ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The first day of the start of the 2013 season began pretty similar to the way last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship ended – with Team Penske’s Will Power and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay at the top of the scoreboard.
But unlike last year’s championship outcome where Hunter-Reay won the championship and Power finished first, it was the Team Penske driver that had the edge in Friday’s practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Power’s fast time of 1:01.446 around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course for a speed of 105.457 mph was just seven-hundredths of a second off his track record. IZOD IndyCar Series champion Hunter-Reay was on his tail at 1:01.625 (104.152 mph).
“This is normal,” Power said. “We expect to be at the front and we are always disappointed if we are back because we have the team to do it. We’re not doing our job if we’re not.
“Andretti is right on the pace. They’re two drivers: Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay are no question going to be right there all year. It’s just the year of development. The engine manufactures got a bit more power and just through the development get a little more down force and a lot of grip. I think the power needs to climb and the grip can stay the same.”
Hunter-Reay believes being fast out of the blocks gives his team a continuation of the momentum they enjoyed by winning the championship and vow to be threats for the title again in 2013.
“It feels great to be in the first official IndyCar session of the year,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s still early days; we’ve only done a total of five runs so far between the two sessions. The guys have done a great job in the offseason, the car has a lot of grip in it, but we just need to refine it a bit. We need to make it work for the drivers where they need it. We’re struggling a little bit coming off the corners, so we know there’s lap time there, we know where it is, and we just need to go get it.
“It definitely does feel good. Better than having a bad that is for sure, but it’s still early so it’s nice to go the first day and be up at the sharp end. We have done a lot of work in the off season and we are validating some things today so it’s nice to be there. It’s close though. If you miss just a little bit. If you miss one corner or get one corner wrong you know you are eighth from second. You definitely have to get everything right in the race car and the teams got to get everything right.”