Team Penske Leads First Day of St. Pete Practice

March 23, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Team Penske led the way Friday as the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season began with the spirited first practice sessions for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After an offseason full of testing the DW12 Dallara IndyCar and the new Chevrolet engine, Team Penske came out of the gate strong with its performance on Friday. Will Power owned the fastest lap of the day around the 13-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit. The two-time defending IndyCar Series Road Course champion, Power posted a time of 1:02.0077 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

"I feel good," said Power, the 2010 winner in St. Petersburg. "We didn't run many laps because we wanted to save the tires until we had a better understanding of the Verizon car. All in all we were very happy with the Chevy engine. We will make some small changes tonight and be ready to go again tomorrow."

Ryan Briscoe, who claimed victory on the streets of St. Pete in 2009, clocked the second-fastest lap - 1:02.0931 - in the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.

"The IZOD Team Penske car is good," said Briscoe. "It already feels faster than the old car around here, braking later. It feels really good, especially the extra horsepower from the Chevrolet twin-turbo V6. It's definitely a different feel. There's a lot of tuning we can do around the engine drivability and the car setup. I'm enjoying it, like a kid with a new toy. I'm having a good time with it. I feel like it is suiting my driving style, and I've been able to learn a lot about my driving style as well with this new car. It's good timing with a new engineer, Jonathan Diuguid. He's doing a great job. It will be his first race as an IndyCar engineer, so we're hoping to kick it off with a good one."

A two-time winner in St. Pete (2006 and 2007), Helio Castroneves was sixth-quickest at 1:02.3190 in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra Team Penske machine.

"It was definitely a good first day for Team Penske," said the three-time Indy 500 champion. "The Shell V-Power Pennzoil-Ultra car was very promising. Our second session was much improved and the guys did a good job. I'm very encouraged about our chances for tomorrow and in Sunday's race."

Qualifying is set for 1:55 p.m. ET Saturday afternoon when the starting field will be set for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Live coverage of Sunday's 100-lap race will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET on ABC-TV.