Firestone tire setup

Friday morning’s weather is warm heading for sizzling at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana CA. First cars out on the season finale race weekend are the Firestone Indy Lights cars for first practice, which will be followed by IZOD IndyCars for their first go around on the two-mile banked oval super speedway.

Rookie GABBY CHAVES/Schmidt-Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian was fastest of eight, turning a 189.820 mph in 37.9306 seconds. The fastest lap record for Indy Lights of 190.770 mph/37.9284 seconds was set by THIAGO MEDEIROS on 1 October 2004.

His teammate, Points leader, Rookie SAGE KARAM, was fifth. Eight of the nine drivers were on course. JORGE GONCALVEZ/Belardi Auto Racing did not go out.

Rookie JACK HAWKSWORTH of the same team hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn Two, but he is OK and has been cleared to drive. He finished fourth in the session.

Marco Andretti

The first news of the day was MARCO ANDRETTI of Andretti Autosport Chevrolet will continue racing for his father, MICHAEL ANDRETTI, with ongoing sponsorship from Dr Pepper Snapple. Next year will be Marco’s eighth year with this sponsor and ninth year in IndyCar.

In addition to touting its brands on his No. 25 car, Andretti has worked with DPS on one of its key philanthropic initiatives, serving as honorary chairman of DPS’s of its 2013 United Way campaign. Themed “Drive Home Giving,” the campaign raised nearly $2.2 million for United Way agencies.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise that the third generation Andretti was remaining with his father’s team. He admitted he
“wasn’t poking around because I was dissatisfied. I did some talking but that’s all it was – just talking.” It’s a different perspective in driving for his father’s team than it would be for another team, but I’m the one honored to be here. It’s one of the best teams.”

Marco wouldn’t reply to any questions regarding the teams future plans, driver situations, etc. He said he leaves that stuff to his Dad. I stay out of that part of the teams.

What young Andretti did relate was “I agree with the way things are going. Lots of what’s happening depended on where I was going and that’s the way it works”. He said that he gets along well with his current teammates, 2012 IndyCar Champion RYAN HUNTER-REAY and JAMES HINCHCLIFFE. “I love those guys on and off the track. We know when to have fun, and when to get down to business and get the job done.”

Grandfather MARIO ADNDRETTI definitely gives advice to Marco. “I think he thinks he retired too early and he still wants to be behind the wheel. He’s always checking in and fishing for chances to give me some good advice. He has a lot to offer.”

IndyCar has its first 90-minute practice mid-morning Friday. There are 25 driver/combinations, at least one new for the weekend – ALEX TAGLIANI driving No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Honda for DARIO FRANCHITTI, who is recovering from his orthopedic injuries sustained in the last Houston street race.

Before most of the drivers and teams were at the track Friday morning, three Chevrolet IndyCar drivers were at the track, decked out in pink shirts, driving specially-designed Chevrolets to give laps to 30 breast cancer survivors and their guests. Those charitable drivers were SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, ORIOL SERVIA, and SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA.

Three Pink Special Chevrolets