because the times are very similar to what they were on the test day. Unfortunately we're just trying to come from behind a little bit here. It's extremely competitive. With three minutes to go in the session I was ninth fastest and I ended up 18th. Obviously we have a bit of time to find to close the gap but we're going to keep working on it here."
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "This morning was quite difficult. We were just trying to dial the car in really. We were slightly competitive in the test on Wednesday but we weren't quite where we wanted to be so we were trying to make improvements and I think we have made some today. It doesn't look well on the time sheets but we know what we've got underneath us. We still can make a few improvements but I'm pretty confident of getting in the top-10 and work from there. The session doesn't really correlate to where we are competitive-wise. You've just got to be patient and work on it tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 GE Honda): "Today wasn't a bad day, to be honest. The car has felt good since the Open Test on Wednesday. We made some small changes and tried some stuff we really haven't had the time to try yet this year, with how good we felt the car was. We're pretty happy. There are some small changes we need to make for tomorrow, but all-in-all it was a positive day. The guys on the team have just done a terrific job. We're closing the gap and overtaking the competition a bit so we'll see if we can keep it going for tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): "The PPG Dallara/Chevrolet was good today. Towards the end of practice we tried a different strategy with the tires, something a little early than everyone else. Of course this track gets better towards the end of a run, so we will continue to work on that strategy tomorrow."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "We're only six tenths from P1, but we still ended up 17th, which goes to show you how competitive it is out here. I'm a little disappointed with the position we ended up in because the National Guard Chevy felt great on Tuesday but honestly we were over a second off the top time the first session and cut that deficit in half this session. I'm not unhappy with the car, and I'm not unhappy with how I drove on the track, but it's just not good enough yet. We just need to hit the perfect balance, especially at Mid-Ohio, because it's so much about the timing here and one corner sets you up for the next. Obviously guys like (Ryan) Hunter-Reay are doing a great job, but our guys are working hard and we will continue to keep improving."
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