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Honda runners struggle on Friday in St. Pete

Mar 22, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

IndyCar St Pete Auto Racing AP

The big mystery after Friday’s two practice sessions at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was why the Honda runners were regularly and frequently off the pace.

Only Takuma Sato for A.J. Foyt Racing cracked the top five, while erstwhile dominant runners Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti failed to break into the top 15 for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Tristan Vautier snuck into the top 10 toward the end of the session.

James Jakes, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal were 11th through 14th, with Justin Wilson 16th ahead of Franchitti in 17th, Dixon in 19th, Alex Tagliani 20th, Josef Newgarden 21st and Ana Beatriz 25th and last.

Power – who was either playing coy or admitting the Ganassi contingent has, in fact, lost a step over the winter – said this could be a situation where Honda hasn’t shown its full hand.

“I’m not sure about the Ganassi guys right now,” said Power. “They’re not fast… but really you don’t know until qualifying. We thought we were at good shape at Indy. Then in the race, they killed us. They may be sandbagging. We need to wait and see until qualifying.”

Power was referring to last year’s Indianapolis 500, when Chevrolet teams locked out eight of the nine top spots on the grid, but Honda runners had both improved pace and fuel mileage come the race on Sunday.

St. Petersburg and Indianapolis couldn’t be more polar of opposites in terms of circuits (1.8-mile street circuit, 2.5-mile oval), but the point still stands. Whether the Honda runners improve on Saturday is a major question going forward.

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