Castroneves Leads Sonoma Sessions

Helio Castroneves, looking for his seventh IndyCar Series pole of the season, ran the fastest lap in the closing minutes of opening practice Friday in the No. 3 Team Penske Honda Dallara, touring Infineon Raceway in 1:06.5298, 108.193 mph.

Dario Franchitti, hoping to keep his IndyCar Series title hopes on track after flipping in the last two races, came out strong Friday with a second-fastest lap of 1:17:391, 107.391 mph in the No. 27 Canadian Club Honda Dallara fielded by Andretti Green Racing.

Franchitti held quick time for much of the session after having early problems, but Castroneves ran his two fastest laps in the final two minutes of opening practice for Sunday’s Motorola Indy 300.

Castroneves stood up through the second session as the best time of the day, with Franchitti second.

A three-time winner in 2007, Franchitti’s once-healthy points lead was trimmed to eight points in the last two races. Franchitti got upside-down in both races, including an altercation moments after taking the checkered flag for an eighth-place finish in the most recent race at Kentucky Speedway.

Franchitti was bothered by electrical problems early in Friday’s practice, stalling and bring out a caution for a tow-in. He then ran his best lap 50 minutes into the two-hour session.

Scott Dixon, number two in the title chase, was third fastest, 107.727 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Honda. With the exception of a 10th-place finish at Michigan — where he was taken out by the flipping Franchitti — Dixon has finished first or second in five of the last six races to spur his championship surge.

The top three in practice bettered Dixon’s pole speed of 1:17.0344, 107.484 mph, from last year.

Fourth was Tony Kanaan, 107.222 mph in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Honda for Andretti Green Racing. Kanaan won the two most recent IndyCar Series races to close to within 52 points of Franchitti.

Rounding out the top 10 were Sam Hornish Jr., 107.130 mph; defending winner Marco Andretti, 106.931 mph; Dan Wheldon, 106.908 mph; Buddy Rice, 106.520 mph; Ryan Hunter-Reay, 106.144; and Tomas Scheckter, 105.980 mph.
Hornish and Scott Sharp had contact with the tire barriers during the session. Other cautions were for tows for Ed Carpenter and Vison Racing teammate Scheckter, and for a large tumbleweed at turn six.

The IndyCar Series will hold a second practice session Friday at 2 p.m. PT, with times determining the order for Saturday’s qualifying at 11:55 a.m. The race will take the green flag at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and will be televised live on ESPN beginning at 3:30 ET.

Following Sunday’s race, only the September 2 race at Belle Isle, Michigan, and September 9 at Chicagoland Speedway remain on the 2007 schedule.

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Auto Club 500

@ Auto Club Speedway
Saturday, October 19, 2013
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