Barber: Castroneves tops practice 2
Team Penske extended its record of strong performances at Barber Motorsport Park on Friday as the team recorded three of the eight fastest lap times during the first day of practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
|Castroneves locks a wheel trying for fastest lap|
Helio Castroneves posted the fastest lap of the day, needing only 68.5540 seconds to navigate the 2.38-mile road course in his No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.
Teammates Will Power and AJ Allmendinger were not far behind as Power recorded the fifth-fastest time among the 26 drivers on track with a lap of 68.8066 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon machine and Allmendinger’s 68.9119-second lap in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet earned him eighth place on the practice rundown.
"The AAA team felt really strong but sometimes I think it’s better to be lucky than good,” said Castroneves, who will look to defend his 2012 pole position at Barber during Saturday’s qualifying. "Obviously with the yellow (flag) in the end (of practice) a lot of guys probably put on tires, but the car felt pretty good. In the morning, unfortunately, it was a little bit difficult because seeing that the track has lots of grip and when you have an extra set of tires certainly it helps a little bit. In the end of the day, with AJ and Will, we’ve been actually doing a lot of different stuff out there and it seems to be working.”
Power, who is the two-time defending champion at Barber, had a consistent day running the Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet near his usual place on the top of the scoring pylon as he finished fifth in both practice sessions. Power knows his team will need to keep improving on Saturday and Sunday in order to secure a third victory on the technical road course.
"We definitely have a bit of work to do with the Verizon car because we're just off the pace a bit,” said Power, who recorded the fastest time during IndyCar Spring Training at Barber in March. "We were running top five all day, but we really had to push to get there. We'll get together tonight and work to figure out how to improve for qualifying tomorrow."
All 26 drivers in the afternoon session April 5 at Barber Motorsports Park recorded laps that bested Castroneves' 2012 pole time of 1:10.4768 on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course. Twenty-three were below Will Power's course record of 1:09.8529 set in the first round of qualifying last April. zzzz
Alex Tagliani, who scored his 100th career top-10 finish in the season opener March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., was second to lead the Honda brigade with a best lap of 1:08.6288 in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.
Tristan Vautier, who in the first practice was the first rookie to pace a session since Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore last September, was third-quick (1:08.6720) in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. Pagenaud, the fifth-place finisher last year at Barber, was just behind (1:08.7627) in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP entry.
|Vautier is proving week in and week out he is a rookie sensation|
For Allmendinger, it was a successful and productive day as he prepares for his first IndyCar race in seven years after several productive seasons in NASCAR.
"I am just trying to learn how these weekends go and try to keep up with the race track as it changes,” said Allmendinger, who tested previously at Barber to build his experience level at the circuit. "Here, obviously the whole time you’re working on speed, but there’s not a lot of time to work on race set up. So far it felt like the first day was good, I think we were ninth and eighth, so there’s still a lot of cars to beat.”
However with the strength of the team that has dominated the three previous races at Barber behind him, Allmendinger is excited about what tomorrow’s qualifying holds.
"The cars are going to be fast, that’s the good thing about the Penske organization around this place because I know the IZOD car is going to be fast and the setup is going to be very close. It’s just going to be me going out there and figuring it out, what I need in a race car, how I get the speed out of it. Going out there for the first time and not having any practice and you just gotta go get that fast lap.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No 22. Panther DRR Chevrolet): "I'm actually very pleased. We woke up the car - it's a lot more alive. I'm much happier than after the first session. We did our best lap on old tires. When we put on the sticker tires, the red flag came out so we didn't get a lap in. It's always a question mark how much we would improve on new tires, but everyone improved quite a bit. The pace we had on old tires was encouraging. I think we're on a good path, we just need to fine-tune it a little bit and the Charter car should be in good shape."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): ""It was a good day, we had some interesting changes and I think the guys are very competitive which is very interesting and very exciting for tomorrow qualifying. Still have quite a bit to do we are losing a lot in very important sectors otherwise the car would be golden so still a little bit of work to do but overall whether it's Honda whether it's the team and working with Tristan this weekend has all been quite enjoyable."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Overall not a bad day for the No. 9 team and the Target car. We worked on the overall balance of the car and we still have some work to do. I feel pretty good about qualifying because we didn't even use new tires and we left a lot of speed out on the table. We should be in good shape for tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Banana Boat Honda): "We made a massive amount of changes throughout the day to the Banana Boat car. We have a very clear direction on where we want to go. Hope fully we can make good use of that tomorrow."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "We had a really good day. It was awesome to talk about the Race With Insulin Unites program with my teammates and show off the inverted color-scheme for this weekend as well as the blue wheels across the Ganassi cars. I think, overall, we were pretty good. We had the fourth-quickest time in practice one this morning and then in practice two we got caught up with some yellows and some traffic. We have a couple different directions, with the car set-up, to go over tonight. I'll think we'll be in good shape when it comes time to qualify tomorrow morning."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "I think it's better to be lucky than good. Obviously with the yellow in the end a lot of guys probably put tires, but the car felt pretty good. The AAA team felt really strong, the morning unfortunately it was a little bit difficult because seeing that the track has lots of grip and when you have an extra set of tires certainly it helps a little bit. In the end of the day, with AJ and Will we've been actually doing a lot of different stuff out there and it seems to be working."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): "I am really proud of what the team accomplished here this weekend. Obviously we are accustomed to being in the Firestone Fast 6 last year. I really didn't like using the Port-a-Potty in the back of the grid. We struggled on the new tires. These tires are different. These are road course tires. We also had a chance to test here and the team came prepared. We had a little issue this morning but they fixed it in between and we are back where I think we belong. Also, I know that Honda did a fantastic job and everybody was putting a lot of pressure on them in St. Pete but with a company like them, when they feel they need to step it up, they can always do it in a very short time. So I am very happy about that and as you can see there are a lot of Hondas up front. Its good, it feels good and hopefully we can have a good qualifying and it's a tough race to pace here so qualifying will be key."
E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): "Well it's been a pretty good day. We've gone through different car setups, and at the end we believe we found a good scenario to keep working with the car for tomorrow morning's practice before qualifying. The team has done a good job here. I believe we have a good baseline and fundamental setup shared between the four cars. Tomorrow is going to be very interesting, and we can already tell that this race, and this weekend, is going to be based all around tires. Tires is the key word - for good or for bad. We will need to be working very closely with them (tires)."
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was good. It was disappointing at the end of the first practice to cause a red because of a mistake, but no, I'm very happy with the car that the team has given me today. I think that I still have some room to keep improving, and we need to carry the momentum from today into tomorrow. It's a lot of fun out here, there's a lot of grip and the track was very fast. You can really enjoy the grip that those tires produce, especially on fast corners you can really feel what the cars are capable of."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "Both sessions were a little weird today. The track had some weepers and, actually, the weepers were worse in the second practice. That is a little strange. The track has changed from the test last week. We did learn some good things this afternoon. We closed the gap a little on the leaders. We need to get more. We had a mistake on the new tire run, so I think we'll be faster with the new setup. I think we can do better on Saturday. We were moving in a better direction with the car now. This place is a hard track, and you tell it with everybody. Someone will get a good lap and then fall off the next one."
AJ ALLMENDIGER (No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet): "I think for me, when we got here for the test trying to run the race track when it was still cold and there was just a ton of grip out there. I felt like the first session was real slick compared to during the test, with the GRAND-AM cars here and the Continental cars here, and obviously with the rain and no rubber really being down on the race track. For me, it's just a process. Just trying to learn how these weekends go and try to keep up with the race track as it changes. It's so funny because on the Cup side of it you have a set day. Friday you work on qualifying, Saturday you work on race set-up and you go race on Sunday. And here obviously the whole time you're working on speed, but there's not a lot of time to work on race set up. So I think it's just the process of going through this weekend and figuring out how the weekend goes, how we use out tires and what we're working on. So far it felt like the first day was good, I think we were ninth and eighth, so there's still a lot of to beat. The cars are going to be fast, that's the good thing about the Penske organization and especially around this place. I know the car is going to be fast and the setup is going to be very close and it's just going to be me going out there and figuring it out, what I need in a race car, how I get the speed out of it. I still left a lot out there on that lap that I did, so I think tomorrow the biggest and toughest thing for me is that qualifying lap. Going out there for the first time and not having any practice and you just gotta go get that lap. So it was a solid day so far."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Mouser KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet): "The track is much slicker now than it was during our open test about a month ago, which made our work cut out during these two sessions. We did some changes to car and got it going our way by the second session, but there is still a lot of work to do for tomorrow before we get to qualifying."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "The day was all right. I think we need to tweak a couple of things a bit. It's definitely a little different from the Open Test, but I think we should be all right. We haven't gotten a lap in this afternoon so we have to work on that to get the gap tomorrow and get it in. I really think we should be all right. Hopefully we'll qualify up front and have a good race from there."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We definitely have a bit of work to do with the Verizon car because we're just off the pace a bit. We were running top five all day, but we really had to push to get there. We'll get together tonight and work to figure out how to improve for qualifying tomorrow."
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet): "The fact we didn't throw a new set of tires on the National Guard Chevy at the end of the session today obviously has a significant effect on where we were at (on the speed chart). Another piece of that is that the track gets better as it cools off here and we were one of the first cars to go out when we did our fastest lap. That all aside, the track is significantly different from when we tested here, and we're still trying to get everything dialed in. Between myself and Oriol (Servia) we both made some changes that we'll all end up going to when we roll out in the morning."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "It was not an easy day for us, we worked on the ABC Supply car after the Open Test because we weren't particularly happy with the balance—the car has reasonable speed but balance-wise it just wasn't there. We tried a few things today and we did get some good data but we have to work hard to get things together." (About conditions): "The conditions made it difficult today because we had weepers all over the track so in the optimum race line you had to go around them which made it a little inconsistent too, but it was the same for everybody. The warmer conditions made for less grip so we have to adapt for it and hopefully we find the better balance for tomorrow."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda): "We tried to come back here with a setup more like what Mike (Conway) and James (Jakes) ran at the test. There are a few minor differences but I can't think that those would tip the car over but we're struggling with the same things that we did at the test. I just can't turn the car; the car is steering me, not me steering it. At the same time, without a doubt we didn't get a new tire run at the end and I will say that on the one lap that I did, up until the point that I went into Viso's (who went off course) gravel, I was up about a half of a second. Clearly there is a lot of time there in the tires, A half of a second would move us halfway up the grid at least right now. We haven't made the gains that I am hoping for but we're going to keep working on it. Last year I started up front and had a great race here and I expect to do the same this year in the Midas / Big O Tires car. We just have a bit of work to do."
JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "It was a pretty good session considering we ran one set of tires for the session. You look at the guys that ran one set in that session -- although you can't know for sure who did but you think you know - we're pretty happy. We are pretty happy with our progress and will just keep making improvements and concentrate on making sure we improve the car in every session like everybody else. We're always right there, or in the ballpark with everyone else in the first session but we just need to make sure that we improve like everybody else. The Acorn Stairlifts car was actually very good. I made a mistake on my fastest lap and did a little bit of grass tracking so I was quite shocked when we came up with the lap time still. We will work overnight to keep improving but we are hoping to get the Acorn Stairlifts car up there this weekend."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "I think it was a good solid day for the No. 1 DHL Chevy. I think that we made some good progress this morning. We were very disciplined with the tires this afternoon, not taking a second set, which is why we're down in the charts right now - we never took the second set like most of the rest of the field. I'm feeling pretty good about tomorrow; we need to make a few changes to stay ahead of the track development but other than that… we'll see in the morning. I think we're a top five car right now so I'm happy about that."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): ""Today did not go as planned, but you get these days in racing. We had a couple of things go wrong in the first session, and the way the yellow fell in the second (session) we didn't really get a proper run all day. I think we can get the Go Daddy car up there tomorrow when it counts. I think it'll be a challenge, but that's what they pay us the big bucks for."
||Vautier, Tristan (R)
||de Silvestro, Simona