By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Friday practice for the Verizon IndyCars Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course indicated that it would be a very competitive weekend across Honda and Chevrolet for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200.
In the first session, Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal topped the chart for Chevrolet and Honda respectively with Pagenaud going around the 2.258 mile road course with a lap time of 1:04.9079. Rahal was .0343 seconds behind while Marco Andretti’s Honda was third fastest ahead of the Team Penske Chevrolet of Helio Castroneves.
In fact, the top ten were evenly split with Honda and Chevrolet each having five cars representing their respective brands. Chevrolet went 1-4-5-7-10 while Honda went 2-3-6-8-9.
An impressive showing came from Spencer Pigot as the part-time driver for Ed Carpenter Racing ended session one in 10th.
In session two, Ryan Hunter-Reay was on top of the time sheet as his No. 28 DHL Honda went around the track with a lap of 1:04.2961. Team Penske newcomer Josef Newgarden was second with a lap of 1:04.4375. Scott Dixon’s Honda was third ahead of Pagenaud in fourth.
The biggest improver position-wise between session one and session two was Hunter-Reay as he was eighth in the first session while Dixon and Alexander Rossi were both up six positions on the time sheet.
What’s more impressive is that Hunter-Reay did not test at Mid Ohio last week.
“We didn’t test here a week ago, so it’s nice to see we have the pace from last year,” Hunter-Reay said. “We were able to roll in and improve from last year. All in all, pretty good day.”
Looking to one driver that regressed on the time sheet from session one to session two, Pigot was 16th in the second session despite turning a lap three tenths of a second faster than he did in the morning.
“We definitely made some changes that were positive and had a solid morning practice session,” Pigot said.
“We also tried some things that just didn’t work out as well as we hoped, especially on the (Firestone alternate) red tires in the afternoon. I didn’t get quite the feel of the car I was looking for, so we’ll see if we can revert back to what we had and get back into the top 10. I’m excited to see what the rest of the weekend brings.”
In the Saturday final practice session, Alexander Rossi was fastest over Andretti Autosport teammate Takuma Sato. Dixon was third over teammate Tony Kanaan while Newgarden was fifth.
Kanaan’s pace is somewhat surprising. He was 19th in the first practice session and 18th in the second practice session. However, Kanaan claimed that yesterday was better than it showed.
“Honestly, we didn’t have near as bad of a day as it looks in the practice results,” Kanaan said.
“We still have some work to do with the No. 10 NTT Data Honda on (Firestone alternate) red tires, but on the (Firestone primary) blacks we were as fast as the leaders. We just couldn’t ever get a clean, fast lap on black tires to show the No. 10 NTT Data Honda’s real speed.”
Honda were dominating the last session with seven cars in the top ten as they went 1-2-3-4-7-8-9 while Chevrolet went 5-6-10.
The largest gain from the end of practice on Friday besides Kanaan was Takuma Sato. Sato was 16th in the first session and was up 14 spots in the third practice. The biggest regression went to Power as he was fifth in the opening practice, sixth in the second session and 19th in the third session.
Qualifying will take place Saturday afternoon at 2:05 ET.