Notes: Some technical things…and some racing things

First things first…The entire Bloguin roster of sports blogs will be moved over to a new server starting early Saturday morning. At first, it was looking like this would take some time and that Indy Racing Revolution would possibly half to go dark during the season-opening race. Suffice to say, that would’ve been pretty bad.

But yesterday, I got word that this process is actually going to take a lot quicker than initially expected. The main thing is that the Bloguin team will be able to do data synchronization between the old and new servers and because of that, almost all the content has already been or is in the process of getting moved to the new server.

There will be a brief server outage, but that will occur overnight. The good news is IRR should be running as usual during the weekend.

Carry on. — The Management

Rubens off to rocky start

Formula 1 veteran-turned-IndyCar rookie Rubens Barrichello impressed in preseason testing to his quick acclimation to the Dallara DW12. But his first official race weekend has begun on a sour note.

Friday represented the perfect chance for Barrichello to really learn the 1.8-mile Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course, but his morning session was curtailed thanks to what he disclosed afterwards as a gearbox problem on his No. 8 BMC/Embrase-KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.

“I had some trouble with the gear box today …pity cause I did not have time to learn the track well..but tomorrow I will be flat out anyway,” said Barrichello on his Twitter page.

Barrichello only turned eight laps in the morning session, in which he put up the 24th-fastest time out of 26 drivers. He got in more laps in the afternoon, but only moved up one position to 23rd (63.3290 seconds).

Now, the most experienced driver in F1 history and his KVRT squad will have to rally in order to ensure themselves a puncher’s chance on Sunday. The IndyCar contingent will have one more practice session tomorrow morning (9:55 a.m. – 10:55 a.m. ET) before qualifying goes off shortly before 2 p.m. ET.

“With the problem we had this morning, it was pretty much a setback,” Barrichello said of his trying day. “I spent the afternoon session learning the track, while everyone else was now improving their cars.  I was playing catch up big time that’s for sure. 

“Hopefully tomorrow, I can improve a little more from today.”

Lotus teams soldier on

It’s been a touch-and-go situation regarding engines within the Lotus camp in the last few days, but all five Lotus drivers — Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge at Dragon Racing, Alex Tagliani at Team Barracuda-BHA, Oriol Servia at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and Simona de Silvestro at HVM Racing — were on the track during Friday’s sessions.

As expected, the Lotus five lagged behind its Honda and Chevrolet-powered rivals. However, one could argue that the gap wasn’t as big as it could have been. In the afternoon, De Silvestro (16th, 62.9136 seconds) and Bourdais (19th, 62.9778 seconds) both managed to pull within one second of Will Power’s practice-topping time of 62.0077 seconds; Power has a Chevy inside his Team Penske machine.

“We made really big improvements this afternoon on the car side,” said de Silvestro of her day. “I know we still have a bit of work ahead of us for qualifying, but I think we’re moving in the right direction on the car and also on the engine. We’ve started creeping up a little bit and it’s been going better and better. It’s fun.”

Bourdais also expressed confidence — and some relief, too. The engine for his No. 7 McAfee Lotus finally came in last night, but had to be borrowed from another team, rebuilt and installed.

“Honestly, if you had told me that we would run two sessions with no problems, I would have signed straight away,” said the four-time Champ Car World Series champion. “We’re near the top of the Lotus teams, pretty much. We’re seven hundredths behind Simona, who was the fastest. We’re just learning about the car and making it better every run and making progress.

“This is what the team needs. We’ll all get a good night’s sleep after the boys worked until 3 a.m. last night. It’s a good day. A good day.”

Meanwhile, Autoweek’s Brant James managed to track down Lotus leader Claudio Berro, who told him that three spare engines will be available for his teams by Saturday; earlier reports had only one spare for the Lotus teams.

Newgarden thankful for his opportunity

No offense to INDYCAR or Katherine Legge and Simon Pagenaud — who both possess a lot of road/street course experience and slim to none with ovals — but there’s only one true rookie on the grid this season and that’s Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s youngster, Josef Newgarden. The American driver has migrated to the big leagues after burying the competition last season in Firestone Indy Lights.

So far, Newgarden appears to be acclimating well to his new, faster environment. He settled in comfortably in the middle of the pack on Friday, posting in the top 15 during both practices at St. Pete.

What’s more, he sounds over the moon about it all.

“How can I not have a smile?,” he said on Friday. “I’m an IndyCar driver, which is an unbelievable statement to be able to make. Even before this opportunity with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, I was driving race cars for my job and not many people get to do that.

“I try to cherish every moment and certainly, this opportunity is a very big deal for me. I’m trying to take advantage and make the most of it.”

Still, he’s had a few things to get used to while embarking on his first IndyCar race weekend.

“It’s definitely a little weird when you’re running behind guys like Dixon and Servia,” he admitted. “But it felt really normal. The transition from Lights has been really good into IndyCar. I felt really comfortable.”

Other cool stuff

Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Esteban Guerreri led practice for tomorrow’s Firestone Indy Lights season opener with a time of 67.3874 seconds. Lights qualifying goes off tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. ET, followed by the St. Pete 100 at 3:30 p.m. ET (the race will be shown Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network)…

Chris Mower is now the general manager of Panther Racing after serving as team manager for the last four seasons…

Sponsor news: Team Barracuda-BHA has signed up Motegi Wheels for a multi-race deal, while nutrition supplements company BSN will serve as an associate sponsor for Tony Kanaan; the Brazilian driver, long known as one of the fittest in the paddock, says he’s been a longtime user of the BSN line…

Quotes from various league and team releases were used in the making of this article.