Power/Briscoe 1-2 for Penske/Chevy in opening practice
Team Penske got off to a strong start at the newly-configured Sonoma Raceway Friday afternoon, with Will Power and Ryan Briscoe clocking the top two laps of the first practice session in preparation for Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Power, who has won the last two IndyCar races at the Northern California road course, paced the 27-car field with a best lap of 78.6887 seconds. Power will attempt to win his third consecutive Sonoma pole position in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet during Saturday’s qualifying session.
“The Verizon Chevy 12 car felt really strong today,” said Power, who currently leads the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship standings by 63 points. “It was good to start the weekend out in P1. It will be very important to start up front in the race if you want to finish on the podium. I like the new layout of the track and the track was fast for the first day.”
Briscoe’s lap of 78.8782 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet was the second-best of the day around the 12-turn, 2.31-mile road course. The 2005 pole winner at Sonoma, Briscoe has an average starting position of third in six career races at Sonoma.
“We were able to learn a lot last week in testing (at Sonoma), which showed in how strong the No. 2 Hitachi car ran today,” said Briscoe. “We still have some adjustments that need to be made leading into the race but I’m confident that we are on the right track heading into qualifying. We have a fresh Chevrolet engine in the No. 2 car this weekend that’s feeling good, and I’m feeling good. We definitely want to win, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Rookie Simon Pagenaud who has Honda power behind him was third.
Dario Franchitti was fourth in his Target Chip Ganassi Honda ahead of Rubens Barrichello in his KV Racing Chevy. For Barrichello it was his best effort of the year so far.
Sebastien Bourdais was sixth for the Dragon Racing Chevy team.
7 a.m. - Garages open
10:50 - 11:50 a.m. - IZOD IndyCar Series practice
2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. - IZOD IndyCar Series pole qualifying (knockout qualifying/Firestone Fast Six)
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Verizon Chevy 12 car felt really strong today. It was good to start the weekend out in P1. It will be very important to start up front in the race if you want to finish on the podium. I like the new layout of the track and the track was fast for the first day. The hardest thing today was dealing with the wind. We've had success here in the past -we took the top three spots in the race last year and 1-2 today so Team Penske definitely has had good success here in the part. We'll look at our notes and try to go faster tomorrow. We'd really like a pole position to keep moving forward in the Championship race and we'll see if we can do that tomorrow, we'll see."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "I love racing at Sonoma, it's always been one of my favorite events on the calendar, and I'm feeling good. We got a fresh Chevrolet engine in the No. 2 car this weekend that's feeling good, and I'm feeling good. We definitely want to win, so we'll see what we can do." (About the success the team has had on this track): "It's been good, it's definitely a driver's track as well. When you've got two good teammates like Will and Helio, it's really just about pushing each other harder. We got back in today in the pits and we look over where each of us might be giving up a little bit, and then we just keep egging each other on to get it absolutely perfect. Last year was perfect, we qualified 1-2-3 and finished 1-2-3. We're hoping to do the same this year, and if we can reverse the podium around, I'll be even happier."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "The car is fast. It's actually faster than it shows on the time charts. It's just the wind was tricky today. It was very tricky last week at the test, but then it was blowing (from the north) and it's blowing (from the south) today. That obviously changes the car dramatically. Nothing that makes the car from good to bad or bad to good, but where you were really strong, you are struggling with the tailwind and vice versa. Still pretty happy with the car. We have some work to do, but we'll see where we are in qualifying."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a decent start to the weekend for the Target team. We were really loose in the first practice session and couldn't figure out why. We went a different direction from the test last week and hope we can get back to where we need to be before qualifying tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Our day wasn't bad, really. We still have some work to do but judging by the times there were others a lot worse off than we were today. The track conditions changed a lot from what we saw at the test so that was challenging today."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "It was a difficult day for us. The session went well in terms of being able to go through the items we carried over from the test last week that we weren't able to try. Overall we need to improve the balance and grip; I wasn't particularly happy with that. Performance wise, we need to find more speed. We ran out of time in the end. We wanted to do a little bit more but hopefully tomorrow the weather will give us another consistent session and we can improve."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet): "This is definitely one of the most challenging IndyCar seasons I have seen in a long time. Either one that I have been a part of, or not. If you ask guys like Dario (Franchitti) and Tony (Kanaan) will say the same thing, and they have been around for awhile. I don't mean to make them old. This year has been extremely, extremely competitive. The DW12 (chassis) has done an excellent job in really making for some dramatic races. I think this championship is going to come down to Fontana. It's going to be fought between three or four guys at least. I think realistically the top-five have a shot at winning it. Every race is going to be pivotal. We came into Mid-Ohio, the last race, leading by 20 points, and now we are trailing by five. It can swing quickly. We had an engine issue there at Mid-Ohio which sidelined us. Hopefully we don't have any more of those, and that is behind us and we can go on and we can win the championship for Andretti, DHL, Sun Drop and Chevrolet." (You are right behind will power in the standings, who has been successful here. What is it going to take for you to surpass him in the points here?) "This is definitely a Penske track. Last year it was one-two-three. For the past four or five years, this has been a notoriously difficult for the Andretti squad. It is tough. Right now we definitely have to close the gap. They are the team to beat. We aren't stellar at the moment. My side-kick Hinchcliffe here has come up with some crazy set-up stuff for this afternoon's practice. He's going to go guinea pig it. Hopefully we will be able tag along. This is probably one of our most difficult races coming from Andretti Autosport standpoint." (Will The New Layout Help You?) "We were hoping it was going to. You took one corner and just tightened it up a little bit. And you took another corner and lengthened it a little bit. It didn't really change the layout that much. Yes, it might change some passing situations. Like James said, slowing the car down more, it's a little bit more difficult now. The guys that were quick here, the teams that were quick here and quick here still. We still have that same gap to close. It is a gap of about sixth-tenths of a second, which is a lot. But, we desperately need to close that. We will be working hard today."
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 17 Team AFS Chevrolet): "It was great out there today. I'm very excited to be back in the IndyCar. It was very important that we were able to do that test last week to get used to the new car. It's very different from what I remember from last year. It's been good so far. We've managed to consistently improve the car together with my teammates' and we just need to keep fighting. The front guys are pretty quick and we need to close that gap."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): "I think overall it was a good day. We found some stuff but we definitely see Dario's a little bit quicker out there so we're going to try to go in his direction a little bit and I think that will help us a bunch. To be eighth, I think the car is pretty competitive. I think there's a little bit more time in the car, I just got caught in traffic on that new-tire run there. I think overall, it feels good to be in the ballpark there. I think tomorrow we'll start fresh and hopefully go a little faster."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We made progress today from the test last week. We were all just working really hard to try and figure this track out. I think we've got a good direction for where we need to head. We're chipping away at it just like everyone else out there. We'll see what we can produce tomorrow."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPenHonda): "It's obviously disappointing to start off practice like that. I overestimated the track grip a little bit and spun off and we weren't able to get back out today. Our teammates are quick so we should be in good shape for tomorrows practice and more importantly tomorrows qualifying."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "It was not the day we wanted. We're just struggling a bit. There's no way to dance around it. We came here for the test last Friday and it was not great. We were hoping we'd come back here with something a little bit stronger. We're just really struggling with this track. I wish I could tell you why, then we'd have a better handle on it. We've got three cars. Marco was close to a top ten but even so, he was a second off the pace. There's a couple of guys that really have this place figured out and the rest of us are sort of trying to pick up the scraps in the mid-field and back. We didn't do a second set of tires today which a lot of guys did, so it might not be quite as bad as it looks on the timesheets, but it's still not where we need to be. But, we'll put our heads together. We'll work hard and try to get the Go Daddy car up a bit higher for tomorrow."
"The track did have some changes; upgrades if you will. We had a chance to test here last week. Really, the biggest one is turn seven. They widened the turn out, which helps. But the profile isn't a ton different for us. The big difference in (turn) 11, the geometry of the corner is the same; it is just a little further down. The big change is turn seven. That changes that corner quite a bit. I definitely think it has made turn seven a better passing opportunity, which is obviously the goal. This race has always been notorious for difficult overtaking. I just think the nature of these big brake zones, and tight corners - they are tough in our cars. Indy cars are not really designed for first-gear thirty mile-an-hour hairpin (corners). It makes it very easy to make a mistake. I think that is actually going to create as many passing opportunities as a big brake zone as guys may be getting in a little bit wrong to (turn) 11 and having a nice little drag race up into turn one here. I definitely think there will be more action in the race for sure." (What did you learn from the test session here last week?): "We learned what not to do. Which is almost as good as learning what to do. Not quite as good, but almost as good. We showed up here, because as Ryan said, this isn't statistically the strongest track for our team, with a couple of different concepts. Unfortunately, not one of them really took. I think the test was vital because we have now had a week to analyze all that data. I think we have actually come up with something, after yesterday sitting down with the engineers, that I'm a lot more confident than I was Saturday morning when I got out of bed thinking 'Man, this is going to be a tough weekend'. Again, we've got a long session this afternoon to try and work it out. We've got three cars pounding away at things. We'll see. I do have faith in the team. One of the big things we've seen out of this team is comebacks and bouncebacks. We've had some pretty bad Fridays that have turned into some really good Sundays. Hopefully we can make that happen this weekend."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It just wasn't a great session for us today. We tried something from where we ended the test (last Friday) and I think it did more harm than good. But that is something you have to try in the first practice. The wind was blowing a different direction today than from the test day. So that might have made the track a little different for us. We just need to sit down and go over the data to improve on Saturday. We can work with the car and make the proper adjustments for qualifying."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "This was a pretty reasonable first day for us. We came with the intentions of figuring a few things out from the test, and at the end of the session we just ran out of time to try a couple more things, so we put on a fresh set of tires. We ended up mid-pack, which for where we feel like we're at with the car right now, is about right. We still need to make some improvements and get the car to be a little more aggressive around here. But we definitely found some gains and we just need to figure a couple more things out. We've got one more practice session tomorrow before qualifying, and we'll get a couple more things sorted and be ready to go for tomorrow."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "It was a good start to the weekend. The HP team has done a good job preparing the car. It feels better and we're faster than we were at the test. I know we have a good car, so we'll just work on making it better for qualifying."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HMV Racing Lotus): "A good first practice. We haven't tested here so we're kind of getting everything going. Even myself, being out of the car for three weeks it feels a little bit strange in the beginning, but I think in the end we're OK. We're going to work on it tomorrow and try to put the lap a little more together and we'll see. I think we're in the mix. We're not super far off compared to the other guys, so we just have to keep picking at it a little bit and hopefully we can get in the top 20 or something like that. That would be cool."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): "The Team Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job again, but the result wasn't the one we expected. We had such a great test here, but somehow our setup is very different than what we had. I know the conditions changed, but certainly through my teammates I can see that we can do much better. I know we can do much better and the good news is we have tomorrow to find out what happened and execute."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "We tried some things today in practice that didn't work out. However, that is the advantage of having a three-car team. You can have each driver do something different and see what works best. Tonight we will sit down and go through all the data the team collected and come up with a setup for tomorrow morning's practice session and then, hopefully, have a good qualifying session."
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "It was a good day. We were slightly concerned by not testing here last week that we would have a lot of work to do, but having tested on the old layout back in February I was able to adapt quickly. I hope we can keep on running good like we did today for the rest of the weekend."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Mouser Electronics/GEICO KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): "We didn't test here last week like most of the other teams, so today was about learning the new track changes. It was a productive day in that regard. We will take a look at the data and come up with some changes that will hopefully improve the car for qualifying."
||Simona de Silvestro