Team Penske stablemates, Josef Newgarden and Will Power, have finished as the fastest drivers in the opening two practice sessions for this weekend’s 2019 IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas. Newgarden was fastest in the first session of the day, with Power taking over the top spot later in the afternoon.
The first of two practice sessions at the Circuit of the Americas saw limited running after a lengthy red flag period. Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta had recently moved into second place on the leader-boards when his #88 Honda suffered a mechanical issue. The incident saw Herta spin his car around, leaving a trail of fluids all over the racing surface behind him.
As a result, the circuit had to be cleaned up before any further running could take place. This left the drivers with enough time for a single flying lap before the chequered flag came out to end the session.
Whilst the circuit was very busy for the final few minutes, no one was able to go faster than they had run before the red flag. As a result, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden would take the fastest time. His lap-time was a 1:48.6567, which is just under two seconds slower than Herta’s best lap at the pre-season test last month; a 1:46.6258. The circuit, of course, was not in the best condition for the opening session. Additionally, the drivers will undoubtedly be saving their best pace for later in the weekend.
Despite causing the lengthy red flag period, Colton Herta would hold on to take the second fastest time of the session, with a lap-time that was just a tenth of a second slower than Newgarden. The leading duo were the only two drivers to lap in the 1:48’s in the opening session. Newgarden enters the weekend with great momentum having won the first race of the season, whilst Herta is looking to impress at the track where he looked so fast in pre-season testing.
Andretti Autosport team-mates, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay would take third and fourth in the first session. Half a second separated the pair, with Graham Rahal following just behind in sixth place.
Rookie Felix Rosenqvist set the sixth fastest time as he enters the weekend hoping for just as impressive a performance as he made in his debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago. Felix’s Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate, reigning champion Scott Dixon, was further back in ninth place, with Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Will Power in between them.
British driver Max Chilton rounded out the top ten for Carlin, with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team-mates, of Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe just outside in eleventh and twelfth respectively.
Further back, Patricio O’Ward made his return to the race-track for the first time since last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway. The Mexican, now driving the #31 Carlin, set the sixteenth-fastest time. Further back was another driver making his IndyCar return. Kyle Kaiser was the twenty-third fastest driver in the #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet. The American driver is so far scheduled to race in just this weekend’s race. He’ll be hoping to impress to hopefully secure further race dates later in the season.
The leaderboard in session one was propped up by Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa‘s Ed Jones. The Dubai-born British driver suffered a fracture of his left hand in a crash at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Thankfully, he has been approved to race this weekend, but he will be feeling the pain of his injury throughout the weekend as he laps the physical Circuit of the Americas.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – IndyCar Classic – Practice One:
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Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5508/2019-03-22/indycar-results-p1.pdf
The second practice session of the day got off to a slow start, with only a handful of drivers heading out onto the track to turn some laps in the opening minutes. The busiest driver was Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser, who topped the time-sheets for the opening stages of the session.
The delayed start for many drivers was down to tyre conservation; with the teams hoping to save as many sets of their Firestone tyres for the sessions that matter most later in the weekend.
Twenty-minutes into the hour-long session, business started to pick-up. Alexander Rossi would soon best his time from earlier in the day to take the top spot. Soon after, Josef Newgarden would all but match his time from practice one to return to the top of the time-sheets.
Newgarden would remain as the fastest driver for much of the session, but inside the final fifteen minutes, the drivers began to fit the faster, alternate tyre compounds to their cars. This resulted in Felix Rosenqvist jumping up into first place with a time over a second faster than the previous best by Newgarden.
Rosenqvist’s best time was soon pipped by Penske’s Will Power, who would ultimately end the session as the fastest driver with a lap-time of 1:47.4401. The performance gain was vast compared to practice one, but Power’s best lap is still eight tenths off of the best times seen in pre-season testing. Expect the drivers to be closer to the 1:46’s in final practice and qualifying tomorrow; where Power will be hoping to go two-for-two by taking pole position once again.
Ganassi’s Rosenqvist would take second-place in the second session. He was two tenths down on Power’s best lap, with previous session-leader, Alexander Rossi, another handful of tenths back in third place. Rossi was, once again, inseparable from his team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who would end the session in fourth place.
Ed Jones fought his way through the pain of his hand injury to take the fifth fastest time of the session. He was just ahead of sixth-placed Zach Veach, who has admitted in the run-up to this race weekend that he is not feeling as confident at COTA than he usually does at other race tracks.
Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato would take the seventh and eighth fastest times, with practice one’s pace-setter Josef Newgarden and Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais rounding out the top ten. Patricio O’Ward finished just outside of the top ten in eleventh place, as he continues to get acclimatised to his new habitat at Carlin.
Further back, the British contingent of Jack Harvey and Max Chilton would end the session in fourteenth and fifteenth. Harvey is coming off of the back of his and Meyer Shank Racing‘s best IndyCar weekend yet at the opening race at St. Petersburg. Both Harvey and the team will be hoping to be inside the top ten once again on Saturday and Sunday.
Taking the final spot on the leaderboards in session two was Harding Steinbrenner’s, Colton Herta. The American was forced to sit out much of the second session as the team continued to repair his #88 Honda after it’s mechanical failure earlier in the day. The team put in a great effort to fix the damage, with Colton able to hit the track right at the end of the session to check that everything was back in order. The loss of track-time will hinder the team but don’t be surprised to see both Colton and Harding in contention for the remainder of the weekend.
The drivers will be back out on track for final practice and qualifying tomorrow ahead of the race on Sunday. The 2019 IndyCar Classic will carry the extra weight of there being a $100,000 bonus if a driver can win the race after starting from pole position.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – IndyCar Classic – Practice Two:
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Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5509/2019-03-22/indycar-results-p2.pdf