Chevrolet-Powered Drivers Top Opening Day At St. Petersburg

Story posted - Mar 22 2013 9:41 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Friday, March 22, 2013) - That Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay were at the top of the time chart on the opening day of preparations for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg wasn't a surprise. After all, they dueled for the IZOD IndyCar Series title in 2012.

The driver who ranked third, Simona de Silvestro, was a bit of a surprise - a pleasant one to the first-year KV Racing Technology driver.

Power, who has earned the pole at St. Petersburg the past three years, led 25 drivers with a best lap of 1 minute, 1.4467 seconds, while Hunter-Reay, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, checked in second at 1:01.6252.

De Silvestro, driving the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Energy car with Chevrolet power, had a best lap of 1:01.6895 on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. It was a welcome result for the Swiss driver after a frustrating 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

"It's a big difference. Last year we came in here and we knew it was going to be a struggle, and this year we come after a really good Barber test and it showed right away," said de Silvestro, whose career high of fourth came at St. Pete in 2011 (one spot behind new teammate Tony Kanaan).

"Even this morning I thought we were pretty quick even if we still have a little bit of work to do on the car. It's definitely a relief to know we can be fast and we can be right up there with the other guys."

In all, 18 were within 1 second of Power. His best lap was only seven-hundredths of a second off his pole-winning speed of 1:01.3727 last March.

Also on March 22, Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian driver Gabby Chaves topped the time chart in the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car through a pair of 45-minute practice sessions with a lap of 1 minute, 6.8431 seconds (96.943 mph).

Chaves' teammates Jack Hawksworth, the 2012 Star Mazda champion, and Sage Karam had similar experiences on the first day of the event. Driving the No. 77 car, Hawksworth was second quick at 1:06.9466 (96.794 mph). Karam, who placed third in the Star Mazda championship race in 2012, was third quick (1:07.1713) in the No. 8 car.

A 45-minute qualifying round is scheduled for 9:25 a.m. (ET) March 23 for the 45-lap race at 3:40 p.m. later in the day.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, a 110-lap race at 12:40 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The Firestone Indy Lights series will compete in the St. Petersburg 100, a 45-lap race at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda - part of the Mazda Road the Indy ladder system - are also racing twice this weekend. Pro Mazda will race at 1:10 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. USF2000 will compete at 12:15 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

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Live timing and scoring reports from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are available on the Internet at racecontrol.indycar.com. The live timing and scoring module provides statistical information, including track segment speeds, lap information and much more.

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Sebastien Bourdais will drive the No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet for Dragon Racing this season in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Bourdais lives in St. Petersburg - a short 10-minute bike ride from the circuit - and he led the first lap of the 2003 race on the St. Pete circuit.

"My hometown is Le Mans (France), and to win there is very important to me," said Bourdais, who won four consecutive Champ Car titles from 2003-2007. "But winning here in the States is equally as important. It would be great to win here in St. Pete."

Another French racing driver, rookie Tristan Vautier also makes his home in St. Petersburg.

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Hartmoor Polo will serve as the primary sponsor of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and driver Josef Newgarden during the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

"It's crucial to stay hydrated in a race car because elements of your performance can start to drop off as you become dehydrated," said Sarah Fisher, co-owner of SFHR. "We're happy to welcome a new partner to the SFHR family and are looking forward to drinking Hartmoor Polo water all season long."

Pre-practice Quotes from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The track is the same but it is the beginning of the season so you want to make sure you get in some good laps. Whatever we tested during the off-season, see if that starts working. It is a new construction of Firestone tires so we have to understand what's going to happen with this configuration of the track. You just have to go, feel the care and hope for a good day." (About 10 laps added to the race): "On the first day we have to find out what is the fuel mileage we are going to achieve. How the car is going to handle with the tires in terms of how many laps it is going to hold on. So a lot of little details that will benefit race day. The addition of ten laps is for sure going to change a lot of strategy."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): "I am looking forward to working with the same team. Same group of guys and the engineers. We are always saying that stability is very important in racing so starting with Honda from the get go and continue is exciting." (About 10 laps added to race): "They don't want people out there saving fuel so I think it is going to open up for new strategy when you start thinking in three stops. Three stops can be at way different times than others so that will open up for different outcomes."

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Honda): "The biggest challenges are going to be the qualifying format and the red-slick tires that we won't be able to test at practice. Those are the first challenges. Try to go through the groups and the race, obviously I have not done pit stops so the strategy about saving tires and fuel mileage are two very big challenges this weekend." (About his first race): "I'm very excited. Anxious for the race to start. But at the same time I wish I had more time to prepare. But we just have to keep it moving."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Viso/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): "It has been refreshing to be with this group. They have provided me with tools I haven't had in the past, and I think it will be a good year. Racing next to these three drivers will be an advantage. There's already a good synergy going on and hopefully we can keep the momentum they created last year."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): (About what he's done to improve street course performance): "I'm trying to be a more well-rounded driver and contribute more to the team. I want these guys to come to my truck for help. Basically, I've been working on what I've been doing wrong at places like this. Of course it helps to go against the series champ and work to beat him."

RYAN HUNTER REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "Championship doesn't change. We still have a lot to do. I've never won here before for one and we're just concentrating on winning races." (About E.J. Viso to team): "Our team worked well last year. With E.J., it only makes us stronger. We keep an open book and move forward as one big team and hopefully we can accomplish more than we did last year. The Team has always been four cars and E.J. has fit right in. Team has open book and it's not complicated to be more involved. Team is not cliquey. It's a win-win for everyone."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Go Daddy Chevrolet): "I think in any team sport consistency is huge. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) talked about how (consistency) helped him last year and I'm looking forward to doing the same this year. I kind of felt like the Taylor Swift of racing. I was bouncing around and, I figured it must be me." (Are you saying something about Taylor Swift): "I would never do that. I'm saying Taylor Swift knows what she wants in a partner before she settles down."

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NBC Sports Network will broadcast the first four races of the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule beginning this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The network will broadcast 13 events in 201, including the final eight races of the season.

Leigh Diffey, Wally Dallenbach and Townsend Bell will be the announcers. Reporting from the pits will be Jon Beekhuis, Marty Snider, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.

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As a personal touch to the Dan Wheldon monument that was dedicated March 21 near Turn 10 of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street circuit, his wife and two sons made their hand prints in the wet cement near the base.

Sebastian and Oliver enjoyed the moments of squishy fun.

"I'm so thankful that I have moments like that to share with them just so they continue to know what a great driver and champion Dan was, but more importantly what an amazing human being and father he was," said Susie Wheldon as she addressed the crowd in Albert Whitted Park. "As they get older, they'll have lots of moments like that to look back on. I'm so grateful for that and it's such a special tribute."

Wheldon, who won the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2005 in his adopted hometown, died in October 2011 during a racing accident. The new season begins this weekend.

"It's hard to believe that the season's already here," Susie Wheldon added. "I can't thank this community enough - not only the people of St. Petersburg, but my racing family for the continued love and support over the past 17 months. You've lifted me up."

Wheldon's portrait is on the face of the monument, while at the foot are representations of cobblestone - symbolic of Wheldon's native England - and a row of bricks representative of the rich heritage of the Indianapolis 500 that Wheldon won in 2005 and '11.

Also unveiled was the Victory Circle monument, which includes a representation of a checkered flag and plaques for each of the race winners. Linking the two monuments constructed of concrete --representing the concrete barriers used in racing on street courses - are additional brick pavers that represent the city's brick streets.

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Dale Coyne Racing confirmed that Justin Wilson will compete for the team in the IZOD IndyCar Series as driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda.

"I'm very excited to be back with Dale Coyne Racing in 2013," said Wilson. "We had a great season last year highlighted by our first win at an oval track in Texas. The entire team back, so I am expecting good things to happen for the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America/Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda in 2013. In evaluating Dale's commitment to the sport we have signed a long term agreement."

Wilson is coming off a very successful 2012 IZOD IndyCar season with Dale Coyne Racing where he scored his first oval track victory at Texas Motor Speedway in early June 2012 and produced five other top-10 finishes in 2012. He also qualified a season-best second at Milwaukee.

Brazilian driver Ana (Bia) Beatriz joins Dale Coyne Racing in St. Petersburg for the first race of her season. She will compete for the team at Brazil, Indianapolis and other selected races in the No. 18 Ipiranga Honda.

"This is a great opportunity with Dale Coyne Racing and hopefully we can turn it into more than a few races for the season," said Beatriz. "We are working on more races for 2013 and hopefully we should know something very soon."

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INDYCAR announced today that Verizon Wireless has extended its designation as an INDYCAR Official Partner through 2014.

The two-year extension includes the innovative "Verizon P1 Award" for each of the 19 IZOD IndyCar Series races and exciting technological enhancements to the fan-essential INDYCAR 13 app.

Verizon is adding to the traditional contingency monetary bonus and trophy by placing a gold medallion on the rear wing endplate of the pole-winning car signifying the winner's achievement in capturing the pole. The medallion is changed to silver following the event, and each subsequent pole earned is represented by a star on the medallion. Additionally, the Verizon P1 Award flag will proudly be displayed outside the pole winner's garage for the remainder of the race weekend.

Verizon and the IZOD IndyCar Series are a natural fit - the fastest race cars on the planet with the network that redefines fast - and the free INDYCAR 13 app provides fans an interactive connection with the most diverse and challenging series in motorsports.

Available for Verizon Android OS and all-carrier Apple iOS smartphones and tablets, the app puts fans at the controls by offering an array of features, including a mosaic screen in which they can watch and listen to four live video and audio streams from each event. Real-time race car and leaderboard data augments the experience whether fans are at the racetrack or on the go.

Twitter feeds, news and alerts, photo streams, exclusive video content, results/standings and driver profiles are some of the other content features included in the robust app. Live content is exclusive to Verizon customers.

It is available on the AppStore, Google Play and by calling **INDY (**4639).

"Verizon is not only a great INDYCAR partner, but it has truly become an ambassador for the sport," said Greg Gruning, executive vice president of Business Development, INDYCAR. "Whether it is INDYCAR 13 that provides unprecedented race coverage for fans or the new Verizon P1 Award that showcases the pole-award winning drivers, Verizon continues to enhance what the exciting IZOD IndyCar Series offers."

Verizon, the nation's largest 4G LTE network, serves 98.2 million retail connections and operates more than 1,900 retail locations. Globally, it offers voice and data services in more than 200 locales.

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IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE #1

At 11 a.m., the ambient temperature was 64 degrees with a relative humidity of 48 percent. Skies were fair. The track temperature was 84 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

11:12 a.m. - GREEN. Session will be for 45 minutes.

11:57 p.m. - CHECKERED.

FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF SESSION:
Pos. Car Name Time
1. 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:02.4534
2. 27 James Hinchcliffe 1:02.4544
3. 12 Will Power 1:02.5464
4. 5 E.J. Viso 1:02.5759
5. 11 Tony Kanaan 1:02.6114

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE #2:

At 2:45 p.m., the ambient temperature was 73 degrees with a relative humidity of 49 percent. Skies were partly sunny. The track temperature was 109 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

2:47 p.m. - GREEN.

3:31 p.m. - CHECKERED.

FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF SESSION:

Pos. Car Name Time
1. 12 Will Power 1:01.4467
2. 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:01.6252
3. 78 Simona de Silvestro 1:01.6895
4. 22 Oriol Servia 1:01.7659
5. 14 Takuma Sato 1:01.7703

IZOD INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "It feels great to be in the first official (IZOD) IndyCar (Series) session of the year. It's still early days. We've only done a total of five runs so far between the two sessions. The guys have done a great job in the offseason, the car has a lot of grip in it, but we just need to refine it a bit. We need to make it work for the drivers where they need it. We're struggling a little bit coming off the corners, so we know there's lap time there. We know where it is. We just need to go get it."

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva KVRT Chevrolet): "It's a big difference. Last year we came in here and we knew it was going to be a struggle, and this year we come after a really good Barber test and it showed right away. Even this morning I thought we were pretty quick even if we still have a little bit of work to do on the car. It's definitely a relief to know we can be fast and we can be right up there with the other guys."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a great day for the Hitachi Chevrolet, we were able to find some speed and improve the car from the first session to the second. The Team Penske guys did a great job as always so we feel good for tomorrow and hopefully the weather holds up so that we can keep getting better."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Practice wasn't so great. We had a couple of issues with the car not starting and some other mechanical things that just kind of happened. Not the start we wanted to have for the Target team this weekend but we'll work on getting it right for qualifying tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "The Target car felt reasonable. It was actually better than it was in this morning's session. It just didn't have the speed in it we're looking for. It looks like we're going to have a busy night."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "It was a good practice. The weather is changing and it got hotter so the track is coming in inconsistently so everyone is going quicker all the time. The way the tires are spec'ed for the weekend, we had to be a little careful, because we're going to start on that set tomorrow. I feel pretty happy with today's result. We're working on our program and we have a plan coming in. We had good momentum heading in and we're making good progress so I think we'll be in good shape tomorrow for qualifying when it all counts."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We had a good practice session, practice one. It was great for us, made a lot of head way. I think we were relatively competitive, and know where we need to be. Learned a lot in that session and got a good direction and I think we had a good starting package just in general. Session two was starting well. I think we would have been fine. We obviously had a little bit of an issue that hindered us so we'll get this sorted out for tomorrow and hopefully we didn't lose too much from this, which I don't think we did. We still got a good direction on the car I think we had a good starting point so, tomorrow shouldn't be too bad for us. It feels great to be back in the car, I love the atmosphere in St. Pete. There's so many fans, they always get a ton of fans here. So, I'm excited, I'm just excited to be here. I know my engineers pumped up, all the guys on the team are pumped up. It's just good to get the year started off."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "We were much better in the afternoon session than this morning. We made lots of improvements. We're still not where we want to be, but we're searching for information. I think we have a good idea though of what we need to do to improve. I need some help from the car when I'm turning. It doesn't want to point where I want it to when I go into the turns. We'll work on it tonight and I'm sure we'll be ready for tomorrow."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Andretti is right on the pace. Their two drivers: (James) Hinchcliffe and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay are no question going to be right there all year. Ganassi, I think, it's an engine thing, but I guess we will see when qualifying comes, I think that's when everyone knows where everyone stands and hopefully they're not good." (About possibly breaking the track record): "Just the year of development. The engine manufacturer got a bit more power, and just through the development, we get a little more downforce and a lot of grip. I think the power needs to climb and the grip can stay the same." (About the good start to the weekend): "This is normal. We expect to be at the front and we are always disappointed if we are back because we have the team to do it. We're not doing our job if we're not."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "It was much improved over our first day here last year. We still have a lot of cars in front of us and that is frustrating. But the gap is much tighter this year. We learned a lot today and we made some good changes. Of course, we tried a lot of things and some were good and some bad. But that is what the first day is all about. I think we left some time out on the track in both sessions today. So I think we can get some more out of the car on Saturday. We have a chance to move up the grid for qualifying. It just feels good to be back in the cockpit and back racing again. It has been a long winter."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "The Sonny's Bar-B-Q Honda wasn't as quick as we'd have liked today. We made progress in both sessions, so I'm pleased with that, but obviously we've got more to do. We want to be challenging for the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow and at the moment we're 16th, so we've got 10 spots to make before we get to that point, and that's before we think about pole. We're still trying to understand this new Firestone tire for the street circuits this year. But we'll keep working at it - we made some good improvements this afternoon, so hopefully we can make some more overnight and break into the next group tomorrow."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda): "Obviously it's not where we wanted to be but I feel confident that we're going to find something because the car doesn't feel good. I'm not concerned because the lap times are very representative of where I feel the car is. It's not like it feels good and we don't know why we're there. As soon as the car feels better, we'll jump back up in the timing sheets and it won't take a lot to get there. I'm eager to get back there. Our car felt so much better in various races last year and we'll find that feeling again. We're experimenting with the new Firestone tires, and we need to adapt to the construction and compound. Until we find that better pace, we're going to keep trying."

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): ""Today was a big change for me doing my first official practice session in the big cars after coming from Firestone Indy Lights. The car moves more, and there's more power, so it's a lot more work. You have to work really hard to put everything together. I think we did alright though and we'll try to keep making progress tomorrow. Our second session today was much better than the first, so we want to keep that trend going tomorrow. It was a lot of fun though!"

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "It was a very productive day for us. The first session the ABC Supply car was a little bit outside of the balance that we wanted but we made a good improvement over the lunch break and the car felt much better in the afternoon. We tested a couple things and got some good information so hopefully tomorrow we can make another step forward."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda): "Overall we made a ton of progress today. We were 1.5 seconds faster than we were this morning while everyone else gained one second. Of course there is still more time to be found and we have to figure out how to improve the car further. A couple of tenths (of a second faster) puts you in the top 10 and that's what we need to work on. We're not out of the ballpark but we've got to get the Midas/Big O Tires a little bit better."

JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): ""It's been a pretty good day; I can't complain. It's only my second day on track with the team so we've just got to take things step by step. I think that if we can iron a few small things out with the car, we will be right there for the race. With the weather looking bad for Sunday, qualifying will be very important and also helpful to stay out of the trouble in the back. Our weekend is looking pretty good so far."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM Chevrolet): ""We had a pretty good morning finishing fourth - it was a good performance for the team. There were three of us in the top four so that's telling us that we have some good fundamentals in the car. In the second session we tried experimenting with some other changes which we ended with the conclusion that they were not the way to go. So today the plan is to regroup the whole team and start making some decisions for tomorrow based on the experiences that we acquired today during the two practice sessions."

ORIOL SERVIA (No 22. Panther DRR Chevrolet): "It feels good to have our name up there. It was a legit time, we only used one set of tires. This morning, I thought we were on a good path with the car, we just needed to tweak it and be able to match the track. We just need to keep it up and be fighting for the pole tomorrow and a win on Sunday. It just feels so good to be in the game and know it's in our reach."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet): "I think we are within striking distance, which is all I can ask for on day one. A half second is a lot, but at the same time it's not. Obviously a half second is 10 positions, but a half second is easier to find. I've made improvements on myself. The direction and set up that Ryan (Hunter-Reay) has is what we will take for the RC Chevy towards qualifying and into the race on Sunday."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "Overall it was a pretty good day for the Go Daddy car. We unloaded with a fairly strong setup, and this morning the track was really great. Everybody was kind of blowing the cobwebs out and getting used to the circuit again. One of the great things about having four cars is that we can try a bunch of different things, and now we get to take the best developments off each of the four cars and put them all together and try to make a strong package for tomorrow."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut KVRT-SH Racing Chevrolet): "Man, I couldn't wait any longer for the season to start. It was so cool to see all the fans coming into the track in the morning, and also all the cars on track. Today it was a good first day for us with both KV cars running up front in the charts. I still want to find a little more grip to be comfortable with the car for Sunday's race, but I believe that we had a good start for the weekend."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "It was a bit of a tough day for us. We are still trying to understand the changes with the Firestone tires. We are not sure where we need to be heading, but we are going to take a close look at the data this evening and see how we can generate more grip."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "We struggled a bit on our first outings today at St. Pete, but we are going to work hard tonight to see what changes we need to make for tomorrow's final practice before qualifying. We need to focus on finding the right pace for qualifying and the race in tomorrow morning. It's been an interesting day to see where everyone is finishing in the practice sessions today with the new tires."

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE #1:

At 10 a.m., the ambient temperature was 61 degrees with a relative humidity of 57 percent. Skies were fair. The track temperature was 73 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

10:05 a.m. - Session on hold for course cleanup.

10:15 a.m. - GREEN. Session will remain 45 minutes.

11 a.m. - CHECKERED.

FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF SESSION:
Pos. Car Name Time
1. 77 Jack Hawksworth 1:07.4322
2. 26 Carlos Munoz 1:07.4480
3. 12 Zach Veach 1:07.5825
4. 5 Peter Dempsey 1:07.6444
5. 7 Gabby Chaves 1:07.7983

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE #2:

At 1:30 p.m., the ambient temperature was 71 degrees with a relative humidity of 41 percent. Skies were mostly cloudy. The track temperature was 98 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

1:42 p.m. - GREEN. Session will run for the full 45 minutes as scheduled.

2:28 p.m. - CHECKERED.

FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF SESSION:
Pos. Car Name Time
1. 7 Gabby Chaves 1:06.8431
2. 77 Jack Hawksworth 1:06.9466
3. 8 Sage Karam 1:07.1713
4. 26 Carlos Munoz 1:07.3335
5. 2 Juan Pablo Garcia 1:07.3534

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUOTES:

GABBY CHAVES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian): "So far (the transition from Pro Mazda to Firestone Indy Lights) it's been great. I owe that to the team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports c/w Curb-Agajanian because they have such a great crew, such great personnel. And they really make this transition as easy as smoothly as possible for me. I really owe it to them for the results we have achieved so far." (About practice): "This morning we were pretty quick most of the session but made a change that didn't really work out for us. So we made a few changes over lunch and we are really happy with the way the car is now. (About racing at St. Pete): "I love this track. I was here last year, it's a great venue. The fans are great, it's a great atmosphere."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian): "It went OK. I think the first session was good. We got to learn the track and that went well, and then the second session again was good. It was a bit busy, a lot to look over tonight and think about, but we're definitely in the ballpark and we just need to tonight sit down, we've done a lot of stuff today and hopefully think about it and put it together for tomorrow. (Did the track change a lot between the morning and afternoon): "Last year when I was here I noticed that, but I didn't notice that the track changed that much this afternoon. It's pretty good this morning already, which is quite surprising because there was not that much running, but I think the track was pretty similar. Might have been a bit rubbered down in a few places, but pretty similar." (About what he expects in qualifying): "I don't know what to expect yet. I think we're right in the mix, so hopefully we can have a good look at everything tonight, we can go for pole tomorrow and try to win the race."

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Garages open
9:25- 10:10 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights Sunoco Pole Qualifying (all cars, European-style qualifying)
10:25 - 11:10 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series practice
2:55 - 3:15 p.m. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying for Verizon P1 Award (knockout qualifying and Firestone Fast Six)
3:40 - 4:40 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights St. Petersburg 100 (45 laps), TV: Taped (11 a.m., March 24)

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The 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season opens with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by the NBC Sports Network (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, on SiriusXM (Channel 211) and www.indycar.com. The 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season begins March 23 on the streets of St. Petersburg. The race will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network at 11 a.m. (ET) on March 24, immediately preceding the IZOD IndyCar Series race broadcast.

 
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