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Franchitti and Power top Infineon practice

Will Power will hope that a return to road courses gives him the edge in the championship fight, but Dario Franchitti served notice of intent by pipping him to the top time on Friday.
Dario Franchitti staved off Will Power on a road course, with a time of 1:19.4269s managing to put the Scot just over a tenth of a second faster than the Australian at the end of the Friday afternoon practice session for Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in California.

"There is still room to improve, but I am happy with the performance today," said Franchitti. "It feels like there is some more grip compared to the test here [held last week] and I hope that the track just continues to get better as the weekend progresses."

"We are very close to getting the car where we need it," said a confident Power. "It just comes down to sorting out the fine details. The team will try to think about the changes we can make tonight and see where we can go tomorrow."

Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon finished third and fourth in the timesheets on the 12-turn 2.52-mile natural-terrain course, meaning that the top four positions were all held by the last four winners at the venue: Will Power is defending champion here, but Franchitti took the honours in 2009, Castroneves in 2008 and Dixon in 2007.

After her big press announcement on Thursday, Danica Patrick - never a natural road course racer - returned to the cockpit with Andretti Autosport and finished the practice session in a disappointing 26th place. Her team mates Ryan Hunter-Reay (12th), Marco Andretti (15th) and Mike Conway (18th) also had a rather average Friday at the races.

"It was a pretty challenging first day for us," admitted Hunter-Reay. "We'll have to change a lot of the settings for Saturday. It was different from last week's test. We felt the car was okay last week. That wasn't the case today. Just overall lack of grip."

A number of drivers struggled particularly with the turn-in to the chicane, culminating with spins for Scott Dixon and then James Hinchcliffe two minutes from the end of the practice session that brought out a full course caution. After race control allowed a brief extension to permit cars one final fast run, a large number of cars then proceeded to run straight off onto the dirt again before returning to pit road.

Alex Tagliani had earlier caused a full course caution, a little over nine minutes from the end of the initial 45-minute part of the 75-minute Friday practice reserved for rookies and drivers outside the top ten. He was uninjured after running off at speed into the tyre barrier out of turn 3.

The session saw current Renault Formula 1 test driver Ho-Pin Tung take to the track with Dragon Racing and finish the day with a very creditable 17th position. Tung was reunited with Dragon after he impressed them at Indianapolis in May, and the team struck a technical support deal with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to run him this weekend on the California road course under the Schmidt Dragon Racing banner - which should see him become the first Chinese driver to make an IndyCar Series start.




Related Pictures

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JR Hildebrand locks up at Infineon Raceway [Photo by Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media]
Ho-Pin Tung makes his debut for Schmidt Dragon Racing at Infineon Raceway. [Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Ho-Pin Tung makes his debut for Schmidt Dragon Racing. [Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Simon Pagenaud stands in for Simona de Silvestro at HVM. [Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media]
Dario Franchitti on track at Infineon Raceway. [Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Will Power celebrates with his team after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his team owner Roger Penske after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his wife Liz after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by posing with the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by kissing the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with his wife Liz Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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