|Pagenaud puts his Honda on top on Friday|
Simon Pagenaud topped the afternoon practice session for the Shell and Pennzoil GP of Houston with a quick lap of 1m0.1415s seconds on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit.
Like the companion 45-minute morning session — in which Pagenaud was second quick — five different teams were represented in the top five of the time chart. The top dozen cars were separated by less than a second.
"We just need to keep up with the track on the (alternate) Firestone tires for qualifying," Pagenaud said. "The car is providing good rear grip, which suits my driving style."
Ryan Briscoe, driving the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing car with Plano, Texas-based NTT DATA as the primary sponsor, was second quick (1:00.6428).
Luca Filippi, who is making his fifth/sixth Verizon IndyCar Series starts this weekend, was third on the lap chart (1:00.6735) in the No. 16 National Guard car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He recorded the quickest race lap in Race 2 at Houston last October.
DAY 1 QUOTES:
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): "I feel really good. This car is a pleasure to drive. The track has been improved quite a bit in Turn 1, which is quite pleasant. It looks pretty strong right now. We just need to keep up with the track because the car was pretty much perfect today. If we're good tomorrow on the red Firestone tires, we should be in good shape. (About his car not looking perfect): "I like to have a – and obviously on TV it doesn't look that way – I like to have a stable rear and good traction and that what's the car is providing me even though I'm sliding it around a bit. It's a bumpy track and a tight track, sometimes it's necessary to pitch the car around to make it turn the way you want. So far it's perfect because it suits my driving style well and that's why it's perfect."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply Co. A.J. Foyt Racing Honda): "I'm happy to be back in Houston. We had a strong qualifying run last year, it's the team's base track so I see all the family and friends of the team, and A.J. is in a good mood, so all we need to do is go fast. We made progress in both sessions today. Since we have to go straight into the qualifying tomorrow morning, it is crucially important to have a good baseline car the first day and we had that. We still have things to do, so we need to work hard and hopefully we'll have a good performance tomorrow."
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "We really struggled to get it right today. It is hard to find any grip and we are sliding around. The car is similar to this morning and we thought that we were pretty good. We made just a few changes and didn't find that those changes gave us as much speed as we expected. The car was a handful this afternoon. We are going to have to look at things tonight and try again tomorrow in qualifying."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "(The track is) still bumpy. It feels way better than last year looked; thankful for all the changes and upgrades to the track. It's exciting and demanding. Not that hot but feels hot because of the humidity. It takes it out of you. I'm pleased with way we opened up with the car. First session was about me getting back in the groove at the track for the first time in seven years and relearning the track. This afternoon felt really good. We've had a busy schedule since last race at Texas with tests at Iowa, Milwaukee and Sebring. I feel like it helped us as a team and really keep building with what we're working with and hopefully keep going strong."
CARLOS HUERTAS (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "My (first Houston) experience so far is bumpy track and humid conditions. It was very difficult in the practice sessions because I don't have the best balance yet. I feel that I am a little bit behind but we made good progress today. It took quite a few laps in the morning to learn the circuit and that doesn't help us get a good setup on the car. It is always better to have more practice and we would have liked to try more changes but that is what it is. We will make some changes tonight and hopefully they are good ones for tomorrow."
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Strike/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "Today was hot as we expected even with overcast. Worked through a lot of stuff. Hopefully we can make some gains overnight. We didn't maximize our tire sets today so I don't think we showed exactly what we have but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I think we have a strong day ahead."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "The car just didn't handle as we would have liked today. We made some changes from the morning to the afternoon but it just wasn't enough. We'll have to work overnight to find some settings that can handle this circuit. I feel they have improved the surface of the track from last year. Especially the Turn 1 surface is much better and it feels smoother. There are smoother spots in other portions of the circuit, too. Overall, we just have to find the setup that works well on this new surface."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We never really got into a rhythm, never really got a good feel for the DHL car so I'm not sure what we have for tomorrow. With that said, I think being 10th without a representative lap is good. I think we're a fifth-place car at the moment but we need to make it better for tomorrow."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 25 Snapple Honda): "Not a bad day for the Snapple car. I think we weren't even close to our potential in the second session – we had yellows (yellow flag caution time) and then made a change that put us backwards. I think with new tires and the car that we started practice two with we'd be pretty good."
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Honda): "I think today was similar to a lot of the first practice days (at a track) we've had this year. It's about getting more comfortable with the track with the more laps I do. Our second practice was a little bit better than this morning; I have to improve a little bit to catch up for qualifying tomorrow. For sure it's going to be a very hard race being so hot, but it will be the same for everyone, so we'll see."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): "I think the car feels almost as good as it can here. This is a bumpy, tricky place that is really tough on the cars, really tough on the drivers, no chance to rest with lots of bumps throwing us around… but I think the United Fiber & Data car was pretty solid both sessions. I think, like a lot of guys, we didn't get the best out of the tires when we needed to just because of traffic and the nature of a small racetrack. It's tough here. You never quite know how you are just because the car never feels 100 percent but it might be better than everyone else's, so you might be pretty quick. I think we're in the ballpark. The goal is get into the Firestone Fast Six in the morning and then be able to race from there. We'll make a couple changes overnight, but nothing too major because I think we're getting close."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 National Guard Honda): "I think the National Guard car is very competitive and I think there is more time in it. We didn't get a run on new tires so we don't really know its potential but I think it's probably a top-five car at this point. I just have to keep working on myself and find a bit more speed. I think we're learning; we've just got to keep going forward. I think we will have a pretty competitive car tomorrow. It's hot, there's no doubt about it but we'll be alright. It's going to be a survival of the fittest and hopefully we're one of them. I feel pretty good out of the car. The front straight is significantly better. It's a hard thing to do and they've done a phenomenal job with it."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "We were able to get a lot of good practice in today and Tony (Kanaan) and I both were able to work on qualifying on both sets of tires. We had a little bit of contact in the first practice, but we rebounded pretty quickly with that and finished both practices in the top 10. We obviously want to be higher than that, but we'll put in some time tonight and get the car ready for the first race tomorrow afternoon."
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "We tried a couple of different things in the second session and they obviously didn't work as well as we would have liked. We know exactly what needs to be changed and we have a teammate in the top two, so we want to head in that direction and see what we can do tomorrow."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet): "Overall we were pretty happy with the second session. We didn't get a chance to run new tires right there at the end like most of the guys did. We made some changes to the car that weren't quite as good, so I think we'll go back and take that direction and head into qualifying in the morning. The No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet looks great and it seems to be pretty quick already."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Actually, we didn't have a good session in that last one. It was really difficult to get a lap. It's normal IndyCar (racing). It's really difficult to be in that front bunch, it's very competitive. I think we've got a good chance tomorrow with about 10 other guys, so we're doing everything we can tonight to really work out the setup."
LUCA FILIPPI (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "I'm very happy because for me it feels like winter has just finished. It was a very long winter for me and now I'm here. I don't have many chances so I'm for sure fired up and I can't wait to race again and I like this circuit and I love to see it. I worked so hard to be back."
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (Is it as bumpy as you have been led to believe? ): "It's normal. I don't see what is the big deal." (What did people tell you to expect coming here and racing this course?): "Oh, it's so bumpy, 'Oh my God'. It's OK. It's just a racetrack. I don't know. Is it bumpy? Yeah, but I think it's fun. I think it's got a lot of character. The only thing I don't like is there are no apexes. The apexes are curves not walls. I don't know why. I think the drivers all complained that 'Oh, you don't see, you don't see', but I think that is the nature of a street course. That is where when you have an open apex it's really easy to commit to the wall. When you don't have an open apex and it's a wall it makes it a lot harder for a driver and I think it makes it a lot more fun."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet): (How do you not hate this place after last year?): "You can't. That is why racing is challenging. Just because something out of your control goes wrong, I don't want to think that way. I want to overcome that result. It gives me a purpose to come here, and make it even more of…trust me, I want to win as much as anybody. Plus, Shell Pennzoil headquarters are here, and I want to make sure their party is complete." (Is the track being bumpy the only concern?): "Yes. It is very difficult to pass. I wish we had a little more straightaway. But it is fun to drive. At the end of the day, whoever starts in front will have a huge advantage."
|16||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||1:01.227||1.0858||0.0226||96.075||Chevy|