Power Tops Friday Practice at Motegi
September 16, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
MOTEGI, Japan (September 16, 2011) – Will Power led a strong opening-day performance for Team Penske at the Twin Ring Motegi road course as he topped the Friday practice timing chart for this weekend's Indy Japan 300.
Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda, Power clocked the fastest lap of 1:39.4745 during the 75-minute practice held in hot and humid conditions on the 14-turn, 2.98-mile road course. His Team Penske teammates weren't far behind as Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner on the Motegi oval circuit, owned the second-fastest time on Friday while Ryan Briscoe checked in with the fourth-fastest practice lap.
"Overall, this was a strong start to the weekend for Team Penske," said Power, who is coming off two consecutive victories as he entered the weekend trailing Dario Franchitti by just five points in the race for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series championship. "This is a very nice circuit - it is very smooth and flowing. It's one of the nicest circuits we've been to all year. The Verizon car is performing well right now and we will continue to improve as the weekend progresses."
Power currently leads the series' road course standings and he can clinch his second Mario Andretti Road Course title with a strong performance this weekend.
Castroneves posted a top time of 1:39.5965 in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske car. He ran strong from the outset, though he had a brief off-course excursion at the end of the practice session.
"Our Hitachi car was really good today and this circuit is very nice," said Castroneves, who won the pole and claimed a dominant win last season on the Twin Ring oval track. "This track is more like Elkhart Lake. It's impressive. The runoff areas are pretty nice. The track is very smooth, especially coming from our last race on a street course. It looks like there are a lot of places for overtaking. It's very challenging. The corners are long. Sometimes we got too hot coming into a corner and it upsets the exit. Sometimes we were too slow coming in and we had plenty of exit. It's very technical. We're very lucky that the car came out of the plane with the brakes set up (well)."
Briscoe's time of 1:40.1887 in the No. 6 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Honda was good enough for fourth on Friday's rundown.
"The Hitachi car felt pretty good out there today, although we have a little work to do to get the most out of the car," said Briscoe. "The Motegi road circuit is very nice, but it's very slippery out there. I'm sure the track will grip up and we have a bit left in the car so tomorrow should be good."
Team Penske returns to the track with two hour-long practice sessions on Saturday before the field for the Indy Japan 300 will be set in afternoon qualifying.
Live coverage of Sunday's 63-lap race will begin at 11:30 p.m. ET Saturday night on VERSUS.