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Indy cars practice at Sonoma

August 25, 2012

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Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series and LAT USA

It’s nice to be back in the IZOD IndyCar Series paddock again, seeing old friends and enjoying the atmosphere. There was a single practice session for the Indy cars this afternoon for Sunday’s GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, an 85-lap romp around the 2.385-mile modified Raceway in Sonoma road course. It’s been a few months since I’ve been around these cars and drivers; I was looking for some good dicing and some unusual names at the top of the time sheets.

Afraid not. There was Will Power leading his Team Penske mate Ryan Briscoe right at the top of a 27-car field with their Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone DW12 Indy cars. DJ Willy P beat Brsicoe by a scant 0.1895 seconds and about 3/10 of a mile an hour, both setting their best speeds at the end of the session. In fact, most of the front-running cars didn’t bother to go out and practice until after the first stoppage when Charlie Kimball went off-course at the third turn, about 15 minutes into the 75-minute practice. Kimball was fine but his car had to be hooked back to the paddock.

Best Honda honors in the practice went to rookie Simon Pagenaud, who had a good test here last week. He was 0.2341 seconds behind Power in third. The Frenchman led four-time and reigning champion Dario Franchitti’s Honda, while Rubens Barrichello finally showed some form in practice, ending up fifth with his Chevrolet. Toward the latter stages of practice, Sebastien Bourdais was looking like he might end up leading the whole thing; his Chevy-powered car ended up sixth, followed by Scott Dixon (Honda), Graham Rahal (Honda), Marco Andretti and Sebastian Saavedra, both using Chevy power.

Those at the rear of the field were Ed Carpenter, again slowest of the bunch, Katherine Legge, Kimball and Simona de Silvestro, 24th in the field of 27. The result is nice for de Silvestro, who has far less power than anyone out there, thanks to her team’s choice of Lotus power. Somewhat surprising mid-packers included Chevy drivers Tony Kanaan in 13th, Helio Castroneves in 16th, Ryan Hunter-Reay 19th and James Hinchcliffe in 20th position.

The weather’s been gorgeous here in wine country and actually, the customary whining hasn’t been all that bad from the Indy car troops. I’m hoping that continues through the balance of the race meeting but not exactly holding my breath. The responses to Robin Miller’s editorial on http://www.speedtv.com about “some” owners wanting to purchase the series and take it over has been met with “so what” from most anyone in the paddock. Who is behind this idea? The only names we’ve heard offered up are Tony George (who really ought to know better) and John Barnes (ditto).

We’ll see how things shake out tomorrow for Firestone Fast Six qualifying. The groups have been assigned and Power has elected to head the second group. Both lineups are fairly equal – one more driver (Carpenter) in group two but plenty of cars that should be running quickly in either one. The qualifying group orders are relegated by practice results, so here are the groups with the engine (C, H or L) noted. Once these groups are willowed to six each we have a second session and a third to delegate the top six:

Group 1:
Ryan Briscoe (C)
Dario Franchitti (H)
Sebastien Bourdais (C)
Graham Rahal (H)
Sebastian Saavedra (C)
Justin Wilson (H)
JR Hildebrand (C)
Helio Castroneves (C)
Josef Newgarden (H)
James Hinchcliffe (C)
EJ Viso (C)
Simona de Silvestro (L)
Katherine Legge (C)

Group 2:
Will Power (C)
Simon Pagenaud (H)
Rubens Barrichello (C)
Scott Dixon (H)
Marco Andretti (C)
Oriol Servia (C)
Tony Kanaan (C)
James Jakes (H)
Alex Tagliani (H)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (C)
Mike Conway (H)
Takuma Sato (H)
Charlie Kimball (H)
Ed Carpenter (C)

By Anne Proffit

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