Ryan Hunter-Reay finished on the podium in his first race at Mid-Ohio in 2003, and was fastest in today’s practice in Lexington, Ohio. Hunter-Reay posted a lap of 1 minute, 4.2961 seconds to lead the way in the afternoon session. Josef Newgarden was second on the charts, leading the way for Team Penske. Championship points leader Scott Dixon was third quick, as he seeks his 6th win on the scenic road course in Lexington, Ohio.
Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five on Friday. It was a great afternoon for Andretti Autosport, who has struggled outside of Indianapolis this season. Their four drivers were all inside the Top 11 on the speed chart today. The team desperately needs to put together some decent finishes, especially Hunter-Reay. His last victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series came 705 days ago, which was the 2015 race at Pocono.
Friday Combined Practice Results
There will be several drivers to keep an eye on this weekend, starting with Dixon. In his last ten races at Mid-Ohio, he has five wins, two poles, and has led 223 laps. By comparison, Will Power has led 90, and no other driver has led more than 48 laps. Speaking of Power, he has finished runner-up three times here, but has never won. He seeks a strong rebound from his last place finish at Toronto. Power was sixth fastest overall in today’s practice.
Power’s teammates are always in the hunt as well. Newgarden was second fastest today, and Pagenaud has four podium finishes in his six starts at Mid-Ohio. Despite having two wins and five podium finishes here, Helio Castroneves’ last six results here are 19th, 16th, 6th, 19th, 15th, and 15th, respectively.
There are other drivers that need to step up as well. Tony Kanaan actually has more starts at Mid-Ohio (15) than he does total laps led (13). Circling back to Andretti Autosport, the team has never won here, though team owner Michael Andretti did win this race in 1990 and 1991. Ganassi has ten wins, and Penske has eight victories here.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 9:55 AM, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, which begins at 2 PM on NBCSN. Pagenaud is the defending pole winner and race winner.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Simon Pagenaud: “The Menards Chevy was good today. We were able to fine tune a few things throughout the day. We had good speed in the car, but it’s a matter of getting the balance right. Our knowledge base is good for the track. We had good success a year ago. It’s nice for me to feel better physically this year. I had a little tweak of my back here last year that made it a pretty difficult weekend, but this year all is well. I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow. It’s such a chess match here and that’s a fun challenge.”
Josef Newgarden: “I think we had a pretty good session. It’s fun driving the PPG car. It’s my first time driving it. Simon (Pagenaud) had a lot of good luck in it last year. I think he won three races in this car. I’m excited to drive it – looks good, feels fast. We were quick in the first session, too. We ended up seventh. But this track is such a game of when you run, you know, where in the tire life you are at what stage of the session. The track just keeps getting quicker and quicker as you run. You got to be the last man standing here almost. I think that’s going to be the case tomorrow in qualifying. You got to try and time everything as best you can, be the last person across the line. For us, I think we’ve had some good success this year on road courses. We probably could have had even more success at a couple other places that didn’t fully materialize. But I think we’re there, thereabouts. I think the whole group at Team Penske is fast. We have to make sure to stay on top of it as always and not let something good slip away. We have good cars this weekend. We have to try to capitalize on that.”
Helio Castroneves: “We accomplished a lot today with the Hitachi Chevy – lots of good data to help us make the car even better. It’s important in this series to keep working at it. If you don’t, then you get passed by. I feel good about how the car was today and how it will be tomorrow. Qualifying is extremely important here, so we’ll have to be on top of our game.”
Conor Daly: “I think we found a few things that we need, but we also weren’t able to take advantage of our (Firestone alternate) red tires as well as we would have liked. I think the car’s balance is a little bit different on the reds than on the (Firestone primary) blacks, so hopefully we can try and sort that out. But I think it’s a positive day for us. It’s close, it’s very, very close. We need two-tenths to be in the top 10, so that’s very typical of Mid-Ohio, so hopefully, we can get some of that out of it.”
Max Chilton: “Typical day in INDYCAR today really for the team. We were right up there today in the first practice this morning after unloading fast, and then made some changes and weren’t up there in the afternoon. That’s how close the racing is here. One change can send you back. I do like this track as it’s very challenging. The Gallagher team will be up for qualifying tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “I think it’s a good start for the No. 9 NTT Data car. Finishing P3 overall today isn’t bad, but you always want to be at the top at the end of the day. I love racing here. I love Mid-Ohio and all its challenges. I hope we can continue to improve tomorrow and put on a good show Sunday.”
Tony Kanaan: “Honestly, we didn’t have near as bad of a day as it looks in the practice results. 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.”
Will Power: “It was a good day for the Verizon Chevrolet team. We felt like we’re in a good place in terms of spend and balance. Mid-Ohio is a track that is on my list. I’ve not gotten a win here and I really want to change that. We’ve been on the pole here, been up front and led laps, but haven’t gotten the win. We’ll see what qualifying brings tomorrow, but you don’t want to be too far back here or it becomes very difficult to get into position to win.”
Carlos Munoz: “The second session was a little bit of a mess. I think we did just one run because we had some electrical issues in the car, so the first part of the session we were just figuring out what happened there. Then we put (Firestone alternate) red tires on and it started raining, and then the last few laps, the tires weren’t the same. So we have to look to tomorrow to still improve.” (About his overall day): “It’s hard to judge. When the session didn’t go nice and smooth, the thing is we’re still missing a little bit to be in the top 10.”
Graham Rahal: “We are lacking some performance. Even this morning that was the case.” (About setting the second fastest lap time in Practice 1): “We ran new tires at the very end of the session and certain guys didn’t. While we were up there on the lap times, perhaps we were putting a Band-Aid on the situation a little bit. With that being said, I don’t think we are far off. I have got to somehow figure out how to get the rear of the car under control. It’s been biting us on a lot of road courses. We just can’t seem to figure it out. We have to work hard tonight and improve the Steak ‘n Shake car for tomorrow.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “It was a bit tricky in Practice 1 this morning. We struggled to find some speed. We then made some changes for Practice 2 and that was a positive change. We did a pretty fast time on the primary tires, but then on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, I got traffic on the optimum lap so we couldn’t really put the lap together there. I think we have a good baseline and we’ll work tonight to try and find some more speed for tomorrow.”
Ed Jones: “It was a bit frustrating. I think there’s a lot more potential than our result on the time charts today. We tried a few things and they didn’t go the way we wanted. There was also some traffic and the bit of rain that delayed the session that didn’t help. I think we need to make some changes to the car for tomorrow, and if we get things right, we can be right up in the top 10.”
Spencer Pigot: “We definitely made some changes that were positive and had a solid morning practice session. 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.”
JR Hildebrand: “We definitely didn’t have the speed we were looking for today, so it was a bit frustrating. We understand where we need to improve and we’ve got a lot of data to look through. We’ll put our heads together tonight to figure out how to make as much use out of the practice session tomorrow morning before we qualify.”
Takuma Sato: “I think it was a productive day. As typical at Mid-Ohio, we started off around five seconds off the pace, and then through the session it dramatically improved for the track evolution. We need to understand the balances better, but I think we made some good progress today for the Ruoff Home Mortgage team. Hopefully, we carry on this momentum and have a good day tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti: “Today was a good start for the No. 27 team, but we need to make some fine adjustments if we want to qualify in the (Firestone) Fast Six tomorrow. Overall, the whole team showed good pace, so I think we are on the right track.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Today, it was a good run. Car was good. We just made some improvements on it, made the right steps through the session, some session-to-session. We didn’t test here a week ago, so it’s nice to see we have the pace from last year, that we were able to roll in and improve from last year. All in all, pretty good day. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow. We know everybody else is going to be improving. It’s amazing if you look at the Practice 1 session times, just how close everything is. There’s no margin for error. So it’s going to be that way again tomorrow. Just happy to have a nice, productive day. Look forward to another one of those tomorrow hopefully.”
Charlie Kimball: “Overall it wasn’t a good day at all for the No. 83 car. We missed the setup a little bit and we missed the timing. We really could’ve used that little bit of track time we lost this afternoon with the rain to get the car a little better. The nice thing is that the No. 9 car is quick, so we’ll have their data to learn from. I’m really encouraged by the stops in pit stop practice – the guys really crushed it today. We’ll carry that momentum forward to figure out what we need to do to qualify well tomorrow and finish up front on Sunday.”
Alexander Rossi: “It was a good day today. I think we made a pretty good step forward each session in terms of car setup. I’m missing a little bit of speed compared to Ryan (Hunter-Reay), but I think we know where that is. Overall, I think it was a pretty positive day for the whole team and we will have a strong showing tomorrow for qualifying.”