Who would have thought Hondas would run 1-2-3 in IndyCar practice at Barber Motorsports Park Friday but that is just what they did. And even more surprising, it was Foyt Racing, who are known more for their oval track prowess, ran 1-2, led by Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth. Sato and Hawksworth are both seasoned road course drivers. Hawksworth loves this course because it really shows what the IndyCar can do on a natural terrain road course.
James Hinchcliffe (Honda) was third just 0.03 sec off fast time.
Will Power (Chevy) and Graham Rahal (Honda) rounded out the top-5 giving Honda 4 of the top-5 times.
Sato, whose best start at Barber in six previous tries is sixth, credited teamwork between his and Hawksworth's crews for taking them to the front of the leaderboard.
"Just tiny details, working on the small factors," the 39-year-old Japanese driver said. "Jack and I divided a few problems and experimented test items, and we got everything back together, and then show the trim and the speed for the team.
"The Honda package seems to be working pretty well, so we were happy to see it, of course, and good competition out there. Extremely close to everyone else."
Hawksworth is working this weekend with a new lead race engineer, Daniele Cucchiaroni, who served as Sato's performance engineer in 2015. Cucchiaroni was Hawksworth's performance engineer his rookie season in 2014 with Bryan Herta Autosport before both joined the Foyt team last year.
"This season he was working on my car as the performance engineer," said Hawksworth, the 25-year-old Brit. "Very clever guy. We have a very good relationship. I always knew he was going to end up engineering my car at some point or another in the future. I didn't realize it was going to be quite this soon, but it's been good."
The 1-2 showing had team president Larry Foyt, son of team owner and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, beaming.
"We had a good test here in (March) and we felt like we'd be decent, so it's nice," said Larry Foyt, who's also Sato's race strategist. "The hard work over the winter seems to be translating. You've still got to qualify, but that was a great day. To have both cars up there is what we want."
With James Hinchcliffe running third in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry (1:07.2455, 123.131 mph), it gave Honda the top three cars on the speed chart. All three top laps were set in the afternoon practice on a drying track following a torrential downpour between sessions.
"It was a solid first day for us," Hinchcliffe said. "Once again, the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was pretty strong off the truck and we were hoping for that. We had a good test here back in February and we were hoping that was going to transfer over."
Sebastien Bourdais, in the No. 11 Team Europa – KVSH Racing car, was the fastest Chevrolet in the 21-car field with a lap of 1:07.3399 (122.958 mph) established in the morning practice. Will Power rounded out the combined top five with a lap of 1:07.3434 (122.952 mph) this afternoon in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Both practices ran incident-free, though few cars turned laps in the first half of the afternoon session, waiting for the Alabama sun to dry the surface.
A third practice is set for noon-12:45 p.m. ET Saturday (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com), the final chance for Verizon IndyCar Series entrants to dial in their cars prior to Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying at 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN). The 90-lap race on the 2.3-mile permanent road course goes off Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is the fourth of 16 races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Team Penske's Simon Pagenaud is the current points leader with a 14-point advantage over Dixon.
LARRY FOYT (AJ Foyt Racing, Team President): "We had a good test here in (March) and we felt like we'd be decent, so it's nice. The hard work over the winter seems to be translating. You've still got to qualify, but that was a great day. To have both cars up there is what we want. Both drivers did a great job and it looks great for the team. I hope it just shows the effort we've been putting in. Hopefully we'll keep them up there for ABC Supply and be first at the end on Sunday."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We had a good day today. We are struggling a bit with understeer in the Verizon Chevy. We definitely made gains on it. I'm usually in the top 10 here and we are right there again. If we can continue to dial the understeer out we will be better. Qualifying is going to be key for us tomorrow so we will go to work on that."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "The AAA Insurance Chevrolet wasn't as consistent as we hoped. Fortunately, we have another practice tomorrow and teammates to get information from. I'm confident we'll have a good qualifying session tomorrow."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was a solid first day for us. Once again, the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was pretty strong off the truck and we were hoping for that. We had a good test here back in February and we were hoping that that was going to transfer over. The car was quite good this morning and we didn't do many changes over lunch but made it even a tick better. We still had some things that went wrong in the last session that I think held us back from even a little more speed so we'll see. It's only Friday, it doesn't matter until it matters. We saw this in Long Beach too. Some of the other guys didn't really show their speed until Saturday morning so ultimately, we don't know where we are just yet but it's certainly a good starting point and hopefully we can just keep this momentum going into qualifying tomorrow."
MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "We spent the morning session working on the Gallagher car and really just tried to get it to my liking. It's kind of floating around there underneath me so we have some work to do. This is one of the few tracks I was able to test at in the preseason and I know my teammates have gotten some good results here, especially Scott. I hope we can learn from today and move forward to get the car going in the right direction for tomorrow."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Coca-Cola Chevrolet): "It was kind of a slow start today for us. The field is really, really tight. We were working on the balance of the Coke car here at Barber in the morning session. It rained a lot this afternoon and we let the others go out while the track was drying. Overall I think our car is improving but we still have a little way to go to get it where it needs to be for Sunday. I think the front runners took tires at the end of the day so we should be up in the mix when it matters."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "We had some electrical issues this morning in the first practice so we weren't able to run near as much as we wanted to. I think we ended up running five or six laps and we had to spend the last 20 minutes trying to fix the issue. The team was able to get everything fixed during the break and we were good to go for the second practice. Thankfully the track dried up after the rain this afternoon and we were able to log some laps and get some solid qualifying runs in. We aren't completely happy with the qualifying setup but we know what we need to change to run in tomorrow's morning session and prepare for qualifying tomorrow afternoon."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team EUROPA – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "We came out of the test at Barber in March feeling pretty happy with the EUROPA – KVSH Racing machine. The car was good in the morning session and we made it a little better. In the afternoon, we made some changes and learned some things. The whole field is very close, so you have to stay on top of the changing conditions. We have to keep digging, working hard and hopefully, we can enjoy a good race weekend."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We changed a few things on the Verizon Chevy for the second practice. So, we got ourselves in the right window and we feel confident for tomorrow. We're pretty happy with the car and I believe we're around about where we need to be."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "It's good. Just tiny details, working on the small factors, and Jack (Hawksworth) and I divided a few problems and experimented test items, and we got everything back together and then show the trim and the speed for the team. The Honda package seems to be working pretty well, so we were happy to see it, of course, and good competition out there. Extremely close to everyone else. I don't know what's happening for tomorrow. Conditions might be changing and maybe we'll see, but at least we've been competitive the first two sessions. That's been promising."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda): "Overall I feel pretty good with how we ran today. I feel like we have a decent car. Obviously I wanted to run a better lap at the end on new tires but it just didn't quite work out. We are learning a lot of things that will help improve the car. We utilized the second session as a test session and kind of departed from where we were this morning and so far, so good. It would be great to win this race but, for us, we just need to get this season kicked off and there would be no better way to do that than to win."
CONOR DALY (No. 18 Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality Honda): "I think we knew this place would be a challenge for us. There's a lot here at Barber Motorsports Park that is really technical and it really focuses on the mechanical side of the set up. We just have to keep working on what we're doing. We're evaluating things that we need to evaluate on our Jonathan Byrd's Hospitality car and hopefully we can put a few things together overnight for tomorrow. It's just a work in progress basically. The loss of track time at the start of the session, while we were waiting for the track to dry up a bit, wasn't really a factor. In the end we're limited by tires, so we only really ran as much as we were going to anyway I think. It just happened in a tighter window."
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "Overall, it was a positive day. We started with a good set up on the Boy Scouts of America car in the morning and I had a good feeling with the car so everything was going well. We were pretty fast in the first practice session and then the weather wasn't great to start the afternoon. When it got better, we just didn't make an ultimate fast lap. I think the lap times are so close for everybody that in qualifying tomorrow it will be very crucial to have a good lap with no mistakes and near perfection to go through the different qualifying rounds. We are there I think, we just have to be positive for tomorrow."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "We were better in the second session than in the first! Really, we were too bad in the first session, it was just kind of a strange progression for track temp, tires, and when people were using what. Everyone was kind of jumbled all over the place with some fast guys midfield to the back. I wasn't too worried about that, I wanted to see where we'd be at in Practice 2 and we were a lot better here. We have been good at Barber in the past and we're back with a great group with the Fuzzy's crew. I'm pretty happy with where we're at and feel confident for tomorrow."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): "I like the racing here because especially on restarts, you get a lot of opportunities to run side by side in Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 5, even entry of Turn 8, so the first lap is very exciting. You can make a move. The weather every year is playing a card, as well, and I kind of like that. That's racing. You've got to play with the elements, and I remember I think it was 2014 when it rained at the beginning of the race and then it was dry at the end. I just love that kind of racing. I wouldn't mind a weekend like that."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "After one more day of practice in Barber, I think I feel a little bit stronger after Long Beach, but everyone is so close together and tires make a big difference here. It depends how many sets of new tires you will have. We have work to do for tomorrow, it's going to be real close – the goal is to be in the Firestone Fast Six. I think we have the car for it but we need to put it all together."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 hhgregg/Snapple Honda): "After one more day of practice in Barber, I think I feel a little bit stronger after Long Beach, but everyone is so close together and tires make a big difference here. It depends how many sets of new tires you will have. We have work to do for tomorrow, it's going to be real close – the goal is to be in the Firestone Fast Six. I think we have the car for it but we need to put it all together."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We had a pretty challenging day, but we started out promising – P4 in the first session – then in the second session we didn't get our run on new tires. I think right now we're a top seven car; we just have to put it all together and find some answers tonight with our teammates."
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JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "It's been good. I mean, we've been good on practice days at every single race pretty much this year. You know, kind of just focused on continuing it throughout the weekend. And yeah, capitalizing on the performance of the car. We've gone to St. Pete, Long Beach, certainly both tracks where we had a very, very good car, and in practice. For several reasons it didn't work out, but we seem to have a good car here, as evidenced by both cars being at the front, so I'm looking forward to the race and hoping we can finally turn it into a positive result this weekend."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "Honestly, today was probably one of the more frustrating days I've ever had in an Indy car. We couldn't find the balance and we really struggled to find grip. We tried a few different things and just went in circles. We need to really look hard tonight and figure out what direction we need to go in for tomorrow's practice session to prepare for qualifying. I'm very confident in the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys and I know we'll get it figured out, but it just kind of feels like we're chasing our tails at the moment."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "Honestly, I think that is the worst Friday I have ever had in my racing career. I don't think I've ever experienced such a big deficit in pace. We have to either go home or start from scratch tomorrow, and I don't want to go home."
|8||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:07.469||0.2536||0.0542||13||17||122.722||Chevy|