The first official practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at NOLA Motorsports park took place earlier today. The rain stayed away during the first session, which was once again dominated by the Chevrolet-powered cars. Tony Kanaan was the fastest, with a lap of 1:18.8753, which was a tick faster than defending series champion, Will Power.
Kanaan’s teammate, Scott Dixon, was third quick in the first session. The two Ganassi drivers are both sporting blue cars this weekend, as Dixon has a new livery for this race. It will be the first time since 1989 that a Target-sponsored car will not be racing in the open-wheel series.
Despite being dry, the first session was filled with red flags. Six of them, in fact. Jack Hawksworth (T3), Francesco Draccone (T5), Carlos Huertas (T6), James Hinchcliffe (T5), and Scott Dixon (T1) all spun out separately.
The 24-car field will be identical to the season-opening race in St Petersburg. Simona de Silvestro returns to the Andretti Autosport No 25, while Sage Karam will be behind the wheel of the No 8 Ganassi car, although it will have a different look this weekend. He isn’t the only driver with a new livery this weekend, as Dixon will be in the all-blue Brita-sponsored car. Graham Rahal will be sporting the yellow Mi-Jack machine, and both KV Racing cars will feature slightly different schemes for this event.
There were more red flags in the second practice session, but not for spinning cars. Rain hit NOLA, and it hit hard.
There was plenty of standing water on the track, which was the biggest cause for the stoppage. There is rain in the forecast for the entire weekend, so teams were weary of using all of their rain tires. On top of that, there were also parts of the track that were dry, which made it difficult for anyone to even get on track.
The safety crews were able to get the track mostly dry towards the end of the second practice, and most of the cars at least got some laps turned. Power was fastest in the second session, with a lap at 1:20.1704, just ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Simon Pagenaud was third fastest, out of the 18 cars that made it on track. There were a total of 117 total laps turned in the second session, compared to 571 in the first practice.
Highlights from today’s action are posted below.
Below are a couple of on-board videos from today, riding along with Juan Montoya and James Hinchcliffe.
Tony Kanaan: “It’s still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling. The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it’s been when we’ve tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower but the track is still really good. Like I said, we still have a ways to go before the race, but it’s definitely a good start for the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet.”
Will Power: It’s really cool (NOLA Motorsports Park). Really fun. The two road courses that I absolutely love are this track and the Indy road course. They are just a lot of fun and have very similar flows to them.”
Juan Montoya: “We tried a lot of things today on the Verizon car. I wasn’t really happy with the balance of the car this morning. We still have a ways to go. It was a lot of fun to get out there and get some laps when the track was drying. We don’t know what the weather will do tomorrow or Sunday, so we’ll just have to see what it brings for the rest of the weekend.”
Helio Castroneves: “To be honest, we still have some work to do here at NOLA. We are close but we still need to find a little more. We did want to make a few changes to the Hitachi car between the morning practice and the afternoon session, but the rain kind of hurt that. It was good to get back out there for a few laps after the track dried, but we weren’t able to do too much with it. We will try to see what we can do on Saturday.”
Stefano Coletti: “We have had a great day in the No. 4 Variable Bore Rams – KV Racing Technology car. We worked through a lot of things in the first practice session and ended up finishing P6. The second session was shortened due to the rain and the track was still half wet and half dry, but we were able to get a few good laps in at the end and finished P4. We still have some work to do in Practice 3 tomorrow and then hopefully we will have a good qualifying session in the afternoon.”
Scott Dixon: “In the first practice session we worked on balance overall. The Brita car was too loose on new tire runs, but I think that will translate to faster lap times when we go to the alternate red Firestone tires. We had a fair amount of traffic at the end when we tried to put a lap together, so I think there is more left in the car. Overall the team has good speed in all four cars and that’s a great way to unload here at NOLA and get started.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was a good day. We thought we were going to get rained out and that didn’t happen, at least for the first practice. I am really happy with the Mistic E-Cigs car. The crew did a really good job. We unloaded pretty strong. Then we tried some things and it didn’t make it better. We had other ideas for this afternoon, but the weather decided otherwise. Overall, I am pretty optimistic for this weekend.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a difficult first day for NOLA. The first session, we were struggling with the grip level and the balance when the track was dry and we had to go through a lot of items and data to figure out why. In the second session, the track conditions were a little tricky because it was damp but towards the end it was 80-90 percent dry but there were still a couple damp spots. It’s relative but the car improved a lot and the car is in the ballpark. It was a good improvement and we were very happy that we were able to run the second session to check it out.”
Luca Filippi: “This morning was a bit of a messy session with many yellows and red flags so it was a bit difficult to find a rhythm. I feel confident that we didn’t really express our potential. Josef (Newgarden) did well and I think we were able to get close to him, so it’s good that we are working toward the right direction. The car is getting where we want. We have to be positive andtomorrow I think will be a good day for us.”
Marco Andretti: “With the delays, the second session was extended a bit and we ended up running out of fuel when the track was under the best conditions. We just never really got the clean laps we needed to gauge things and get quick times. We were on a good lap when (James) Jakes spun in front of me – I was on a lap for a quick time right there. We’ll pull together and hope for more tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It was an incomplete day for us with the DHL Honda. In the first session we never really got going in our changes. We were trying some big experiments with some of the aero package that didn’t end up panning out for us, so we ended up going fastest in our first outing – which was unfortunate. But we were able to get a little track time at the end of the day and I think we have a potential direction for tomorrow.”
Jack Hawksworth: “We didn’t roll off in the direction we should have, but we wanted to try something that we thought was the way, but we found a new direction the second session and I think it made a big difference. Both cars are looking a little bit better now and hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden: “Today was good. We unloaded off the truck better than where we were at the test here, so I think we feel more confident than we were in the offseason around this track. Everyone did a good job just trying to get up to speed quick. We didn’t get the second session in, but the first session was really clean for us and we learned a lot. I think we’ve got a pretty good mindset going into qualifying tomorrow and we’ll just try and make the most of that so we don’t have to start at the back here.”
Qualifications begin at 5:15 PM ET on Saturday, which will air on NBC Sports Network. There will be a 45-minute practice session at 1:30 PM.
You can watch live Practice all season long, via IndyCar’s YouTube channel.
Practice Photos via IndyCar