Power Leads Opening Day of Practice at St. Pete

March 25, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 25, 2011) - Verizon Team Penske's Will Power had the fastest lap of the first day of practice Friday for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season opener for the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Power's effort led a strong showing by the three-car Penske team, as Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves also posted laps among the top six of the 25-car field. Power was clocked at 1:03.3759 around the 1.8-mile, 14- turn street course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda.

"I was very surprised to be P1, honestly, " said Power, the defending polewinner and racewinner at St. Pete. "I think I had a bit left in me to show in the Verizon Team Penske car. The car is good, but you can see the competition is getting closer. Now we just have to manage the gap. Qualifying is going to be unbelievably close."

Power brushed the wall earlier in the afternoon session before coming into the pits and then turning the fastest lap of the day. "It was a mixed up session this afternoon," said Power. "I actually brushed the wall on the inside of Turn 8, which gave me a flat tire, but the car was okay. It's great to have the Verizon car up front today."

Briscoe had the fourth-best lap Friday - 1:03.7214 - in the No. 6 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Honda. Castroneves was sixth-fastest at 1:03.9049 in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske machine.

"We had a good day today and we have a good starting point with the IZOD Team Penske car," said Briscoe, who won at St. Pete in 2009 and finished on the podium last season. "We did a little fine-tuning, but we didn't need any big changes. The car is fast, so we won't do anything drastic, but we will try to find a little more speed for qualifying tomorrow afternoon. I'm glad to be back to work and I'm looking forward to the race on Sunday."

Castroneves has won twice on the streets of St. Petersburg as Team Penske is searching for its fifth win in the last six years at the challenging street circuit.

"Overall it was a good day for the Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car," said Castroneves. "We keep improving and keep getting more data from our teammates, Will and Ryan . We want to keep moving up the time charts, and we'll try to keep doing that tomorrow."

Action resumes Saturday with a one-hour practice session at 10:10 a.m. ET, before qualifying at 2:30 p.m. ET, culminating with the Firestone Fast Six to determine the pole position for Sunday's 100-lap race, which will be televised live on ABC at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Team Penske's three drivers have all earned temporary road-course victories in recent seasons, and the team overall has produced 19 poles ad 12 wins at road/street courses combined since 2007.