The Verizon IndyCar Series took to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course today for the first two practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s 2018 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Sebastien Bourdais was the fastest driver in the first session, with Ryan Hunter-Reay lowering the fastest lap-time by taking first place in the second session later on in the day.
It was a somewhat chaotic start to the race weekend when the cars hit the track for the first forty-five minutes of practice. Three red flag periods interrupted the on-track running, with Sebastien Bourdais taking the top spot for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan. The Frenchman set a lap-time of 01:05.5784 and will be hoping that his solid start will snowball into an eventual positive finishing position in Sunday’s race.
Perhaps the two favourites to take the race win this weekend – Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon – were second and third fastest in practice one. Newgarden was three tenths off of Bourdais’ best lap, with Dixon a further three tenths back from Josef. Both drivers have had great success in the past at Mid-Ohio and at this crucial stage of the season, neither will want to give up points to the other if they can help it.
Takuma Sato and Spencer Pigot completed the top five in practice one, with Ed Jones and Ryan Hunter-Reay just behind in sixth and seventh. James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal were eighth and ninth, with Alexander Rossi finishing tenth for Andretti Autosport. Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud was eleventh and was the last driver within a second of the fastest time; such was the close confines of the field in the first session.
Thirteenth-placed Matheus Leist bought out the first red flag of the session after he spun at turn five. Luckily he was able to avoid any damage to his #4 A.J Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet. The cause of the second red flag, the #6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda of Robert Wickens, was in less great a shape as Leist’s car. Robert was forced to pull over after a “nasty vibration” preceded smoke pouring out of the rear of the car. He finished the session down in twenty-first place.
The third and final red flag of the session was the most notable incident. With just a handful of minutes remaining, Will Power spun his #12 Team Penske Chevrolet on the exit of turn nine, right after the crest of a hill. He had spun whilst trying to avoid his slow-moving team-mate, Pagenaud, who had been trying to get some space on the track.
Power was left stationary just after the crest, which meant that other cars only had the yellow flags and their team radios to warn them. Tony Kanaan was able to slow down before arriving on the scene, but Charlie Kimball couldn’t slow down in time. The #23 Carlin rear-ended the #14 A.J. Foyt car, causing damage to both vehicles. No driver was injured in the incident, with the pair and the previously stricken Power all able to crawl back to the pits. The damage to Kanaan and Kimball’s cars was able to be repaired before the second session got underway later in the day.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Practice one top twelve:
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Full results of practice one are available by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/indycar_media/documents/2018-07-27/07-27-18%20Mid-Ohio%20P1%20results.pdf
The lap-times got faster when the field got back onto the track later on in the afternoon. Ryan Hunter-Reay took over the top spot from Sebastien Bourdais, with the Andretti Autosport driver taking the fastest lap of the day down to a 01:05.1950. Hunter-Reay, another championship contender, is in desperate need of a strong performance after the last few races have left him a long way back from the championship leader Scott Dixon.
Will Power set the second fastest time of the session, with a lap-time just over a tenth of a second slower than Hunter-Reay’s best. The Australian had a second spin in as many sessions, this time at turn four and at a much higher speed. He was able to bounce back to set his best lap-time later on in the session, having managed to not sustain any damage during his incident.
Graham Rahal improved upon his first session time to jump up to third place in session two, with Spencer Pigot once again going strong to finish the day in fourth place. Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five, with first to fifth separated by less than three-tenths of a second.
Marco Andretti again featured inside the top ten in sixth place, with points leader Scott Dixon just behind in seventh. Dixon’s team-mate Ed Jones separated the New Zealander from his closest rival, Josef Newgarden, who set the ninth fastest time in the second session.
Perhaps the standout performance of the session came from tenth placed Jack Harvey. The Meyer Shank Racing team has not been back out on track since the Indianapolis 500 almost two months ago; due to the nature of their part-time schedule. The team came back with a bang today, however, bouncing back from a brief electrical fault at the start of the second session to take a top ten; a result that the British driver would love to replicate on Sunday.
Further back, it was a solid return to the race-track for Pietro Fittipaldi in the #19 Dale Coyne Racing Chevrolet. After breaking his leg in qualifying for the World Endurance Championship‘s 6 hours of Spa Francorchamps back in May, Fittipaldi was forced to miss a handful of races, including what was supposed to be his debut Indy 500. His recovery has reportedly gone fantastically, as evidenced by his seventeenth place finish in practice one followed up by an eighteenth place finish in practice two; a great return at what is one of the more physical tracks on the calendar.
Towards the rear of the field in both sessions was Conor Daly for Harding Racing. The American was given a second consecutive race to run for the squad after replacing regular driver Gabby Chaves for the last race in Toronto. He had a tough run in the first two practice sessions, finishing last in session one and twenty-second in session two.
The teams and drivers of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series will be back on track tomorrow for final practice and qualifying. The race itself will take place on Sunday afternoon.
2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio – Practice two top twelve:
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Full results of practice two are available by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5398/2018-07-27/indycar-results-p2.pdf