RYAN HUNTER-REAY/Andretti Autosport Chevrolet was the leader when the checkered flag flew Friday morning to end IZOD IndyCar Practice One in St.Pete ahead of the Honda Grand Prix. Although he is the champion and eligible for the Number One, RHR also incorporates his former Number 28 in the livery as it represents the 28 million cancer sufferers in the US – a cause near and dear to his heart.
The top spot changed often, with a variety of drivers taking their turns on top. RHR’s top time was 1:02.4534. The session was run without incident. The weather was warmish – 64 degrees F, with an increasingly cloudy sky and a breeze with attitude. The track was 84 degrees F.
The top five and eight of the top ten drivers were in Chevrolets. Second through fifth were JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/Andretti Autosport, WILL POWER/Team Penske, J.R. HILDEBRAND/National Guard Panther Racing, and E.J. VISO/Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM.
SIMONA de SILVESTRO/KV Racing Technology Chevrolet ran as high as third before finishing seventh OA. She has gone from being called the ‘Swiss Miss’ to the ‘Swiss Missile. It pleased many that given her chance to drive in a competitive car she’s doing well. No one can remember her ever saying a disparaging word about her hapless season last year in the (only) Lotus.
ANA BEATRIZ/Dale Coyne Racing Honda finished last in the session, although she ran a few positions higher for awhile.
Last year’s St. Pete victor, HELIO CASTRONEVES/Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, was eleventh fastest.
The top/only Rookie, TRISTAN VAUTIER/Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Honda was thirteenth.
The IndyCar season has started with more team lineup finality than in years past. There are 25 drivers starting at St. Pete, and there are already talks of extra drivers who will be joining the series for several races and/or the Indy 500, such as A.J. ALLMENDINGER racing for Team Penske at Berber Motorsports Park and Indy; and MIKE CONWAY, who will race at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
After the session, the teams went to work on their cars, tweaking this and that. JOSEF NEWGARDEN/SarahFisher Hartman Racing Honda had his car really taken apart by the team, who beavered away. He ran eighth in the practice session.
The paddock setup for the IndyCar teams isn’t as ideal as found at other, permanent, circuits. Some of the cars are outside between the track and the Media Center. Many are in the nearby parking garage, literately as well as figuratively. A garage is a garage is a garage. There, the teams have long narrow slots next to their transporters. As a result, the teams made a practice of moving their cars as far back as possible from the barriers, so it was nigh on impossible to see or watch anything; and the lighting was too dim for photographs.
In the Firestone Indy Lights practice session, Rookie JACK HAWKSWORTH/Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian was tops with a time of 1:07.4322. Second through fifth were CARLOS MUNOZ/Dialy-Ser-Andretti Autosport, Rookie ZACH VEACH/K-12-Andretti Autosport, PETER DEMPSEY/Belardi Auto Racing, and Rookie GABBY CHAVES/Schmidt Peterson c/w Curb-Agajanian.