Wilson Leads Opening Day Of Practice For At Houston

Story posted - Oct 04 2013 10:25 PM

HOUSTON (Friday, Oct. 4, 2013) - IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon displayed their cars will be fast in the first practice session for the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, while Justin Wilson and Will Power significantly lowered lap times in the second 45-minute session.

Wilson, driving the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car for Dale Coyne Racing, posted the fastest lap of the day of 1 minute, 04.4237 seconds on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn circuit at Reliant Park. Power, fastest in the first practice (1:06.3983) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, was .3790 of a second behind Wilson, who is seeking to become the record-tying 11th different winner this season.

Dixon, who enters the weekend doubleheader 49 points behind Castroneves, was second fast in the initial practice session and sixth in the second session (1:05.7512). Castroneves followed placing third on the time sheet in the first practice with 11th place (1:05.7512) in the No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Team Penske car.

Practice sessions and qualifications for the IZOD IndyCar Series were revised because of a surface issue in Turn 1. A temporary chicane to slow the cars was employed until grinding of the racing surface at Turn 1 could take place overnight. That area of Reliant Park is utilized to store the grass field for Reliant Stadium.

Qualifying for Race 1, scheduled for Oct. 4, will be held at 11:45 a.m. (ET) Oct. 5. The three rounds of qualifying for road/street circuits, including the Firestone Fast Six, were forfeited for a 30-minute session split into two groups for 12 minutes each of track time. The 90-lap Race 1 with a standing start will proceed as planned at 3:30 p.m. (ET). Race 2 is at 1:30 p.m. (ET) Oct. 6.

Also on Oct. 4, Firestone Indy Lights championship points leader Sage Karam recorded the fastest lap in the lone practice before a 45-minute qualifying session for the same-day Grand Prix of Houston.

Karam's lap of 1 minute, 0.3931 seconds in the No. 8 Schmidt Peterson with Curb-Agajanian car on the 1.683-mile, 10-turn MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway was .1118 of a second quicker than teammate Jack Hawksworth, who has won three of the four street course races this season.

Karam enters the 50-lap race with a two-point lead over Carlos Munoz. Gabby Chaves is four points back and Hawksworth is 11 points behind.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at Reliant Park has 10 turns and is 1.683 miles.

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The first Firestone Indy Lights practice, scheduled to start at 9:25 a.m., has been delayed due to a surface issue in Turn 1.

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IZOD IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson is hosting a group of children from Decoding Dyslexia today at the Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Wilson conquered the challenges of dyslexia as a youth.

Wilson also will carry the Nolan Ryan Foundation logo on his No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda this weekend. The foundation started by legendary pitcher and native Texan Nolan Ryan, helps Texas communities by building baseball fields and community centers and offering scholarships. Ryan also suffers from dyslexia.

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SONAX, a leading manufacturer of premium car care products worldwide, could pay an extra $50,000 this weekend at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston double-header races with the "SONAX Perfect Finish Award."

SONAX, INDYCAR's Official Automobile Detail Partner, established the 2013 "SONAX Perfect Finish Award" to be presented to an IZOD IndyCar Series driver who captures both races on a doubleheader weekend at the Detroit, Toronto or Houston events.

SONAX will award $50,000 to a driver who wins both feature races during any of the doubleheader weekends. If a driver does not win both races in any weekend, the $50,000 prize will carry over to the next doubleheader weekend.

Scott Dixon won a $100,000 bonus for sweeping both races July 13-14 at Toronto since no driver won both Detroit events.

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IZOD IndyCar Series championship contenders Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud met with the media this morning.

Castroneves leads the standings with 501 points. Dixon is second at 452, with Pagenaud third at 431. Selected quotes from media availabilities with the three drivers:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): (About mindset of points race): "At this point, we have to go with the flow. If I have a good car, we'll go for it. In this position, there's more for us to lose than to gain. Those people in the attack mode have more to gain, but we're not going to drive like an old lady and just try to finish the race. We have to be rough when we have to be rough and have to be smart. That's our approach right now, and we have to get what we can out of the car. We have to keep doing what we've been doing, which is be consistent and get the most points we can." (About resiliency during season and past years): "Last year, up to the last race of the season we were in the championship. Past years we were very consistent. I believe this year it's about how tight the competition is and the way the rules are, it made other teams able to catch up so the key was to be consistent." (About challengers): "I'm not looking at what Scott (Dixon) or Simon (Pagenaud) or (Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay) are looking to do. I'm looking at what I can do during the two races, and having two races is a big deal. You could lose a lot of points, but at the same time you could gain a lot of points. We have to do our jobs, have good pit stops, because they aren't going to be easy on us."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): (About mindset of points race): "If we could replicate Toronto, it would make things a lot better. Looking at trying to do that is not impossible, but it's going to be very tough. As far as street courses go, our car has been pretty good at Baltimore and Toronto." (About aggressiveness in two races): "Helio (Castroneves) has had a consistent year and to be in the lead by this much at this point of the season with only one win is pretty astonishing. If they continue to do that, it maybe gives us more opportunities. We're fighting from behind, and it's a sizable gap. But with 162 points on the table, it's definitely achievable. We probably need a little bad luck on their part. The leader at this point has the advantage. Anything is possible; you have to keep an open mind to start."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "It's great to be back and see a new venue on the calendar. It's always exciting when you go to a new track and getting to learn about it and setting the car up for it. I'm actually quite excited. It's similar to Baltimore in many ways, and I'm hoping the HP car is just as fast as Baltimore." (About his season): "The start of the season was a bit difficult. It was not the start we wanted. We had one DNF and a few misjudgments, but all in all, we scored as many points as we could when it wasn't working properly. But the team did a tremendous job putting things back in order, and here we are. I know we've been the strongest combination the last three races. It's awesome to be in the mix with the strong teams like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. It's quite a thrill to place the HP car up there, and hopefully we can give a good run for their money this weekend." (About achieving his preseason goal of fifth in championship): "When you go into a weekend like this, it's basically a championship weekend. You either do well and you have a chance, or you do poorly and I won't have a chance. I would be happy with fifth, because top-five (in the championship) was my initial goal. I thought it was reasonable with what we have as a team. But I think I have a greater chance than that now. It's my job to perform the best I can to prove that we did a better job than top five. I really think we have a chance. I keep saying that, and I'm not saying that to convince myself. It's because with what we have been doing lately, we can challenge for it. I'm very, very motivated to push it a little further than usual."

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Todd DeNeve of Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the 2013 Pilot Travel Center Flying J Truck Driver Challenge, which took place during the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season. He earned a $5,000 prize.

Mark Bruce of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing finished second, and Greg Folk of KV Racing Technology was third.

Drivers demonstrate their safe-driving abilities head to head in the competition, which took place at IZOD IndyCar Series events at St. Petersburg, Fla., Indianapolis and Houston.

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Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team owner Sarah Fisher is celebrating her 33rd birthday today.

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Legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt is the grand marshal of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. Foyt is a native and resident of the Houston area.

Foyt earned his first midget-car racing victory in 1953 at Playland Park, a now-defunct dirt oval that was located on the site of Reliant Park, where the IZOD IndyCar Series double-header is taking place this weekend.

Foyt, owner of A.J. Foyt Racing, will attend an IZOD IndyCar Series race this weekend for the first time since undergoing left hip replacement surgery July 1. He will present the A.J. Foyt Trophy - a resin cowboy boot featuring his autograph and mounted on a marble base - to the winners of both double-header races this weekend.

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IZOD IndyCar Series officials have penalized the No. 10 car of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and No. 15 car of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 10 grid spots each for unapproved engine changes prior to the double-header event at Houston's Reliant Park.

Both cars failed to comply with rules 15.1.4 and 15.5.1.
15.1.4. Each Full-Season Entrant may use no more than five fresh built Engines from the first Open Test until the end of the Race season. Using more than five fresh Engines in this period will result in a penalty. Engines beyond the fifth fresh Engine may be fresh or part-used.
15.5.1. The minimum mileage threshold ("Change-Out Mileage") is 2,000 miles.

The No. 20 entry of Ed Carpenter Racing will utilize a fresh engine this weekend but is not subject to penalty under Rule 15.5.5, which allows for a penalty-free engine change when it's brought on by circumstances beyond the control of the team and manufacturer. The team's car and engine suffered smoke damage in a transporter fire coming back from a test at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 25.

15.5.5. An Engine that has experienced a problem deemed sufficient to require change-out as mutually agreed by INDYCAR and Engine Manufacturer that is beyond the reasonable control of either the Entrant or Engine Manufacturer (such as faulty fuel, damage to the Engines caused by act of God, etc.) may be replaced with an Engine from the pool without penalty.

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Andretti Autosport teammates E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay will mark Indy car milestones in Race 2 of the Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston on Sunday, Oct. 6.

Viso will make his 100th Indy-car start. Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Hunter-Reay will compete in his 150th Indy-car race.

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Tony Kanaan was named this morning as a driver for Chip Ganassi Racing in the IndyCar Series starting in 2014 as the team expands to four cars.

2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Kanaan will drive a car sponsored by NTT DATA as a teammate to Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball.

All four cars will be powered starting in 2014 by Chevrolet engines, a switch from Honda announced today by Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. Chevrolet and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates have been partners in stock-car racing since 2009.

TONY KANAAN: "It's definitely a good day. We've been trying to put this thing together for a long time. I thank NTT DATA and Chip's organization for giving me one more chance. I'm excited, and it's a special day for me and a special day for my family. Coming back to with Dario (Franchitti) again and (Scott) Dixon and Charlie (Kimball) will be a blast. I've been with a four-car team organization in the past, and it was extremely successful. I'm looking forward to the future, and it's great news for INDYCAR. We'll have a hell of a battle next year." (About relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing): "I would go back to 1998 to the first time we talked, so it's been more than five years. When the sponsor left the last team I drove for, I remember walking into Mike Hull's office to see if we could do something together. The opportunities are there every day. If I didn't think about it, that means I don't think about winning races. I wanted to be in the best teams with the best guys, who have been beating me forever. I thought about it every single day. I think I proved over the last three years how hard I had to work to keep going after everything we've won. Opportunities are there. It's up to you to take everything out of it and make the best of it."

CHIP GANASSI (Owner, Chip Ganassi Racing): "It's obviously a big day for our organization. It's not all the time you have a stable of drivers that have won a combined seven championships, five Indy 500 wins and over 75 races wins between them. That's what we'll have when we add Tony to our team. These guys have won five of the last seven Indy 500s and seven of the last 10 INDYCAR championships. Tony is the type of driver we like to have behind the wheel. He digs in, and we had a chance to work with him and NTT DATA at the GRAND-AM race at (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway in August. That really solidified for us, the driver that he was and the kind of person he was and the kind of teammate he was. Those were all things we look to at Chip Ganassi Racing. We've been trying to get together for a long time, and we finally did it. It's a great opportunity for our team, and I'm glad to have my new pal with us." (About move to Chevrolet): "We are with Chevrolet with our NASCAR team. This thing happened pretty quick with Chevrolet. They have shown they have a great product, and we wanted to be a part of it. It's something for our team to consolidate our manufacturers and be part of a winning effort. We've had some great races and years with Honda, but opportunity came about to be with Chevrolet, and they showed a sincere effort in wanting us to be part of their program." (If Ryan Briscoe didn't get hurt and Tony didn't run GRAND-AM race for you at Ganassi, would this deal have happened?): "We were at that time wanting to get back to a fourth car, and that falls under the category, that if Dario doesn't crash a stock car at Talladega, would he have come back and won the championships we did in INDYCAR? It's hard to say it wasn't in the works. In terms of Tony and I, we've been in the works for five years. We stayed close, and we stayed friends. It didn't happen overnight with Tony. It didn't happen as quickly as it did with Chevy."

JIM CAMPBELL (U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Chevrolet): "Chevrolet would like to announce we will partner with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2014 IndyCar (Series) season. We have tremendous amount respect for Chip, Mike Hull and the entire team and the way they have organized themselves and the way they conduct themselves and the way they deliver results. Nine championships in INDYCAR and four Indianapolis 500s to date. This is a really a proud moment. We work with Chip on the stock-car side of our business, and it will be great to have Chip, Mike Hull and their entire organization in the fold for 2014."

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The Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will have a revised event schedule due to a surface issue in Turn 1. A temporary chicane will be used today to allow cars to get track time while avoiding the surface issue, which will be repaired this evening after track activity.

REVISED EVENT SCHEDULE (all times local):

Today
1-1:45 p.m. IZOD IndyCar Series practice #1
3:20-4:15 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights practice
4:30-5:15 p.m. IZOD IndyCar Series practice #2

Saturday
8:35-9:20 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights qualifying
10:45-11:15 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying #1
12:30 p.m. Grand Prix of Houston Firestone Indy Lights race
2:40 p.m. Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston IZOD IndyCar Series race #1 (90 laps)

Sunday
8:45-9:15 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying #2
12:40 p.m. Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston IZOD IndyCar Series race #2 (90 laps)

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Andretti Autosport, driver James Hinchcliffe and primary sponsor GoDaddy will support the National Breast Cancer Foundation at this event by changing the paint scheme of Hinchcliffe's No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet to pink from the famous "GoDaddy" green.

This is the first year GoDaddy has run a pink car in the IZOD IndyCar Series. GoDaddy's NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, also will drive a pink GoDaddy Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series during October in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

GoDaddy and the Public Interest Registry, which manages .ORG domain names, are donating $50,000 directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

All four Andretti Autosport drivers, -- Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and EJ Viso - also will carry pink sidewalls on their Firestone Firehawk racing tires this weekend.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: "Well, I've been told real men wear pink, so I am all for it. But seriously, it's a great opportunity to support a fantastic cause, and I'm really happy that GoDaddy has let us be a part of their campaign. They have been tremendous supporters of breast cancer research in the past. It's great to see them continue that and to help out in our little way."

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Firestone is supplying the same dry-condition street-course tire specifications this weekend for IZOD IndyCar Series teams as those used this season at five street courses this season - St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Detroit, Toronto and Baltimore. The wet-condition (grooved) specification is the same that debuted in 2012.

Primary (black-sidewall) tires: Each entry receives nine sets(36 total tires) for the race weekend. Rookie drivers and those outside the top 10 in points receive a 10th setthat must be returned after the first practice session. Each entry must complete at least five laps during the first practice session to earn the ninth set of primary tires from its weekend allotment.

Alternate (red-sidewall) tires: Each entry receives three sets (12 total tires) for the race weekend.

Wet-weather (rain) tires: Each entry can use up to five sets (20 total tires) for the race weekend.

The alternate tire program mandates teams use two dry-condition tire specifications in road- or street-course races. The Firehawk alternates, easily identified by their bright red sidewalls, pair the same tire construction as the primary specification with a softer tread compound to provide more grip and faster lap times, while trading off compound durability for the shorter-term advantages.

Per series regulations for doubleheader race weekends, all cars must use at least one set of primary tires and one alternate set during each race, each for a minimum of two laps, with at least one under green-flag conditions. Otherwise, teams are free to use their tire allotment at their discretion.

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IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE:

At 1 p.m., the ambient temperature was 89 degrees with a relative humidity of 51 percent and winds from the northeast at 6 mph. Skies were partly cloudy. The track temperature was 104 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

1 p.m. - GREEN.

1:11 p.m. - RED. Retrieval of cone in Turn 2.

1:16 p.m. - GREEN.

1:18 p.m. - RED. #7 Bourdais stopped on track between Turns 5 and 6.

1:25 p.m. - GREEN.

1:28 p.m. - RED. #67 Newgarden stopped on front straight.

1:37 p.m. - GREEN. #3 Castroneves stalls exiting pit lane.

1:42 p.m. - RED. #1 Hunter-Reay stopped at exit of Turn 2. #19 Wilson stopped at entrance to Turn 3. Hunter-Reay jumped curbing in Turn 2 and clipped outside retaining wall with left front of car, causing light damage to left front wing.

1:44 p.m. - CHECKERED. End of session. #12 Power quickest at 1:06.8320.

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FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE #1:

Pos. Car Name Time
1. 12 Will Power 1:06.8320
2. 9 Scott Dixon 1:07.0793
3. 3 Helio Castroneves 1:07.1036
4. 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:07.2257
5. 19 Justin Wilson 1:07.3606

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The qualifying order for the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend will be determined by random draw.

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KV Racing Technology statement about Tony Kanaan, who announced this morning he is leaving the team after the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season to join Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014. Kanaan and KV Racing Technology-SH Racing teamed to win the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

"Tony Kanaan is an outstanding driver, a great teammate and a good friend. Over the last three years he has demonstrated his professionalism and more importantly, this year brought KV Racing Technology - SH Racing its first Indianapolis 500 victory. The entire organization wishes him the best as he moves forward with his career. KV - SH Racing is and will continue to pursue negotiations with several top drivers and looks forward to competing for race wins and championships in the coming years."

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IZOD IndyCar Series officials announced the following team will receive a 10-spot grid penalty for Race #1 on Saturday for an unapproved engine change: #7 Bourdais (Rule 15.5.1).

15.5.1. (Minimum mileage): Engine was changed before minimum mileage threshold ("Change-Out Mileage") of 2,000 miles.

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IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE #2:

At 4:30 p.m., the ambient temperature was 89 degrees with a relative humidity of 51 percent and winds from the east-northeast at 5 mph. Skies were partly cloudy. The track temperature was 103 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

*Quickest lap, first practice: #12 Power, 1:06.8320

4:30 p.m. - GREEN.

4:34 p.m. - RED. #20 Carpenter stopped in run-off in Turn 6.

4:36 p.m. - GREEN.

4:42 p.m. - RED. #3 Castroneves stopped on course after hopping exit curb in Turn 2 and spinning. No contact.

4:45 p.m. - GREEN.

4:52 p.m. - RED. #20 Carpenter stopped at exit of Turn 2.

4:54 p.m. - GREEN.

5:01 p.m. - RED. #27 Hinchcliffe stopped in Turn 3.

5:08 p.m. - GREEN.

5:14 p.m. - RED and CHECKERED. #3 Castroneves stops on track at exit of Turn 2 after riding curbs and spinning. #19 Wilson quickest at 1:04.4237.

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FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE #2:

Pos. Car Name Time
1. 19 Justin Wilson 1:04.4237
2. 12 Will Power 1:04.8027
3. 55 Tristan Vautier 1:04.9946
4. 1 Ryan Hunter-Reay 1:05.0959
5. 7 Sebastien Bourdais 1:05.1618

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IZOD INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE QUOTES:

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "Tough, short circuit, but it's fun. The car is always cornering, so it's very physical. The track is quite bumpy, so we have to get maximum stability to attack. Today we made good progress because every time out it was a good step forward for the ABC car."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "Overall, it was a pretty good day for the NovoLog FlexPen car. When you come to a track you haven't been to in six years as a series, it's always a challenge. But the guys did a great job on getting us some laps on most of the track. I know they'll make the repairs, as needed, to Turn 1 so we can have a full straight, which will change the entry into Turn 2. Overall, we're pretty happy with the car. We've made some good progress, and now we just have to get ready for heading into qualifying tomorrow morning."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It's a tough track, and it's really bumpy. But when the grip comes up, it feels good. Once the car starts to work around here, it's a lot of fun, but it's tough. It's really physical, and you're bouncing around and you're trying to land in the right spot and get on the brakes and try not to lose one end or the other. This morning, I lost the rear on the turn in to Turn 2 or 3 and looped it around. We can see a lot of that, and it's going to continue to throughout the race. It's so hard to keep it on that knife edge. I'm really pleased with the car that Dale Coyne Racing has given me. Hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow and have a good qualifying."

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "It was an interesting day for everyone out there. We did not get the amount of track time that we expected, which you need in a place like this to understand it. We made progress in the No. 6 Dragon Racing TRUECar during the second practice session but were unable to put the fast time we were looking for down when we needed it. We feel we have something strong for tomorrow's qualifying session and race. It's all about taking care of the tires and getting as much experience each lap we put out."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's a new circuit, and the day was fine. Everyone got a good idea of the track. Heading into qualifying, everyone is going to have to relearn the braking point for the chicane there. But I'm happy with the Verizon Team Penske car right now. It's a long weekend with the two races, but hopefully we can qualify at the front and have a shot at two wins this weekend." (About changes from last time he raced here): "It's definitely tightened up with the way they've done the curbs. It will be interesting to see how it races. These cars are still pretty quick around here."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I would be lying if I didn't say this is one of the more odd practice days of my career. It seems even worse than Baltimore's first race. It's a tough place. It's rough. It's slick. There were so many yellows that we missed a lot of track time today. I will say that I like this schedule format than the other doubleheaders with the Friday qualifying. We'll qualify on Saturday and Sunday now. We made some progress today, and I am getting more comfortable with the track."

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Angie's List Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "We had crazy sessions out here today in Houston with multiple red flags. We were able to get a good lap in toward the end of the second session, and that felt great. We ended up with a good time today, but tomorrow is what counts for quals and races. We need to stay focused and keep improving tomorrow."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "We had mechanical issues today, so I didn't get enough time on this new track, and I don't feel like I know the track as well as I should. This is really bad timing for us in the championship, and we may have a tough time in qualifications and the first race tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 T-Mobile Honda): "It was a very stop-start day with all the red flags we encountered out there on track. The T-Mobile car is good, though, and we had many laps going where we would have been right up there. But the reds (flags) just kept negating those laps. Hopefully we can show what we have tomorrow in qualifying."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I think our sessions overall were positive today. The test we did at Sebring a few weeks back really is paying off for us and the Target car. We still have a ways to go before we get into the race, but I'm happy with the progress so far."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We definitely didn't have a good Friday. I made a pretty sizable mistake, and the bummer is that I really got penalized for it. It was a bad move on my part, but the guys did an incredible job putting the car back together. I can't believe how quickly they did it. We got an install lap in, so we should be good to go for qualifying tomorrow. We're going to be a bit behind now, but we just have to do the best we can. I have complete faith that we are going to have a good weekend still. It's still early, and we'll rebound just fine in the Strike car."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "I think we've been in the ballpark all day. I think the DHL Chevy is good. I'm pretty happy with where we are right now. Everybody is a little bit frustrated with how tight this place is in dealing with traffic, but I can say qualifying is going to be at a premium. Everything is good, though. We're happy with it. We only sustained a left-front suspension damage this morning, so all good. You have to step over the limit to know where the limit is."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet): "Obviously, it's a bit of an abnormal day with the way everything transpired. It's too bad that we had to make that adjustment to the track to get out there and run, but I think it was a compromise that at least got us some track time on 95 percent of the track we are going to be running. The GoDaddy PINK car is actually pretty quick. We were never on track with everybody else at the same time, but I think we are in or around the top five. Unfortunately, in the second session we had a couple problems. We had a battery die, and that cost us some time. We didn't get new tires and didn't get through all the changes we wanted to try. At least it wasn't qualifying, and I think it almost actually works out better. I think maybe next year we should look into having qualifying for Saturday on Saturday morning, and qualifying for Sunday on Sunday morning and give us a full day of practice on Friday. That may be the good thing to come out of today. But happy Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was quick, and I think as a team we can be competitive tomorrow."

JAMES JAKES (No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts Honda): "It's been a little frustrating not to be able to put enough laps together (due to red flags), to be honest. I think we've got a strong car and can be quick here. We've just got to be patient and do it Saturday. We really made some changes in the second session because we tried to make sure that we anticipated the red flags and were not caught out being able to get anything done. So we managed to get a little bit of work done, which was good. I think we should be in good shape for tomorrow. Obviously the track is going to change a little bit, but it shouldn't really affect the setup."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 blu eCigs Honda): "I feel really good about our progress. We've got to find a little bit of rear and overall grip but, to be honest, we ended up eighth and, frankly, we were the only one to not run new tires at the end. We were on 20-lap tires, and we still put the blu eCigs car in P8 (eighth quickest), so we're in the hunt. We've just got to find a bit more speed. (Justin) Wilson's awfully quick, but, given new tires, maybe we would find half of a second or a little bit more. If we find a little bit more grip, we'll be right there."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a productive day for the Shell and Pennzoil team. They did a great job. Unfortunately, it was just a little bit over the limit for me, and we weren't able to put it all together. But I'm very happy with how the car came out of practice in good shape. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the track is tomorrow, and I'm excited for qualifying and the first race of the weekend in front of the fans here in Houston."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "Kind of a weird day. Not exactly what we were hoping for on the No. 7 McAfee TRUECar. Car is pretty fast, finishing P5 in the second practice after missing pretty much the entire first practice. Unfortunately we had to replace the engine for an internal failure, so we will have to start P10 in best-case scenario. We finished on the podium from 22nd in Baltimore, so it could be worse. It's not going to be easy work, for sure."

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IndyCar Series qualifying for Race 1 will take place in two groups, starting at 10:45 a.m. Saturday. Each group will receive 12 minutes of total track time. The groups were determined by random draw.

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A standing start will be used in Race 1 at 2:40 p.m. Saturday. Highlights of the standing start procedures from 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook include:

Countdown - The safety car will lead the formation lap and drivers will follow single-file in starting order.

Formation Lap - During the formation lap, drivers will remain in starting order with no overtaking. The speed of the formation lap will be set by the safety car.

Grid - At the end of the formation lap, drivers will take their starting positions with the front wheels of the car remaining within its designated orange grid line.

A five-second declaration will be made via radio by the Race Director prior to the start of the light sequence. The starting sequence will begin when the first two rows of red lights on the lighting panel illuminate. The red lights will continue to fill from the bottom of the light panel two rows at a time, for a total of six steps (12 rows). (cont. on next page)

Once the panel is filled with red lights, there will be a delay between .5 and 3 seconds and the panel will switch to all green lights and the race will begin.

False Start - A false start shall be declared when a car moves forward or is out of its assigned position before completion of the light sequence. A penalty will be imposed for a false start.

Aborted Start - The Race Director can declare an aborted start before the final row of red lights is illuminated on the lighting panel. If the start is aborted, the full-course caution lights will be turned on.

In the event of an aborted start, the cars will take a low-speed lap around the circuit and return to the grid for a second attempt at a standing start. The field will begin the race with a rolling start if there are two aborted attempts at a standing start.

Any Competitors whose actions result in an aborted start will move to the rear of the field.

Race No. 2, at 12:40 p.m. Sunday, will begin with a rolling start unless there are two aborted attempts at a standing start Saturday.

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A statement from Art St. Cyr, president, Honda Performance Development, about Chip Ganassi Racing's decision to change engine manufacturers to Chevrolet for the 2014 IndyCar Series:

ART ST. CYR (President, Honda Performance Development): "On behalf of everyone at Honda, I'd like to thank Chip Ganassi and the entire Ganassi Racing organization for their efforts in our very successful, eight-year partnership in the Indy Racing League and INDYCAR, which included four driver's championships, three Indianapolis 500 victories and more than 40 individual race wins since 2006. It may be worth noting that when our previous -and also very successful -association with the Ganassi organization in Championship Auto Racing Teams competition ended after the 1999 season, Honda went on to win 15 races over the next two seasons, including both the 2000 and 2001 driver's championship, and the 2001 Manufacturers' Championship. While this partnership is coming to an end, Honda and Honda Performance Development remain committed to achieving even greater IndyCar success in the future with our continuing and new partner teams. While Honda and the Ganassi organization are going our separate ways, we remain committed to winning the 2013 Drivers' and Manufacturers' championships, and our collective efforts for the final three races will be entirely focused on accomplishing those objectives."

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE:

At 3:15 p.m., the ambient temperature was 90 degrees with a relative humidity of 47 percent and winds from the northeast at 5 mph. Skies were sunny. The track temperature was 109 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

3:20 p.m. - Start of practice delayed to move equipment from course.

3:22 p.m. - GREEN.

3:55 p.m. - RED. #2 Dempsey stopped in Turn 6.

4:01 p.m. - GREEN.

4:15 p.m. - CHECKERED. #8 Karam quickest at 1:09.3931.

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FASTEST TIMES/SPEEDS OF FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE:

Pos. Car Name Time
1. 8 Sage Karam 1:09.3931
2. 77 Jack Hawksworth 1:09.5049
3. 22 Conor Daly 1:09.7906
4. 26 Carlos Munoz 1:09.8451
5. 12 Zach Veach 1:10.0314

***

The Firestone Indy Lights qualifying session scheduled for 8:35-9:20 a.m. Saturday morning will move to 8:45-9:30 a.m. There are no other changes to the Saturday schedule for IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights track activity.

***

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE QUOTES:

GABBY CHAVES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian): "It's kind of hard to tell where everyone is after that first practice session. I think some of them are risking quite a bit with the chicane on the front straight even though it's not going to be there tomorrow. On our end, we were just focusing on the rest of the track because that's what's going to count in quals and the race. I think the car felt pretty good, and it's always good to start from a solid point."

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian): "This place is so physical. It's such a challenge. It's really ... there's no such thing as car setup at this place. It's all driver; it's like 90 percent driver and 10 percent car setup. I think that's where I'm good on tracks like that, just because I think I'm physically in good shape, and I think it's paying dividends. I never come out of a car in a first practice session and have blisters. That just shows how physical this place is. Brakes are getting really hot, and it's just really challenging to drivers. Probably the most challenging track I've raced on this year."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian): "The hardest part of today was waiting around, so it was good to finally get out there. This place is interesting. Bumpy and slippery and what not. It's just good to get some laps under my belt. We have some good pace. At least that's what it looks like now. Hopefully we have enough to get this on the front row tomorrow."

JORGE GONCALVEZ (No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing): "It was pretty warm out there. We had some overheating braking, so we lost a lot of time to find what the best change was. At the end, it was really good. We had a really good car. I started pushing to feel the car and learn the track. I think every single lap I was faster, but we need more time on track. It should be good for qualifying. They (IndyCar) will be making a change for qualifying. The chicane on the straightaway will not be there, so it's going to be another change but more time to learn the track."

JUAN PABLO GARCIA (No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing): "For my first time in the car, I had to do two things: know the track and get used to the car. I was pretty new to this car. I think I got used to both pretty fast. We started making changes to the car. They need to know how I like the car, and we're working really hard on that part. We gained a lot on the changes we did. I know where I'm losing time still. I think after studying data tonight and looking at some changes for tomorrow that will suit my driving style more, we can be a lot better tomorrow, as well. Tomorrow will be a new day, and I've learned a lot of information today that I can study. I'm looking forward to still be working with my engineer. I know we're going to make the right movements to be faster."

GIANCARLO SERENELLI (No. 6 Micio Racing/Belardi Auto Racing): "We made a lot of progress in the practice. In the beginning, it was only 10 laps for me on track before we came in to make a change to improve the car. We went back out, and then we had problems with braking. It was too hot, I think. We came back in to pit lane, but it took a long time to make a lot changes. I was able to get five laps on track. The bad thing is we lost the time on track for the first practice, and we lost a lot of time to make changes. I didn't have enough time to learn the track."

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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):

8:45-9:30 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights qualifying
10:45-11:15 a.m. IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying #1
12:30 p.m. Grand Prix of Houston Firestone Indy Lights race
2:40 p.m. Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston IZOD IndyCar Series race #1 (90 laps)

 
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