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The cover was added at Brazil, where Franchitti had his season-best showing, and on Indy’s long, flat straightaways, the new design could really make a difference.

“There’s no question it made them more competitive at Brazil, where they went from being pretty close to us to having a slight advantage,” Power said. “It’s a much bigger advantage on an oval than a road course because you run wide-open for longer, so the horsepower really makes a difference.”

Franchitti remains baffled by how the Chevys managed to get two more laps per fuel load in Brazil than he could _ a touchy subject for a team that gambled on opposite fuel strategies in last year’s 500 and wound up losing both. Franchitti dropped from second to 12th on the final four laps, partly because of worn tires, while teammate Scott Dixon made a late pit stop to get extra fuel and wound up fifth.

This season, Dixon, the 2008 Indy winner and a two-time IndyCar champ, is sixth overall in the points and second among all Honda drivers behind only Simon Pagenaud.

Publicly, Franchitti has been his usually unflappable self. At team headquarters, though, team managing director Mike Hull is preaching patience.

“What you do is instill on everybody in Dario’s program that everyone is working on this together and the harder we work, the better it’s going to be,” Hull said.

The first test will come Saturday at pole qualifying.

Ganassi’s cars haven’t exactly been at the top of the speed chart this week. Dixon’s top practice speed came Monday, 221.499 mph, while Franchitti had his fastest lap of the week Wednesday at 221.623.

Things are moving in the right direction as Franchitti jumped from 12th on this week’s speed chart to eighth.

It’s by design.

Hull acknowledges Ganassi’s cars have not been working in qualifying trim and likely won’t until Friday when all drivers are given a horsepower boost that is to increase speeds by 4-5 mph.

Until then, Franchitti will just keep grinding away.

“It’s been a great position for this team to win the last four championships, but you can’t be complacent about it,” Franchitti said. “You have to work at it. We try and do the best we can every week, the guys on the team are always working hard at it. It was a slow start, but it is what it is.”