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Kanaan Leads Opening Day of Practice at NOLA Motorsports Park

AVONDALE, La. (Friday, April 10, 2015) – Tony Kanaan, who will make his 296th career Indy car start this weekend, posted the quickest lap in the first practice session for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

It was a good first day for Kanaan as he shoots for the Verizon P1 Award in qualifications Saturday, then goes for the win in the 75-lap race Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at NOLA Motorsports Park.

Kanaan, driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 18.8753 seconds (125.058 mph) on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course during the 90-minute session early in the afternoon. A heavy rainstorm delayed the second practice session and limited track time in dry conditions, so no one was able to surpass Kanaan’s best lap from the opening session.

“It’s still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling,” said Kanaan, who earned his 119th career top-five finish in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29.

“The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it’s been when we’ve tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower, but the track is still really good. Like I said, we still have a ways to go before the race, but it’s definitely a good start.

“The track looks good,” continued Kanaan. “Big props to the people in New Orleans. People know about the race, people know what’s going on and those are the places we want to come.”

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who was runner-up to Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya two weeks ago on the St. Petersburg street circuit, posted the second-quickest lap (1:18.9292) today. Kanaan’s teammate, three-time series champion Scott Dixon, was third on the time chart (1:18.9662). KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais (1:19.2563) was fourth and first-year Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud (1:19.2782) was fifth.

Chevrolet-powered cars took the top seven positions in practice, with James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports the fastest Honda in eighth (1:19.4764). Fifteen of the 24 drivers were within one second of Kanaan’s quick lap.

A 45-minute practice is scheduled Saturday preceding the three rounds of qualifications (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

NOLA Trophies Take on Local Flair

The trophies to be presented to the podium finishers and winning team owner following the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana capture the personality of the Big Easy, state and – through extension – venue owner Dr. Laney Chouest and his wife, Ruth.

There’s a bit of whimsy, too. On the translucent turquoise body of the champion’s trophy are two alligators biting each other’s tails. An alligator preparing to take a bite out of a tire is on the second- and third-place trophies. A red fleur de lis is atop all the trophies. Local artist Marshall Gaudet was commissioned to create them.

“I’ve been in the art community for a long time and, when I’m thinking about a trophy, I’m going to the art community,” said Ruth Chouest, a jeweler by trade. “I don’t want to go to a trophy maker. I just love the strength of it and it conveys the ferocious, wild nature of this sport.

“To me, turquoise became an obvious choice because turquoise and red are complementary colors. Also, it brought in this funky Indian, Louisiana feel. I’m sure that the racing community in general doesn’t see this kind of stuff.”

Coletti Eager to Race for Louisiana-based Sponsor

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Stefano Coletti is excited to be racing at NOLA Motorsports Park this weekend for a couple reasons: He enjoys the track and he’s carrying the colors of a locally based sponsor.

Coletti is piloting No. 4 Variable Bore Rams-KV Racing Technology Chevrolet in the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. The genesis of the sponsorship dates to a chance vacation meeting between KVRT co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and VBR president Hines “Chip” Marshall, Jr. Kalkhoven invited Marshall to the 2012 Indianapolis 500, which led to VBR becoming an associate sponsor on Tony Kanaan’s Indy 500-winning car in 2013.

Marshall decided to sponsor Coletti’s car for the inaugural NOLA event to thank Louisianans for their support of VBR, based in Broussard, La., and celebrating its 35th anniversary in June.

“I thought this would be a great way to show my appreciation to the people of Louisiana, the way I feel about them,” Marshall said. “And do something fun for a change.”

Coletti is eager to attack the NOLA track. He was among the many who tested here in the pre-season, but there have been a host of safety improvements addressed since then.

“All the changes they made on the track were great,” Coletti said. “They put a lot of gravel beds around (in runoffs) and I think they moved some tire barriers and they made it a lot safer. I like the track. The first time I came here, I thought the track was a lot of fun to drive. I think it’s going to be better this way. I think there’s still some improvements to do, but they came a long way and I think we have to thank the people from the track for doing all this effort.”

Of Note:

A black flag indicator (text and/or light) is mandatory in the dash/steering wheel configuration for each Verizon IndyCar Series entry starting this weekend, according to the rulebook. It will be triggered through the timing transponder by race control. … All Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda cars are carrying “Get well soon MJ” stickers for their weekend races at NOLA to honor Pro Mazda driver Michael Johnson, who was injured in a practice session crash at St. Petersburg on March 27. Kyle Connery, teammate of Johnson’s at JDC MotorSports, has a sticker on his helmet that reads “Get Well Michael.”

FRIDAY QUOTES:

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, fastest of the day): “It’s still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling. The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it’s been when we’ve tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower but the track is still really good. Like I said, we still have a ways to go before the race, but it’s definitely a good start for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet.”

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, second fastest of the day): “It’s really cool (NOLA Motorsports Park). Really fun. The two road courses that I absolutely love are this track and the Indy road course. They are just a lot of fun and have very similar flows to them.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We tried a lot of things today on the Verizon car. I wasn’t really happy with the balance of the car this morning. We still have a ways to go. It was a lot of fun to get out there and get some laps when the track was drying. We don’t know what the weather will do tomorrow or Sunday, so we’ll just have to see what it brings for the rest of the weekend.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “To be honest, we still have some work to do here at NOLA. We are close but we still need to find a little more. We did want to make a few changes to the Hitachi car between the morning practice and the afternoon session, but the rain kind of hurt that. It was good to get back out there for a few laps after the track dried, but we weren’t able to do too much with it. We will try to see what we can do on Saturday.”

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KVRT Chevrolet): “We have had a great day in the No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KV Racing Technology car. We worked through a lot of things in the first practice session and ended up finishing P6. The second session was shortened due to the rain and the track was still half wet and half dry, but we were able to get a few good laps in at the end and finished P4. We still have some work to do in Practice 3 tomorrow and then hopefully we will have a good qualifying session in the afternoon.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We went out to get a baseline feel for the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet in the first session to better the car and the balance. At the end of the session, I was pretty pleased with the car. We took a new set of black tires, but I struggled to get a clean lap. It’s good to know there’s speed in the car. The track had rubbered in a bit this morning for more grip, but with the rain all that will be gone for tomorrow.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): “In the first practice session we worked on balance overall. The Brita car was too loose on new tire runs, but I think that will translate to faster lap times when we go to the alternate red Firestone tires. We had a fair amount of traffic at the end when we tried to put a lap together, so I think there is more left in the car. Overall the team has good speed in all four cars and that’s a great way to unload here at NOLA and get started.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a good day. We thought we were going to get rained out and that didn’t happen, at least for the first practice. I am really happy with the Mistic E-Cigs car. The crew did a really good job. We unloaded pretty strong. Then we tried some things and it didn’t make it better. We had other ideas for this afternoon, but the weather decided otherwise. Overall, I am pretty optimistic for this weekend.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a difficult first day for NOLA. The first session, we were struggling with the grip level and the balance when the track was dry and we had to go through a lot of items and data to figure out why. In the second session, the track conditions were a little tricky because it was damp but towards the end it was 80-90 percent dry but there were still a couple damp spots. It’s relative but the car improved a lot and the car is in the ballpark. It was a good improvement and we were very happy that we were able to run the second session to check it out.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): “We didn’t have the best first session, but I really do feel that we learned a lot and figured some stuff out with the car. We’re going to go back more towards what we ran here at the test, which will probably help us. The track temp was so much warmer today than when we tested here. It’s really kind of hard to tell exactly where we need to be with the car setup but I think we’ll be OK. We have learned a lot and the guys are doing a great job. We’ll just keep working hard on this thing and get it better and better. We’re not far off, it’s just so competitive. We’ll be there; we’ll be fine. There wasn’t much to be learned in the wet session, but we had a couple of things we wanted to check and were able to do that.” (On racing in the rain): “Racing in the rain is always a different art. I think the biggest thing here is to see how the drainage will be. We’re going to have to see how that plays out. It is a permanent road course so that should help versus some of the street courses.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “This morning was OK. I think the pace was decent even though we had a bit of problem on the second set of tires. It was a bit unfortunate I couldn’t improve my times. There were a lot of red flags; I even spun myself. I don’t really know what happened when I spun. I lost the rear before the apex, which is quite strange. Maybe I touched the grass under braking or something. Overall, it was a good session. It is interesting because the track was really different from when we tested here, but I think we have a good dry setup.”

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “The morning session was positive and the car is doing really well. Carlos (Huertas) has been very fast and consistent. From my side, I made a few mistakes and my good laps were ruined by red flags. It is difficult waiting for the track to dry because I just want to go out and run. I think we had a good setup this morning due to the testing we did here. Unfortunately, I was not able to drive as fast as I had hoped, but the car is great and the team has done a great job.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “This morning was a bit of a messy session with many yellows and red flags so it was a bit difficult to find a rhythm. I feel confident that we didn’t really express our potential. Josef (Newgarden) did well and I think we were able to get close to him, so it’s good that we are working toward the right direction. The car is getting where we want. We have to be positive and tomorrow I think will be a good day for us.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “This afternoon’s session was much better, definitely. It was a little short, but I think we improved a lot from the first session. We still have some work to do, but looking forward to getting back in the car tomorrow.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Our day on track was a bit shortened because of the weather conditions, and the first session had a lot of red flags, so we didn’t get as much green time as we would have liked. For sure, we are already more competitive than we were in St. Petersburg. In the second session, when the track was drying up, the people who got the most laps out of it, of course, were quickest in the end. Anyways, we have to focus on tomorrow. Tomorrow the weather also looks really inconsistent – a chance of rain again – so we’ll see what happens.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda): “With the delays, the second session was extended a bit and we ended up running out of fuel when the track was under the best conditions. We just never really got the clean laps we needed to gauge things and get quick times. We were on a good lap when (James) Jakes spun in front of me – I was on a lap for a quick time right there. We’ll pull together and hope for more tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was an incomplete day for us with the DHL Honda. In the first session we never really got going in our changes. We were trying some big experiments with some of the aero package that didn’t end up panning out for us, so we ended up going fastest in our first outing – which was unfortunate. But we were able to get a little track time at the end of the day and I think we have a potential direction for tomorrow.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We didn’t roll off in the direction we should have, but we wanted to try something that we thought was the way, but we found a new direction the second session and I think it made a big difference. Both cars are looking a little bit better now and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “Today was good. We unloaded off the truck better than where we were at the test here, so I think we feel more confident than we were in the offseason around this track. Everyone did a good job just trying to get up to speed quick. We didn’t get the second session in, but the first session was really clean for us and we learned a lot. I think we’ve got a pretty good mindset going into qualifying tomorrow and we’ll just try and make the most of that so we don’t have to start at the back here.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “There are definitely some things that we need to improve on before qualifying tomorrow. We had some mechanical issues that held us back and I had a little spin about halfway through the practice. The good thing is that the pace of the (Nos.) 9 and 10 cars during that first session was pretty fast, so we can learn a lot from both of them and continue to better the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet. We’re really close and I’m feeling really good about where we are heading into tomorrow.”

INDYCAR Mandates Structural Upgrades to Manufacturers’ Bodywork Components

INDYCAR Mandates Structural Upgrades to Manufacturers’ Bodywork Components

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, April 9, 2015) – INDYCAR announced it has mandated structural upgrades to strengthen designated Honda and Chevrolet bodywork components in advance of this weekend’s inaugural race at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. The modifications include the addition of components that will improve the overall strength of the bodywork for both manufacturer entries. The components have been redesigned by each manufacturer and approved by INDYCAR for implementation for the balance of this season.

“We applaud both Honda and Chevrolet for their efforts to implement these changes,” said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. “With a quick turnaround from St. Petersburg, our partners were very diligent in making these enhancements in time for this weekend’s event. We will continue this collaboration and expect additional improvements in the future.”

The structural upgrades announced today were implemented to minimize the amount of damage to bodywork components in the event of car-to-car contact, which will benefit teams, manufacturers and Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

“INDYCAR delivers a quality racing product and we will always be proactive to implement changes that benefit our fans,” Walker continued. “These upgrades are a good first step that will make immediate improvements to the race this weekend at NOLA Motorsports Park.”

The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana will be held April 12 at NOLA Motorsports Park and will be broadcast live on NBCSN (2:30 p.m. ET) and the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213 and XM 209.

INDYCAR News And Notes – April 7, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. NOLA Race Added to de Silvestro’s Slate
2. CFH Racing Adds Hildebrand for Indianapolis Events
3. Of Note:
* Penske Drivers Shine in Debut Events
* Happy Birthday Rookie

1. NOLA race added to de Silvestro slate: Initially announced as a one-race entry, Simona de Silvestro will compete this weekend in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

The 75-lap race on the 2.74-mile, 13-turn NOLA Motorsports Park road course in Avondale, La., is April 12 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

In support of the local community, de Silvestro will be carrying Ochsner Health System’s branding and the Racing For Kids logo on the car. She will be part of Racing For Kids’ visit to patients at Ochsner Hospital for Children on April 9.

De Silvestro, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2010 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, qualified 11th in her first race since September 2013 and finished 18th.

“It’s great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg,” de Silvestro said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race.”

Andretti Autosport confirmed April 2 that de Silvestro would drive the team’s fifth entry for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. It will also field an entry for Justin Wilson in addition to its regular entries for defending Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz.

“She proved herself both on and off the track. The great thing about Simona is that she keeps her head down and continues to push – she fights hard. We’re happy to be able to bring her back for another round before the Indy 500,” team owner Michael Andretti said.

2. CFH Racing adds Hildebrand for Indianapolis events: JR Hildebrand will reunite with old friends and double his fun next month when he drives in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race for CFH Racing.

Hildebrand was announced today as driver of the No. 6 Preferred Freezer Services CFH Racing Chevrolet Dallara, the team’s third entry for the two Verizon IndyCar Series events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will drive alongside teammates Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi for the May 9 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course and join Newgarden and Ed Carpenter in the CFH stable for the Indy 500, set for May 24 on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Hildebrand, 27, teamed with Carpenter in last year’s Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter Racing, which merged in the offseason with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing to form CFH Racing. Carpenter won the Indy 500 pole, while Hildebrand qualified ninth and finished 10th. It also marks the second straight year Hildebrand will ride with sponsorship from Preferred Freezer Services, the New Jersey-based operator of temperature-controlled, cold-storage warehouses around the globe.

“It was really great working with Ed last year at the 500 and I did a little bit of testing in the offseason with Josef; we got along really well,” said Hildebrand, aiming for his fifth Indy 500 start with a best previous finish of second in 2011. “I expect the relationship that the three of us have to be potent and for us to have great communication. That’s such a huge piece, particularly at the 500, where there is so much practice, qualifying is so intense and we’ll have the new aero kits. You need every last ounce of speed you can get out of the cars for both qualifying and race day, and we can all work together to reach that goal.”

Hildebrand, who will make his first start on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, emphasized its importance to the team’s chances of success throughout the month.

“To have the Grand Prix (of Indianapolis) added onto the 500 program is great,” he said. “Having a race under our belts going into the 500 is a huge difference from a one-off scenario. It can be tough sometimes when you have guys who haven’t done pit stops as a group during a race and you don’t have that chemistry yet. It will be great for my team of guys to have a warmup heading into the oval race and great for me to get back in a car on a road course.”

3. Of note: Penske drivers shine in debut events: Current Team Penske drivers have won the last four Verizon IndyCar Series debuts at new venues: Simon Pagenaud won on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Will Power won at Baltimore in 2011 and Sao Paulo in 2010 and Helio Castroneves won at Barber in 2010. … Happy birthday rookie: KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti turned 26 on April 6. Coletti’s car will be sponsored by Louisiana based oil field rental tool company, Variable Bore Rams, Inc. in the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

INDY GRAND PRIX OF LOUISIANA FAST FACTS

INDY GRAND PRIX OF LOUISIANA FAST FACTS

Track: 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course (clockwise)
Race distance: 75 laps / 205.5 miles
Entry List:  Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (PDF)
Push-to-pass parameters: 10 activations for 20 seconds each
Firestone tire allotment: Eight sets primary, three sets alternate
Twitter: @GPofNOLA, @IndyCar, #GPofNOLA, #IndyCar
Event website: www.gpofnola.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2014 race winner: New event
2014 Verizon P1 Award winner: New event
Qualifying lap record: New event

NBCSN race broadcast: Sunday, April 12 (2:30 p.m. ET)

NBCSN qualifying broadcast: Saturday, April 11 (5 p.m. ET)

Brian Till will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s broadcast of the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kelly Stavast, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller are the pit reporters.

Video Streaming: All practice sessions for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar andRaceControl.IndyCar.com .

Radio broadcasts: Paul Page is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Qualifying and all Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network, Sirius 213, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR 15 app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.comand the INDYCAR 15 app.

At-track schedule (all times local):
Friday, April 10
12:15-1:45 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
4:15-5:35 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)

Saturday, April 11
12:30-1:15 p.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series practice)
4:15 p.m. (Three rounds of Verizon IndyCar Series qualifications)

Sunday, April 12
11-11:30 a.m. (Verizon IndyCar Series warm-up)
1:30 p.m. NBCSN on air
2:37 p.m. Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana green flag

Race Notes:
* The Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana is the first Indy car race at NOLA Motorsports Park and first major auto race in the state of Louisiana since a 1995 IMSA GT race in downtown New Orleans.

* Juan Pablo Montoya started the Verizon IndyCar Series season by scoring the win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Can he continue his strong start by adding another win at NOLA Motorsports Park?

* With a third-place finish at St. Petersburg, Tony Kanaan has finished on the podium in six of his last eight races. Now the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner looks to add a win at NOLA Motorsports Park. Can Kanaan keep up his podium streak?

* Kanaan seeks to start his 235th consecutive race, which would extend his Indy car-record streak that began in 2001 at Portland. Teammate Scott Dixon has made 176 consecutive starts.

* Team Penske, which earned its 175th Indy car win at St. Petersburg, will field a formidable four-car juggernaut in New Orleans hoping to sweep the podium after placing all four cars in the top five at St. Petersburg. St. Pete race winner Montoya is joined by reigning series champion Will Power, who finished second at St. Petersburg, Helio Castroneves, who finished fourth at St. Petersburg, and Simon Pagenaud, who finished fifth in his team debut.

* Dixon, the longest-tenured driver for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, is tied with Bobby Unser for fifth on the all-time Indy car victory list with 35.

* Simona de Silvestro, who made 65 starts over four Verizon IndyCar Series seasons, is the only female driver entered in the race. She made her return to the series at St. Petersburg after a one-year absence, finishing 18th.

* The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork kits designed, manufactured and supplied by Chevrolet and Honda. Cars are differentiated by their shape on the street course as the manufacturers have designed separate aero kit specifications for road and street course/short ovals and speedways for the Dallara IR-12 chassis. References to the cars will incorporate the name of the corresponding manufacturer.

* The No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Dallara crew of Tony Kanaan won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a total pit lane time of 99.024 seconds. The NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing crew will receive its $10,000 award during pre-race festivities at the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana.

Pre-Race Quotes:
Will Power (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “You have to acknowledge what an amazing job Chevrolet and all of the engineers at Team Penske have done in the off-season. They have a lot to be proud of with the way we performed as a team at St. Pete. There is no reason to think that it won’t carry over to NOLA this weekend, not only because of the testing we did there in the off-season, but we have typically run very well at the new venues over the last couple of years. NOLA is wicked fast and what it takes to get around that place really suits my driving style. The grip is very tight and it should promote great racing. To me, it’s really impressive that the fans can see the entire track. That’s a cool aspect of NOLA that not many tracks have. New Orleans knows how to have a good time and I believe everyone that comes out to the track this weekend will certainly have one. Hopefully we can get our first win of the season in the No. 1 Verizon Chevy. It’s going to be a hard-fought race because I know everyone is going to want to be the first winner at NOLA.”

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, series points leader):“I’m really excited to get to New Orleans. Yes, we are coming off a win in St. Pete, which always makes you hungry to get back to racing, but I’m looking forward to getting back on the track at NOLA. From my first lap there in testing I came away very impressed with the facility. The grip level is amazingly high, especially with the new aero kits. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on the ‘red’ Firestone tires. It’s going to be very interesting with everyone flying around. I’m very proud of how my No. 2 Verizon Chevy team came out of the gate strong this season. It’s only been one race, but compared to how we struggled last year at the start it’s a night-and-day difference. It’s just the difference a year makes. We are working just as hard and we haven’t made any radical changes to the team. It just comes down to experience.”

Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “NOLA Motorsports Park is very technical. The people of New Orleans should be really excited because the racing is going to be fantastic, I can tell you that. There is a lack of elevation changes, which can make it tricky for us drivers because you don’t have any points of reference, but it means that the fans can see the entire track from the stands. Every racetrack has its own characteristics and NOLA is no exception, but with two tests there under our belt we should have a lot of it figured out. It’s different than many other tracks, but it’s very fast. Team Penske got off to a great start in St. Pete, coming really close to a 1-2-3-4 finish. That shows that all of our hard work during the off-season is paying off. The Hitachi Chevrolet was very solid in the opener and if we can find a little more speed, I think we can be in Victory Lane on Sunday.”

Stefano Coletti (No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KVRT Chevrolet): “I am really excited for this next race in New Orleans and to also have Variable Bore Rams, Inc., who are a local Louisiana company, as my primary sponsor this weekend. The track at NOLA is amazing and a lot of fun to drive. The KVRT team has had a few successful tests there over the last few months, so I think we are prepared and ready to be up front this weekend. We showed great potential in the race at St. Petersburg a few weeks ago, but unfortunately the final result didn’t reflect that. Hopefully everything comes together this weekend and I can give everyone on the team and VBR a great result.”

James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I think everyone is looking forward to going to NOLA. We love going to new tracks and seeing new races. I was lucky enough to be part of some of the build-up to the race with the Mardi Gras celebration. Seeing what I saw, I think the city is going to come out in full force and really support the event, and that’s what everybody wants to see. On top of that, it’s a cool new track and it’s fast. It’s going to be a great place to really explore what these body kits are capable of, so there’s a lot of things to look forward to. More than anything, we’re aiming to get the result on the board after the weekend in St. Pete that certainly wasn’t what we were aiming for.”

James Jakes (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “NOLA is a great addition to the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar. I really enjoyed the track when we tested there and it should be a great event all around. Our testing sessions at NOLA should put us in better position from a competitive standpoint. Our goal is to score some much-needed points for the championship after a disappointing race in St. Pete.”

Sage Karam (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet): “We did a lot of off-season testing with the aero kits at NOLA, so I feel I’m much more prepared for a track like this than St. Petersburg. I’ve turned a lot of laps and miles at the track so far so I’m feeling pretty good about it. I think the race is going to be good. NOLA is a fast track and you’re going to see a lot of mistakes, and in turn a lot of passing opportunities. It’s a very physical track as well. The fans in Louisiana are going to get to see some raw speed with this layout. I would watch for passing in Turns 1 and 10.”

Scott Dixon (No. 9 Brita Chevrolet): “I think we were one of the first INDYCAR teams to actually test at NOLA before the big test where everybody went. It was a little bumpy in some areas, but it has very long straights that are very fast. The section from Turns 1 through 6 is a lot of fun and there is another great section toward the end through Turns 10 through 14. There are also high-speed corners and some tight hairpins as well. For the fans, the coolest part is that it’s quite flat, which for a driver sometimes is not the best thing, but visually it’s fantastic – from one spot you can see the whole track. There are big braking zones and long straights, so it’s kind of a combination of all the things that you need at a new track and one that spectators are going to love. As far as the city of New Orleans, I haven’t been but hopefully we get to celebrate after the race and go down in the French Quarter and check that out. It’s a new area for us, we haven’t been to that part of the world before or that part of America, and hopefully we can get the buzz going for a bunch of people and have some good races there.”

Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “It was great to start the new season with NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing with a podium finish in St. Pete and be able to break up the Penske cars from sweeping those top four spots. It obviously isn’t a win, but we’ll take the third-place finish and use it to build on. We’ve had some really good test days at NOLA Motorsports Park and we’ve been able to get solid data with all four cars running and testing different things. It’ll be a lot of fun getting out onto a new track and seeing what all the teams can do when we’re starting from a more equal playing field with track experience.”

Sebastien Bourdais (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs-KVSH Chevrolet): “It’s always exciting racing on a new track. We have tested at NOLA twice, but we were only there once with the new aero kits. I think we have some good data and a decent baseline setup for NOLA, but track conditions always change so you have to be able to adapt to the conditions. The NOLA track is challenging and fun. It has everything between slow-speed, medium- and high-speed corners and I think it is going to be hard on tires. I think it is going to be a challenging race for the drivers, which means it should be a fun race for the fans to watch.”

Takuma Sato (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Turns 1 and 3 are probably the most popular places to pass at NOLA and at the end of the back straight could be another one. There will be slight modifications for Turn 1 from when we tested there so we will see, but it seemed very bumpy on the inside of the braking area toward Turn 1 so that will be a bit of a concern when overtaking. Everyone says it feels like the Indy road course. That’s because the track is very flat and has a couple of high-speed chicanes. To me, there are some bumpy, tricky corners which remind me a little bit of Edmonton’s airport circuit. NOLA’s in a big, open field and you can see pretty much everything from the grandstands. There is not much of a real runoff area and that field is a little rough if you go off, so that’s similar to Edmonton, too. However, NOLA will be installing some new gravel areas so that will improve the safety of the track. I look forward to going there.”

Graham Rahal (No. 15 D-A Lubricant Company Honda): “We’re looking forward to running the D-A Lubricant Company colors at NOLA. They have been a great partner so far and bring a lot of enthusiasm, so we want to have a good race weekend for them. New Orleans is tricky because it’s a very flat track so there aren’t a lot of reference markers for the drivers. When we normally race, you see a certain marker, spot on the ground or, at times, a shadow you know you have to brake right at that point. The NOLA track is very flat so it’s hard to have any of that. It’s a track that’s very demanding and it’s very important to get the maximum out of the car. It seems to be one of the most difficult tracks to put a lap time together completely and get the best out of yourself and every corner. Having said all of that, we’re looking forward to going there. Even with an 11th-place result in St. Pete, we feel we had one of the best cars in the race and the team has a lot of momentum and can’t wait to get on track again. I really think that all signs are pointing to us being able to have a great year. Our goal is to go to New Orleans and try to rack up as many points as we can, move ourselves up in the championship and kick off Long Beach and the rest of the season. For sure, the competitiveness of the teams and of the series is tremendous. Penske was very good in qualifying and they obviously had a good race, too, but I think we are seeing that there are a lot of teams that are very, very close together. You certainly can’t slip up and in qualifying we slipped up a little bit and had our worst session of the weekend and that really hurt us. We need to make sure we are on top of our game because there is no margin for error with the field as tight as it is. You have to be on it and that’s what makes the Verizon IndyCar Series so exciting right now.”

Carlos Huertas (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I tested there for two days and I like the layout of the circuit. It will be interesting to see how much overtaking this circuit is going to provide and the tire wear should come into play in the race. I hope to have a good weekend and that my 2015 really starts in NOLA.”

Francesco Dracone (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I am looking forward to getting back out there after a disappointing St. Pete race. This is the one circuit that I’ve had some time testing with the current aero package and I hope to turn that into a successful weekend.”

Luca Filippi (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I can’t wait to be at NOLA Motorsports Park. I really like the circuit very much, and being a new race for everybody, I think it could be a better opportunity for me. After a top-10 result at St. Petersburg, it will be good to try and raise our goal a little and get a better result. The team is doing a great job and I’m looking forward to having another successful weekend.”

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “To me, NOLA Motorsports Park is similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in terms of layout. You have to be really precise with your braking point and the speed you carry into the corners. I think fans will see good racing and a lot of passing. The new aero kits are going to put on another good show, I believe. All of us on the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet team learned a lot at St. Pete about how we can race with the new kits. As you saw in the second half of that event, we stayed off of each other a lot more. We’ll continue to get better in that regard. This is a new team and we are going to take a couple of races to really start gelling together, but a top five in our first start is definitely a positive sign and now we are ready to take the next step.”

Simona de Silvestro (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s great to get another shot in the car and improve on everything we learned in St. Petersburg. I’m really looking forward to being able to work with everyone again and hopefully have a better race. I’m really thankful for all that Michael (Andretti) and everyone at Andretti Autosport have been doing to make all of this happen.”

Carlos Muñoz (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “It’s really exciting to be going back to New Orleans. I love the city, and I think the track is really fun. We’ve tested there (NOLA Motorsports Park) a couple of times so we know it pretty well, more or less. It’s the first time the (Verizon) IndyCar Series is going to NOLA, so everyone is really excited about it. Hopefully the weather will improve – because it doesn’t look great right now – but at least it will be the same conditions for everyone. I’m ready to get back in the car and see if we have something – see if we have improved from St. Pete.”

Marco Andretti (No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda): “We’ve done some testing at NOLA. I love the track and the city, and I think it will be a great event. The track is a real commitment racetrack and one of our faster road courses with a couple passing zones. Turn 1 will be the best stop to see overtaking. We started the year with a top 10 in St. Pete and are hoping to keep climbing up from there for the Merchant First/Snapple car Honda.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We are coming off a positive test (at NOLA) a few weeks ago and are looking forward to the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana. The weather could play a major factor, and it’s something we are keeping an eye on as we consider setup options. Wet conditions will be extremely tricky at this particular track… but sometimes big risk equals big rewards.”

Jack Hawksworth (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “I really enjoy going to new circuits. It’s always exciting to see which teams and drivers can understand the circuit quickly with the limited track time we get over the course of a race weekend. The strategy is always very interesting as well due to the fact we have no previous race data to call on. It makes for some interesting races. NOLA reminds me of a slightly quicker version of the IMS road course; it’s very flat with a couple of quick corners and some long straights with big braking zones. Hopefully this should open up a lot of overtaking opportunities in the race.”

Josef Newgarden (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to getting back with the CFH Racing team in New Orleans. It’s an exciting new market for everyone in Indy car racing. Everyone has been putting in a lot of work to make this event successful and hopefully grow for the future. We’re going to be looking to maximize the weekend for ourselves as we continue the championship race. St. Pete wasn’t where we want to be, but we finished clearly in the points. New Orleans will be critical for us to try to maintain positive momentum and try to score solid points. That’s our goal. Hopefully we can hit the ground running when we get to New Orleans and finish strong.”

Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to going back to NOLA Motorsports Park, and this time seeing some fans in the stands. The Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team had a couple of good tests there recently, so we’re going in with a bit of data in our back pockets. I know they’ve made a lot of improvements to the track within the past few months as well, after the Verizon IndyCar Series teams had a chance to test, so it will be interesting to see how the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana race plays out. The No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet definitely had the speed at St. Pete, but unfortunately just not the result to back it up. Every single person on the team is focused and committed to make this a successful season; we have another shot at it this weekend.”

Gabby Chaves (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “Our test went well at NOLA and that should help us start out the weekend more competitively. Additionally, what we learned in the first race will be especially helpful for race strategy. I think that NOLA being a new track on the schedule will be a good thing for us since other drivers don’t have years of experience around here and that levels the playing field a little. We learned in St Pete about tire management, which may play a big role at NOLA, too, and allow for some close racing with plenty of opportunities to overtake.”

INDYCAR NEWS AND NOTES – April 1, 2015

Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:

1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race

2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg

3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

4. Of note:

• Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons

• Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete

• Show car on display at Long Beach Airport

• HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson

 

1. ABC Supply to title Pocono race: The penultimate race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway has been renamed the ABC Supply 500. The racetrack in Pennsylvania and the building supplies distributor announced the entitlement earlier today.

Pocono Raceway will host the Verizon IndyCar Series for the third consecutive year for the 200-lap race that will play a crucial role in the championship. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 29, won at Pocono from the pole last year.

“ABC Supply is a true industry leader and their love of racing couples our own,” said Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky. “They have been involved in motorsports for over 10 years now and we are thrilled to welcome them to our extended Raceway family. We cannot wait to work with them to promote the ABC Supply 500 this year.”

ABC Supply Co. also is the primary sponsor of the Nos. 14 and 41 AJ Foyt Enterprises cars of Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth, and is the race entitlement sponsor of the July 12 race in Milwaukee.

“For a decade now, our racing program has brought thousands of our associates and customers together to celebrate and cheer for our team,” ABC Supply vice president of operations Mike Jost said. “This year we are excited to have the chance to increase awareness of both ABC racing and INDYCAR in general with our sponsorship of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.”

Wisconsin-based ABC Supply is in its 10th season as sponsor of the AJ Foyt Racing entries. Foyt won Indy car races at Pocono Raceway in 1973, ’75, ’79 and ’81.

“It means a lot to me that ABC Supply is sponsoring the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway this year,” Foyt said. “ABC Supply has been a great sponsor for me and for INDYCAR for the past 10 years, so I’m glad to see them align themselves with Pocono. Pocono Raceway has always been one of my favorite tracks because I really enjoyed racing there.

“The owners, the late Doc Mattioli and his wife Dr. Rose, were and continue to be really good friends of mine. Their grandsons, Brandon and Nick, have done a great job following in their footsteps with all they have done at the track in recent years. I think the fans will see another fun and competitive Indy race there this year.”

2. Montoya comes full circle at St. Petersburg: Foremost, Juan Pablo Montoya had to be honest with himself early in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Qualifying 18th and finishing 15th in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was an inauspicious start, and though he could easily have put the emphasis on acclimation to a new car and racetracks after a 14-year hiatus from Indy car racing, Montoya said he “had to grow as a driver.”

“Last year was a tough year for us at the beginning. We knew that,” said Montoya, who won the 1999 CART title and 2000 Indianapolis 500 before moving to Formula One and then on to stock car racing. “We knew it would be a process to get to where we needed to be. Normally I’m really good at remembering everything about every track and last year I think this was such a blur for me. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I didn’t really pay too much attention to details.

“It was tough not only (at St. Petersburg) but generally on the street courses. I’m a guy that always excelled at street courses everywhere I raced. To come (to St. Petersburg) and have a year with really bad street course racing, it was pretty tough.”

On balance, Montoya quickly found his footing on the diverse set of street/road courses and ovals. Two weeks after St. Petersburg, he advanced 12 positions to place fourth at Long Beach. He finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 and then strung together four top-10 finishes, capped by a victory from the pole at Pocono Raceway in early July. Claiming three consecutive top-five finishes to close the season and finish fourth in the championship standings sparked confidence that carried through the long offseason.

Now, a year after his heralded return, Montoya has come full circle by winning the 110-lap opener on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit. He held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over a 27-lap duel of wits and will to win by .9930 of a second. All four Team Penske drivers finished in the top five (Helio Castroneves was third and Simon Pagenaud was fifth). Castroneves’ Lap 90 time of 1 minute, 01.8607 seconds in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest race lap in the 11 events under INDYCAR sanction at St. Petersburg.

“It’s a good way to start the year,” said Montoya, who qualified fourth in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. “We worked really hard in the offseason preparing for this. We wanted to hit the ground running. Our car was unbelievable. It was fast and it was fun. To win on a street course after my performance last year, I’m like ‘Oh, yeah.”’

Suddenly, championship talk has germinated. The motorsports veteran will take it in stride, looking to further hone his race craft and continue to develop the Chevrolet aerodynamic bodywork package on the upcoming road and street course at NOLA Motorsports Park for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on April 12, the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 26 and the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9 before the 99th Indianapolis 500.

“The fun factor is that you can win races,” said Montoya, who celebrated the victory trackside with a sizable Colombian contingent. “I mean, I feel like I’m in the best team. I have a great sponsor. We’re performing well. What’s the downside of it?”

3. Inside the box score – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg: Numbers to note following the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — the opening round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

1.44 – Average running position of runner-up Will Power for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg. Power led 75 laps.

2.83 – Average running position of winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the 110 laps of racing at St. Petersburg.

4 – Positions gained by Jack Hawksworth in the final 11 laps of the race. (12th to eighth).

6 – Consecutive races at St. Petersburg led by Will Power.

7 – Lead changes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The previous 10 averaged 6.5 lead changes.

13 – Career Indy car victories by Juan Pablo Montoya, tying him with Tom Sneva for 32nd all-time…Positions improved by Jack Hawksworth (21st to eighth), most of any driver in the race.

17 – Finishing position of Gabby Chaves, the highest-placed Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate.

21.7 – Percentage of races that Juan Pablo Montoya has won in his Indy car career (13 for 60).

30 – Number of laps in which Jack Hawksworth improved his position – most of any driver in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

66 – Races led by Will Power since the beginning of 2010, a span of 87 races.

119 – Career top-five finishes for Tony Kanaan (third place in race) and Helio Castroneves (fourth place) after their finishes at St. Pete. The pair is tied with Scott Dixon, Bobby Rahal and Dario Franchitti for sixth all-time.

175 – Indy car races won by cars owned by Roger Penske. Team Penske has 97 oval wins and 78 road/street course wins.

219 – Number of total on-track passes in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Rookie Stefano Coletti had 18, most of any driver.

234 – Consecutive starts by Tony Kanaan, extending his all-time record.

4. Of note: Castroneves takes spin with Detroit Pistons: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves and Shannon Sailes, the “Dancing Usher,” entertained fans on the Detroit Pistons’ “Dance Cam” on March 31. The duo instigated the skit during a second-quarter timeout that even caught the attention of players at The Palace of Auburn Hills. “Doing the dance with Shannon was a blast. He is a really good dancer and I like his moves,” Castroneves said. “I’m glad he wasn’t on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ when I was there. I have hung up my dancing shoes these days but I was able to bring out a few moves to keep it interesting.” … Bourdais logs best start at St. Pete: Sebastien Bourdais’ sixth place in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was his best finish in an Indy car season opener since 2006, when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on his way to the Champ Car title. It also was his best finish in five starts in St. Petersburg, where he resides. … Show car on display at Long Beach Airport: Travelers passing through Long Beach International Airport will see a Verizon IndyCar Series car in the terminal to promote the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19. … HoneyBaked Ham to back Clauson: HoneyBaked Ham of Bloomington, Ind., will be an associate sponsor of the KVSH/Jonathan Byrd’s Racing entry in the Indianapolis 500 driven by Bryan Clauson.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg results

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.8 mile St Petersburg street circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (4) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
2. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
3. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
5. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
6. (6) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
7. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
8. (21) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
9. (19) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
10. (12) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
11. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
12. (10) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
13. (5) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
14. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
15. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 110, Running
16. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
18. (11) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Honda, 110, Running
19. (18) Sage Karam, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
20. (17) Stefano Coletti, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
21. (13) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 109, Running
22. (20) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 100, Running
23. (23) Francesco Dracone, Dallara-Honda, 70, Mechanical
24. (24) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 19, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winners average speed: 86.735
Time of Race: 02:16:58.1079
Margin of victory: 0.9930 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 22 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Power 1 – 21
Pagenaud 22 -23
Power 24 – 48
Hawksworth 49 -53
Power 54 – 82
Castroneves 83
Montoya 84 – 110

Point Standings: Montoya 51, Power 44, Kanaan 35, Castroneves 33, Pagenaud 31, Bourdais 28, Hunter-Reay 26, Hawksworth 25, Filippi 22, Andretti 20. .

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Quote Sheet

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “Honestly, it was the hardest fought 10th (place) of my career. Sort of just different balances all the time – three problem cars in every corner. We were really on top of the racetrack, but we’ll work to figure things out sooner rather than later.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a solid result for the Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing team, but it was a bit up and down. Initially, it felt like we had something special going. I got TK (Tony Kanaan) and the car had good pace. Then I made a couple of mistakes and a restart didn’t go my way. After that, Sato hit us and we lost three positions. It was one of those races where you controlled the damage, but you don’t feel you have achieved what you were capable of. I am satisfied with the result and happy for the team, they did a good job. It’s a good start to the season. The pace was good when we got clear air, but it is definitely is hard to follow other cars and get a run on them. We will keep digging, keep working on starting higher up on the grid and see where we end up.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “Really proud of the Hitachi Chevy guys today. They did a great job and we battled hard throughout the race. The car was fast. We didn’t end up where we would have liked to be, but overall we had a good day. Really happy for Juan (Montoya) and congratulations to him on the win and to Will (Power) on his podium finish. Great way to start the season for Roger (Penske) with a 1-2 finish.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda): “I learned so much today. I learned tire management and the differences in the red to black tires. I learned about fuel saving, driving to a number and trying to not lose position. The incident with the 5 car (Hinchcliffe): I saw an opening, but it closed up. I tried hard to avoid it, even getting down in the grass, but just couldn’t avoid it. All in all, it was a good weekend. We learned a lot as a team, I learned a lot and we showed that we can run strong at this level. I’m really looking forward to NOLA and the rest of the season.”

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “The KV Racing Technology team gave me a great car today, but unfortunately we didn’t have the result to prove it. The car was fast and I overtook a lot of people. Every restart I overtook several cars, improving three or four positions. Obviously, I am disappointed with the final result. I had some issues and had to make up a lot of positions, so I used a lot of fuel. As a result, I had to pit with four laps to go. At least I had fun today in my first Verizon IndyCar Series race and hopefully the result will change when we race in New Orleans in two weeks.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “The incident with Carlos (Munoz) kind of started the whole downhill of our day. We lost a lot of pace after that incident and then we were kind of behind the ball a little bit. At the end, you just kind of keep going – you adapt to it (how the car changes after an incident). Then, it was unfortunate with (James) Jakes; he seemed to brake really early into the last turn and I couldn’t really avoid him. We finished – it’s definitely not the day we wanted. I think we were expecting much more, just a lot of things that went wrong during the race and could never really settle except towards the very end. Not the greatest day in the race car. I think it’s been a positive weekend; we showed that we had the pace, which is a good thing, for sure. Not racing for a year and a half, you can feel that, especially when you are passing people – it’s like, OK, I haven’t done that in a while. It’s OK – I don’t think I’m really happy with it, but we finished the race and it’s experience we’re going to take on if we do more races together.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chevrolet): “It wasn’t the day we had hoped for in the Target car today. We had some early issues with the air jack and couldn’t get the car off the ground during our pit stops. It seemed like the front would come up, but the rear end would stay on the ground. The team did the best they could on our stops, but in reality you can’t be competitive in this type of racing when your stops are taking that long. We just never seem to have the best luck in St. Petersburg but we’ll keep pushing for the results we know we’re capable of.”

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I am really upset that I wasn’t able to finish the race today. I was having fun out there and having some success. I think the team had me on a good strategy but there was something not right with the power delivery of the car. I was having some issues and couldn’t continue. Hopefully we will get it sorted and do better in the next race.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I am happy with that. Obviously, so many things are new to me. On one hand we want to have good results, on the other hand we know that we have to learn a little before we can really fight for the podium. The team did a great job, they gave me great pit stops and we can build on this. This is a good start for the season, from here I can just get better and better.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “Really fun race, really entertaining. After the disappointment in qualifying, the guys really worked hard last night and found what was wrong and corrected it and gave me a fast car today. We lost the front wing on the first lap, replaced it, then had some contact in the middle of the race and lost an end fence. I didn’t have a clue what was going on out there, I was just pushing like crazy all the way through once we got into clean air because I knew that was going to be important. The guys made good stops, got me in clean air and we finished in the top 10 from the back of the grid. I was really happy for the whole ABC Supply team. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with an eighth-place finish before.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was not how we wanted to start the season. Something wasn’t right with the steering because when I turned the wheel all the way, it didn’t feel like I was getting as much to the wheels. I didn’t make contact with anything but something clearly wasn’t right. I would like to have finished the race but I would have been struggling to keep my pace enough. Hopefully things will go better in New Orleans. We just tested there so I got to know the circuit and am looking forward to going back there.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I think that was the hardest seventh-place finish I’ve seen. That’s how it is sometimes, when you have bad days you have to bring home solid top 10s. We fell back to like 18th or 19th after the issue at the start with Bourdais. We rebounded nicely, but to be honest I think that’s about the car we had today – a sixth- or seventh-place car at best. We’ll take the top 10 and move ahead with the DHL car for New Orleans.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): “It was a really fun race for us and I’m just so happy that I was able to get NTT DATA Racing a podium finish in the first race out. We still have some things to work on to get better as a team, but I’m pretty happy with today’s finish. I have to give so much credit to the guys on pit lane. They just did such a great job today. This is a nice way to start the season and after this third-place finish, I’m even more motivated to continue to do better.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 GE LED Chevrolet): “It was funny, I came into the pits after the race, took off my helmet to debrief with the guys and noticed I didn’t use any tear-offs from my helmet! A rookie mistake, I guess. I was so focused on taking care of the car and running good laps, I totally forgot. But all in all, I just tried to do what the team told me to, which was keep the car in one piece and run all the laps. That was the plan today. Although I wished we would have finished higher, I know that this is a learning process. I spoke with Dario (Franchitti) after the race and we talked about saving fuel and how crucial that is in these races. I know we’ll get better and I had a good first experience in the GE LED car in my first road and street course in the series.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “Obviously it’s a disappointing result for the No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen guys. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing has worked really hard over the winter. We had great pit stops, and I got taken out by some dumb driving. We ended up fixing the rear wing and when I was in clean air, the car was really fast. I guess that is the frustrating thing, really. The result wasn’t there but the speed in the car was. I can’t wait to get the car back to NOLA, where we had a good test at the beginning of the week, and then to Long Beach.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet): “Today was a good day, to be honest with you. The car was really good on black tires and that was the key. The tires were not falling off and right there at the end I was just running slow to look after them. When I needed to push, I could push. Everybody with Verizon and Team Penske did an amazing job – Chevy as well. This aero kit is amazing to drive.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “So it wasn’t a good race with everything that happened. I smashed my front wing and I wasn’t really good in the restarts, so that was part of it all. We weren’t really there the whole weekend, so we have to work hard for New Orleans.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a really strong effort from everyone to try to keep us in the fight. All the CFH guys were awesome, as they always are. I have to say thank you to Ed (Carpenter), Wink (Hartman) and Sarah (Fisher) for everything that they do to make this happen. Twelfth is not the best finishing position, but we can only go up from there. I think we had a car that was able to challenge for a top-five finish, but we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Right when Charlie (Kimball) got spun out in Turn 10, it was a bottleneck, I got into the back of (Sebastien) Bourdais and damaged the front wing. It sort of hurt us; we struggled to fight with everyone after that. We lost a lot of pace, then did what we could to finish as strong as possible. Twelfth was the best we had today, but I think we have more for the future.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “The Penske Truck Rental boys did a great job today. I am happy and you have to take it step by step. You just can’t walk onto a team and push your teammates out of the way. I didn’t want to create a mess at the start of the race, which I thought was a smart move but it was too cautious, which cost me a position during the race. (Fifth place) is a good start to the season and I’m excited about the next race already coming up in NOLA.”

ROGER PENSKE (Team Penske, Owner): “Well, I will tell you it was a fight between our two guys in front there. It was just an amazing weekend. The guys worked hard in the offseason on the aero kits and thanks for Chevrolet and Verizon for the support. But to come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six – wow, what a day.”

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet): (On his late attempt to pass Montoya for the lead) “That was the only place that I could kind of get a run on him. He was very good out of the last corner, so the only chance I had to get around and drive past him was there, but I think he saw me. It was kind of optimistic, but if he would have gave me something, I would have taken it; but he didn’t. He did what anyone would have done. He was phenomenally fast. I couldn’t drop him on that stint before and he was very quick on the reds. … It’s a great day for the Verizon car. As we thought it would be, it’s going to be a battle between teammates for the championship, I’m sure.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “The car was really good. I was very pleased with it. I thought we had a car that could have won today. When we got into fifth place after passing (Sebastien) Bourdais in Turn 1, (Simon) Pagenaud in Turn 4 and then Charlie (Kimball), I had Helio (Castroneves) in my sights. I was strong on restarts so I thought I would be able to fight my way up there and catch up to (Will) Power. I knew we had reds (alternate tires) to come, which in the end proved to be a strong suit. But then we got penalized. Kimball had a broken car and I didn’t know what he was doing. He was so slow off of Turn 9 that I thought he was pulling over and then he accelerates into the kink. He had a broken car and was slow. I went inside of him and then he broke deep. He was cranking in well before the apex so I was trying to bail out and I just tapped him. Sure enough, I dive inside him and he comes over. It’s a shame because the car was good today.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a tough race. We got a good start but then after a restart, there was a bottleneck in Turn 1 and I was boxed in. (Sebastien) Bourdais and I touched and it damaged the front wing. We had to change it and that really decided our race. We were able to overtake a few positions, but the time we lost was too great and we couldn’t get back to the front. It was a tough one, but hopefully we got some good data for the next race.”

Montoya Holds Off Teammate Power to Win Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sunday, March 29, 2015) – Juan Pablo Montoya held off Team Penske teammate and reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power over the final 27 laps to win the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by 0.9930 of a second.

Montoya held a 3.3-second advantage over Power following an exchange of final pit stops on Laps 81 and 82, but Power closed to within 0.6147 of a second on Lap 100 and was sizing up his best opportunity to attempt a pass of Montoya’s No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Power, who set the track record on the way to winning the Verizon P1 Award for the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street course a day earlier, made his move entering the tight left-hand Turn 10 on Lap 101. The cars made slight contact and Power’s No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet fell 1.5474 seconds back at the start/finish line.

“If I hadn’t damaged my wing, maybe I would have had another shot,” Power said. “He was very strong on the front straight and my exits weren’t very good. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there. You don’t expect someone to pass there, so, yeah, I gave it a shot.

“I was surprised at how aggressively he turned, but he wanted to win the race and so did I.”

Montoya recorded his second victory since returning full time to Indy car racing in 2014 and his first on an Indy car road or street course since Vancouver in his 1999 CART championship season.

“I saw (Power) make the move, but he was way too far and I wasn’t going to give him the position,” Montoya said. “If he was beside me, I would have said, ‘OK, go ahead.’ When I got to the turning point, he wasn’t even close. It is a shame we touched, but it’s all good, it’s racing.”

The last Team Penske 1-2 finish was August 2014 at Milwaukee, with Power beating Montoya by 2.7 seconds. It was the 175th Indy car victory for the team (78 on road or street courses).

“It was a fight between our two guys in front. It was just an amazing weekend,” team owner Roger Penske said. “To come back this year with the fast times in qualifying and win this race 1-2, and four drivers in the top six, wow, what a day.”

Tony Kanaan, driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, finished third and Helio Castroneves, the only three-time winner at St. Petersburg, placed fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud finished fifth in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished seventh in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport car, was the highest-placing Honda entry. Last year at St. Petersburg, Power held Hunter-Reay at bay on Laps 78-110 to make an opening-round statement on the way to earning his first series title.

Bucs wide receiver serves as grand marshal

Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drew a cheer from the crowd growing in front of the Team Penske workspace in the St. Petersburg paddock, but he pointed to Helio Castroneves moving in for a handshake.

“It’s game day for him,” said Jackson, the grand marshal for the race. “He deserves an ovation.”

Jackson, who gave the command to start the Chevrolet and Honda engines, and Castroneves exchanged a Hitachi Team Penske shirt (XX large) and a Bucs jersey before the race. Jackson also presented Green Savoree Racing Promotions principals Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, owners of the annual event since 2005, jerseys with their names on the back.

“I’m a local (year-round Tampa resident) and I’ve come to this race for the last few years. This is an honor to be part of this event,” Jackson said. “It’s always entertaining, it’s always a great draw and the racing is phenomenal. This is a new role for me, not being a spectator and getting to know some of these guys and be part of the event. I’m a car guy and having Helio show me his car close up is exciting.”

St. Petersburg embraces the race

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman looked toward the blue sky, looked at the fans streaming into the downtown race circuit and declared it “a wonderful day” for the city and INDYCAR. Kriseman attributed the tens of thousands of spectators attending each of the three days of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in part to the city’s “Embrace the Race” marketing campaign.

“An event like this has such an impact on our city and we wanted to try to make everyone feel like they’re a part of it,” Kriseman said. “When you do that, you have so much more fun, too. I look forward every year to this weekend, and to see the community embrace it through the years, and especially this year, has been wonderful.

“The downtown has changed a lot since the first race (2003),” the mayor added, “and I expect that in the next few years it to look totally different with all the construction going on and new restaurants, and I see it as more opportunities to get people downtown on this weekend.”

The picturesque setting alongside Tampa Bay and spectacular early spring weather complemented the on-track action.

“It’s just a special place to go racing,” said Kevin Savoree, Green Savoree Racing Promotions president and COO. “The fans love this race, and I share with everyone that Kim (Green, CEO of Green Savoree) and I are just the stewards of this race. It really belongs to everybody in St. Pete and I’m sure that every year they put an ‘X’ on their calendar for this race weekend.”

Herta, Gordon to be added to Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame

Verizon IndyCar Series team owner and former Indy car driver Bryan Herta and Indy car race winner Robby Gordon will be inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on April 16 as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race weekend.

Herta, whose Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian will enter the No. 98 Honda driven by series rookie Gabby Chaves in the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, drove to third-place finishes in the 1998 and ’99 races on the California street circuit.

“I had a pole at Long Beach and led three of the races, but it’s one that got away from me,” Herta said. “To be inducted into the Walk of Fame is incredibly special for me because it’s my home race.”

Gordon finished third in the 1994 Indy car race at Long Beach and posted victories in the 1992 Trans-Am Series and 2014 Formula Off-Road Series races.

Herta and Gordon are both Southern California residents. The Walk of Fame medallions include renditions of the racers’ cars and their major achievements in motorsports.

Six races, three winners in Mazda Road to Indy

The three Mazda Road to Indy ladders series conducted doubleheader races this weekend and each series saw the same driver win its two races. Ed Jones led every lap of both Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races, Neil Alberico drove to victory in both Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires races and Jake Eidson was triumphant in the two Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda races.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Tire Designations

SP Car Driver Name C/E/T Tire

1 1 Power, Will D/C/F Alternate
2 22 Pagenaud, Simon D/C/F Alternate
3 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/F Alternate
4 2 Montoya, Juan Pablo D/C/F Alternate
5 14 Sato, Takuma D/H/F Alternate
6 11 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/F Alternate
7 10 Kanaan, Tony D/C/F Alternate
8 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/F Alternate
9 9 Dixon, Scott D/C/F Alternate
10 67 Newgarden, Josef D/C/F Alternate
11 25 de Silvestro, Simona D/H/F Alternate
12 27 Andretti, Marco D/H/F Alternate
13 83 Kimball, Charlie D/C/F Primary
14 26 Munoz, Carlos D/H/F Alternate
15 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/F Alternate
16 5 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/F Primary
17 4 Coletti, Stefano (R) D/C/F Primary
18 8 Karam, Sage (R) D/C/F Primary
19 20 Filippi, Luca (R) D/C/F Alternate
20 7 Jakes, James D/H/F Primary
21 41 Hawksworth, Jack D/H/F Primary
22 98 Chaves, Gabby (R) D/H/F Primary
23 19 Dracone, Francesco (R) D/H/F Primary
24 18 Huertas, Carlos D/H/F Primary

Team Penske Sweeps Top Four to Start Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 28, 2015) – Team Penske swept the top four positions in the Firestone Fast Six, led by Verizon P1 Award winner Will Power, during qualifications for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion recorded a lap of 1 minute, 0.6931 of a second in the 10-minute session on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg temporary street circuit in the competition debut of aerodynamic bodywork supplied by Chevrolet and Honda.

In the first two rounds of qualifying, Power set and reset the track record that Sebastien Bourdais (1:00.928) held since the inaugural St. Pete Indy car race in 2003. Power lowered the standard to 1:00.8344 in Round 1 and bettered it with a lap of 1:00.6509 in Round 2. Had he had a clean lap in the waning seconds of the Firestone Fast Six, the driver of the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet said he likely would have made it three in a row.

It was the 37th career pole (sixth on the all-time pole wins list) for Power, who previously was the top qualifier at St. Petersburg in 2010-13. He won the race in 2010 and again in 2014 on the way to his first series championship.

First-year Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud was 0.0321 of a second behind Power in the Firestone Fast Six to qualify second. Helio Castroneves, the only three-time race winner at St. Petersburg, qualified third (1:00.8356) and Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth (1:00.8532).

“It was tight. Full credit to the team. I’m stoked to get pole,” said Power, who won from the fourth starting position in his 2014 series championship season. “It just shows the work we’ve done over the winter. It’s four good drivers that will battle it out (3 p.m. ETSunday on ABC).

“Team Penske has definitely made ground over the winter over the other teams. I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting four-way battle amongst the team and Scott Dixon is right in there as well. I expect those five to be the championship contenders.”

Takuma Sato, who earned the Verizon P1 Award in 2014 with a lap of 1:01.8668 in the Firestone Fast Six driving the No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing car, was the quickest qualifier of the Honda contingent in fifth (1:01.1496) and Bourdais qualified sixth (1:01.1545) in the No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet.

Stefano Coletti qualified 17th in the No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet as the top rookie.

Power makes it two on monument, looks for three

Will Power affixed a plaque bearing his name to the Victory Circle monument near Turn 10 of the St. Petersburg track today and promptly pointed to the next available space on the granite block.

“My name is on there twice now. Let’s see if I can make it three,” said Power, who added the new plaque commemorating his victory in the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after winning the 2010 race.

A Buckshot by any other name

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Jakes is British, by way of Leeds, England. But now, thanks to his team, he has “a good, old-fashioned, American” nickname.

“They call me ‘Buckshot,'” Jakes said with a laugh as he pointed out the corresponding sticker on the rear of his helmet. “It just came out of nowhere.”

In his previous Verizon IndyCar Series seasons from 2011-13, Jakes was informally known as “Jakesy.” Now, with James Hinchcliffe as his teammate and both sharing the same first name, something had to change.

“With two Jameses flying around, the engineers thought it would get complicated,” Jakes said. “My engineer (Dan Hobbs) has a NASCAR background and thought it would fit.”

The Captain is ready for season to set sail

Roger Penske is the winningest owner in Indy car history, with 174 race victories that include 15 Indianapolis 500 triumphs. Even with all that success behind him, the Team Penske owner is excited for what looms ahead this season.

“With the new aero kits creating a different look and feel for the cars, there is a lot of energy and anticipation around the start of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series,” Penske said. “We know how competitive the series has been in recent years and with some talented young drivers added to the mix this year, it has all the elements to be a very exciting season. This is the first time we will run four cars at Team Penske, with Simon Pagenaud joining Helio (Castroneves), Will (Power), the series champion, and Juan (Montoya), we know the level of competition will be even higher among our own team. After a long offseason, we are all definitely ready for the green flag at St. Petersburg.”

Karam on the mend

Sage Karam, competing in his second Verizon IndyCar Series race this weekend, is still recovering from a hand injury suffered March 16 during the preseason Promoter Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Karam said he felt “about 90 percent” in the seat of the No. 8 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn St. Petersburg street circuit.

Post-Qualifying Quotes:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We’re not even close. I thought our potential was a little better than that. We’ve been struggling with understeer – can’t get the car to turn – which, for outright pace, is not good. But maybe for the race that’s a good situation to try and look after the (Firestone) reds.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “Just really proud of the KVSH boys. It’s one of those days where it can go either way. For the first time since ’03, I got out of the (first qualifying) group and got in the (Firestone) Fast Six. OK, we got off to a good start. Pretty proud of that. The car was pretty good. We started the weekend really in a hole. It might not have shown in the lap times, but we were not happy with the car. It was pretty rough. So to come out and make the Fast Six, it’s a good achievement. It’s definitely better than where we started last year. We’ll see how we can race. But there was definitely something in that last lap. I got a bit greedy. I was up a tenth and a half (of a second), I went for it, went to the escape road and probably ruined Simon’s lap. It is what it is. But very happy with the progress we made and looking forward to tomorrow.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet): “The Hitachi car has been pretty consistent, I have to say. We basically worked a little bit harder than what we thought. I have three other very good guys in the team, which is good because each one tries something different. In the end of the day, you’re just pushing to the limit. So it’s a perfect testament of great teamwork. Having 1, 2, 3, 4 (in qualifying) shows we’re pushing to the limit, all four of us. I think each one wants to be in front, but at least for the team it’s a good problem to have, having all four guys fighting for the pole position. I’m very excited at this point because we work in a way that hopefully we are going to have a result like that. That’s our goal. Our goal is to go out there and try to win a race. The best day for each car? We will find out tomorrow.”

STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “It was a disappointing qualifying for my first INDYCAR race. I have been struggling with the car all weekend. The things we thought we learned at the Sebring test earlier in the week, we found out did not work here. Despite the limited track time we have had, I was able to learn the track pretty quick and it’s a lot of fun. We will work on the car tonight and make some changes and hopefully, tomorrow I will have a good race car and have a good result for my first Verizon IndyCar Series race.”

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “Eleventh is OK, for sure. I would have liked to be a little bit more up front. But being back here in INDYCAR, it’s definitely been a busy week. We just tested a little bit at the beginning of the week, and just getting to work with everybody here at Andretti Autosport has been great. I think to qualify where we are, it’s OK for the race. Hopefully we can improve tomorrow.” (On the biggest thing she’s noticed since her return to the Verizon IndyCar Series) “Well, definitely the aero kit; it changes the car quite a bit. I think that’s the biggest thing. You have to change a little bit how you’re driving and even kind of understand what the car needs to be fast. I think we’re all learning that, and hopefully we’ll make even more improvements tomorrow.”

FRANCESCO DRACONE (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It was a pretty hard day. ‘Quali’ was difficult to set the pace needed but the car was much improved from practice sessions. The team is doing a great job. Having the red tires for the first time was challenging for me, having never used them. The track is getting faster and faster. The balance seemed to get better on the red tires so I am looking forward to more laps on those. Tomorrow we are going to go for a good pace and try to avoid mistakes. It has been a challenge for me all weekend because I’m driving a new car for the first time on a circuit I have never driven. All of the drivers here in Florida are at a very high level.”

LUCA FILIPPI (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “The lap times were very close and I felt good in the car, especially the last few laps. I thought we were doing quite well, but actually the times were so tight I missed the first cut and did not make it to Round 2. We ran the first few laps on used tires and I didn’t have a good read on the condition. Tomorrow is a long race, we’ll think about the strategy and try to get the best out of it. I think we will be strong for the longer run.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “For some reason we were struggling under braking — the rear of the car was pretty loose and we didn’t have any traction so we need to find out why and start again tomorrow. Obviously on the first day we had a pretty competitive car so we need to understand what’s going on and come back better tomorrow. Fortunately we have the morning warmup where we can validate what’s going on.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “I’m obviously pretty gutted not to make it out of the first qualifying session. That’s not what I’m used to or what this team is used to. Certainly there are some areas for improvement, but it’s not due to lack of trying. We’ve been working so hard this weekend and over the last couple of tests to get the Arrow Electronics car dialed in. It’s just a little bit far from where we need it right now, but it’s not a long way. When you look at the times, it’s just a small change that will give us what we need to jump up a few positions. We’ll look at it overnight and learn a bit more in warm-up tomorrow, but we’ve got a bit of a strategy advantage with an extra set of (Firestone) reds. Not to say we wouldn’t rather be a little further up the grid, but that’s the situation we’re in and hopefully we’re going to come together with a good package tomorrow. With some quick driving, good pit work, good strategy, we’ll get up there.”

CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Obviously I was hoping to start higher than I am. I got into the 1:01‘s, which I was happy about, but it wasn’t enough. It is so tight out there and when you look at the times there isn’t much between advancing and not advancing. I think we are still struggling with setup some, which makes it even harder when it is tight. We need to work tonight and concentrate ontomorrow. I hope we can make some changes tonight and can be faster for the racetomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “In many ways we rebounded today from yesterday’s practice, but it was a disappointing qualifying run. From the first laps, I didn’t really feel we had the balance and the grip level to contend for the Verizon P1 Award, so we need to go back and find some more grip. We’re just a little shy on overall grip at the moment, and hopefully tomorrow we can put it together for warm-up and get this DHL Honda up front. It’s a bit of a frustrating day here because we’ve been in the Firestone Fast Six here in the past. We’ll look to regroup for tomorrow.”

JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was a very difficult day, to be honest. It’s a shame but we’re making progress with the No. 7 SPM MediaTech car. We have a little bit more work to do. Hopefully we can have a good racetomorrow and move forward. Our goal is to get some solid points and develop a good baseline to continue the season with.”

SAGE KARAM (No. 8 GE LED Chevrolet): “It’s pretty frustrating. That was the expectation for me – to go to the next round. It’s a good car. It’s the first time I’ve driven on red (tires), so it’s a learning experience for me. Every lap, I felt like I was getting better and better, and I was starting to brake later and later. I was starting to lose the tire a little bit. I think that’s one of the things the rookies are going to face here this weekend is that we’ve never driven red tires. We have to learn them. We’re going to go to the next race and have a better understanding for it and be able to qualify better. The GE LED car for Chip Ganassi Racing is a pretty good car now. I think we have a good race car and can race our way to the front.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet): “It’s good. I’m kind of disappointed with that lap, to be honest. It’s funny because from my previous session I was three-tenths (of a second) up coming to Turn 10. It’s the last corner. Just had to lift on the exit. Mad, but still ran a decent lap. I don’t know, for the team I think it shows how hard we work over the winter. I think it shows as well having Simon (Pagenaud) onboard and being a four-car team, I think it’s been really, really good. Running the Verizon car has been amazing. I don’t know, like we said yesterday, what could be better: 1, 2, 3?  It was a 1, 2, 3, 4. To be honest, I think all the year is going to be like that. We’ve just got to make sure we don’t beat each other.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “It was OK. I’m just a little bit frustrated – I could have gone into the next phase. Everyone’s really close here, so you really have to set up every piece (of the car) together (to get it right). It’s a shame, buttomorrow’s a long race, so we’ll see what happens.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I’m relatively happy. You’re in the front end of the grid. There are 24 cars, so starting in the top 10 is strong around this place. This is generally a very difficult place on tires, so the further up you start, it’s always better. We’re going to have to look after them better tomorrow. I think we’re kind of burning off our rears a little too quick. So in the morning warmup, we’ll have to maximize that and make our tires live. It’s such a long race and you have to be able to make them live. If you don’t, people keep sneaking up behind you out of the hairpin and you get dive-bombed going into Turn 1. I think that’s what we’re working on to maximize for tomorrow. As far as today, we struggled in the practice earlier and I think we made a huge leap forward. Now we’re in the top 10 and we have to work our way a little bit more, try to get into the top five and challenge the guys up front.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “It’s very fast. I’m super happy, to be honest. It’s incredible to start this way with Team Penske. We have a lot of pace. The car is fantastic. Thanks to everyone for searching and developing so much. The 22 crew is brand new and is doing a great job. It’s fantastic to be a part of the Penske family. I’m really proud. Today was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed qualifying.”

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet): “It’s been a really good offseason. I think just the way the team is, the teammates, it provides a lot of motivation. Obviously winning the championship makes it a very pleasant offseason. You’re not sitting around wondering why you didn’t win again. Yeah, I’m enjoying it. I was really satisfied to get pole here today. All the practice sessions are working towards that, literally one lap that gets you pole. It’s a session where everyone gives it everything they’ve absolutely got. When you get pole, it’s very satisfying. It’s really difficult these days to do that. You don’t see anyone getting more than three or four poles during a season now. It’s the same for wins. Anytime you’re at that end of an INDYCAR field, it’s awesome.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “We just seem to struggle with power down. We were only a couple of hundredths (of a second) away from advancing to Round 2. So if we can figure out how to maximize power down and get off the corner well enough, we will be in a better position. In fact, the lap before my best lap was a tenth (of a second) better down the front straight and that’s probably the tenth we needed to advance. It’s going to be a long day of work tomorrow starting from 15th. I think we’ll be OK in the race, but starting from where we are is going to make for a long day.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): “It’s a new season. Very exciting with Honda and Chevrolet presenting new aero packages. For the fans, cosmetically different, too. We obviously need to maximize performance. Over the course of the winter testing, I think we were quite satisfied with the result today. Proud to have the A.J. Foyt Racing car in the top six. Jack had a little issue, but we’ll find out.”

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