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Friday, July 6, 2012
Dario Franchitti paces practice

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Slumping Dario Franchitti had a good day on the track in Toronto, where the four-time IndyCar champion is hoping to turn around his season.

Franchitti was fastest of all the drivers in Friday's practice session at Exhibition Place. Franchitti is the defending race winner.

Simon Pagenaud was second fastest and was followed by Franchitti's teammate, Scott Dixon.

Pagenaud later complained about contact with points leader Will Power late in the second practice session.

Local driver James Hinchcliffe had a rough day, with a mechanical issue sidelining him the entire second practice session. The native of Oakville, Ontario, believes he'll have to change his engine this weekend and that would result in a 10-spot penalty on the starting grid.

Hinchcliffe was on track in the first session, but was 15th.

"Unfortunately, today is a day to forget, really," he said. "It's too bad what happened the second session because with the first session not going too smoothly we were really looking to make some gains. It's just putting us on the back foot -- not only with setting the car up but with the engine penalty as well.

"Certainly, it makes it more a challenging weekend than we wanted, but at the end of the day it's still possible for the Go Daddy car to move forward. Last time we got an engine penalty (at Long Beach) we were able to come back and finished on the podium -- so we may be down but we're certainly not out."

Meanwhile, Simona de Silvestro got on track with a new Lotus engine that is supposed to be improved after IndyCar allowed the manufacturer to make some upgrades. The improvement process will come in phases, and de Silvestro's engine this weekend should be the most competitive one she's had this season.

She was 19th in the second session.

"It's kind of hard to say what everybody else did, but I think we improved the car; on the engine side, too," she said. "We made some big progress, so I'm pretty happy about that. We'll have to see in qualifying. That's when we'll know where we're at."

She will be penalized 10 spots on the starting grid because the new Lotus has gone in the car before it reached its mileage limit. Because it's the sixth engine change, she'll also be penalized 10 spots at the next race in Edmonton.

Alex Tagliani will also be penalized for installing a new engine.