Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda was the fastest Verizon IndyCar Series driver Friday morning in the first practice at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana CA. His gleaming gold car cut a fine picture around the two-mile high banked oval. His fastest time was 217.451 mph/0.33.1109 seconds.
Briscoe is filling in the injured/recovering James Hinchcliffe of Canada for the remainder of the 2015 season. He missed the Detroit Double and Toronto races due to his Le Mans commitments with the factory Corvette GT team. Briscoe was slated to race the No.63 Corvette with co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Unfortunately, Magnussen suffered a horrific crash during practice, when a rock stuck under the throttle and he was a passenger in the car which was irreplaceably broken. Magnussen was unhurt. There was no backup car and the Corvette was withdrawn. Briscoe said he would be back in the car for the last TUDOR ‘endurance’ race – Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Hinchcliffe was injured in a huge crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 race, but is on the road to recovery after suffering lift-threatening injuries. He was the Grand Marshal for his hometown Toronto IndyCar race.
The Schmidt Peterson cars have a hash tag wish for Hinch on all the back engine cover fin.
IndyCar two-qualifying lap record was 218.540 mph set by Helio Castroneves/No.3 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet, set in October 2013. The one-lap qualifying lap record is 220.775 mph, set in October 2008 by Gil de Ferran. Last year’s two-lap averaged pole lap was 218.540 mph set by 2014 IndyCar Champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske.
Second through fifth fastest were: Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Honda; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Levemir Flex Touch Chevrolet; – all in the 217’s; and last year’s race winner, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing, who turned 216.975 mph.
Several cars have new liveries this weekend reflecting different sponsorship. Among those is Scott Dixon/No.9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He was eighth overall. The Unilever Degree logo is promoting a six week Get Moving Challenge, a fitness program for Women’s Health and Men’s Health.
The first session was lengthened by five minutes to cover the 14 minutes lost during the two cautions for Track Inspection. Other than the two delays, the session was problem-free. The temperature reached 75 degrees F ambient and 93 degrees F for the track. The weather was somewhat overcast, hardly breezy, with 63 percent humidity. Some people thought they smelled smoke from Southern California wildfires, in the San Bernadino mountains.
Most drivers were quick to exit their cars and head for the cooler confines of garages, hauler overheads or coaches. A couple stopped for autographs.
Three of the four Penske guys had a lively debrief.