Dixon and Rossi fastest in Detroit practice

by Jordan Groves

Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi have finished as the fastest drivers in the two practice sessions prior to this weekend’s 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Detroit Grand Prix. Dixon topped the opening session of the day on the treacherous street circuit, with Rossi taking over the honours in the second and final practice session later in the day.

The first session of the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader weekend saw drivers getting acclimatized to arguably the most physical track on the NTT IndyCar Series calendar. The 2.3-mile street circuit is renowned for its bumps and the Belle Isle circuit can be very tricky to master.

As such, the first practice session was led by a multitude of former winners of the Detroit Grand Prix. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon ended the session as the fastest driver, setting a best lap-time of 1:16.741. The reigning champion was the only driver to lap under the 1:17 barrier during the session.

Scott will be hoping that history repeats itself for this edition of the Detroit doubleheader, as last year’s Saturday race saw him take his first win of the season. Scott will want to take his first win of 2019 in a similar fashion.

Team Penske‘s Will Power was second-fastest in opening practice, three tenths off of Dixon with a lap-time of 1:17.088. Power has tasted victory twice on the streets of Detroit and, like Dixon, will also be searching for his first win of the year to begin a potential turnaround of fortune that would put him back in the hunt for the title.

Third-fastest was last year’s second race winner at Detroit, Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was just ahead of fourth-placed Josef Newgarden – the only driver in the top five of the session that has not taken a Detroit win previously. He will be hoping to finally stand on the top step this weekend to help retake the championship lead that he lost following last weekend’s Indianapolis 500.

The top five of the session was rounded out by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Graham Rahal; the winner of both Detroit races in 2017. His best lap of the session was just five-thousandths of a second faster than Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta in sixth place.

Andretti Autosport team-mates, Zach Veach and Alexander Rossi, were seventh and eighth-fastest respectively. Rossi was one of many drivers who pushed the limit during the session, with his #27 Honda almost slapping the wall during the first practice session.

Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato completed the top ten in the session, with rookie Patricio O’Ward just outside in eleventh place. Twelfth place would go to last Sunday’s race-winner, Simon Pagenaud, who enters the weekend as the championship-leader following his brace of victories in the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Last year’s race one pole-sitter, Marco Andretti, was fourteenth-fastest in the opening session. He will be hoping to find more speed prior to tomorrow’s first qualifying session of the weekend to try and match his team-mates further up on the time-sheets.

A majority of the rookies in the field were further back on the time-sheets, perhaps hinting at their focus on getting to grips with the challenging circuit. Santino Ferrucci, who made his IndyCar debut at this race twelve months ago, was eighteenth-fastest ahead of fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson in nineteenth. Felix Rosenqvist was the last-placed rookie down in twenty-first place; with only twenty-second placed Matheus Leist stopping Ganassi from being at the very top and the very bottom of the results table.

Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Detroit Grand Prix – Practice one top twelve results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIME
19Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:16.741
212Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:17.088
328Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport 1:17.106
42Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:17.198
515Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:17.220
688Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing1:17.225
726Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport1:17.466
827Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:17.508
921Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:17.607
1030Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:17.655
1131Patricio O'Ward (R)MEXCarlin1:17.679
1222Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:17.708

Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5577/2019-05-31/indycar-results-p1.pdf

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Between the two IndyCar practice sessions, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship were out on the track, which helped to lay down more rubber onto the Belle Isle Street Circuit. The track evolution was apparent very early on in IndyCar practice two, with Scott Dixon’s fastest-time in the morning session being eclipsed early on.

The times really began to get faster and faster in the final five minutes of the session, as drivers hit the track on the faster red tyre compound to simulate qualifying runs. However, the majority of the drivers did not get a chance to complete their fastest laps, as a red flag came out with just three minutes to go due to the newly-crowned Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, stopping out on the track.

Pagenaud hit the wall with his #22 Penske Chevrolet on the outside of the track on the entry into turn thirteen. The contact appeared to break the left-rear toe-link, which caused Pagenaud to save the car from spinning. After having his engine re-fired, Pagenaud was able to crawl his way back to the pits, but not with enough time to get the session restarted.

This would leave Alexander Rossi on top of the results table for the prematurely ended session. He had just crossed the line to complete his fastest-lap when the red flag came out. Rossi’s lap-time was a 1:15.137, enough to put the Californian five-tenths of a second faster than second-fastest Josef Newgarden. Rossi was fortunate to get his lap in before the red flag, which might explain the gap between himself and his rivals. However, the lap-time was strong nonetheless and will be a good foundation to build off of heading in tomorrow’s first qualifying and race.

Scott Dixon remained towards the top of the standings in third-place, just ahead of Will Power’s Penske that, again, showed decent practice pace. Graham Rahal, once again, completed the top five in the fifth position. Rahal was the first driver on the table to not lap in the 1:15’s, with his best lap of 1:16.076 almost a second off of Rossi’s best time. However, Rahal had not been able to set a lap on the faster tyres at the end of the run, so his end result is not completely representative of where he may be for the rest of the weekend.

Hunter-Reay was in the top ten once again in sixth place, just ahead of Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot in seventh place. James Hinchcliffe jumped into the top ten in eighth place, with the aforementioned Simon Pagenaud setting the ninth fastest time prior to his red-flag causing stoppage at the end of the session. The top ten was completed by Ed Jones in the ECR Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet, with Marcus Ericsson eleventh-fastest just behind him as the fastest rookie in practice two.

Further back, Colton Herta was thirteenth-fastest after completing only six laps due to a fuel issue with his #88 Honda. After five consecutive race retirements since his win at the Circuit of the Americas in March, Herta will be hoping his problems will be confined to practice for the remainder of the Detroit doubleheader race weekend.

The drivers will not have an additional practice session on Saturday as normal. Instead, the next on-track action for the IndyCar field will be in qualifying for tomorrow’s first race of the weekend. The second race and its own qualifying session will take place the following day on Sunday.

This weekend’s Detroit doubleheader will feature an altered qualifying format than usual. In each qualifying session, the field will be split in half, with each group being allocated twelve minutes of qualifying. The fastest driver of either group will take the pole position, with the fastest driver of the second group taking second-place on the grid. The faster group will fill out the remaining odd-numbered positions on the grid, with the slower group taking the even-numbered positions.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Detroit Grand Prix – Practice two top twelve results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIME
127Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:15.137
22Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:15.664
39Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:15.782
412Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:15.871
515Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:16.076
628Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:16.197
721Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:16.215
85James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson1:16.255
922Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:16.292
1020Ed JonesUAEEd Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa1:16.303
117Marcus Ericsson (R)SWEArrow Schmidt Peterson1:16.376
1226Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport1:16.536

Full results of practice are available by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5578/2019-05-31/indycar-results-p2.pdf

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