DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi was the fastest of 28 IZOD IndyCar drivers Friday afternoon at Infineon Raceway. His best lap was 1:19.4269. The 2010 IndyCar champion holds the Infineon qualifying track record of 1:16.4792, set last year. His victory in 2009 was the closest Infineon Margin, 0.2488 ahead of RYAN BRISCOE.
The temperature was 79 degrees. There were some spins, but the only problem was had by ALEX TAGLIANI/No.77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports. He went off course into the Turn Three tire barrier. The car sustained left side damage. Tag is OK. He finished twenty-first.
Second through fourth were WILL POWER/No.12 Verizon Team Penske; HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske; and SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
All 28 drivers were on course.
Franchitti and Power seemed more at ease with each other in the Media Center, at least on the surface, than they did at the recent IndyCar test, where they wouldn’t look at each other. They actually cracked a joke and smiled.
Franchitti said “I have started from the back here. Qualifying is important here, especially with 28 cars. There aren’t many places to pass, so you take it where you can get it. It’s tough, very very tough.”
Power commented about the points race with Franchitti. “It’s endless. He’s always there. And I’m always there … for him. A points lead can turn around in one weekend. I just gotta keep finishing ahead of Dario.”
Regarding tire wear and the grippiness of the circuit, Power said “It was tough to get a good balance here. The recent test was helpful. Drivers are not allowed to drive the first 45 minutes of the first practice if in top ten in points. The grip was better today than during the test. This is a low grip circuit. Tires degrade quickly. It has an abrasive surface, but good. It is not problem with rubber from the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge cars – all 39 of them. It doesn’t matter at Infineon, as it did at Mid-Ohio.
GIORGIO PANTANO/No.22 TranSystems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing of Italy was the fastest of nine Rookies Friday afternoon, in fifth place.
ANA BEATRIZ of Brazil was the fastest female in seventh place, driving the other D&R car, No.24 Team Ipiranga
China’s first IndyCar racer, HO-PIN TUNG/No.88 Mouser.com Schmidt Dragon Racing, was seventeenth overall.
Local favorite, Rookie J.R. HILDEBRAND/No.4 National Guard Panther Racing was nineteenth.
Super Sub Simon, SIMON PAGENAUD/No.78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy HVM Racing, came in twenty-fifth.
The last lap of the 75-minute session was marked by drivers going off in Turn Nine. No harm, no foul, as they all pitted, and the session was over.
“Just visiting” SCOTT PRUETT of relatively nearby Auburn CA was at the track Friday to cheer on his Ganassi teammates. Pruett and co-driver MEMO ROJAS are currently leading the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype class standings.