IndyCar: Hunter-Reay leads Honda sweep at Phoenix in test session 4

Ryan Hunter-Reay
Ryan Hunter-Reay

Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay led a Honda 1-2-3-4-5 in final open-test practice at Phoenix Raceway Saturday night. The Chevys had their power turned down during the night session to hide their true speed, having run as fast as 193 mph during the after noon session. In the cooler night they may have been able to approach 200 mph but they were sandbagging ahead of the real race in April.

Hunter-Reay's lap of 189.716 mph nipped Sebastien Bourdais who was joist 0.02 sec behind in the #19 Dale Coyne Honda. Marco Andretti was third in a sister Andretti Honda.

Max Chilton and Takuma Sato rounded out the top-5.

Looking at overall results – Making his debut as the full-time driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy's Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, JR Hildebrand set an unofficial track record of 19.0401seconds/193.234 mph to sit atop the leaderboard following two days of testing that included two night sessions that gave teams and drivers the opportunity to work in near-race conditions.

Right behind Hildebrand was his boss, Ed Carpenter, in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet with a lap of 19.1223 seconds/192.404 mph.

Josef Newgarden, the newest addition to Team Penske, slotted the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet into third in the order followed closely by teammates Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet and Will Power, No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.

We'd certainly rather be quick than not and we felt good about the laps we've been putting in," Hildebrand said at the time. "We were running at a really good time of day. The conditions tailed off a little after we ran our time. We went back out later trying to go even quicker and had a little bit of a moment."

Hildebrand had a bigger moment in tonight's final practice, crashing into the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier with less than 30 minutes remaining in the three-hour session. It was one of five incidents on the day, though no drivers were injured.

"I just clipped Will (Power) with the right front wing on his left rear pod and it must have just torn off part of the front wing," Hildebrand explained. "I bent it into Turn 3 and was being cautious with it, but I just picked up huge understeer from not having part of the front wing. Couldn't really avoid getting to the outside wall there, tried to hit the brakes to slow down and it just turned me straight into the inside wall on the front straightaway."

Ed Carpenter, Hildebrand's teammate and boss, had the second-best overall lap of the weekend at 192.404 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet, also logged in today's afternoon practice. The top five spots in the daytime session were filled by Chevy cars, a day after the bowtie brigade held the top four spots.

Tonight's final practice – when cars were fitted into race trim – saw five Honda entries at the top. Ryan Hunter-Reay set the pace in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport at 189.716 mph. Sebastien Bourdais was second tonight in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda at 189.495 mph. Honda cars claimed the first six positions on the speed chart in Friday's night practice.

"The team did a really good job and we got a lot of really good information," said Bourdais, the four-time Indy car champion who finished in the top 10 of all four open test practices. "Picking a downforce level will be critical when we come back (for the race). It's going to be a ton hotter than it is now. We're just going have to think long and hard about it and see what we come up with. It's definitely not representative now, especially in the night session, of what we're going to be facing in April. Hopefully, we have what we need."

In addition to Hildebrand, today's on-track incidents involved Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato, Josef Newgarden and Bourdais.

Less than five minutes into the afternoon session, Rossi – last year's Indianapolis 500 winner and Sunoco Rookie of the Year for both that historic race and the entire Verizon IndyCar Series season – spun in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian and backed into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier.

"I'm not completely sure what happened because the car felt fine – it just got loose and snapped," Rossi said. "The car was good going into Turn 1, I went down to the bottom and the back end came out. The test has been productive overall, so this is a pretty big setback. This was my first real contact with the wall – better here than in qualifying or the race – and it won't stop me from pushing hard."

Thirty minutes into the evening session, Rahal had a similar spin and impact in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

"The thing was building understeer up until that point and, once I got close to (Newgarden), the rear just went," Rahal said. "It's unfortunate, the guys certainly don't need any more work and I obviously didn't want to bring the thing home on the wrecker."

With just more than an hour remaining in the night practice, Sato spun and backed into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier.

"We were doing a (run) in qualifying trim, and it looks like we just lost the rear on the second lap," Sato said. "We need to investigate it, but it looks like we were too light on downforce."

With 30 minutes left in the night practice, Newgarden's No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet made light contact with Bourdais as they battled into Turn 1. Both cars continued after touching and returned to pit lane.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit March 12 (noon ET, ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The Phoenix Grand Prix is the fourth race of the season on April 29 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

QUOTES

The Butt Bumpers on the Chevys are wide open allowing air to flow right thru them. The Hondas below are closed off acting like a parachute, hence why the Hondas have no chance on the short ovals, road and street courses.
The Butt Bumpers on the Chevys are wide open allowing air to flow right thru them. Chevy left them open for a very good reason. The Hondas below are closed off acting like a parachute, hence why the Hondas have no chance on the short ovals, road and street courses.

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was great to be back in the PPG Chevrolet. We've had a great test so far. We've been able to work on a lot of different things and compile some good data. It was a long offseason but that was good for me, but now I'm ready to go."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We've accomplished a lot with the Verizon Chevy. The car was good early on yesterday, so that was definitely nice. The transition is going very well, actually. [Engineer] Brian (Campe) is getting used to my terminology and my sensitivities and the other way around. This has been great. We've been able to log a lot of track time and work through a ton of things."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Hitachi Chevy felt great. I just love driving that thing. I think we got a lot done so far. Everyone gets caught up in the speeds but testing isn't always about that which is why I feel really good about the work we've got in. Earlier today was really special in being a part of the groundbreaking ceremony for the track renovation. I was honored that they asked me to be involved. It sounds like it will add a lot to the experience here when they're done."

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet): "There's a lot to learn in the switch in manufacturers so we have to use our time wisely, keep working and evaluating everything with the ABC Supply Chevrolet. We have a lot of work to do but that's what testing is for so we can go through things and be ready to go for the race."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "So far so good here. We came here with a pretty comprehensive test plan and shockingly we've been able to stick to it. When you get on track and everybody's around, it's easy to get away from that plan. We really have work to do to make sure we're in the best position when we come back here to race. We're making progress on the car which is the number one thing. As we go through our test list, we're knocking off items on the list that are really helping. Hoping we have more of that improvement tonight as well."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda): "We did a good job in today's first session, and it was pretty productive; we went through our test plan and everything went perfect. I know we are (currently) the fastest Honda, so that is pretty good, but there are still a lot of things in our plan to work on in the second session. This test has been great. We're here in Arizona, the weather is great, nice people around and I'm with my team, so I think that's what matters and I'm really enjoying our time here."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I've really just been focused on getting familiar with the Honda engine and aero package. This is all new to me and there is definitely a lot to learn. The night practice session will be even more crucial for us as it will be as close to race conditions as we get this week. I'm excited and think the Gallagher team is up for the challenge."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "I think the test has gone pretty well so far. We're just trying to get through our test list. I think we know the types of tracks where we're going to have a little bit of a deficit. Here and the other short track ovals sort of present the most challenges for us I think. All in all, the car is running pretty well. The Honda engine is great and I'm happy with the drivability to this point."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "How can you not love coming to Phoenix? The place is just fast. It's a little different to be back here in a Honda after last year, but we're feeling good as a team with where we are and testing has already been pretty good for us. We spent most of the day yesterday getting up to speed with the track and making sure everything was good to go, then we started running qualifying simulations in the afternoon practice today. We'll spend all of the session tonight making sure we're where we need to be from a race setup standpoint so we can hit the ground running when we're back here in April."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Verizon Chevrolet team has gotten a lot done. I'm really looking forward to getting a quick start this season. Last year I wasn't able to do that. We've been very focused here on getting some things sorted out so that we can get out of the gate fast. We had a little change on the timing stand with Jon Bouslog coming over from the No. 2 car, but that hasn't really effected anything. The communication is good. The car felt very comfortable."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "I think we improved the ABC Supply Chevrolet quite a lot from yesterday-especially balance-wise with car. We have more work to do but we're getting there. It's our first time with this aero kit so it's a learning process. I'm happy with the gains we made overnight."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): "It's always good to be back on track after the offseason. It's always eye-opening, particularly at a place like this. It wakes you up and gets the blood flowing in a hurry. It's good to just get back into the rhythm of everything. With the two-day test here it almost feels like a race weekend in many ways. Most of our oval races are two day weekends. Competition wise everything is good. We obviously would like to find a little bit of pace but in general there are a lot of positives that have come from this test. We're excited to get another session in and see if we can improve the car."

[Following contact in Turn 2 during Practice 4] "(Josef) Newgarden had just come out of the pits and I was trying to get a run on him going down the back to get clear of him and catch back up to the group that I was behind. The thing was building understeer up until that point and, once I got close to him, the rear just went. It's unfortunate, the guys certainly don't need any more work and I obviously didn't want to bring the thing home on the wrecker. I don't think the damage is extensive but it's enough to tick us off. It's frustrating because the test has been going good. To end it that way is disappointing."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "We're still looking for a bit of extra speed, but so is everybody else. We obviously looked pretty settled straight away because Ed (Jones) had that rookie day on Wednesday. We're both pretty comfortable, had the opportunity to shake his car down and do 10 laps like you can when there is a rookie day like that, so that gives you a little bit of extra confidence and we could run a fairly trim car straight away, so we could look good for the first half hour, but really that didn't last very long. We got to the thick of it today and really trimmed the car out pretty much what we got, but you can always make small adjustments after that, get the balance a little closer so you get a bit less scrub and this and that. But you know, after that, the racing is quite a bit different, and you've got to have a big game of patience. So that's what we're going to be working on mostly tonight."

ED JONES [R] (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Overall it's been a good couple of days. The first session yesterday went really well but I struggled a little bit more in the night session when we were simulating race running. It was my first time running like that so it was a lot to take in. We were also practicing pit stops without laps and in laps. We knew it was going to be hard but I guess that it's just part of the learning process and I'll be better next time. I feel comfortable in the car. I also think a lot of the guys went on low trim runs as well so that's why they did so many quick times. We left it on high downforce the whole time making it hard to compare. I have some catching up to do on that side because I haven't had that experience before but it's all part of the learning curve."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "We had good cars here last year. I think JR (Hildebrand) was the only one faster (than the track record). 19.09 (sec/lap), I think. It's fine. It's an open test. It's a continuation from last year. We had good cars. We were fortunate enough to be part of the tire test team here last fall, so you know, in that regard I think we had a little bit of a jump start on this tire, maybe relative to some of the other guys. So that's always nice to get that opportunity. We're thankful for Firestone to do that. So we had been here on this tire. Obviously JR hadn't, but the team has done a good job. We've gone through some changes, but the guys have kept their head down. We still have the same goals of competing for race wins, competing for the championship, Indy 500, and this is an important race. It's the first oval of the year. You want to come and set of set the tone for the ovals here just as St. Pete is important to kick off the season and set the tone for the road and street courses. The guys have been working hard, and it doesn't really count, doesn't mean much today, but at the same time it is fun to be up at the top and reward the guys for hard work this offseason."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I think being able to jump in at Iowa this last year was really helpful for me coming here, just to have a little bit of a — Phoenix is different, but it's more similar to Iowa than it used to be I think in a lot of ways, and not just giving me a chance to get on the short oval aero package and kind of understand what the team's setup kind of dynamic is, I guess. Definitely helped for me to just get up so speed more quickly that I had that little bit of familiarity with it. We rolled off the truck kind of as we would say just in the window, so it was a lot of just being able to — what we've been doing is sort of tailoring the cars to our individual needs, and those aren't that different, so both of us sort of then working together with our teams to benefit from each other along the way. So that's all gone smoothly thus far, and we'll get some more race running in this afternoon and hopefully start off the races — coming back here in a month or two."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It's been a very good test, very good start with Andretti Autosport. My first official test with the team. Everything was smooth and the car worked well. We learned a lot and we still need to come back here, there is a lot of work to be done. The amount of data the four cars get makes me so excited to work with the team. I am very happy."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 hhgregg Honda): "Overall, it's really great to be back in the car. We spent some time at Phoenix working in a few different directions, and you can't take too much away from the times because the whole field is working on different things. The hhgregg boys looked good on practice stops, Bryan (Herta) and I are getting along great and we're learning some things about the car. Not a bad start to the season so far."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "It's great to get the DHL Honda back in action. It's nice to be back in the testing mode, getting ready for the race season. We're back at work full swing. Looking forward to getting back to St. Pete, starting the season off. Hopefully we can find a little bit more speed here and be ready for the Phoenix race when we come back. It would be great to give DHL, Honda and AutoNation a win at our first oval of the year."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "We're just learning about how the new Honda engine and aero kit reacts to changes and working through race and qualifying setups. We did a little bit of race work yesterday during the day and then trimmed some down to get closer to a qualifying setup last night. We spent the afternoon of Day 2 doing some qualifying work just trimming downforce out and trying to get the drag out of it. We need to see how the car reacts in both speed and what we need to do on the engine side, but also the balance of the car and any adjustments we need to make before we come back on the race weekend. Tonight the plan is to do some race work and maybe even some full tank runs and see how the car does on a full tank and how it runs in traffic. There's so much we have to learn, so we're just trying to get as much information as possible before we come back during the season."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda): [On contact with wall in Turn 2] "I'm not completely sure what happened because the car felt fine – it just got loose and snapped. The car was good going into Turn 1, I went down to the bottom and the back end came out. The test has been productive overall, so this is a pretty big setback. The car has been great this weekend and I'm really happy with the progress we've made ahead of this incident. This was my first real contact with the wall – better here than in qualifying or the race – and it won't stop me from pushing hard."

Session 4 Results

Rank Car Driver Name Make Time Speed Diff Gap Best L Laps
1 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan HONDA 00:19.3932 189.716 –.—- –.—- 22 70
2 18 Bourdais, Sebastien HONDA 00:19.4158 189.495 0.0226 0.0226 6 103
3 27 Andretti, Marco HONDA 00:19.4602 189.063 0.0670 0.0444 9 76
4 8 Chilton, Max HONDA 00:19.4740 188.929 0.0808 0.0138 4 112
5 26 Sato, Takuma HONDA 00:19.4953 188.722 0.1021 0.0213 53 58
6 14 Munoz, Carlos CHEVY 00:19.5193 188.490 0.1261 0.0240 33 61
7 4 Daly, Conor CHEVY 00:19.6058 187.659 0.2126 0.0865 15 92
8 3 Castroneves, Helio CHEVY 00:19.6398 187.334 0.2466 0.0340 44 115
9 2 Newgarden, Josef CHEVY 00:19.6611 187.131 0.2679 0.0213 66 114
10 20 Carpenter, Ed CHEVY 00:19.6916 186.841 0.2984 0.0305 47 51
11 21 Hildebrand, JR CHEVY 00:19.6921 186.836 0.2989 0.0005 79 93
12 1 Pagenaud, Simon CHEVY 00:19.7453 186.333 0.3521 0.0532 73 75
13 5 Hinchcliffe, James HONDA 00:19.7731 186.071 0.3799 0.0278 54 98
14 12 Power, Will CHEVY 00:19.8736 185.130 0.4804 0.1005 54 84
15 10 Kanaan, Tony HONDA 00:19.9181 184.716 0.5249 0.0445 9 47
16 15 Rahal, Graham HONDA 00:19.9293 184.613 0.5361 0.0112 14 20
17 9 Dixon, Scott HONDA 00:19.9603 184.326 0.5671 0.0310 25 123
18 83 Kimball, Charlie HONDA 00:20.0408 183.585 0.6476 0.0805 75 112
19 7 Aleshin, Mikhail HONDA 00:20.1009 183.037 0.7077 0.0601 97 99
20 19 Jones, Ed (R) HONDA 00:20.2614 181.587 0.8682 0.1605 46 91
21 98 Rossi, Alexander HONDA 00:20.6043 178.565 1.2111 0.3429 3 7

Overall Results (Chevy 1-2-3-4-5)

Rank Car Driver Name Make Session Time Speed Laps
1 21 Hildebrand, JR CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.0401 193.234 241
2 20 Carpenter, Ed CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.1223 192.404 206
3 2 Newgarden, Josef CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.1693 191.932 275
4 3 Castroneves, Helio CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.1957 191.668 309
5 12 Power, Will CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.1988 191.637 263
6 7 Aleshin, Mikhail HONDA Practice 3 00:19.2549 191.079 292
7 10 Kanaan, Tony HONDA Practice 3 00:19.2656 190.973 187
8 1 Pagenaud, Simon CHEVY Practice 3 00:19.2788 190.842 303
9 18 Bourdais, Sebastien HONDA Practice 3 00:19.3236 190.399 284
10 5 Hinchcliffe, James HONDA Practice 3 00:19.3455 190.184 284
11 9 Dixon, Scott HONDA Practice 3 00:19.3548 190.092 303
12 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan HONDA Practice 4 00:19.3932 189.716 185
13 15 Rahal, Graham HONDA Practice 3 00:19.4428 189.232 261
14 27 Andretti, Marco HONDA Practice 2 00:19.4541 189.122 211
15 8 Chilton, Max HONDA Practice 4 00:19.4740 188.929 297
16 26 Sato, Takuma HONDA Practice 4 00:19.4953 188.722 243
17 14 Munoz, Carlos CHEVY Practice 4 00:19.5193 188.490 239
18 19 Jones, Ed (R) HONDA Practice 3 00:19.5399 188.292 175
19 83 Kimball, Charlie HONDA Practice 3 00:19.5667 188.034 240
20 4 Daly, Conor CHEVY Practice 4 00:19.6058 187.659 201
21 98 Rossi, Alexander HONDA Practice 1 00:19.6108 187.611 100
22 28 Rossi, Alexander HONDA Practice 2 00:19.9459 184.459 24

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