By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — A Honda-powered driver has not won the Honda Indy 200 since Graham Rahal’s triumph in 2015 but the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series visits the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Honda having a decent edge through Friday practice.
In the opening practice, Honda had eight of the top 10 positions while in the second session they had seven of the top 10. On the odd side of statistics, only one driver stayed in the top five in both practice sessions and that was Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest driver with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 5.1950 seconds around the 13 turn, 2.258 mile natural terrain road course. Second fastest on the day was Will Power with a lap of 1 minute, 5.3371 seconds.
Probably the most impressive rise in the standings came from Jack Harvey. Harvey climbed from 22nd to 10th on the time sheet from the first session to the second. This is a big deal considering that Harvey’s car is owned by Meyer-Shank Racing in a technical partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and co-owner Michael Shank is based not even an hour from Mid-Ohio.
Conor Daly in his return to Harding Racing after a 13th place finish in Toronto said in his post-practice quotes that his team went down a wrong path.
“We tried something vastly different from the test and I don’t think it was the right direction,” said Daly. “But at least we eliminated a direction that we were wanting to try. Hopefully, we can now go back to what we were running at the test and get another good feel for the car tomorrow.”
Daly was 24th (last) in the first session and 22nd in the second session, turning 37 laps on the day.
Going to the Mazda Road to Indy, Pato O’Ward got back on top of the time sheet in qualifying for the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race of the weekend, an impressive showing from the Texas-based Mexican. O’Ward will try to make Mid-Ohio the track where he can put the championship out of reach of a couple of competitors if he can win races and score bonus points.
In the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, Rinus VeeKay continued his Toronto form by winning the pole position for Saturday afternoon’s race ahead of Road America double victor David Malukas and series points leader Parker Thompson.
In the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, Kyle Kirkwood turned off the lights on the rest of the field as he led from flag to flag to score his seventh win in a row and his eighth on the season out of ten races as he clinched the championship with four races still left to run.
His closest competitor Kaylen Frederick was hit by his Pabst Racing teammate Rasmus Lindh and after getting assistance, Frederick kept going but then got collected by Russell McDonough during the race. Frederick finished last while Igor Fraga took over second place in the standings.
The USF2000 race was peppered with full course yellows from various incidents including a three car incident on the main straight near the end of the race and a lot of equipment got torn up. It was not a marquee display for the young field of drivers but the crash damage bills might teach a few of them that sometimes, learning can get expensive.
Overall, it has been an expensive last few weekends for the Mazda Road to Indy. Between Colton Herta and Victor Franzoni’s incidents in Indy Lights in Toronto, the various Pro Mazda crashes in Toronto (especially for RP Motorsport Racing) and the USF2000 incidents in Mid-Ohio, some drivers might want to think twice before making a low percentage overtaking move.
On Saturday, the track action is divided up by series as follows (all times ET):
Practice at 10:00 a.m.
Qualifying at 1:35 p.m.
Qualifying for Race Two at 9:20 a.m.
Race One at 3:05 p.m.
Qualifying for Race Two at 11:00 a.m.
Race One at 4:10 p.m.
Qualifying for Race Two at 8:45 a.m.
Race Two at 12:35 p.m.