Will Power only completed a handful of laps in Friday's second IndyCar practice session at St. Petersburg, but they were enough for the Australian driver to head a Penske 1-2 ahead of Ryan Briscoe.
Power set his quickest time of 1m02.0077s on just his third lap and then sat out much of the rest of the session, returning to the circuit for the final minutes of running following a late red flag. His teammate Briscoe was second fastest, missing Power's time by just 0.08sec while reigning champion Dario Franchitti locked down the third-quickest lap to put himself just ahead of his Ganassi stablemates Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon.
"We sat most of the session. We just did two three-lap runs," related Power. "We definitely made improvements from the first session. The car felt better. I think we definitely need to make more changes overnight. We basically saved our tires. We are pretty restricted on them for tomorrow's practice and also the race.”
Power continued his push to encourage IndyCar to boost the power output of the new 2.2-liter V6 engines, saying today's runs proved the need for it.
“No question, I think we would like to see more horsepower," Power said. "Something like it was in Champ Car, because the car actually has a lot more grip now. It probably has a little bit more top-end horsepower. I think this car can handle a lot of power. Another 150, I think.”
Asked about observations that the new car appeared more stable than the old Dallara over the St, Petersburg temporary course, Power replied, “It feels that way just because of its downforce. It is just more ‘stuck,' easier to drive, no question.”
Briscoe agreed: “Until you are not wheel-spinning before the brakes are on, you don't have enough power. So, we will take as much as you give us.” However, he added that he expected the new car to be on a record pace on most road courses at the current power level. “Oh, it will be fast. I mean, the car has a lot of downforce, good brakes. I believe we will be setting track records all over the place this year.”
Penske's Helio Castroneves was sixth, with James Hinchcliffe (Andretti), Tony Kanaan (KV), Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) and Mike Conway (Foyt) rounding out the top 10.
The dominance of the Penske and Ganassi cars sounded an ominous note, although Briscoe cautioned that the additional question marks about reliability remained.
“You never know in the race. I think no one has really expected anything less than seeing Penske and Ganassi on top," Briscoe said. "There are a lot of things we are going to learn this weekend in the race with this new car. There is no doubt there is a lot of stout competition out there other than the two teams we are talking about. I think we sort of, at Penske and Ganassi, are always the teams setting the standards and the goals for everyone else to reach.”
After setting the pace in the first session, Dixon didn't seem too concerned after slipping back to fifth in the second.
"We worked today on balance for the most part," he related. Coming back to St. Petersburg with a new car, there are a lot of unknowns, obviously. The Target car is good, though. We made a number of adjustments in the second session and I think we over-adjusted and got the car too loose. Looking back now, I think we should probably have been higher up on the scoring charts."
Fastest in the "non-Penske/Ganassi class," Hinchcliffe was reveling in the performance of the new car and latest-spec Firestone tires.
"I think certainly the Go Daddy car saw an improvement from the first session to the second today, which is what we are here to do," said Hinchcliffe. "If we can improve a little each session, then when it matters we're going to be there. We'll just keep chipping away and hopefully get the No. 27 Chevy in the Firestone Fast Six by tomorrow afternoon.
"This track is fun, as you know, it's my first time here in an IndyCar and it feels a lot tighter in this car than it did in a Firestone Indy Lights car! The car has a decent amount of power and grip to hold onto the (green) track the way it does.
“We have a brand-new tire compound this year for street circuits and the tires are really, really good when they're new. It feels like we have a ton of grip and the balance is really good. But it seems like compared to last year they are degrading at a quicker rate. Maybe that's intentional – I think Firestone was maybe asked to do something to spice up the show a bit. When the tires fall away sooner it will definitely make the racing better. With the limited time we've had on the tire so far it's just up to us to figure it out, get a better feel and learn how to keep the tires under the car a bit better and longer.”
It was a tough afternoon once again for series newcomer Rubens Barrichello, whose efforts were hampered by a still-to-be identified mechanical problem on his KV Racing car. The Brazilian finished the afternoon down in 23rd place, with a best lap 1.3sec slower than Power's.
“With the problem we had this morning, it was pretty much a setback,” Barrichello said. “I spent the afternoon session learning the track, while everyone else was now improving their cars. I was playing catch-up big time, that's for sure. Hopefully tomorrow I can improve a little more.”
Simona de Silvestro narrowed the gap between Lotus and the Honda- and Chevrolet-powered frontrunners, posting a time that was 16th quickest, and 0.9sec off the leaders, in the HVM Racing entry.
"We made really big improvements this afternoon on the car side. I know we still have a bit of work ahead of us for qualifying, but I think we're moving in the right direction on the car and also on the engine," said the Swiss. "We've started creeping up a little bit and it's been going better and better. It's fun."
Practice 2 times:
Pos Driver Team/Car/Engine Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.0077s
2. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.0931s + 0.0854s
3. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m02.2232s + 0.2155s
4. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m02.2924s + 0.2847s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m02.3317s + 0.3040s
6. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.3190s + 0.3113s
7. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.4632s + 0.4555s
8. Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.4814s + 0.4737s
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.5301s + 0.5224s
10. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 1m02.5337s + 0.5260s
11. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.5624s + 0.5547s
12. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 1m02.5997s + 0.5920s
13. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.7683s + 0.7606s
14. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 1m02.7838s + 0.7761s
15. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 1m02.8915s + 0.8838s
16. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 1m02.9136s + 0.9059s
17. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 1m02.9152s + 0.9075s
18. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 1m02.9594s + 0.9517s
19. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus 1m02.9778s + 0.9701s
20. EJ Viso KV DW12-Chevrolet 1m02.9857s + 0.9780s
21. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 1m03.0904s + 1.0827s
22. Alex Tagliani BHA DW12-Lotus 1m03.1812s + 1.1735s
23. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevrolet 1m03.3290s + 1.3213s
24. Oriol Servia Dreyer Reinbold DW12-Lotus 1m03.3535s + 1.3458s
25. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevrolet 1m04.6031s + 2.5954s
26. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus 1m04.7592s + 2.7515s