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Mar 22, 2013 - 05:53 PM
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2013 St. Pete: IndyCar Practice Recap
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 22, 2013 - 05:53 PM
IndyCar News
2013 St. Pete: IndyCar Practice Recap


That Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay were at the top of the time chart on the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg wasn't a surprise. After all, they dueled for the IZOD IndyCar Series title in 2012.

The driver who ranked third, Simona de Silvestro, was a bit of a surprise - a pleasant one to the first-year KV Racing Technology driver.

Power, who has earned the pole at St. Petersburg the past three years, led 25 drivers with a best lap of 1 minute, 1.4467 seconds, while Hunter-Reay, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, checked in second at 1:01.6252.

De Silvestro, driving the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Energy car with Chevrolet power, had a best lap of 1:01.6895 on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. It was a welcome result for the Swiss driver after a frustrating 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

"It's a big difference. Last year we came in here and we knew it was going to be a struggle, and this year we come after a really good Barber test and it showed right away," said de Silvestro, whose career high of fourth came at St. Pete in 2011 (one spot behind new teammate Tony Kanaan).

"Even this morning I thought we were pretty quick even if we still have a little bit of work to do on the car. It's definitely a relief to know we can be fast and we can be right up there with the other guys."

In all, 18 were within 1 second of Power. His best lap was only seven-hundredths of a second off his pole-winning speed of 1:01.3727 last March.

Also on March 22, Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian driver Gabby Chaves topped the time chart in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car through a pair of 45-minute practice sessions with a lap of 1 minute, 6.8431 seconds (96.943 mph).

Chaves' teammates Jack Hawksworth, the 2012 Star Mazda champion, and Sage Karam had similar experiences on the first day of the event. Driving the No. 77 car, Hawksworth was second quick at 1:06.9466 (96.794 mph). Karam, who placed third in the Star Mazda championship race in 2012, was third quick (1:07.1713) in the No. 8 car.

A 45-minute qualifying round is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. (ET) March 23 for the 45-lap race at 3:40 p.m. later in the day.

 

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DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 110-lap race at 12:40 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The Firestone Indy Lights series will compete in the St. Petersburg 100, a 45-lap race at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda - part of the Mazda Road the Indy ladder system - are also racing twice this weekend. Pro Mazda will race at 1:10 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. USF2000 will compete at 12:15 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

***

Sebastien Bourdais will drive the No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet for Dragon Racing this season in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Bourdais lives in St. Petersburg - a short 10-minute bike ride from the circuit - and he led the first lap of the 2003 race on the St. Pete circuit.

"My hometown is Le Mans (France), and to win there is very important to me," said Bourdais, who won four consecutive Champ Car titles from 2003-2007. "But winning here in the States is equally as important. It would be great to win here in St. Pete."

Another French racing driver, rookie Tristan Vautier also makes his home in St. Petersburg.

***

Hartmoor Polo will serve as the primary sponsor of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and driver Josef Newgarden during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"It's crucial to stay hydrated in a race car because elements of your performance can start to drop off as you become dehydrated," said Sarah Fisher, co-owner of SFHR. "We're happy to welcome a new partner to the SFHR family and are looking forward to drinking Hartmoor Polo water all season long."

Pre-practice Quotes from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The track is the same but it is the beginning of the season so you want to make sure you get in some good laps. Whatever we tested during the off-season, see if that starts working. It is a new construction of Firestone tires so we have to understand what's going to happen with this configuration of the track. You just have to go, feel the care and hope for a good day." (About 10 laps added to the race): "On the first day we have to find out what is the fuel mileage we are going to achieve. How the car is going to handle with the tires in terms of how many laps it is going to hold on. So a lot of little details that will benefit race day. The addition of ten laps is for sure going to change a lot of strategy."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): "I am looking forward to working with the same team. Same group of guys and the engineers. We are always saying that stability is very important in racing so starting with Honda from the get go and continue is exciting." (About 10 laps added to race): "They don't want people out there saving fuel so I think it is going to open up for new strategy when you start thinking in three stops. Three stops can be at way different times than others so that will open up for different outcomes."

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Honda): "The biggest challenges are going to be the qualifying format and the red-slick tires that we won't be able to test at practice. Those are the first challenges. Try to go through the groups and the race, obviously I have not done pit stops so the strategy about saving tires and fuel mileage are two very big challenges this weekend." (About his first race): "I'm very excited. Anxious for the race to start. But at the same time I wish I had more time to prepare. But we just have to keep it moving."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Viso/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): "It has been refreshing to be with this group. They have provided me with tools I haven't had in the past, and I think it will be a good year. Racing next to these three drivers will be an advantage. There's already a good synergy going on and hopefully we can keep the momentum they created last year."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): (About what he's done to improve street course performance): "I'm trying to be a more well-rounded driver and contribute more to the team. I want these guys to come to my truck for help. Basically, I've been working on what I've been doing wrong at places like this. Of course it helps to go against the series champ and work to beat him."

RYAN HUNTER REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "Championship doesn't change. We still have a lot to do. I've never won here before for one and we're just concentrating on winning races." (About E.J. Viso to team): "Our team worked well last year. With E.J., it only makes us stronger. We keep an open book and move forward as one big team and hopefully we can accomplish more than we did last year. The Team has always been four cars and E.J. has fit right in. Team has open book and it's not complicated to be more involved. Team is not cliquey. It's a win-win for everyone."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Go Daddy Chevrolet): "I think in any team sport consistency is huge. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) talked about how (consistency) helped him last year and I'm looking forward to doing the same this year. I kind of felt like the Taylor Swift of racing. I was bouncing around and, I figured it must be me." (Are you saying something about Taylor Swift): "I would never do that. I'm saying Taylor Swift knows what she wants in a partner before she settles down."

***

NBC Sports Network will broadcast the first four races of the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule beginning this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The network will broadcast 13 events in 201, including the final eight races of the season.

Leigh Diffey, Wally Dallenbach and Townsend Bell will be the announcers. Reporting from the pits will be Jon Beekhuis, Marty Snider, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

***

As a personal touch to the Dan Wheldon monument that was dedicated March 21 near Turn 10 of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street circuit, his wife and two sons made their hand prints in the wet cement near the base.

Sebastian and Oliver enjoyed the moments of squishy fun.

"I'm so thankful that I have moments like that to share with them just so they continue to know what a great driver and champion Dan was, but more importantly what an amazing human being and father he was," said Susie Wheldon as she addressed the crowd in Albert Whitted Park. "As they get older, they'll have lots of moments like that to look back on. I'm so grateful for that and it's such a special tribute."

Wheldon, who won the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2005 in his adopted hometown, died in October 2011 during a racing accident. The new season begins this weekend.

"It's hard to believe that the season's already here," Susie Wheldon added. "I can't thank this community enough - not only the people of St. Petersburg, but my racing family for the continued love and support over the past 17 months. You've lifted me up."

Wheldon's portrait is on the face of the monument, while at the foot are representations of cobblestone - symbolic of Wheldon's native England - and a row of bricks representative of the rich heritage of the Indianapolis 500 that Wheldon won in 2005 and '11.

Also unveiled was the Victory Circle monument, which includes a representation of a checkered flag and plaques for each of the race winners. Linking the two monuments constructed of concrete --representing the concrete barriers used in racing on street courses - are additional brick pavers that represent the city's brick streets.

***

Dale Coyne Racing confirmed that Justin Wilson will compete for the team in the IZOD IndyCar Series as driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda.

"I'm very excited to be back with Dale Coyne Racing in 2013," said Wilson. "We had a great season last year highlighted by our first win at an oval track in Texas. The entire team back, so I am expecting good things to happen for the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda in 2013. In evaluating Dale's commitment to the sport we have signed a long term agreement."

Wilson is coming off a very successful 2012 IZOD IndyCar season with Dale Coyne Racing where he scored his first oval track victory at Texas Motor Speedway in early June 2012 and produced five other top-10 finishes in 2012. He also qualified a season-best second at Milwaukee.

Brazilian driver Ana (Bia) Beatriz joins Dale Coyne Racing in St. Petersburg for the first race of her season. She will compete for the team at Brazil, Indianapolis and other selected races in the No. 18 Ipiranga Honda.

"This is a great opportunity with Dale Coyne Racing and hopefully we can turn it into more than a few races for the season," said Beatriz. "We are working on more races for 2013 and hopefully we should know something very soon."

***

INDYCAR announced today that Verizon Wireless has extended its designation as an INDYCAR Official Partner through 2014.

The two-year extension includes the innovative "Verizon P1 Award" for each of the 19 IZOD IndyCar Series races and exciting technological enhancements to the fan-essential INDYCAR 13 app.

Verizon is adding to the traditional contingency monetary bonus and trophy by placing a gold medallion on the rear wing endplate of the pole-winning car signifying the winner's achievement in capturing the pole. The medallion is changed to silver following the event, and each subsequent pole earned is represented by a star on the medallion. Additionally, the Verizon P1 Award flag will proudly be displayed outside the pole winner's garage for the remainder of the race weekend.

Verizon and the IZOD IndyCar Series are a natural fit - the fastest race cars on the planet with the network that redefines fast - and the free INDYCAR 13 app provides fans an interactive connection with the most diverse and challenging series in motorsports.

Available for Verizon Android OS and all-carrier Apple iOS smartphones and tablets, the app puts fans at the controls by offering an array of features, including a mosaic screen in which they can watch and listen to four live video and audio streams from each event. Real-time race car and leaderboard data augments the experience whether fans are at the racetrack or on the go.

Twitter feeds, news and alerts, photo streams, exclusive video content, results/standings and driver profiles are some of the other content features included in the robust app. Live content is exclusive to Verizon customers.

It is available on the AppStore, Google Play and by calling **INDY (**4639).

"Verizon is not only a great INDYCAR partner, but it has truly become an ambassador for the sport," said Greg Gruning, executive vice president of Business Development, INDYCAR. "Whether it is INDYCAR 13 that provides unprecedented race coverage for fans or the new Verizon P1 Award that showcases the pole-award winning drivers, Verizon continues to enhance what the exciting IZOD IndyCar Series offers."

Verizon, the nation's largest 4G LTE network, serves 98.2 million retail connections and operates more than 1,900 retail locations. Globally, it offers voice and data services in more than 200 locales.

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