Will Power leads practice for Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

When it came to the road courses last year, it was a continuing battle between Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay. That battle will look to continue in 2013 as Power lead practice with Hunter-Reay second.

Power would top the charts with a speed of 105.457 mph in his No. 12 Verizon Wireless Team Penske Chevrolet.

“”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.”

In speaking of the competition, Power expects both Andretti Autosport and Ganassi Racing to have cars up front.

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“Andretti is right on the pace,” he said. “Their two drivers: (James) Hinchcliffe and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay are no question going to be right there all year. Ganassi, I think, it’s an engine thing, but I guess we will see when qualifying comes, I think that’s when everyone knows where everyone stands and hopefully they’re not good.”

Hunter-Reay was second on the charts, two tenths of a second behind Power at the end of the session.

“It feels great to be in the first official (IZOD) IndyCar (Series) session of the year,” the defending series champion 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. We just need to go get it.”

Surprising some people, Simona de Silvestro was third on the charts, 0.24 seconds off of Power.

“It’s a big difference,” she said. “Last year we came in here and we knew it was going to be a struggle, and this year we come after a really good Barber test and it showed right away. Even this morning I thought we were pretty quick even if we still have a little bit of work to do on the car. It’s definitely a relief to know we can be fast and we can be right up there with the other guys.”

Oriol Servia was fourth with Takuma Sato in fifth.

Power’s teammate Helio Castroneves was sixth, followed by Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, rookie Tristan Vautier and Marco Andretti.

There was no incidents during the session, however it was a surprise to see Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon 17th and 19th on the chart.

“The Target car felt reasonable,” Franchitti said afterwards. “It was actually better than it was in this morning’s session. It just didn’t have the speed in it we’re looking for. It looks like we’re going to have a busy night.”

“Practice wasn’t so great,” Dixon said. “We had a couple of issues with the car not starting and some other mechanical things that just kind of happened. Not the start we wanted to have for the Target team this weekend but we’ll work on getting it right for qualifying tomorrow.”

Qualifying takes place on Saturday at 3:15pm EST with the race schedule for noon EST on Sunday.

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