Penske Crew Running Strong In Long Beach

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2011

Danica Patrick suits up at Long Beach on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)


Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe and Will Power topped the combined practice (two sessions) time chart as IZOD IndyCar Series drivers prepared for three rounds of qualifications for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Briscoe, whose top-five starts in the first two races have been negated by contact, turned a lap of 1 minute, 10.7403 seconds on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit in the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental car. Power, who’s earned the PEAK Performance Pole Award in both races this season, had a quick lap of 1:10.8885 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending race winner, was third (1:10.9984) in the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport.

“It’s going to be really hairy in Turn 1 on every start and restart on Sunday,” Briscoe said. “Certainly, the big goal is to start at the front and it’s going to help a lot. From the third, fourth row back it’s going to be such a big bottleneck, and there’s going to be some impatient guys out there. We’re certainly working hard at getting some speed out of the Penske Truck rental car today.”

Danica Patrick met with the media on Friday in Long Beach, site of this weekend’s IndyCar Series race.

Here is a partial transcript of her interview:

Question: How do you feel about racing through the streets of Long Beach?

Patrick: “I have a lot of fond memories of Long Beach – winning the Pro-Celebrity Race back, oh, 9 or 10 years ago, then coming here in 2008 straight from Motegi to start the whirlwind after my win there and then finishing fourth the next year.

Last year wasn’t so great, but I have a lot of good memories here. I think that this is a race where a lot of things can happen. That’s the nature of the street course so it’s important to be there to take advantage of it. I think that the emphasis for me is going to be to do the best I can to get a good qualifying effort out and be farther up the grid.”

Question: How do you feel about double-file restarts?

Patrick: “Those of you who follow Indy car racing are familiar with the fact that it’s challenging to pass in these cars. The double file restarts have really changed that. You can pick up five spots and you can lose five spots so that’s been an interesting change that I like in the series.”

Question: How do you feel about qualifying on street courses?

Patrick: Ultimately, when you don’t qualify well, you’re forced to take risks. It’s best to be up the grid and that’s what we’re going to be working toward. The first practice session didn’t go well at all. We were having a throttle issue. It was as if I was kind of keeping my foot on the throttle all the way around the track all the time so it made it rather difficult to stop the car and start the car so hopefully that will be fixed for the next practice, and we’ll be able to feel the car a little bit more. When something like that is wrong it makes it a little bit difficult to feel the changes very well because you’re trying to over compensate for something that is not normal.

“But I think that we could be good. A couple of our teammates were fast – obviously Ryan won last year and he’s running well already. So, I think we have some good teammates to look to if we need some specific direction.”

Question: This year seems to be starting like last year:

Patrick: “I would say that this year has felt a lot better to me than last year. To be honest, this is probably the first practice session that hasn’t really gone so well for me so far, but I’m much more in the top 10-15 range instead of way down. I guess I would have been apprehensive to say this a couple of years ago, but the competition is so difficult that if you can make in in the top 10 or 12, that’s a good practice.

“So we’ve been much better off so far for the most part at practice, it’s just that in qualifying it doesn’t go well. I’ve had one of the fastest laps times of the race for the first two races of the year already so the pace is there in the race it’s just that when you start further back and you have to take chances.

Question: Is Long Beach one of your best races or your favorite race?:

Patrick: “I don’t think I’d say that. I enjoy coming to Long Beach. It’s here, it’s a great atmosphere, but this is not one of my best races. It’s part of the schedule and you still have to try and do well. A great atmosphere and when you’re in a good atmosphere like this with all kinds of people and excitement and buzz you always enjoy doing well.

But, I struggle more on road courses than I do on ovals – although I’ve had almost as good of results on road courses – but you have to take chances. I’ve qualified on the front row a couple of times a few years ago, but it’s been a while. My qualifying isn’t good enough so you have to take chances in the race then. I like coming

Ana Beatriz returns to the No. 24 Ipiranga car for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing this weekend. She sat out the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama because of a fractured right wrist (scaphoid bone) that required surgery suffered in the season opener March 27.

Beatriz was re-evaluated April 11 by the INDYCAR medical team and cleared to drive. She has been fitted with a carbon fiber brace that she will wear in the car.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t be in the car at Barber, but I learned a lot from another angle being there with the team,” said Beatriz, whose seat was filled by Simon Pagenaud (finished eighth). “I know the Long Beach track as I raced there in Indy Lights so I feel prepared going into the weekend. My wrist will be sore, but the doctors said that I will be OK. I may not be 100 percent, but I will push through it and I’m ready to get back in the Ipiranga car.”

Teammate Justin Wilson, who suffered a fractured left wrist in the same race, wore a similar brace at Barber Motorsports Park last weekend.

“My wrist is feeling fine, it just has a little bit of throbbing, not too bad,” said Wilson, the runner-up in last year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “I’m hoping once I get a rhythm through the hairpin that I will be fine.”

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2011
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