Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was again the fastest Verizon IndyCar driver Saturday morning, with a time of 1:06.8892. The times were definitely faster than Friday, with ten drivers faster than Power’s fastest time Friday afternoon. He was the only driver to drop down into the 1:06’s.
At the Checkered Flag, it was Team Penske Chevrolets on top: Power, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 PPG Automotive Finish Team Penske, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Auto Club of Southern California, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske and the lone Honda in the top five – Mikhail Aleshin/No.7SMP Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. On the last lap Aleshin barely kissed the concrete wall onto the straight and continued to the pits.
The session was interrupted by two Red Flags lasting 9.59 minutes, and the drivers were given an additional three minutes of track time. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda clipped the tire wall. He continued into the pits for repairs and got back on course. He ended the session in fourteenth.
Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Motor Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan led briefly at the half-hour mark, with a 1:07.4066, perhaps the first fastest Honda all weekend. However, ten minutes later Rahal crashed the concrete wall exiting Turn Nine, and had to be towed. His time held for sixth place. “I got a big snap and lost it into the marbles and the wall. Those marbles feel like ice and you go dead straight. Those Drift Cars lead a lot of marbles. I’m good.” The Motegi Racing Super Drift Challenge Competition cars perform nightly between 7-9pm on Turns Nine, Ten and Eleven to a wildly enthusiastic crowd.
All 21 drivers made good use of the forty-five minute session. Rahal turned the most laps of any driver – 65. Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda turned the fewest – 40.
Max Chilton/No.8Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was the top Rookie, in eighteenth. the other two, Americans Connor Daly/No18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing, and Alexander Rossi/No.98 Castrol Edge/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian ended up twentieth and twenty-first.
It was warm and sunny with a lilting breeze from the start Saturday. Optimum fan-friendly weather. The crowds are out. One astute observer commented that never had so many TV shows been seen and heard doing live remotes from the race track. There certainly is a carnival atmosphere on and around the race track. One would have to be a hermit not to know the Grand Prix is in town.
Next up for IndyCar is Qualifying at 2pm local (Pacific) time. There will be two groups, ten in Group One and eleven in Group Two. Then the Firestone Fast 6.