Will Power leads Friday practice at M-O

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IZOD IndyCar Series title contender Will Power set himself up as the favorite to win the pole tomorrow for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after leading Friday’s practice sessions with a fast lap of 66.8632 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Going into the weekend, Power sits in third place at 26 points behind championship leader Ryan Hunter-Reay (and five points behind his teammate Helio Castroneves). Every point becomes critical at this stage, and Power’s certainly eyeing the bonus title point he can get should he take the top spot in qualifying.

“We’re bloody determined to get the pole here tomorrow,” he said. “…For the rest of the year we need to win poles and win races if we are going to win the championship — it’s pretty simple. We need to run well and fast to make up ground in the points race.”

Three-time Mid-Ohio race winner Scott Dixon, who’s aiming to keep his bid for a third series title alive with a strong effort this weekend, was second-quickest in the session with a time of 67.0213 seconds in the No. 9 Target Honda. Dixon comes in 61 points off the pace at fourth place in the standings.

As for the top two drivers in the championship, Castroneves and Hunter-Reay were 14th and 16th-quickest respectively on Friday.

Bobby Rahal has indicated that he’d like to bring his son, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal, to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013.

In an interview with The Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin, Bobby explained that while he may have treated his son as a kid in the past, he now sees his son as a driver that “knows what he has to do.”

Graham is on the hunt for a new home in 2013 after CGR was unable to secure funding for what would be his third season with the team or guarantee that said funding would eventually emerge. He is currently 10th in this year’s championship.

Alex Tagliani will be forced to rally at Mid-Ohio as INDYCAR has tagged him and his Bryan Herta Autosport team with a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change before the race weekend. Tagliani finished fifth two weeks ago in Edmonton for his best result of the season so far.

Keep an eye on those Firestone tires this weekend. The makers of the ‘Magic Rings’ are counting on a bigger difference in lap times between the primary “blacks” and the alternate “reds” at Mid-Ohio than in past road/street races this season. The alternates will feature different compounds for both the left and right-side tires.

If you shop at Target, get ready to see the ‘Bullseye Boys’ on your Kellogg’s cereal boxes. Starting Aug. 19, Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon (as well as TCGR’s NASCAR pilot, Juan Pablo Montoya) will be featured in limited edition packaging for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, and Vrooms cereal. These boxes are a Target store exclusive and will be available nationwide.

Check out a clip of Dixon and Franchitti pondering over how much airbrushing went into their cereal box portraits here.

Panther Racing is honoring the female soldiers of America’s National Guard this weekend at Mid-Ohio. J.R. Hildebrand’s No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet will feature a pink camo paint job and Hildebrand himself is wearing a pink fire suit.

Attending the race will be Ohio National Guard Adjutant General Deborah Ashenhurst, the only female TAG in the country, as well as a large group of Girl Scouts to raise awareness about how women play a role in America’s military.

Quotes and some materials in this article were taken from INDYCAR trackside reports and assorted team releases.