PENSKE, GANASSI DRIVERS ALTERNATE TOP SPOTS AT OPEN TEST
Will Power paced the final day of an IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. The Team Penske driver lapped the 15-turn, 2.38-mile circuit in 1 minute, 09.4557 seconds, 119.213 mph.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti had the second-quickest lap at 1:09.7776. Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing also filled the third and fourth positions, respectively, with Ryan Briscoe turning a best lap of 1:09.8401 and Scott Dixon at 1:09.8904. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing drivers Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos were fifth and sixth, respectively.
All 16 drivers participating in the test improved their lap times from Sunday, with the top 10 drivers going quicker than Sunday’s best time (Dixon, 1:10.5005).
Mario Moraes missed most of the afternoon after the No. 5 KV Racing Technology car sustained damage after contact with the tire barrier shortly before the lunch break. Moraes returned to the track for the final 20 minutes.
The test was the second and final Open Test before the 2009 season begins April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Results Monday with position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine and speed:
1. (3) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 119.213
2. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 118.663
3. (6) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 118.557
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 118.471
5. (02) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 118.425
6. (06) Robert Doornbos, Dallara-Honda, 118.247
7. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 118.132
8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 117.769
9. (18) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 117.751
10. (27) Hideki Mutoh, Dallara-Honda, 117.685
11. (4) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 117.402
12. (24) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 117.120
13. (12) Raphael Matos, Dallara-Honda, 117.106
14. (5) Mario Moraes, Dallara-Honda, 117.080
15. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 116.881
16. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 115.765
State and local dignitaries and community leaders formally welcomed the IndyCar Series to Barber Motorsports Park with a luncheon on the fifth floor of Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley broke bread with Indy Racing League CEO Tony George and other league officials, and George received a key to the city from Birmingham Mayor Larry P. Langford.
“It’s beautiful noise out there,” Riley said. “We hope to hear more of it in the years to come.”
After ample time for his lunch to settle, Mayor Langford was the passenger in a Honda Odyssey minivan for a high-speed ride on the natural-terrain circuit. Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was behind the wheel.
“It’s not like any minivan I’ve ever been in my life,” Mayor Langford said.
Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was as impressed with the Honda Odyssey minivan’s handling and roominess as Birmingham Mayor Larry P. Langford was with the high-speed ride on the 2.38-mile, 15-turn Barber Motorsports Park circuit.
“We’re having a baby; we might have to get one of these,” Dixon said after giving the mayor a ride during a break.
Dixon’s wife, Emma, is expecting the couple’s first child in late July.
“Both of us are excited,” Dixon said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. The timing might not be the best, though, because it’s during the season.”
Dixon, 28, said he doesn’t have a preference for a boy or girl (the couple will wait until the birth to find out the sex of the child).
“We have plenty more years to try to work out to see if we can get one or the other,” he said.
Ron Dixon said it’s another step in the evolution of his son, who began racing cars competitively at age 13.
“He is all excited about being a dad. Not bad for a kid who was never going to get married or have kids,” he said.
Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher and E.J. Viso correctly picked 14 of the 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Carpenter leads the contest among IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers with 51 points in the Yahoo! contest. His picks for the Final Four are Louisville, Connecticut, Duke and North Carolina.
Bryan Herta Autosport has signed Le Bleu water as primary sponsor for the team’s No. 28 Firestone Indy Lights entry and 22-year-old driver Daniel Herrington.
"We at Le Bleu are really excited to be supporting up-and-coming American driver Daniel Herrington this year in the Firestone Indy Lights championship," said Jerry Smith, CEO of Le Bleu. "I will take a great deal of personal satisfaction from seeing Daniel compete with Bryan Herta Autosport for race wins and the championship. Daniel has earned this opportunity through his hard work on and off the track, and we are proud to have him representing our brand."
Le Bleu Corporation, established in 1990, developed a process to produce pure and clean tasting water. Le Bleu's purification process eliminates the inorganic minerals and chemicals that may be present in other waters. Le Bleu offers 5-gallon home service in select area across North and South Carolina and has launched nationally with major distribution chains, retailers and several international distributors.
"We at Bryan Herta Autosport are very proud to have Le Bleu join us as primary sponsor for Daniel Herrington and the No. 28 car for the full 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season," team owner Bryan Herta said. "The car looks fantastic in Le Bleu's corporate colors, and we can't wait to make our public debut at St. Pete in two weeks. We will be hosting almost 70 guests from Le Bleu at the race and look forward to kicking off this partnership in style with some great results on the track and off.”
INDYCAR SERIES POST-TEST QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 3 Team Penske, fastest): “It was good. I haven’t spent much time with this team, so I spent the two days gelling with my engineer. We’re really working well together now. We found some good things in the car, and we found a car that suits me. We’re happy and we’ll be pretty confident going into St. Pete. This is a great track to get fit on because you never stop working. We won’t use this much energy getting around St. Pete, so it was a good workout. I was just happy to get back in the car on a road course.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): “We accomplished a lot. It’s a really interesting track. It’s a fabulous facility – the way it’s built, the way it’s kept. The track is a real commitment track, a lot of really, really fast corners. I’m enjoying it a lot. I think if were to come back here and race a couple of changes would need to be made to create some passing opportunities, but I don’t think that would be a problem judging from what they’ve already done here. It’s been a really good weekend, get to know the team better and Scott (Dixon), as well. Each week is just learning more. It’s been a long week though with Sebring. We were at Sebring from Monday right through to Saturday night and then came right here. And before that we were testing at Phoenix. I feel like I&rsq uo;ve been working pretty hard this last week.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, fifth): “The car is pretty good. We’re learning quite a lot, which is important. I think at the end of the day we’re competitive here, but that’s not what matters most. What matters most to us is to make sure that when we go to all the road races we’ve got a good shot at winning, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now – learn as much as we can. I think we’re doing that. We’ve got a lot more knowledge and understanding than we did before, and that’s what we need. We’re trying things that we hope we can adapt to other tracks. That’s been our focus.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Andretti Green Racing, seventh): “I think the Meijer car ran really well these past couple of days. I think we are taking the right approach at this test; we are making big changes and getting clear results. There are times during a race weekend where we need to make these types of big changes and time is not on our side. So, I think we are going to be able to show up this season with a better idea of our baselines and that will allow us to be a step ahead.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Andretti Green Racing, eighth): “The great thing about a test is not having the pressure of lap times and who is the fastest. We are only concerned about figuring out what to do to make the 7-Eleven car better overall. We need to understand the changes that we make and learn what or what not to do to in order to make the car better. So, it’s a win-win for us and the team as a whole.”
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Andretti Green Racing, 10th): “I think we had an overall good test here at Barber these past couple of days. We were able to make some changes to the car that both were good and not so good, but we will be able to use all the information that we got, and use it throughout the season. I think we will be using a lot of the information in St. Pete. The Formula Dream team has worked really hard during the offseason and I feel good about going into the first race at St. Pete.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 Panther Racing): “It’s good to be in the race car. It’s not often we get the opportunity anymore with the restrictions on testing. A track like this I think some people criticize to some degree because the relevance that it has to St. Petersburg or Long Beach is pretty insignificant. But in terms of being able to test stuff for the track being consistent I think this is a good place. That’s not only what we have been doing, but need to be doing, because as I said with the restricted testing it’s important. The car has actually been pretty good. On my new tire run just before lunch, I did an outlap and then my best lap and then I spun. There’s stuff that we’re working through. There’s a problem with the car that I think we’re making it better. We haven’t got it to go away yet, but we’re working towards that. Certainly it’s incredibly competitive. You can see from the times it’s very close. It’s good to be here. For the limited running that Panther and I have had together, we’re really pretty competitive.”
MIKE CONWAY (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): “It's been a good test. I think the last couple of days we definitely learned a lot about the car, not just the team but me also. We're just getting used to the car again on a road course. We struggled a bit on the first day, but the second day, we found a lot of time in the car. It was a lot easier to drive, and we gained a couple of seconds on new tires. That's a good thing, very encouraging. We just need to take what we learned at the test here and move forward to be strong for St. Pete.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Andretti Green Racing): “As you know, the road courses have been my weak spot in racing, but with that being said, I think we were able to learn some things that will help me to continue to strengthen my road course races. It’s not really easy to see my lap times where they are, but I really think we are on the right track with the Motorola car. I’m glad that I was able to do a road course test with my new race engineer, Eddie (Jones) before we head to St. Pete in a couple of weeks.”
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. The radio broadcast also will be carried on indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg. The races will be telecast at 6 p.m. (EDT) on April 6 by VERSUS.