IndyCar drivers back at work with heavy hearts
Justin Wilson was on the minds of IndyCar drivers as they got back to work on Friday less than a week after the British driver died of injuries suffered in last weekend`s race.
Three of the six series championship contenders were among the five fastest in the first practice session for Sunday`s season-ending Sonoma Grand Prix.
Reigning series champion Will Power`s year-old track record of 1 minute, 17.2393 seconds, set in qualifying on the 2.385-mile (3.84-kilometer), 12-turn road course, will be challenged in the three rounds of qualifying August 29.
Power, who is fourth in the standings, recorded the quickest lap of 1min 17.4858sec on Friday in his Penske Chevrolet.
American Graham Rahal, who is 34 points behind championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya entering the season finale, was .1326 of a second outside Power`s top time.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has won two of the past three races, was third-fastest and three-time series champion Scott Dixon, third in the standings, was fourth-quickest.
Penske driver Montoya was ninth fastest in Friday`s practice.
Brazilian Penske driver Helio Castroneves noted in an article written for Sports Illustrated`s website on Friday that racing less than a week after Wilson`s death is "difficult".
Wilson died on Monday, a day after debris from another driver`s crash hit him in the helmet late in the race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.
Reminders of Wilson are everywhere, with Spain`s Oriol Servia driving Wilson`s 25 Andretti Autosport Honda this week as a tribute.
IndyCar has produced a memorial T-shirt for sale to benefit a fund for Wilson`s two young daughters, and teams have been given memorial decals to put on their cars.
"It`s hard for the words to come out the right way," Servia said when asked about his friend Wilson.
"I have known and raced Justin for more than 10 years. I have an enormous amount of respect for him as a racer, but his qualities as a human were definitely an inspiration to anyone who ever met him."
Added team owner Michael Andretti: "We will have Justin and his family in our hearts this weekend as we honor him in the way he would want us to -- by doing what he loved: racing."