#02 - Graham Rahal in action. [Joe Jennings Photo]
Rahal And Wilson Tops In IndyCar Practice At St. Pete
by Joe Jennings
St. Petersburg, FL - 2008 IndyCar Series race winner Graham Rahal and former teammate Justin Wilson topped the speed charts as the IndyCar Series completed its first day of practice on the St. Petersburg Street Course. The teams practice and qualify on Saturday with the season-opening race taking the green flag on Sunday afternoon.
Rahal recorded a speed of 102.196 miles per hour in the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing McDonald's car and Wilson was a notch behind at 101.906 mph in the Dale Coyne Racing Sonny's Barbecue entry.
"We were only 10th this morning and some of the guys were a bit worked up," Rahal said. "We knew the car was quick and in the second session, we had a much better car. We ran old tires for a while and then threw on the new tires until we got caught behind Danica (Patrick), which got me out of my rhythm. Overall, it was a good day for the McDonald's team."
Added Wilson, "The Sonny's Barbecue car was really good and it worked well right out of the box," Wilson. "The afternoon was more hectic, but people were trying different things, and you just couldn't get a clean lap in."
Dario Franchitti clocked the third fastest speed with E. J. Viso, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, Will Power, Vitor Meira and Danica Patrick rounding out the top-10 after two practice sessions.
In the morning, the IndyCar Series took to the track after a rain shower and many of the 22 teams elected not to run until the track was dry. It did dry and everyone was on the track toward the end of the morning session.
All teams practiced throughout the afternoon session with rookie Raphael Matos logging 52 laps, the most by anyone. Kanaan, 22 circuits, ran the fewest laps.
In other news, Firestone Racing announced this week the introduction of the alternate tire concept to the IndyCar Series this weekend. The alternate tires are softer than the primary slicks, providing more grip and potentially more speed, according to Al Speyer, executive director, Firestone Racing.
Each team was provided with six sets of primary dry-racing slicks, four sets of rain tires and three sets of alternate "red" tires. Teams are required to keep at least one set of unused alternate tires to use for at least two laps of green flag racing. Teams may use the other two sets of alternate tires during practice or qualifying. At least one set of primary tires must be used for at least two green-flag laps during a race. Should it rain during a race, the alternate/primary rules are waived.