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Power Crashes, Recovers In St. Pete

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 12 2016
Team Penske's Will Power had an eventful first day of practice in St. Petersburg.

Team Penske’s Will Power had an eventful first day of practice in St. Petersburg.

RacinToday.com

Will Power dug himself a hole Friday by crashing during the first practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2016 season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Team Penske driver then rallied by soaring to the top of the leader board in the second session.

Power’s lap of 1-minute, 0.9431-seconds/106.329 mph was best among the 22 drivers competing on the 1.8-mile/14-turn temporary street circuit by Tampa Bay. The lap came within three-tenths of a second of the track record Power set last year on his way to winning his fifth pole position at the track.

But on just his fifth lap of the first practice, Power crashed his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet entering Turn 9, the car sustaining heavy right-side damage when it hit the wall. Power reported to his crew that he was adjusting the brake bias with one hand when the car hit a bump and he lost control, forcing the crew to hurriedly repair it between sessions.

“Definitely a bad start,” said Power, who won the St. Pete races in 2010 and 2014. “But full credit to the guys to get the car back out there, get some laps, get my head around the track and so on. Yeah, it was a good session. (We) ran in circles with the setup, but P1, pretty happy.”

Scott Dixon, the four-time/reigning series champion, was second-fastest at 1:00.9573-seconds/106.304 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Dixon has finished second at St. Petersburg three times but never won here.

“Today, (I’m) pretty happy,” said Dixon, fifth on the all-time Indy car wins list with 38. “St. Pete is a bit of a thorn in our side. Second practice, we made some wholesale changes and pretty good gains.

“I think the car has some good potential, which you can see. Hopefully we can carry that through to tomorrow (Saturday’s qualifying). Definitely for us it’s always a tricky track. Obviously Sunday is the day that counts. Hopefully we can start near the front and make the most of it and have a strong start to the season.”

Simon Pagenaud, Power’s Team Penske teammate who led the first practice, was third in the afternoon at 1:01.1796-seconds in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet. Honda-powered drivers scooped up the next five spots on the leader board, led by Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda at 1:01.2924-seconds.

The afternoon session was halted for nearly 40 minutes for repairs to the track surface in Turn 3. The Holmatro Safety Team and track workers patched the areas with high-quality, quick-setting concrete, allowing the practice to resume for 40 minutes.

A third practice is scheduled for 11:55 a.m. (EST) Saturday, with knockout qualifying including the Firestone Fast Six session to decide the Verizon P1 Award for pole starting at 3:40 p.m. The 110-lap race _ the 13th on the city street circuit that also utilizes a runway of Albert Whitted Airport _ is set for Sunday (12:30 p.m., EDT, ABC).

Team Penske and sponsor Verizon unveiled sleek new liveries for the cars to be driven by Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power in the Verizon IndyCar Series this season. The cars feature a glossy silver look with red and black accents, along with the new Verizon logo prominently placed on the sidepod and engine cover.

The primary differences are in the car numbers, mirrors and camera mount above the air intake. The No. 2 on Montoya’s Chevrolet is black with a red outline and the two mirrors and camera mount on his car are black. Power’s No. 12 is red with a black outline and the mirrors and camera mount on his car are red.

Power will be in the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at all 16 races this season, while Montoya will run the colors in nine events, including the first three.

“I think it looks great,” said Montoya, defending champion of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “It’s nice. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the old Marlboro cars (that Team Penske used to run) _ both cars looking the same and small details to make the difference between the cars. It looks amazing.”

Asked if the new liveries look fast, Montoya joked, “As long as they’re up-front, they can look however they want.”

Grand Prix of St. Petersburg officials announced that Firestone has entered into a multi-year extension of the agreement to serve as title sponsor of the Verizon IndyCar Series race on the streets of the city on Tampa Bay. Firestone assumed naming rights in 2014 and the extension runs through 2018.

“Firestone has been a valued and key sponsor for many years, and together we have been able to bring this event to new heights,” said Kim Green, owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, organizer of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “They are a fundamental part of the race weekend and we are thrilled to continue our partnership and growing the event with their support.”

Firestone, whose involvement in motorsports dates back more than a century, also is the official tire of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Boston, as well as title sponsor of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

KVSH Racing confirmed that GEICO, second-largest passenger auto insurer in the United States, has returned as a team sponsor in 2016. The deal extends a partnership that began in 2008.

“GEICO has been a partner, and in fact a part of our family, for almost a decade, including the Indy 500 win in 2013,” said Jimmy Vasser, KVSH Racing co-owner. “We look forward to bringing them another outstanding month of May and thank them for their support in our efforts to not only win the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, but an INDYCAR championship.”

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, March 12 2016
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