Power leads pack in Baltimore GP opening practice

IZOD IndyCar Series drivers took a four-hour delay in practice for the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix in stride as crews addressed potential safety issues relating to fencing lining the 2-mile, 12-turn circuit."Obviously, the fans and drivers are disappointed with the delays, but there's always some growing pains with a first event," Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing driver Graham Rahal said.One 75-minute session (condensed from two scheduled practices totaling 2 hours, 15 minutes) was held, with Verizon Team Penske's Will Power posting the best lap time of 1 minute, 22.1739 seconds. IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was second (1:22.2162) was second and Team Penske's Helio Castroneves (1:22.2846) was third of the 28 entries."I like the layout of the circuit. It's very cool and very challenging," Castroneves said. "Some of the surface is so smooth and other parts are pretty rough, but every street course has it's challenges, especially the first year. We certainly have a few things to work on with the No. 3 car, but we're going in a good direction."A 60-minute practice session is scheduled for Sept. 3 preceding the three rounds of qualifications.Championship points leader Josef Newgarden was quickest in the lone Firestone Indy Lights session (1 minute, 27.5145 seconds) in the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong car to lead four Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers at the top of the time sheet. Conor Daly was second (1:28.0619), followed by Victor Carbone and Esteban Guerrieri."I think everyone did a great job of prepping for the track and going through the simulations before getting here, so it seems that we at least have a strong starting package for us as a base for the race this weekend," Newgarden said of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports contingent. "We really just need to be focusing on progressing that as time allows us to this weekend. I'm looking forward to the challenges of this place. It's bumpy in some spots and smooth in others, so it's going to be a fun circuit to race on for sure and will provide interesting challenges for everyone."DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:Live timing and scoring reports from the Baltomore Grand Prix are available on the Internet at www.indycar.com. The live timing and scoring module provides statistical information, including track segment speeds, lap information and much more. Feature stories, reports, driver quotes and notes, and photos will be posted on the site each day. More detailed information, including media advisories and VNF coordinates, is available at media.indycar.com.***Drivers will have 15 total pushes of the Honda overtake assist - an ECU software alteration employed by Honda Performance Development - each lasting 18 seconds during the Edmonton Indy. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout. There is a 10-second recovery period between pushes. One overtake assist push is available for the final practice session.***Each entry receives six sets of Firestone Firehawk primary (black sidewall) and three sets of alternate (red sidewall) for the race weekend.The primary tires are the same spec used in June on the Toronto streets. The alternate is new for this year. The rain tire is also new for this year, and this is the last time this particular spec will be used this season; a different rain tire will be used if needed at the Twin Ring Motegi road course.***Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader JR Hildebrand was named as the newest spkesman for the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program -- a 17-month voluntary intervention program that provides those who've dropped out, at risk of dropping out or have been expelled from school a second chance at an education and an opportunity to turn their lives around.Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, was joined at the event by WWE star and Youth ChalleNGe spokesman Kofi Kingston.Panther Racing also announced that it has partnered with Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company, in an associate sponsorship agreement for the Baltimore Grand Prix.***Baltimore will be Tony Kanaan's 240th Indy car (147th in the IZOD IndyCar Series, 15th with KV Racing Technology-Lotus) start. He holds the IZOD IndyCar Series record with 144 consecutive starts. ... Teammate E.J. Viso will make his 65th career Indy car (64th in the IZOD IndyCar Series, 30th on a road/street course, 32nd with KV Rcing Technology-Lotus) start.***Circuit map in hand, Martin Plowman ventured to the freshly-paved 2-mile street circuit with engineer Ben Bretzman to learn all he could about braking zones, pit lane entrance and egress, overtaking area and potential trouble spots.The 23-year-old driver from England, who has all of two IZOD IndyCar Series races tucked inside his helmet, is continually learning about more than a new racetrack."I'm learning about the team and they're learning about me," he says succinctly, honestly. "I understand all that. I still have a lot to learn but I feel that I have adapted quickly and already feel at home in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and I've proven to myself that I can compete against and beat some of the best drivers in the world."Plowman enters the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix off a 12th-place finish in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 28 in the No. 17 Snowball Express AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car."It's a confidence-boost for us, though I'll never be happy with a result until we win one," said Plowman, who will receive a $10,000 check on race day as the Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race Award winner for the Infineon Raceway event via a poll on www.indycar.com."I'm proud of the performance we all gave considering it was my second race and I'm joining many full-time drivers and many of the rookies who have been in for a full season almost, so it was jumping in at the deep end."Plowman topped the time chart in the race day warm-up on the 2.303-mile road course and started 15th of 28 cars. A pass on Lap 62 of 75 for 13th place - one of his five under green -- was nominated for the Firestone Tire-ific Award."It was a big step forward from Mid-Ohio," he said of the early-August race on another natural-terrain course in which he advanced from the 26th starting position to finish 18th. "Just a couple of rookie mistakes that could have gotten me the result I wanted. When you wind up getting beat out (of the top 10) by (Oriol) Servia and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, you can't be too disappointed."Another solid result will assist Plowman's other full-time job of securing sponsorship to put together a package for the full 2012 season, which - paired with on-track experience - he could take to an IZOD IndyCar Series team."Just being out here and racing you're visible," said Plowman, who competed in Firestone Indy Lights for two seasons. "You're not some wannabe race driver knocking around the paddock.Hopefully, we have opened up some of the eyes of the owners and team sponsors with our performance."At least this year I have an opportunity to show at least signs of what I can do. Hopefully, this weekend I can add to last weekend."***Tonis Kasemets isn't ready to give up his career as a racing driver.The 37-year-old Estonian-born driver, who now proudly races as an American citizen, returns to Firestone Indy Lights for the Baltimore Grand Prix with Team Moore Racing as driver of the No. 22 Xtreme Coil Drilling car."It's a fantastic opportunity for me, especially timing where I am at in my racing career,"said Kasemets, who made five Indy car starts during the 2006 Champ Car season. "Team Moore giving me the opportunity is pretty wicked. I've not been in a Lights car since Toronto last year and looking much forward to it."Kasemets had a pair of sixth place finishes in Firestone Lights a year ago. His first look at the 2-mile Baltimore Grand Prix circuit came as the driver coach for USF2000 team Pabst Racing Services. He finally got his first look from behind the wheel when Firestone Indy Lights cars took to the track for their only practice session where he was eighth of the 16 drivers on track."I'm pretty OK learning tracks, and I know the team's track record is very good," he said. "We'll keep our noses down and keep digging and hopefully we can come away with a finish better than sixth."FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE QUOTES:CONOR DALY (No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fastest of the day): "I thought the track was pretty cool. Good fun to get back in a Firestone Indy Lights car, the team gave us some great cars, I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend. The track is a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to it."JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/SSM, second fastest): "I thought it was a great job for the team, we were 1-2-3-4. I think everyone did a great job of prepping for the track and going through the simulations before getting here, so it seems that we at least have a strong starting package for us as a base for the race this weekend. We really just need to be focusing on progressing that as time allows us to this weekend. I'm looking forward to the challenges of this place, it's bumpy in some spots and smooth in others, so it's going to be a fun circuit to race on for sure and will provide interesting challenges for everyone."WILLY T. RIBBS (No. 32 Willy T. Ribbs/Starting Grid Inc./DHR): "This place is pretty rough. It has obviously been a long time since I've been in one of these cars. It just takes time to get re-acclimated to how you need to drive these cars into the corner, where you can pick up the power, what the car is capable of and getting use to that rough stuff again. We still have some practice time left so we will be all right. Really, it's just like getting back on a rodeo horse again."IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE QUOTES:WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, fastest of the day): "You are working the entire time, and it is a pretty cool track. They did a really good job creating the circuit. It takes a lot of commitment and there are several technical bits, it's bumpy and I think it will be a great race! It is very tricky in certain places, but that is typical of a street course. I think if they didn't have the chicane we would have more passing there, but overall I like the course. It is challenging with a lot of corners and the technical requirements."HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra Team Penske, third fastest): "This is a really good starting point for us in the Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra car. I like the layout of the circuit. It's very cool and very challenging. Some of the surface is so smooth and other parts are pretty rough, but every street course has it's challenges, especially the first year. We certainly have a few things to work on with the 3 car, but we're going in a good direction."SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "The track is very cool. A bit bumpy in places and the chicane is pretty tight. Turn one will be good under braking so there will be some good opportunities for passing maybe in turns two and three. Unfortunately I locked up under braking and got into the wall early in the session. Not the way we wanted to start but the Target team will bounce back."RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske): "It's a shame because we were really feeling good in the Guidepoint Systems car before we hit the wall. I was a little worried about that corner (turn 5) and maybe I jinxed myself because I said something the lap before. It's kind of a dangerous corner - very fast - and I got in a little hot and the right front wheels clipped the tire barrier and that was it; we hit the wall. We were really fast out there and it's a fun track. It's busy out there but a lot of fun. It's going to be an interesting race, for sure."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "This track is a challenge for both drivers and engineers. It's full of different types of surface and has bumpier and smoother areas. It will come down to who gets the best compromise from their car to be at the top. I think it is fun. There are a couple of areas that could be a little better, a little faster. But for a first guess, I think they did a very good job with the track. The session was good, I felt okay. The Telemundo team was P19 but everybody put on new tires and we didn't so I think we are in the top-10; nothing stellar yet but there is something to work on."JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): "This is a fun, challenging little track. It definitely feels a lot tighter in a 650 horsepower car than it did on a bicycle (rode a bicycle on the track earlier today) so you really appreciate just how tight and tricky some of these sectors are. At the end of the day, they have done a good job with the track. The front is really bumpy but the rest of the track is quote smooth and pretty nice. It's a good layout with some technical parts. It's really tricky and difficult to get one full lap together will all your best sectors so qualifying is going to be a serious test. The car ran well and the setup, off the transporter, is pretty good so we'll keep tweaking at it a little bit, look at some video and data and I'm sure I will improve a bit and the car will improve a bit too. We will just take it one session at a time."CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): "The Baltimore Grand Prix circuit is a lot of fun. It's like two tracks; the asphalt side down around the stadium is smooth with a lot of grip and Pratt Street and Light Street are concrete and really rough and slippery.  You have to balance the two and I think the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car was pretty solid underneath me. We had a little traffic, but with 28 cars around a two-mile lap it's bound to happen. It's a good start to the weekend for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing here in Baltimore."GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "It was a really good practice for the Service Central team.  The No. 38 Service Central car was really good. We kept improving throughout the practice session and I think it's only going to get better. The Baltimore Grand Prix circuit is a great track; I think it's a great layout and a great place. I feel pretty confident going into the weekend."VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "After the first day we have a lot to do and we'll make some big changes overnight but we have a clear direction on where to go with our ABC Supply car. Today I wanted to make sure we had as many laps as possible on track. It is very busy out there—much busier than we thought it would be from our track recon [reconnaissance] yesterday. Overall, I think the city did a good job with the track. They had a lot of work to do to but it's race ready."ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "Sure, it's bumpy and its rough and we know there are some improvements to make to the track. But when a promoter goes to this much work to put on a world class event, we need to be appreciative of that. I mean, there's a big crowd here today. The turnout is fantastic for a Friday. It's their first year, but they've done a good job, and again, we need to recognize them for that. I can promise you that they're so happy that we're here that in year two they will be a lot more aggressive in the track preparation. But, this is normal for a first year event. For us, it's going to be a big challenge for the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins crew and me. Hopefully, we can hit the set up in practice one. That will be super important. Other than that, I'd say that it was a good first session for our team. We made a change in the last six minutes, and we really jumped up. We know where we need to work, and we couldn't really fix it on pit lane. We'll get it fixed, and we should be a lot better tomorrow."MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 17 Snowball Express/AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I love the new layout. It's really challenging, but it's a fun layout. It's extremely bumpy at the moment, and that's presenting the most problems for many of us. Everyone was in the same position going into this weekend. Some teams arrived hitting the ground running, and some have got to do more work. We're in that camp. We're not where we want to be, obviously. Toward the end of the session, I was just starting to get confident in the No. 17 Snowball Express AFS/SSM car and how it was being compliant over the bumps. I was just starting to get in a rhythm, unfortunately we ran out of time there. We're getting closer to the pace, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 07 Team REDLINE Xtreme): "Today was good. Unfortunately, we didn't get as much track time as we would have liked. The set-up seems to be decent and we'll see what happens for tomorrow. Overall, I think it was pretty positive day for my first day back."GIORGIO PANTANO (No. 22 Roll Coater): "I'm very happy with today. The Roll Coater car seems to be okay. Right now, we are working on fixing some things. With the cars that we had today we weren't able to get a good lap time. Tomorrow, I'm sure we will be at the top.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Kellogg's): "Well, that was pretty busy out there. I'm just figuring my way around, I still think there's a couple of areas that I could improve on. It's a challenge for the engineers, for the drivers..I'm pretty busy out there hanging on to the thing. It was a tough day for the fans because of the wait, but they stuck it out and on that first lap the stands were pretty full there. Whatever modifications that need to be made to the track before tomorrow need to be made soon, because we want to make sure that it's a good day for the fans since they're very excited to be here. We're glad to be here, we're looking forward to it."ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Team Ipiranga/DRR): "I think this track is one of the roughest tracks that I have ever been to. It's so bumpy and in some of the corners my hands come off of the steering wheel because it's very, very bumpy. We just need to keep working on it. We will push hard tomorrow so that we can get closer, and I'm sure that we will."RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "It was a tough practice session to get a rhythm on because it was interrupted so much by yellows. But we're fourth right now and I think we have a pretty good starting point for the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop car. Hopefully tomorrow we'll make the usual steps that we do on street courses and keep moving forward."MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team Buffalo Wild Wings): "The track is pretty cool. It's very tight and twisty and you have to be careful through some sectors. It's hard to get the car dialed in but all in all the Buffalo Wild Wings car has been pretty good today. We'll keep working on the car and dial it in for qualifying tomorrow."DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "The most important thing for me with tracks like this is making sure you are comfortable with the car. I was getting more comfortable as practice went on but the GoDaddy car is not where I want to be. It just takes me a while to really learn a new track and it's hard when you've only had one practice session. Thankfully we have one more practice before we qualify tomorrow."MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team All Natural Snapple): "It's a lot of fun out there - I had a great time driving the Snapple car, but we are still struggling a bit. We'll put our heads together, makes some changes and hopefully improve before qualifying tomorrow."SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 34 Bogata Es Mundial Conquest Racing): "I'm very happy with this first contact with the track. The circuit itself is very technical and very interesting to work with. This year's high performance level of all 28 drivers is going to make it even more interesting. Our goal right now is to keep the pace with the top 10 as everyone will improve for tomorrow. We can't stop working on the car and going faster. I was very comfortable with the car but traffic didn't let us show our full potential."JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "We had a bit of a gearbox issue that put us down during the middle of the sessions, and we only had a couple laps once we got back out. We feel fine where we are and just didn't get the laps in to keep up with the track and the guys who were running the entire time. I like the circuit; it's definitely technical and has a couple neat sections that are unique to street courses. It's an interesting challenge and really makes you work for the lap time. Beyond that it's exciting to be here in Baltimore, we've got a big group of National Guard and Youth ChalleNGe guests here cheering us on and that's always cool to have that support for an event."***The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Baltimore Grand Prix on Sept. 4 at Streets of Baltimore. The race will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Baltimore 100 on Sept. 4 at the Streets of Baltimore. The race will be televised by VERSUS at Noon (ET).