Notebook: Franchitti Fastest

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – After a third fastest showing in the morning practice, Dario Franchitti was able to pick up the additional speed necessary to finish Friday as the quickest driver going into tomorrow’s qualifying.

The Scot improved to a fast lap of 1:02.796, 103.190 mph in the second practice session of the day.

"The car has been quick all day. I’ve had absolutely no problems at all with the Klein Tools-Jim Beam car. It offloaded fast, we have just been tweaking the setup," said Franchitti, "It’s a typical street course here in St. Pete; the track gets faster and faster each lap."

The lap is just shy of Bryan Herta’s pole winning speed from last year of 103.664 mph.

While setting the fast lap for the day, the most hair-raising moment for the Andretti-Green driver came during the last 30 minutes of the first session. Going into the Forsythe Solutions Corner (between Turns 6 and 7), Franchitti hit a bump and went airborne momentarily. While he regained control and had no damage, he did express surprise upon seeing it on replay.

"I just saw it, they were showing replays of it. I had a little word with my engineer," quipped the four time IndyCar race winner. "There is a big bump there under the bridge. It certainly feels in the car like it’s leaving the ground, so it’s good to see we are getting good airtime there.

"Street courses have these challenges and that’s part of the fun. You gotta make sure you are straight when you are trying to brake once you land."

Scott Dixon was second fastest on the day with a fast lap in the morning session of 102.936 mph around the 1.8 mile street circuit. The Target Chip Ganassi driver ran a limited amount of laps during the afternoon as they sat out most of the session trying to fix a gear problem.

Besides the fast laps by Franchitti and Dixon, the story of the day was the on-track incident between two drivers with famous last names.

Things got heated early during the second practice session as Eddie Cheever Jr. looked to get into Marco Andretti as they were entering Turn 4. While Cheever continued driving, Andretti went straight into the tire barrier, taking him out of the session.

"It was a high risk for a very unimportant part of the day," said Cheever. "It was way too early. I was already starting into the corner. It's up to the IRL to say what happened."

For his part, Andretti feels he learned a lesson from the incident.

"We made a big change to the No. 26 NYSE car between practice sessions that we thought was for the better and now I’m learning the drivers that I can and can’t trust," said the rookie driver. "I thought that all I had to do was get a clean pass and then away we go; I have a clean track and could get a feel for the car. But he turned into my left rear and that was unfortunate."

Teams will get one more chance to get their cars tuned correctly tomorrow morning prior to qualifying, which is set to begin at 1:45 p.m. (ET).

Different Course Shape, Different Qualifying Format
Tomorrow’s qualifying will follow a different format than those used on ovals. Teams will first run single car qualifying laps. After all of the teams qualify, the fastest six will return on-track for a 10-minute, European-style session (i.e. all six cars will be on track) to determine the first three rows for Sunday’s race.

As a bonus for Franchitti, who was the fastest of the day at St. Petersburg, he will determine up to one hour before if the qualifying order shall proceed based on the fastest lap to the slowest or to invert the field in single-lap qualifying.

Based on his observations throughout the first day of practice, he will likely choose to go last in the single-car session.

"It’s very nice the fact that with the track getting faster and faster, we can go and be the last ones out on track for the one lap. Hopefully that will translate to a good qualifying."

Dana Remembered
Ever since the unfortunate accident last weekend that claimed the life of rookie Paul Dana, the IRL IndyCar family has been in a state of shock as they attempted to continue racing.

On Thursday, another major step was taken towards normalcy.

A celebration of Dana’s life took place here at the Streets of St. Petersburg track late Thursday afternoon. The procession was attended by several IRL drivers, including Ed Carpenter – the driver who was slammed into by Dana during the morning practice for the Toyota Indy 300.

While no drivers spoke at the event, their sentiments were portrayed by IRL Ministry Chaplain Bob Hills.

"Paul was determined to see his dream come true and made it happen. He just didn't get to fulfill it."

New Look For Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Buddy Lazier, the 2000 IRL champion, will be sporting a new look starting this weekend as his No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Honda/Dallara/ Firestone car has signed a sponsorship deal with ESCORT laser and radar detectors.

ESCORT, INC, which designs, manufactures and sells high-performance radar and laser detectors, made the deal in an attempt to bolster awareness amongst their target market.

“We believe our IndyCar sponsorship will help create awareness and educate consumers whose time and performance are important to them,” said ESCORT President Arthur Braunstein.

Newscaster Not a Fan
While city estimates show that the St. Petersburg Grand Prix has an impact of over $5 million to the local economy, most residents don’t seem excited about this weekend’s event.

Take for example Bay News 9’s morning anchor Jen Holloway. During this morning’s 7 a.m. broadcast, the lead anchor expressed the sentiments of many of the town’s residents best, citing it as "Another traffic inconvenience."

If the news calls it that, and they are impartial, I wonder what locals call the "inconvenience."

Dodge Gets His Shot
In a case of one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy winner Geoff Dodge is taking over for reigning Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham for the next two races.

Cunningham, who is the first Indy Pro Series champion to stay and defend his crown, has had to step away from his car because he got his appendix removed last night at nearby Bayfront Medical Center.

"We certainly didn’t want to see anything bad happen to Wade. Hopefully he has a quick recovery and gets back in the car he rightfully deserves to be driving," said Dodge.

Race Center

Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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