Pocono - Thursday - Times as of 3:30pm

Story posted - Jul 04 2013 3:46 PM

By Joe Berkemeier

How has the crowd been? We haven't counted but it would appear a couple hundred people were here for the morning session. Again, it's a holiday and the race weekend doesn't really start until Saturday.

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A few drivers came in and spoke briefly during the lunch break.

Marco Andretti was happy with the tire and aerodynamic changes that INDYCAR made, and thinks that people will arrive at different downforce levels due to all the options they have. And, yes, that might mean that some people flat miss the setup.

Andretti is a fan of the three wide start - it's tradition here, and he's a fan of tradition. Marco thinks that the straight will be long enough to sort matters out before getting to Turn 1.

Dario Franchitti came to Pocono after spending some time in Scotland, and took some ribbing from Marco for still being on Scotland time. As in, Franchitti woke up at 6am local time - something he freely admitted doesn't usually happen.

Franchitti was amazed at the speed and performance level of the cars are doing around this circuit.

Both Franchitti and Andretti spoke of the balance they were trying to achieve with their setups. The compromise appears to be between Turns 1 and 3 - optimize the car too much for either one and you hurt the performance in the other.

Both drivers found Turn 1 the most challenging. As James Hinchcliffe later told us, you have to hold the car up and climb the banking to take the turn properly. Takuma Sato said he thought it was a very late apexing corner in which he had a lot of understeer.

Further to the importance of being good in Turn 3, Marco Andretti said that he expects most passing to take place on the frontstretch too.

For Dario, Turn 2 - the Tunnel Turn - is almost not a turn for them when running alone. He did freely admit it might be more of an issue with traffic.

As far as why Franchitti's team has struggled on the ovals, he repeated what he's said elsewhere - the team went down the wrong development path in the offseason. It's not the work of a moment to go back on going down the wrong path, and it's been tough to catch up to teams who not only went in the right direction, but whom have gone further.

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Speaking of Franchitti, he is in a black and orange Energizer scheme this weekend. Ryan Briscoe is in a red, white and blue National Guard livery in honor of the Fourth of July weekend that also highlights the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor.

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Got a question or two about Panther's decision to allow Ryan Briscoe to fulfill his sports car obligations even though it means they will not run at all on Saturday and will start last.

We're not sure the big deal about missing the track time on Saturday - the team tested here last week and has tested here today. That's a lot of track time. Missing the 90 minutes of track time on Saturday is, comparatively, not a lot of time.

And, yes, starting last is not advantageous, but to be frank, Panther has not qualified all that well this season. Their best starting position all season was the 7th that Oriol Servia earned at Iowa. With it being a 400-mile race, there is plenty of time to progress through the field with a good car.

But we would take the decision as a sign that Panther is considering Briscoe pretty strongly for their seat in 2013. There are plenty of drivers available who would be able to be in the car for the full weekend if it was a deal breaker, so there must be a reason that the team wants to run a driver who will miss qualifying and practice on Saturday. We take the team's willingness to commit two "test days" to having Briscoe in their car as a sign of their interest.

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Action has been clean so far, with several yellows for track inspection.

Here are the times as of the current yellow:

Pos Car Driver Engine Best Time Best Speed Total Laps
1 25 Marco Andretti Chevy 41.1577 218.671 57
2 3 Helio Castroneves Chevy 41.2202 218.340 29
3 27 James Hinchcliffe Chevy 41.2484 218.190 63
4 12 Will Power Chevy 41.2763 218.043 29
5 11 Tony Kanaan Chevy 41.4039 217.371 58
6 98 Alex Tagliani Honda 41.4200 217.286 42
7 9 Scott Dixon Honda 41.4246 217.262 59
8 10 Dario Franchitti Honda 41.4394 217.185 78
9 67 Josef Newgarden Honda 41.4480 217.140 55
10 4 Ryan Briscoe Chevy 41.4636 217.058 53
11 19 Justin Wilson Honda 41.4858 216.942 12
12 77 Simon Pagenaud Honda 41.5086 216.823 37
13 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay Chevy 41.5108 216.811 51
14 55 Tristan Vautier Honda 41.5274 216.724 46
15 83 Charlie Kimball Honda 41.5620 216.544 12
16 7 Sebastien Bourdais Chevy 41.7716 215.457 44
17 5 EJ Viso Chevy 41.7887 215.369 28
18 16 James Jakes Honda 41.8151 215.233 10
19 78 Simona De Silvestro Chevy 41.8775 214.913 52
20 15 Graham Rahal Honda 41.9642 214.469 37
21 14 Takuma Sato Honda 41.9786 214.395 4
22 18 Pippa Mann Honda 42.1250 213.650 50
23 6 Sebastian Saavedra Chevy 42.3642 212.444 17
24 20 Ed Carpenter Chevy 42.3686 212.421 8

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