By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
ELKHART LAKE, WI — Alfonso Celis Jr. is making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America but the Mexican racer found that the tire barriers are unforgiving.
The No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet found a new home against the Turn 13 tire barrier after Celis pushed hard to find extra time during his fourth lap of Friday’s second practice session. The resulting contact broke off the rear wing and damaged the car’s suspension.
Celis had tested at the 4.048 mile road course last week with Ricardo Juncos’s team but unfortunately this puts the former Formula One test driver further behind in his learning.
“Since free practice one I’ve felt that the car is quite solid and there were a couple of areas where I left some margins,” said Celis. “I went out and knew exactly where to address that and yeah, unfortunately this happened.
“In general I’m pretty comfortable with the car now and everything’s flowing quite well. I had a couple of corners to improve on, that’s what I was trying to do, up until that it was my mistake. The car was feeling quite good.”
Celis turned 14 laps in the first practice session with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 44.9164 seconds, averaging 137.733 mph. The fastest lap in the session was a 1 minute, 43.0477 lap (140.230 mph) turned by defending series champion Josef Newgarden.
“It’s definitely not the greatest thing, especially considering it’s my first weekend, yeah, it’s not where we expected to have but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
Before committing to racing in the Kohler Grand Prix, Celis had originally signed to race Indy Lights for the Juncos squad. Saturday practice begins at 11:00 a.m. CDT with qualifying at 3:00 p.m. CDT. The race is Sunday with an estimated green flag time of 12:!5 p.m. CDT.