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Power Combines With Comfort To Produce Speed In Mid-Ohio

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 3 2013

Will Power got a handle on his race car on Friday. (INDYCAR/LAT USA file photo)

Road-racing ace Will Power, admittedly baffled by the balance of his Dallara/Chevrolet all season, rallied to post the fastest lap of the day as time expired during Friday’s second IZOD IndyCar Series practice session for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Power, fastest among 24 drivers participating in the session, toured the 2.258-mile/13-turn layout in 1 minute, 05.4332-seconds/124.231 mph to set the stage for Saturday’s qualification session for Sunday’s 90-lap/203.22-mile race in Lexington, Ohio.

“It has definitely been hard for me to get the car right this year – period – for me,” said Power, who completed 35 laps.”It’s hard for me to understand why, so this is definitely on the right track here. We got a good time at the end. A few mistakes during the session, but we’re narrowing it down. We would love nothing more than to start on pole here and have a chance to win a race. It would be unbelievable. Good so far and we keep working hard. We’re still not quite on top of things; we still need to work some stuff out.”

Power’s lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske entry was more than two-tenths of a second faster than his 2012 pole-winning lap time. The track record of 1:05.347 – held by Dario Franchitti (August 1999) and Gil de Ferran (August 2000) – figures to be challenged during the three rounds of knockout qualifications for the Verizon P1 Award.

“I think qualifying is just about everything here,” Power said. “This race has changed now, it won’t be a two-stopper. It’s going to be a three-stopper, so it’s not like it used to be with a lot of fuel saved. Qualifying to me is everything. It’s just so hard to start back in the field here. You really do need to be running in the top-five or six.”

Scott Dixon, winner of the past three series races, was second-fast (1:05.4469/124.205 mph) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda. In addition to seeking his third consecutive victory at Mid-Ohio and fifth overall, Dixon is aiming to become the first driver under INDYCAR sanction to win four races in a row. Sebastien Bourdais won four consecutive events in the Champ Car World Series in 2006.

“I’ve only started on the pole here once and last year I think we were fifth and the year before we were sixth,” said Dixon, second in the point standings behind Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves with six races remaining. ”It’s just a difficult track to pass on. You know it’s just not like the street courses we’ve had this year. It’s just a tough race, being an old-school American road-course. We’ve had other ones like this (on the schedule), but they’ve been taken away.”

Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was third (1:05.5018/124.100 mph) in the No. 1 DHL Dallara/Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport, while Franchitti was fourth (1:05.7019/123.722 mph) in the No. 10 GE Dallara/Honda for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It was a pretty productive day,” said Hunter-Reay, who set the fastest time during Wednesday’s Open Test. “We lost some overall grip in the track today… I think everybody experienced it, but it’s a bit of an engineering exercise to stay on top of the track (conditions). I think the whole team is in the same ballpark and we have competitive race cars; that’s all we can ask for. We just have to go and make it better for qualifying and the race.”

Six different teams were represented in the top 10 as the 24 drivers completed 797 combined laps in the two sessions. The top 18 cars were separated by less than one second.

“Today wasn’t a bad day, to be honest,” Franchitti said. “The car has felt good since the Open Test on Wednesday. We made some small changes and tried some stuff we really haven’t had the time to try yet this year, with how good we felt the car was. We’re pretty happy. There are some small changes we need to make, but all-in-all it was a positive day. The guys on the team have just done a terrific job. We’re closing the gap and overtaking the competition a bit, so we’ll see if we can keep it going.”

A 45-minute practice session is set for Saturday morning, with Firestone Fast Six qualifying to begin at 2 p.m. (EDT). Qualifying will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (EDT). Sunday’s race is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) live on NBC Sports Network. Live radio coverage will be on XM Radio Channel 94 and Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 212. In addition, IndyCar live timing and scoring with the radio broadcast can be found at www.indy.car.com

Barracuda Racing has named Luca Filippi as driver of the No. 98 Dallara/Honda for Sunday’s race. Bryan Herta, team co-owner, said the decision was made after evaluating the performance and feedback the 27-year-old Italian provided during Wednesday’s Open Test.

“We were very impressed with his quick adaptation to both a car and circuit that were completely new to him,” Herta said of Filippi, an 11-time winner during five seasons in GP2 in Europe. “We’re all very excited to see how he does under race conditions.”

Filippi responded by posting the fifth-fastest overall time (1:05.7364/123.658 mph) during Friday’s practice. “I’m very grateful to the Barracuda Racing team for this great opportunity because this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” said Filippi, who got up to speed in just 33 laps. “I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It was very good that we had an Open Test and I had a chance to work with the crew and engineers. I think we worked well together and they really looked after me.

“Bryan has been absolutely nice to me. He has all the faith. He’s been following myself since my GP2 career. He said he always appreciated what I’ve done. He said that I just need to take my time. There’s no pressure. There’s no rush. I have to say nobody is putting any pressure on the weekend. It’s myself that I’m the first that wants to perform. I’m a racing driver. I feel that it’s a competition and the biggest pressure comes from myself, and the biggest expectation is the one I personally have. I know that these guys are fast and these guys are tough to beat. I’m not expecting anything special, but I have my goals in my mind and I still need to work between today and tomorrow to get closer.”

Firestone is supplying the same tire specifications this weekend as used earlier this season at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., paired with a slightly more durable sidewall.

_ Primary (black-sidewall) dry-condition slicks: 976, each entry received three sets (12 total tires) for Wednesday’s Open Test and five sets* (20 total tires) for the official race weekend (*each entry must complete at least five laps during the first race-weekend practice session to earn the fifth set of primary tires from its weekend allotment).

_ Alternate (red-sidewall) dry-condition slicks: 330, each entry received three sets (12 total tires) for the race weekend only; none were supplied during the Open Test.

_ Wet-condition (rain) tires with grooved tread pattern: 618, each entry had two sets (eight total tires) for the Open Test and five sets (20 total tires) for the race weekend of the rain tire that also was available earlier this season at Sao Paulo, Brazil.

IZOD IndyCar Series rules mandate each car use two different tire specifications in road- or street-course races _ the primary and alternate specs. The Firestone alternates, identified by their bright red sidewalls, pair the same tire construction as the primary specification with a softer tread compound to provide more grip and faster lap times, while trading off compound durability for the shorter-term advantages.

All cars also must use at least one set of primary tires and one new (sticker) alternate set during the race, each for a minimum of two laps, with at least one lap under green-flag conditions. Otherwise, teams are free to use their tire allotment at their discretion.

INDYCAR has updated three items in its 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Rulebook, effective beginning this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Race Restart – In the event of a restart with 15 laps or less remaining in the race, all lapped cars will be moved to the rear of the field. (7.6.1.2).

Race Procedure Penalties – If circumstances do not permit for a penalty to be served during a race, the Race Director shall declare the race results provisional and officials will review the penalty. This review is independent of technical inspection. (9.2.2).

Tires – If a car receives tire damage due to contact during a race, the two-lap requirement for that type of tire will be considered fulfilled (14.14.6.6.5).

Firestone Indy Lights point-leader Carlos Munoz was fastest in practice Friday for the Mid-Ohio 100 with a lap of 1 minute, 13.5625-seconds in the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Jack Hawksworth, coming off a victory on the Streets of Toronto on July 13, was 0.1921-seconds behind in the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian car. Axcil Jefferies, a 19-year-old from Zimbabwe who is making his series debut, posted the third-fastest time of 1:13.8848 in the No. 28 Starting Grid JMM/BHA with Curb-Agajanian car.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 3 2013
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