Alabama GP: Power leads Penske 1-2 in opening IndyCar practice
Will Power, who seems to have had an advantage throughout the early IZOD IndyCar Series season with his two races victories and a pole start, topped the combined practice (two sessions) time sheet for Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union with a best lap of 1 minute, 11.1856 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
“The Verizon Wireless car definitely felt better during the second practice session," he said. "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 driver's 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."
Power takes a 44-point advantage over a trio of drivers into the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series race at the picturesque venue.
"My approach to this season has been to get points and keep finishing races," he said. "That’s how you win a championship.”
Tony Kanaan, who has started sixth and second the first two races in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Autosport, but hasn't been as fortunate as Power, was second (1:11.3011).
“It feels good to be in the top five," he said. "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.”
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).
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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."