Dario FranchittiEnlarge Photo
Fresh off his victory two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 2007 and 2009 IndyCar Series champion--and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, including this year--Dario Franchitti still doesn't think that win, or his test at this track last week are indicative of how the rest of the weekend will go.
“I’ve been around long enough to know what happened last year--or even last week--doesn’t matter in this series,” said 2009 Sonoma winner Franchitti after setting the quickest time and speed in initial practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Sonoma on the 2.303-mile Infineon Raceway road course. “We tried stuff in testing last week that we would have to try in practice,” where time is so minimal. There was only a solitary practice on Friday.
Franchitti’s quick lap of 1:128.2970 seconds at 105.889 mph bested point leader Will Power by a scant 0.0041 seconds (1:18.3011/105.884). “The car was not so bad but we have a lot of work to do tonight because the track is going to change. Both Will and I are on a roll and we push each other harder. He’s tough to beat, he’s doing a helluva job.”
Power is appreciative of the opportunity to return and “be a part of this series. It’s going to be really hard to beat Dario because he won here last year and is so good on these tracks. The test the week before helps a lot but the track is very different today and will change throughout the weekend,” Power said. “I think it’s going to be very tight in qualifying and be tough to get in the Firestone Fast Six. We’re working hard.”
Alex Tagliani’s momentum from Mid-Ohio continued as he was third quickest in practice today at 1:18.5661/105.626. The Canadian ace was “very happy with the session; the team did a fantastic job preparing the car. We found some things in Mid-Ohio that have helped move us in the right direction.”
Fourth on the time sheets went to Scott Dixon; Justin Wilson was fifth and Marco Andretti, who was the early leader during the sole, one-hour session that ran from 3-4PM, ended up in sixth place. “We need to find more grip for tomorrow,” Andretti said. “I think we can be knocking at the door of the top six in qualifying; we’ll have to see what we can figure out.”
Graham Rahal showed full-season form by taking his part-time ride in the Newman/Haas Racing No. 02Quick Trim Dallara/Honda/Firestone machine to seventh place. While it wasn’t as good as his lead in practice at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago, “I think that the end result in session was okay. We put on sticker tires at the end of the session and we’re competitive but, like Mid-Ohio we have a lot of work to do.”
Ryan Briscoe, Dan Wheldon and Hideki Mutoh rounded out the top ten. Wheldon said,“the oment I got into the car it felt very comfortable.” Surprisingly, Helio Castroneves was only 11th and said, “We certainly are not where we want to be right now.” Raphael Matos was 12th and JR Hildebrand, subbing for Mike Conway was 13th, a good result for the rookie (and he was quickest of the first-year drivers). Mario Moraes and Tony Kanaan completed the top 15 of 25 cars entered for this race. A total of 414 laps were entered in the books for the hour-long session.
Tomorrow’s schedule--which should be held under similar clear skies and moderate temperatures to today’s--include practice at 11:30 in the morning and knock-out Firestone Fast Six qualifying from 2:30-4PM. Can Franchitti continue to charm this undulating and difficult road course as he did last year and close the gap to Power? © 2010 Anne Proffit