Like a hound on the hunt, Will Power continues aggressively chasing down the prey in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Team Penske driver paced the field in practice today for The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, running what would be a record pace in the process.
Power's best lap around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course of 1 minute, 4.1962 seconds (126.624 mph), in the second of two 75-minute practice sessions, was nearly four-tenths of a second better than the track record established a year ago by Scott Dixon in Verizon P1 Award qualifying. Power, in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was among four drivers who turned laps on the 2.258-mile permanent road course under Dixon's standard.
"Obviously the cars are just getting faster and faster," Power said. "It's not like the track is getting faster. It's just amazing how much speed we have in like Turn 11 and Turn 1 now.
"It's definitely going to be a lap record broken. … Yeah, that'll be broken for sure if it's dry."
Power missed the 2016 season opener with an inner-ear infection, but has won three of the last four completed Verizon IndyCar Series races to move into second in the championship. The 28-time Indy car race winner and 2014 series champion sits 47 points behind teammate Simon Pagenaud – the other three-race winner this season.
"It's very obvious to us what we have to do, and that's finish ahead of Pagenaud in particular because he's got such a chunk of points ahead of us," Power said. "It's a no-brainer for us. … Not that you take any stupid risks, but we understand that week in, week out, you've got your aim, you've got your goal."
Dixon, the five-time Mid-Ohio race winner in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy, led morning practice with a lap of 1:04.4491 (126.127 mph) that held up for second fastest on the day. Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet, 1:04.4663, 126.094 mph) and Pagenaud (1:04.5353, 125.959 mph) also eclipsed Dixon's track record in the afternoon practice before heavy rains moved in with 25 minutes remaining.
RC Enerson, making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut after driving the first half of the season in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, grabbed everyone's attention by running seventh quick in the afternoon session (1:04.7284, 125.583 mph). The Dale Coyne Racing driver was excited to be behind the wheel of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.
"It was incredible," said the 19-year-old who won an Indy Lights race at Mid-Ohio last year. "It's completely different from anything I have driven. Every time I come here, I tend to do all right and it's one of my favorite tracks. It's just got this thing about it that suits my driving style really well and I'm just excited to be here."
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is Round 13 of the 16-race Verizon IndyCar Series season, though the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway was suspended by rain after 71 laps on June 12 and will be completed Aug. 27.
A third Mid-Ohio practice session is scheduled from 9:45-10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, ahead of three rounds of knockout qualifying to determine the pole winner at 2 p.m. ET (NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Coverage of Sunday's 90-lap race begins at 2 p.m. ET on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with a same-day re-air at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Hawk Performance Chevy was pretty quick today. It was not as good at the test so we made some changes to the car and as a result, we gained on those changes a lot during practice. This is a tough racetrack and so the more changes we make, the better we can adjust here. Hopefully, we'll get some dry weather tomorrow for qualifying. Either way, we'll be ready."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "The Hitachi Chevrolet is really good. We tried a lot of different combinations and really learned a lot. Obviously, that was in dry conditions. Hopefully, it will be dry tomorrow. We'll see how different the track is tomorrow after the rain today. Either way, we'll learn more tomorrow and be ready for qualifying."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "Mid-Ohio is such a great track. I think it really suits my driving style. Getting on the podium in both races last year here in Indy Lights was a great start for me. It was a shame that the second practice session got cut short, as I was one of only a handful of drivers that didn't get to test here recently. I'm looking forward to coming back tomorrow in the Gallagher car, as you always learn something and come back better than the first day."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "The Target car felt good this morning. We were quick and even put on a set of tires at the end of the first session, but didn't get to use them after the red flag came out. In the second session we didn't take tires like some of the others. I got out when it started raining and we stopped for the rest of the session." (On success at Mid-Ohio) "It's always a place that the team loves coming to. It's 10 victories for the team here so it's definitely been a place that we've run well at throughout the generations. Today it rolled off the truck pretty well and the car was decent. I think the car is always competitive and hopefully we'll see what tomorrow brings. Obviously weather conditions are going to be tricky I think throughout and will definitely dice up the field a bit. Always happy to be here at Mid-Ohio. It's always a fun track."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "I can't complain about how the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet ran today. We took new tires at the end of both practices and saw some jumps in lap times. We were hoping to get a little more time on track at the end of the second session with those new tires, but we got a lot of good data at the test last week so we aren't too worried about the lost 15 or 20 minutes of track time."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "Obviously not happy with the classification, but I am not quite sure it's very relevant. We didn't get an opportunity to baseline the car on new tires when most guys did. I think the Hydroxycut car is pretty decent. We tried a couple of things that gave us direction, so if we can put it all together tomorrow and the weather doesn't become too much of a factor. Fingers crossed that everything aligns and see what happens."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's interesting this place. It's funny, tracks that click with you, it's me and Sonoma and Dixon and this track. Usually he clicks well around here. I think we've had a couple poles here. We finished second a couple times. It's just about nailing it. Obviously yellows play a big part. If it goes yellow and you're stuck out, you go to the back, which is one of the worst things about this series, and it has to change. I say it every week. But it won me a race in Toronto, and it probably won me a race in Detroit, and I still say it's wrong. But hopefully it's dry for qualifying. I think that'll make it — I wouldn't say more interesting. There's a way to make it really interesting, but for us we've got a good car on the dry, so we're open to that. So this way we'll be ready.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "After the test we brought the car back here with some hope but the conditions today didn't suit it so we had to change. We made small progress but it is not enough. In the second practice, we were trying something else but then the rain came and stopped the session. The lap time doesn't look strong at all because we have a balance problem which hopefully we can sort out for tomorrow."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "It was difficult to get the Steak 'n Shake car to improve this morning. We tested here last week and came back and it was a whole different beast to drive. The track can change so much in a short amount of time and that's why it's hard to test here, and some teams don't. With all the GT cars and other cars racing, there are a lot of different types of rubber on the track and on top of that, just a lot of cars, period. We definitely improved the Steak 'n Shake car in the second practice. We got a decent lap in at the end. The rain did catch me on the last part of the lap but we were fourth fastest so we'll take it. When you come here to test as a single-car team, it's tough. It's all on you as the lone individual, whereas Penske for instance has four cars to share the data with. It's not easy but my guys have done an excellent job this year of keeping their heads down and fighting hard. Obviously we want to win here, we want to go back-to-back. It's a big weekend for myself, for all of our sponsors like Steak 'n Shake, PennGrade and everyone that is heavily involved and makes this happen. I hope we can have a solid weekend."
CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "It's a shame that we were not able to run until the end of the session with the pouring rain coming with about 20 minutes to go. There was no point in going out in that weather. We would've liked to be able to continue improving and move up the time sheets, but that said, it was a good day overall. The car feels good and we kept on improving with every outing and that's what we're here to do. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully we can keep going in this direction."
RC ENERSON (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was incredible. (Driving an Indy car) It's completely different from anything I have driven. Every time I come here I tend to do all right and it's one of my favorite tracks. It's just got this thing about it that suits my driving style really well and I'm just excited to be here. This is probably the best track to make my debut at."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "We made a lot of progress from the first practice session to the second. We still had more potential for the second session if we'd been able to finish it out in the dry. We would have gone even quicker on our next set of tires but we'll see what tomorrow brings. Might be wet, might be dry! I feel confident in what we have with the Fuzzy's Vodka/Rising Star Racing/Mockett car."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet): "We're moving along through our list of changes to get to. We're on a good path, but I think it's going to be tight. It's always very close together here in Mid-Ohio. The field is generally quite tight. You have to get every little tenth of time. We're going to be on the right end of it this year, the goal is to get into the Firestone Fast Six during qualifying and do work from there."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "We were looking to build on what we learned at the test and were able to do that. The PPG Chevy is in a good place. I don't know what the rain will do to the track, but we'll find that out in practice tomorrow. I'm confident that we'll perform well in qualifying and get a good starting position. I just hope we can get some dry weather for us and the fans."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It's a shame we couldn't run until the end (of the second session). I think we improved the car compared to the first practice session. Everyone is really close from each other. One-tenth (of a second) would put us in the top 10 – it's really, really, really close. Tomorrow we have to put everything together. I think we still have to do a lot of work together to do something, so let's see."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "We just never got to a point today that felt like the direction to head in. With the rain cutting the second session short, we're kind of left trying to think through the weekend and what conditions might bring as well. We'll regroup for tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We worked through a few changes today and never really felt like we found the balance where we need to be to be fighting for the (Firestone) Fast Six. We'll put our heads together tonight and, as a team, try and come up with a setup that works. This has historically been a great track for us – we've been on the pole here and have a couple podiums, so hopefully we can get back to that for the DHL team."
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "Tricky day to start with. We progressed in the second session; the car felt reasonable in the infield section and the high-speed sections. We have to fix a couple things in Turns 2 and 12 (medium-low speed corners). If we do that I think we'll be pretty decent."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "Today was a good day. It's really nice coming back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – the track is a lot of fun to drive. I think you can see that with all of the drivers and the smiles on their faces. The track itself is a lot of fun. There are a few things that have changed from year to year – the sealing patches in some of the corners wearing differently and how they rubber up is quite interesting. It's a shame we didn't get to put new tires on the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet because of the rain – I think we would've been quite quick. Some of the guys up and down pit lane definitely put new tires on and took a big jump in lap times. I think the track is getting better. Obviously with the rain washing stuff away we'll have to adapt to that tomorrow morning and keep an eye on the weather for qualifying. I feel really good about the No. 83 – it was quick straight out of the box. Even though we didn't test here last week, I was comfortable and up to speed. It's been a good day in the No. 83 camp."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "Certainly a better afternoon than this morning. I think we found a bit of direction. It's really close to the top. Because of the rain we weren't able to put everything together, so I think the potential is there for a good day tomorrow. I think we just need to dot our I's and cross our T's this evening to be fully prepared to attack for more tomorrow."
|17||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:05.055||0.8593||0.0712||14||21||124.952||Chevy|