Friday, March 23, 2012

Saint Petersburg - Let The New Era 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Begin!

Official event name: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - Location: Albert Whitted Airport - St. Petersburg, Florida, United States - Course: Temporary airport & street circuit 1.806 mi / 2.906 km - Distance: 105 laps, 189.630 mi / 305.130 km - Twitter HASHTAG: #gpstpete - Caption and Image Credit: Wikipedia

Saint Petersburg - Let The New Era 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Begin!

Let the new era of unified American Open-Wheel Racing (#aowr) begin with the temporary street course Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg. This year, 2012, will go down as the first year that American open-wheel racing is truly unified since there are no excuses that were first raised when the merger happened suddenly at the beginning of the 2008 season. Everyone will be competing on new Dallara DW12 equipment, with a choice of three new turbo-charged 2.2 liter engines, on tracks that are the most favored by fans of both series.

The season will favor street/road courses as opposed to NASCAR styled ovals and the oval tracks featured in this truly unified season are, for the most part, ones made famous through the sport of open-wheel automobile racing.

Five oval venues out of sixteen races are on the schedule and appear as follows:

The first oval race on the schedule is the grand-daddy of them all, The greatest specticle on all of autosport, the Indianapolis 500 - May 27, 11:00AM ET - ABC Sports.

Next will be the high-banked, super high-speed Firestone 500 at the Texas Speedway. This track holds a string of closest finishes in open-wheel racing. Broadcast set for the night of June 9, 8:00PM ET - NBC Sports.

Third comes the Milwaukee IndyFest, West Allis, WI - run on the famed flat four-cornered bull-ring of a track near the Wisconsin fairgrounds. This race venue was saved by the Andretti family primarily because of the history this track holds as a contrast to all other oval tracks ever run. This track was originally a flat dirt track that transformed itself into a concrete ring that challenges drivers with close quarters and the challenge of virtually no banking. Broadcast set for June 16, 1:00pm ET - ABC Sports.

The Iowa Corn 250, Newton, IA - represents a hold over from the Indianapolis Racing League days and gives a nod to the corn based Ethanol fuel that powers these 2.2 liter turbo-charged Chevrolet, Honda, and Lotus engines of this modern era season. In order to spice things up, this race will be run at night under the lights as they do in Texas. Broadcast set for June 23, 8:00PM ET - NBC Sports.

The last oval race of the season happens to be the final race of this 16 race benchmark of the modern era in American Open-Wheel Racing. This track holds the speed records for racing of any kind on a closed course for both qualifying and at race lap speeds. Yes, the venue is the Auto Club Speedway (formally, California Speedway) at Fontana, California.

On October 28, 2000, during CART qualifying, Gil de Ferran set the track record for fastest lap at 241.426 mph (388.537 km/h), breaking the record (240.942 mph) set by former F1 driver, MaurĂ­cio Gugelmin (PacWest Racing) who went even faster -- 242.333 mph, to be precise -- in practice. Mark Blundell, also a former F1 driver (PacWest Racing - Gugelmin's teammate), was originally credited with the fastest "at race lap" speed record with a lap at 237.000+ (lap time unknown). Wikipedia shows that Greg Moore actually set fastest lap during the race on lap 80 with a time of 30.900 sec. over the 2.029 mile D-shaped oval (awaiting email clarification from Auto Club Speedway). All of these times are suspect as official by the FIA due the measurement of the track at being slightly longer than exactly 2.0 miles, but the recorded speeds recorded are factual.

What is not in dispute, however, is that the 2003 IndyCar race held at Fontana (the Auto Club Speedway) was the fastest closed-circuit race ever in motorsport history, with an average speed of 207.151 mph(333.306 km/h) over 400 miles (640 km) by Sam Hornish Jr. The 2012 race broadcast is set for a dusky night-time ending, September 15, 8PM ET - NBC Sports.

KV Racing Technology's driver Rubens Barrichello gives the new DW12 Chevrolet powered Dallara a spin at Sebring after signing a one-year agreement to run a full year in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Here Rubens is being followed on the track by fellow ex-pat F1 driver, Takuma Sato, driving the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Image Credit: LAT via IZOD IndyCar Series

This weekend features a temporary street course e set up in the Florida city of Saint Petersburg first run under ChampCar (CCWS) sanctioning in 2003. After a one year break in order to regroup, the event was resumed with the sanctioning of the Indy Racing League (IRL) from 2005 to the 2007 and continued uninterrupted after the merger of CCWS and IRL as today's IndyCar beginning in 2008 through to today.

Past winners of the Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg event are as follows: Paul Tracy (2003), Dan Wheldon (2005), Helio Castroneves (2006 and 2007), Graham Rahal (2008), Ryan Briscoe (2009), Will Power (2010) and Dario Franchitti (2011), Team Penske is the most successful with 4 wins ... track speed record is held by Sebastien Bourdais (McDonalds/Newman-Haas), set competing in ChampCar (2003) when he qualified for the pole, besting Paul Tracy (Players/Forsythe) with the time of 1:00.928 as his Lola-Cosworth turned an average of 106.472 mph.

A field of 26 drivers -- listed below -- are expected to take to the track for the race set to start Sunday, March 25, 12:30PM ET broadcasted to national network TV audience by ABC Sports.

Car# | Driver (R - Rookie) | Hometown | Sponsor Car Name | Engine (Chevrolet/Honda/Lotus) | Team Entrant
2 Ryan Briscoe Sydney, Australia IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet Team Penske

3 Helio Castroneves Sao Paulo, Brazil Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet Team Penske

4 JR Hildebrand Sausalito, Calif. National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet Panther Racing

5 E.J. Viso Caracas, Venezuela Citgo – PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet KV Racing Technology

6 Katherine Legge (R) Guildford, England TrueCar Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus Lotus-Dragon Racing

7 Sebastien Bourdais Le Mans, France Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus Lotus-Dragon Racing

8 Rubens Barrichello (R) Sao Paulo, Brazil BMC/Embrase KV Racing Technology Chevrolet KV Racing Technology

9 Scott Dixon Auckland, New Zealand Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Target Chip Ganassi Racing

10 Dario Franchitti Edinburgh, Scotland Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Target Chip Ganassi Racing

11 Tony Kanaan Salvador, Brazil GEICO/Mouser Electronics KVRT Chevrolet KV Racing Technology

12 Will Power Toowoomba, Australia Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet Team Penske

14 Mike Conway Bromley, England ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Honda A.J. Foyt Enterprises

15 Takuma Sato Tokyo Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan

18 Justin Wilson Sheffield, England Sonny’s BBQ Honda Dale Coyne Racing

19 James Jakes Leeds, England Boy Scouts of America Honda Dale Coyne Racing

20 Ed Carpenter Indianapolis Fuzzy’s Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing

22 Oriol Servia Pals, Spain Lotus-DRR Lotus Lotus-Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

26 Marco Andretti Nazareth, Pa. Team RC Cola Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

27 James Hinchcliffe Toronto Team Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet Andretti Autosport

38 Graham Rahal New Albany, Ohio Service Central Honda Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing

67 Josef Newgarden (R) Hendersonville, Tenn. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing

77 Simon Pagenaud (R) Poitiers, France Kingdom/Schmidt-Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports

78 Simona de Silvestro Thun, Switzerland Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus Lotus-HVM Racing

83 CharLinklie Kimball Camarillo, Calif. Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen Honda Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing

98 Alex Tagliani Lachenaie, Canada Team Barracuda-BHA Lotus Bryan Herta Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian


First Practice Laps At #GPSTPETE

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon set first ever mark in an event for the new DW12 formula as he was fastest in the first official practice session of 2012, leading Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe by 0.4784 seconds.

Briscoe's teammate, Will Power, ran third, posting a lap of 1:03.57 around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course.

Dario Franchitti served as a bookend for the Penske duo, placing fourth with a lap of 1:03.60 seconds.

Schmidt Hamilton Racing's Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top 5, turning a 1:03.64-second lap in hot, humid conditions.

Honda engined-cars placed 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th, with Chevrolet runners occupying the rest of the top 10 slots.

The fastest Lotus-engined car was Oriol Servia's DRR entry in 19th with a lap of 1:04.29.

The session was mostly trouble-free, barring Charlie Kimball's nose-first crash at Turn 10 with less than five minutes remaining in the session.

With so little rubber down, times are expected to drop throughout the weekend.

Practice 1 for the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg at the St Petersburg Street Circuit

Rank | Driver | Diff. | Best Lap
1 Scott Dixon 0 1:03.0406
2 Ryan Briscoe 0.4784 1:03.5190
3 Will Power 0.5341 1:03.5747
4 Dario Franchitti 0.5607 1:03.6013
5 Simon Pagenaud 0.6011 1:03.6417
6 Justin Wilson 0.6298 1:03.6704
7 Marco Andretti 0.7522 1:03.7928
8 Mike Conway 0.7927 1:03.8333
9 Graham Rahal 0.8116 1:03.8522
10 Helio Castroneves 0.8322 1:03.8728
11 Josef Newgarden 0.8366 1:03.8772
12 EJ Viso 0.8736 1:03.9142
13 James Jakes 0.9228 1:03.9634
14 JR Hildebrand 1.0508 1:04.0914
15 Takuma Sato 1.0666 1:04.1072
16 James Hinchcliffe 1.0673 1:04.1079
17 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1.0833 1:04.1239
18 Tony Kanaan 1.0998 1:04.1404
19 Oriol Servia 1.2540 1:04.2946
20 Alex Tagliani 1.3455 1:04.3861
21 Sebastien Bourdais 1.4468 1:04.4874
22 Charlie Kimball 1.6226 1:04.6632
23 Simona de Silvestro 1.8741 1:04.9147
24 Rubens Barrichello 2.6275 1:05.6681
25 Ed Carpenter 2.9904 1:06.0310
26 Katherine Legge 4.2925 1:07.3331
[Reference Here]

UPDATE: Power Tops Second St. Pete Practice

Team Penske’s Will Power nearly matched his pole speed from last year in only the second practice session of the weekend, leading Briscoe and Franchitti.

Practice 2 for the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg at the St Petersburg Street Circuit:

Rank | Driver | Diff. | Best Lap

1 Will Power 0 1:02.0077 1:06.1375
2 Ryan Briscoe 0.0854 1:02.0931
3 Dario Franchitti 0.2155 1:02.2232
4 Graham Rahal 0.2847 1:02.2924
5 Scott Dixon 0.3040 1:02.3117
6 Helio Castroneves 0.3113 1:02.3190
7 James Hinchcliffe 0.4555 1:02.4632
8 Tony Kanaan 0.4737 1:02.4814
9 Ryan Hunter-Reay 0.5224 1:02.5301
10 Mike Conway 0.5260 1:02.5337
11 Marco Andretti 0.5547 1:02.5624
12 Simon Pagenaud 0.5920 1:02.5997
13 JR Hildebrand 0.7606 1:02.7683
14 Josef Newgarden 0.7761 1:02.7838
15 Justin Wilson 0.8838 1:02.8915
16 Simona de Silvestro 0.9059 1:02.9136
17 James Jakes 0.9075 1:02.9152
18 Takuma Sato 0.9517 1:02.9594
19 Sebastien Bourdais 0.9701 1:02.9778
20 EJ Viso 0.9780 1:02.9857
21 Charlie Kimball 1.0827 1:03.0904
22 Alex Tagliani 1.1735 1:03.1812
23 Rubens Barrichello 1.3213 1:03.3290
24 Oriol Servia 1.3458 1:03.3535
25 Ed Carpenter 2.5954 1:04.6031
26 Katherine Legge 2.7515 1:04.7592
[Reference Here]

UPDATE - Qualifications Highlights:

Will Power breaks his own track record by 0.2305 (old mark = 1:01.6026). Teammate Ryan Briscoe nails down P2 by breaking Will Power's old mark as well.

The top five positions on the grid are held by Chevrolet powered DW12's with seven of the top ten grid positions being filled by the new era engine supplier over longtime supplier and race sponsor, Honda.

A less than competitive showing by the cars powered by the Lotus/Judd effort with the highest placing driver of the "Lotus Legion" (highlighted in BOLD below), being one of the most consistent performing drivers of the series, Oriol Servia.

Probably the biggest surprise of this first qualification session of the new formula 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season is that even though cars fielded by Target Chip Ganassi Racing did very well in practice, the highest placing car from the Ganassi stable was Scott Dixon in P7 - none made it into the Firestone Fast Six qualifications round.

Team Penske had 3 cars, Andretti Autosport had 3 cars - 2 in the Firestone Fast Six round, Ganassi had only 2 cars, Kingdom/Schmidt-Hamilton had it's one car effort place P6 in the Firestone Fast Six, and KV Racing Technology with only one car rounding out the top ten positions on the grid.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.3721s
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.5357s + 0.1636s
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.9321s + 0.5600s
4. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.9701s + 0.5980s
5. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.9987s + 0.6266s
6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton DW12-Honda 1:02.1095s + 0.7374s

7. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 1:01.7636s Top 12
8. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.7895s Top 12
9. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevrolet 1:01.8699s Top 12
10. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 1:01.9570s Top 12
11. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 1:02.0233s Top 12
12. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 1:02.5084s Top 12

13. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevrolet 1:02.5146s Group 1
14. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevrolet 1:02.2009s Group 2
15. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 1:02.6015s Group 1
16. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne DW12-Honda 1:02.2538s Group 2
17. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Lotus 1:02.6506s Group 1
18. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevrolet 1:02.4426s Group 2
19. Josef Newgarden Fisher Hartman DW12-Honda 1:02.7155s Group 1
20. James Jakes Dale Coyne DW12-Honda 1:02.5271s Group 2
21. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 1:02.8218s Group 1
22. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 1:03.0437s Group 2
23. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold DW12-Lotus 1:02.8771s Group 1
24. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevrolet 1:03.3591s Group 2
25. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus 1:03.6048s Group 1
26. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus 1:05.6858s Group 2

A short memorial for the late Dan Wheldon, who made St Petersburg his home, preceded Sunday’s race.

Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves ends year long winless drought on the streets of St. Petersburg. Helio celebrates win by climbing a fence and honoring the memory of Dan Wheldon along the newly christened Dan Wheldon Way at turn #10 at the track. Image Credit: Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg

This excerpted and edited from the Tampa Bay Times –

How the 2012 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg unfolded
By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer – Monday, March 26, 2012

On Lap 73, Castroneves gets far outside, breaks as deeply as he can and passes Dixon on Turn 1 for second. “It was awesome because the car (stuck), and I was like, ‘Yesss!’ ” said Castroneves, who soon after passes Hildebrand.

By Lap 80, Castroneves’ lead on Dixon grows to more than five seconds. Hunter-Reay, in third, falls seven seconds behind Castroneves as his crew implores him to conserve fuel. E.J. Viso, on the brink of dehydration following an overnight bout of food poisoning, is fifth — seven places ahead of his starting spot — 93 laps into the race before a final pit stop ultimately drops him to eighth. His lead edging closer to insurmountable, Castroneves drives conservatively on the last dozen or so laps and wins by 5.5292 seconds.
[Reference Here]

How the field of 26 DW12′s finished in their first race:

Pos | Driver | Team/Car | Time/Gap
1. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1h59m50.9863s
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda + 5.5292s
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 7.5824s
4. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 10.6526s
5. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevrolet + 11.7854s
6. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton DW12-Honda + 31.2623s
7. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevrolet + 34.6582s
8. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevrolet + 35.5943s
9. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda + 43.1425s
10. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne DW12-Honda + 44.3141s
11. Josef Newgarden Fisher Hartman DW12-Honda + 44.8275s
12. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda + 45.1080s
13. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda + 45.8468s
14. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevrolet + 1 lap
15. Alex Tagliani Herta DW12-Lotus + 1 lap
16. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold DW12-Lotus + 1 lap
17. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevrolet + 2 laps
18. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevrolet + 2 laps

Did not finish:

JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevrolet 96 laps
Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 75 laps
Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus 73 laps
Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 73 laps
Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus 59 laps
Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 22 laps
Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevrolet 21 laps
James Jakes Dale Coyne DW12-Honda 19 laps

Most of the problems of cars not finishing had to do with electrical gremlins on a car most engineers are still trying to figure out.

So, the new era 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series (#indycar) has begun at the Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg (#gpstpete) — Twitter #hashtags included!

... notes from The EDJE

** Article first published as Saint Petersburg - Let The New Era 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Begin! on Technorati **

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