ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 28, 2014)-- Team Penske opened the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season with solid results in the first two practice sessions Friday on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg in preparation for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (FGPSP).
Will Power, the 2010 winner on the streets of St. Pete, led the way with a fast lap of 1:02.6443 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile course, the third-fastest lap of the day. The Australian driver will be going for his fifth-consecutive Verizon P1 Pole Award in St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon.
"It was a good day for the Verizon team,” said Power. “We tried to find the right setup, going back and forth with different things, but overall I feel real positive about us going back at it again tomorrow."
Helio Castroneves, the only three-time winner of the FGPSP, had the fourth-fastest lap of the day -- 1:02.8178 -- in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.
"Overall, it was a good job by the Hitachi guys today and it was good to get back out there after a long offseason,” said Castroneves. “We avoided any issues and Mother Nature was messing with us a little bit. We improved a lot over the course of the day and put things together for a good session in the afternoon. That was a much smoother practice, and we will continue learning and improving in the Hitachi Chevy as we go along."
Juan Pablo Montoya, who joined Team Penske during the offseason, had the 19th-fastest lap -- 1:03.4624 -- in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.
“Not a bad day today with the No. 2 Verizon Chevy,” said Montoya. “Obviously we wanted to be a little further up the speed charts, but we knew it was going to be a learning process. This is my first time on this circuit, so we had to guess a little bit on the setups. Unfortunately we unloaded pretty far off.”
Team Penske got in plenty of work doing the two sessions, with Power completing 45 laps and Castroneves and Montoya each completing 41 tours of the circuit.
“In the second session we picked up a big understeer,” said Montoya, the 1999 CART Series champ and 2000 Indy 500 winner who is returning to IndyCar racing for the first time since 2000. “At that point we really quit focusing on speed and just tried to get the car driving better. I learned quickly that there are places on the track where the penalty of missing it is much greater than the gain, so from a track-learning perspective I’m much better off than I was when I got here.”
Verizon IndyCar Series practice resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. ET, with qualifying set for 2 p.m. The ABC-TV broadcast of Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg begins at 3 p.m. ET.