Ryan Hunter-Reay paces opening day of Sepring open test

Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay led the opening day of the IZOD IndyCar Series' Open Test at Sebring International RacingHunter-Reay, driving the Chevrolet-powered No. 28 DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport, recorded the quickest time during the seven hours of track time with a lap of 52.5826 seconds. Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Team Penske car was second (52.7092) and Simon Pagenaud in the Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports car (52.7311) was third.A total of 674 laps were collected without incident among the 10 drivers who recorded laps during the session.DAY 1 QUOTES:RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Andretti Autosport): "We're happy to be on track with all the IndyCars painted and starting our season. Everybody is making a lot of adjustments to their cars, and the car is a lot of fun. The car is a lot different with the carbon brakes, it being lighter and the power output with the Chevy twin turbo. The funny thing is if you didn't have any lap times you'd think you were two or three seconds a lap quicker just because of the power delivery of the turbo. When it gets going, it really sets you back in your seat. I think the lap times at St. Pete will be quicker, and this car will certainly go faster and faster as we develop it."HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "Even though we don't race (at Sebring), it's good for Team Penske to have an understanding of what the car is going to do, what changes we need to make, plus it does not count against your test days or test program. Somehow the set up that we've developed here is one that works on most of the street courses. I think because this track has a variety of bumps, concrete, concrete with asphalt, so the only thing they don't have is the pit walls in the corner that are in the street course. I remember in the past that this course has always given an indication of a street course and that's what we're going to go with." (Does Chevrolet have an early advantage): "I don't know what other teams are going to be here or what they're doing. We just have to keep focusing on our job. We're just focusing on our jobs and not even looking at times. (t doesn't matter who it is, we just have to keep working and chipping away."SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports): "It was a good day. We made quite a few changes getting ready for St. Petersburg with its low-grip conditions, which we had here today as well. We made some big steps forward. I'm very happy tonight. The Honda engine is really good. I'm improving every time I go out. The Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports team is doing a great job and that's making me feel more and more confident. There are a lot of familiar faces in this team for me, so it already feels like home. That's one reason we are shining already on the track. We are on pace, and it's just a matter of fine tuning here and there."JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Andretti Autosport): "It was a good learning day and we got a lot accomplished in the second session. That's what these tests are for. I'm looking forward to tomorrow as we have a good baseline to work with. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was obviously very quick, but we'll just keep working on all of the things we set out to test."SIMONA DE SILVERSTRO (No. 78 Lotus-HVM Racing): "I think it was a difficult day for HVM Racing and for Lotus, but I hope we'll come back strong tomorrow. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we just need to go through the process. I think we see that we are a little bit behind, but if we keep improving, like we did at the last test, we should be fine for St. Pete."RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "Any track time we get with these new cars is so valuable. Today was great for Team Penske. We had a trouble-free day and got through a couple of big-ticket list items that we wanted to do. I'm pretty happy, just looking forward to tomorrow. As we get closer to St. Pete, every piece of mileage that we get becomes even more important to us. It's crucial to have reliability, and we had that. We want to see more of that tomorrow." (How valuable are these two test days?): "It's very valuable. From getting used to all the new features of the car, from the (carbon) brakes to the clutch, and things like that we're going to have to get used to before the first race. I've been lucky to have a fair bit of testing over the last few months and I feel acclimatized to the car, but you can never have too much running time."WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Penske): "We had a very good day with the Verizon Team Penske car and found some really good things. We didn't get to run at the end (of the session) there, but I was really happy actually. The times we were putting up on really old tires were really good." (How valuable are these two days): "I think every test is valuable, but we're at a point where we've narrowed it down to the configuration we are going to run. It's all about finding the little details now."JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing): "I think it's been a good day, we've learned a lot of things, made a lot of changes and making gains on the car. You have to remember, we are still in the very early stages with this car and there is a lot left to do in order to get where we want to be." (About handling of new car): "This car drives very differently than any other car I have ever driven. It has a lot of downforce so if you get the balance right, you can really carry a lot of speed through the corners, but since we are so new to the car, we are still trying to figure out how the changes affect the car in every situation."JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing): "Considering that this was our first full day in the car, I think we had a pretty good day. We really just needed to get some miles on the car today and it really felt good. It was a full day of learning for me because this was my first time at Sebring and my first whole day in the car but i think we learned a lot. The Dale Coyne Racing guys did a great job with the car and I expect that we will have another one tomorrow."DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:Schmidt forms partnership with Hamilton for IZOD IndyCar teamSam Schmidt and Davey Hamilton have been rivals, teammates and friends for almost the past two decades. Now they have formed a partnership to strengthen the IZOD IndyCar Series team."I'm thrilled to welcome Davey to the team," Schmidt said in announcing Schmidt/Hamilton Racing with Simon Pagenaud driving the No. 77 car. "I've known Davey for what seems like forever, and he's a great friend who is trusted and liked by everyone. He's also experienced in just about every facet of the racing business, so he'll be a huge asset for the team. Most importantly, I know him as a fierce competitor who has battled life's challenges both on and off the track. We can relate to each other like no one else I have met."Schmidt and Hamilton have been interwoven through IZOD IndyCar Series history almost since the series started in 1996."I'm very excited about this new opportunity with Sam," Hamilton said. "Nobody has worked harder to get to Victory Lane in the series than Sam, and I want to help make that happen."Hamilton drove full time in the series from 1996-2001, finishing runner-up in the championship in the 1996-97 and 1998 seasons. Nebraska native Schmidt was a full-time driver in the series from 1997-99. Hamilton finished fourth in the 1999 series standings, four points ahead of Schmidt.After Schmidt was paralyzed in a testing accident in 2000, he created Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The team made its IZOD IndyCar Series debut in 2001 - with Hamilton behind the wheel. Hamilton made five starts for the team, including the 2001 Indianapolis 500, before suffering serious leg and foot injuries in a race crash in June 2001.He made an emotional return to the cockpit at the 2007 Indianapolis 500 and raced at Indy every year through 2011, with selected other IZOD IndyCar Series starts.While driving part time, Hamilton also built various successful racing businesses, including Davey Hamilton Racing. The team fielded entries in Firestone Indy Lights - the final stepping-stone to the IZOD IndyCar Series - and short-track oval racing competition.Schmidt returned to the IZOD IndyCar Series as a full-season team owner in 2011 by purchasing the assets of FAZZT Race Team.Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which entered Firestone Indy Lights competition in 2002 and has produced five series champions, will retain its entries as a separate entity.Rahal helps team with Honda Classic Pro-AmGraham Rahal says he "hit them pretty well; I hadn't played in six months or so." Interpretation: The IZOD IndyCar Series driver was able to hold his own with the likes of the PGA Tour's Camillo Villegas and not be intimidated by the PGA National Champion Course."I putt kind of average, which tends to be my problem," he says.Apparently, it wasn't detrimental enough to derail his team from winning the Kenny G Gold Pro-Am last week in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The pro-am is a major fund-raiser for the Honda Classic's charity, the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.The winning group included Villegas, NAPA Auto Parts president Dan Askey, Valvoline director of national accounts John Scanlon, and golf instructor and former LPGA Tour member Lynn Parker. It was the second consecutive year that Rahal was a member of the victorious group."It's my second year doing it with Tire Kingdom, the parent company of Service Central, and Honda is the title sponsor of the Honda Classic and Tire Kingdom is a presenting sponsor," says Rahal, who will drive the Honda-powered No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car this season."Not too many people realize this but NAPA and Valvoline are actually huge partners with Service Central on our IndyCar program. They're not front and center, having big logos on our car, but they are a big part of our program. It's a great event and a lot of fun."Rahal says he was especially pleased to participate in the event that benefits the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, which provides funding for health services in Palm Beach County and beyond. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nicklaus' first major championship victory (U.S. Open victory at Oakmont)."Being an Ohioan, it's pretty cool to meet him," Rahal says of the fellow Columbus native whose Memorial Tournament is held annually in Dublin, Ohio. "He's certainly a legend and a great guy, and the things that he and his wife Barbara do for kids around the country they are heroes. You can see how much they are loved in the community."Combine winner Kelley to compete at Sebring round of USF2000: Californian Bobby Kelley will drive for ArmsUp Motorsports in the first two races of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at Sebring International Raceway, Fla., on March 15-16 - his prize for winning the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine last December.Kelley, 19, from Riverside, Calif., represented the International Karting Federation at the two-day trial, held at Andersen RacePark in Palmetto, beating out nine other talented young racers from an array of karting series and other developmental categories. The competitive element of the Combine, which also included a business development seminar, comprised driving a USF2000 car, interacting with driver coaches and a race engineer and mock media interviews."We are pleased to have Bobby Kelley competing in the Sebring rounds of USF2000 as the winner of the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine," said Jason Penix, INDYCAR Director of Grassroots Initiatives. "He quickly showed the panel of judges his strengths both on and off the track. Our main goal of the Combine was to provide opportunities and discover emerging talent from the ranks of karting and we feel that Bobby is an excellent example of that. We look forward to seeing what he can do against an extremely talented USF2000 field."Kelley will drive a National Class car for the Elkhart Lake, Wis.-based team in the pair of races which have attracted a top-quality field of over 35 cars and will serve as a precursor to one of the world's most prestigious sports car events, the 60th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida."I am excited to be competing in the USF2000 opener at Sebring with Gregg Borland and ArmsUp Motorsports," said Kelley. "I am thankful to be given such a great opportunity in my freshman year of open-wheel racing. My intentions for Sebring will be to finish on the podium and I know ArmsUp Motorsports has the ability to get me there. Sebring is a great track and I am excited to be competing at the 60th Anniversary of its running."The Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine is a great opportunity for drivers trying to further their career into open-wheel racing from kart racing. I thought the program was a great experience and I was happy to be a part of the inaugural Combine. I would like to thank everyone who took part in setting up this program and giving me the opportunity to race in the USF2000 series."Kelley will gain his first experience of the No. 59 Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine Van Diemen during a series test day at Sebring on March 13, but ArmsUp Motorsports principal Gregg Borland has no doubt that Kelley will prove to be competitive."Everyone at ArmsUp Motorsports is very excited to have Bobby racing with us at Sebring," said Borland. "When I saw him drive at the Mazda Road to Indy Scouting Combine I was very impressed with his speed and consistency. I think with our knowledge of the USF2000 car in club spec and Bobby's speed, we have a very good shot at the podium in what is going to be a very tough National field."Rutherford to be honored at Racing to Recovery GalaThree-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford will receive the Legendary Driver Award from the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation at its 13th Racing to Recovery Gala on May 16 in Indianapolis.Also at the event at Dallara's new facility in Speedway, Ind., the Holmatro Safety Team will receive the Silent Hero award for its unparalleled skill and efficiency providing trackside support at every IZOD IndyCar Series event. Rutherford, the safety car driver for INDYCAR race events, is one of nine drivers to have won the Indianapolis 500 at least three times (1974, 1976 and 1980) and started from the pole three times. During his career spanning from 1959 to 1994, Rutherford recorded 27 Indy car victories. He also had one victory and five poles in 35 NASCAR starts."To be part of this year's Racing to Recovery Gala, an event that benefits so many people, is a great honor," Rutherford said. "The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation is doing so much to help people with spinal cord injury and paralysis. To be honored by the foundation for my accomplishments in motorsports is truly something I'm proud of."The event will feature a silent and live auction, giving guests the opportunity to bid on unique racing-themed items, vacation packages, jewelry, artwork and more. Funds raised will support medical research and rehabilitation for those living with paralysis. The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation was started in 2000 by Sam Schmidt shortly after a practice crash left him paralyzed from the chest down. For ticket information, contact events@samschmidt.org or call 317-236-9999.Sukup Manufacturing returns as race sponsorSukup Manufacturing Co. will be back as the official sponsor of the Sukup 100 Firestone Indy Lights race on June 23 -- a few hours before the Iowa Corn Indy 250 IZOD IndyCar Series race.Sukup Manufacturing Co., which manufactures a full line of grain storage, drying and handling equipment, as well as a new line of pre-engineered metal buildings, will also be an official partner of the Iowa Speedway in 2012.Of noteThe Chevrolet Detroit Belle Grand Prix has partnered MotorCity Casino Hotel for the June 1-3 event. MotorCity Casino Hotel will host and manage national and local musical acts throughout the Grand Prix weekend at the MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage on Belle Isle. ... The Lola driven by Mario Andretti in the 1990 Indianapolis 500 (right) is featured at Velocult in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The "Cultural Week of Speed," which showcases the history of Brazilian auto racing and global significant race cars and drivers through mid-March, is attended by more than 1 million people. ... Single-day reserved grandstand tickets to the eighth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 23-25 are now available at gpstpete.com or by phone at 1-877-283-5385. ... Graham Rahal and Sarah Fisher are honorary chairmen of the Indy Mutt Strut in April.

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