ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.Large crowds of loyal and new race fans flocked under sunny skies today to attend the first day of the 2011 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Day one featured a lengthy list of family-fun activities and intense on-track activity as drivers and fans alike returned to race mode.

Will Power topped the speed chart today with a lap of 1 minute, 3.3759 seconds late in the hour-long afternoon session. Dario Franchitti, the reigning series title-holder, was second on this day with a quick lap of 1:03.5180 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

There were 16 drivers, however, within one second of Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, including Mike Conway in the No. 27 Team Godaddy entry for Andretti Autosport who was third (1:03.6660).


“The GoDaddy.com car has worked well since we got here," who is making his first start since being injured in the Indianapolis 500 last May. "It’s just a case of chipping away at it every day to get some more speed out of it. I think we’ve got some good things to try tomorrow morning. We’ll try to do our homework tonight and come out a bit stronger.”


There also were five different teams represented in the top 10.


“I was very surprised to be P1, honestly,” Power said. “I think I had a bit left in me to show in the Verizon Team Penske car. It was not a very good session for me, but it’s going to be a long weekend. The Verizon car is good, but you can see the competition is getting closer. Now we just have to manage the gap.”


Franchitti has been saying that for weeks as he surveyed the depth of the field and given the fact that the Dallara chassis, which will be retired after the season, has just about reached its development peak.


"The field is very, very close," Franchitti said of the time sheet. "There’s so many cars on the track. That the series is so healthy is good. It's great to see the crowd on a Friday. The place was packed so that was really sweet to see.”


Ryan Briscoe (1:03.7214), the 2009 race winner, was fourth overall and Scott Dixon (1:03.8734) fifth. Two-time event winner Helio Castroneves (1:03.9049) was sixth quick.


Marco Andretti, four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais (making his IZOD IndyCar Series road/street debut with Dale Coyne Racing), Tony Kanaan (making his debut with KV Racing Technology-Lotus) and Danica Patrick (celebrating her 29th birthday) filled out the top 10. Raphael Matos (1:04.3873), also making his debut with AFS Racing, in 18th position was still within one second of Power.

For day one results from other competing races, visit:

 

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