Mar 30, 2012
LEEDS, Ala. – Team Penske didn’t dispatch Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe onto the rain-soaked Barber Motorsports Park asphalt ribbon for the afternoon practice session for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. They were thankful for such a prudent decision.
Not much data could be gained, though it was the first time during an IZOD IndyCar Series event that the new car-engine-tire package had run in the rain.
Click it: Combined practice results || Practice 1 results || Practice 2 results
“We just wanted to do some stuff, but at the end of the day the rain was getting a little bit too much,” said Castroneves, winner of the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg five days earlier. “By the weather forecast it sounds like we’re going to have a dry qualifying (10:40 a.m. ET March 31) and Sunday it seems even better, so there is no point for us to go out there and take any chances.
“In the dry, it went really well. It looks like the testing we did here so far is paying off. But again, it’s too early, it’s only one session, but right now I feel comfortable.”
Watch: Practice 1 highlights
Power was comfortable in the 30-minute morning session for all cars that was preceded by 30 minutes for entrants outside the top 10 in points and rookies, topping the time chart with a field-best 1 minute, 11.2886 seconds on the 2.380-mile, 17-turn road course.
“We have tested here a lot and know the track very well and the set-up very well,” said Power, who won the second edition of the race in 2011 from the pole. “We just made minor adjustments to the car because we basically know what we want. I think with the rain qualifying will be mixed up, and if the track has weepers there will be wet patches.
“Driving the new car really isn’t all that different. You carry a lot more speed everywhere on the track. I just hope the results are similar.”
Takuma Sato returned to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing tent with a towel around his head. He was among the 17 drivers to put in laps in the downpour that cut short the session by 14 minutes. Sato had the best lap of the group at 1:18.8684 and was third-quick in the morning session.
“After the test here in late February we came back with a much better understanding," Sato said. "I was reasonably happy with the balance and hoped that we could improve in the afternoon, but unfortunately it rained during the second session and we only ran a couple of laps. We made some changes to the car between sessions and although it was wet conditions, it felt better so I hope we have a strong package (for qualifying).”
Note: The No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car for Oriol Servia made an unapproved engine change and will be penalized 10 positions on the starting grid.
"It's a new motor and we came out behind the Chevy and the Honda and we're still struggling to come up with testing days," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said. "Unfortunately, these are things that we are finding and due to time we're finding them out during a race weekend. We found a problem with the motor, which is causing us to change it."