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Power leads St. Pete day one

Mar 22, 2013, 4:24 PM EDT

Honda Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg - Day 1 Getty Images

As could be expected, 2012 IndyCar title rivals Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay paced the timesheets for the second free practice session at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The big surprise, though, was Simona de Silvestro in third.

The Swiss driver, who now races for KV Racing Technology and with Chevrolet engines (after being with HVM Racing and Lotus last year, where her engine was the main handicap), followed up her seventh place lap in the morning quite nicely in the afternoon.

“Last year we came here and knew it would be a struggle,” she said. “This year, we came after a good Barber test and showed well right away. We were quick this morning but still had more work to do. To know we can be up there with these guys. I have to thank my sponsors of Nuclear Clean Air Energy, as they stuck with me. Hopefully we will have a good race to be proud of.”

Of course, the proverbial big dogs, in three-time defending St. Petersburg pole winner Power and reigning series champion Hunter-Reay were always likely to set the pace.

“We’re still fighting the normal things handling-wise,” said Power. “We got a good lap in early. We weren’t that good on old tires. The Honda guys seem on the back foot, but I still think it will be a tough fight.”

“It’s early still, with the track rubbering in,” added Hunter-Reay. “It’s a pretty big gap to close to will. It’s nice to be up there but it’s close throughout. If you get one corner wrong you’re eighth from second.”

Oriol Servia (Panther DRR Chevrolet) and Takuma Sato (A.J. Foyt Racing Honda) completed the top five on the day.

Chip Ganassi Racing struggled; Charlie Kimball clocked in 13th while the usually front-running Target entries were just 17th (Dario Franchitti) and 19th (Scott Dixon) in practice two.

Combined times from Practice 1 and 2 are below:

Rank  Car Driver            Team                C/E/T Time 

1.     12   Will Power           Penske                 D/C/F 1:01.4467
2.     1    Ryan Hunter-Reay     Andretti               D/C/F 1:01.6252
3.     78   Simona de Silvestro  KV                     D/C/F 1:01.6895
4.     22   Oriol Servia         Panther DRR            D/C/F 1:01.7650
5.     14   Takuma Sato          Foyt                   D/H/F 1:01.7703
6.     3    Helio Castroneves    Penske                 D/C/F 1:01.7853
7.     11   Tony Kanaan          KV                     D/C/F 1:01.8087
8.     27   James Hinchcliffe    Andretti               D/C/F 1:02.0039
9.     55   Tristan Vautier      Schmidt Peterson       D/H/F 1:02.0459
10.    25   Marco Andretti       Andretti               D/C/F 1:02.0877
11.    16   James Jakes          RLL                    D/H/F 1:02.1030
12.    77   Simon Pagenaud       Schmidt Hamilton       D/H/F 1:02.1134
13.    83   Charlie Kimball      Novo Nordisk Ganassi   D/H/F 1:02.1962
14.    15   Graham Rahal         RLL                    D/H/F 1:02.3596
15.    5    EJ Viso              Venezuela/Andretti/HVM D/C/F 1:02.3622
16.    19   Justin Wilson        Coyne                  D/H/F 1:02.3833
17.    10   Dario Franchitti     Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:02.4086
18.    7    Sebastien Bourdais   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:02.4166
19.    9    Scott Dixon          Target Chip Ganassi    D/H/F 1:02.5031
20.    98   Alex Tagliani      Barracuda/BHA          D/H/F 1:02.5098
21.    67   Josef Newgarden      Fisher Hartman         D/H/F 1:02.5305
22.    6    Sebastian Saavedra   Dragon                 D/C/F 1:02.5581
23.    4    JR Hildebrand        Panther                D/C/F 1:02.9057
24.    20   Ed Carpenter         Carpenter              D/C/F 1:03.1420
25.    18   Ana Beatriz          Coyne                  D/H/F 1:03.9670
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