DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing was the top IZOD Indycar driver Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway, with a lap of 1:18.2969. But he had to fight for it.

Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan awaiting the start of Friday Practice. Photo by Lynne Huntting
TONY KANAAN/No.7 Andretti Autosport had been the fastest IZOD Indycar driver Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway for the first twenty-six minutes of the hour-long session, despite his car just quitting on him during his fourth lap. Kanaan was towed in.

Once Kanaan was eclipsed by DAN WHELDON/No.4 Panther Racing, the top spot rotated among MARCO ANDRETTI/No.26 Andretti Autosport-the top American driver; points leader WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske; and Franchitti.

The top five drivers were Franchitti-last year’s pole sitter and winner, and Power-just .0041 apart; ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 FAZZT Race Team-a time he grabbed on his last lap; SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and JUSTIN WILSON/No.22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Less than one second separated the top fifteen drivers.

The Friday schedule was a light one, or should I say a Lights-less one. The Firestone Indy Lights Series won’t be on track until Saturday. Friday IRL shared the track with the Historic Grand Prix Formula One cars, and the Formula Car Challenge Series.

The weather was barely seventy degrees F for the mid-afternoon session, with a stiff breeze. The San Francisco Bay Area has not yet really had a summer, unlike the rest of the country.

J.R. Hildebrand
J.R. Hildebrand. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Local driver and top Rookie, J.R. HILDEBRAND/No.24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing acquitted himself nicely in only his second-ever run in an Indycar. He ran as high as tenth, before finishing thirteenth. Although Hildebrand, of nearby Sausalito CA, is one of six drivers racing their first Indycar race at Infineon, he’s been racing at the wine country elevated road circuit for nine years in a variety of cars. He said it was good that they (IRL) was going out in the afternoon, like the race will be on Sunday, but it was also different because there were no Lights cars on track. just the other series laying down different rubber.

The Indycar track configuration, exclusive to the open wheelers, is a 12-turn, 2.303-mile circuit, and the race will run 75 laps.

Three female drivers are included in the 25-car field: DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Andretti Autosport, Rookie SIMONA DE SILVESTRO/No.78 HVM Racing, and MILKA DUNO/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing. De Silvestro finished twenty-second, Patrick finished twenty-third, and Duno was last. This is De Silvestro’s first time at Infineon Raceway and she doesn’t have any teammates to share setups and advice.

Rookie ALEX LLOYD/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing spun and stalled in Turn Seven bringing out a caution, with five minutes remaining in the session.

Power said post-session that he would love to win the race in front of a lot of Verizon folks here to watch the race. He said the test was very helpful, even though the track is different today. Power predicts that Qualifying will be very tight.

Regarding the changes in Turn Three, scene of his season-ending accident last year, he said “I’m still wondering what’s going on when I see dust up in Turn Three ahead of me. The lighting system is a hundred times better than before. The racing is so fast, there’s hardly time to look up at the lights. It will still be hard to react when things happen so fast.”

Franchitti, who is second overall in the standings, said he was “not sure why the track was quicker last week during the test.” He was glad for the IRL open test because of the 2010 severely limited testing policy. Franchitti, who led all 75 laps last year, said he has to start from zero each race, and not be dependent on what he did last year.

Franchitti and Power joked they were tired of seeing each other so much on the podium.