As speculation surrounding his future begins to heat up this weekend in Houston, Simon Pagenaud isn’t letting it affect his day job.
The driver of the No. 77 Oculus Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda ended fastest on the day after the second Verizon IndyCar Series 45-minute practice session, at 1:00.1415 around the 1.7-mile M.D Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at NRG Park.
“I feel really good. This car is a pleasure to drive,” Pagenaud said post-practice. “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.”
Second and third were Ryan Briscoe and Luca Filippi in the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, respectively. This marks Filippi’s first day in an IndyCar since he raced at Houston in October last year.
Helio Castroneves and Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top five. Scott Dixon and Will Power, who won the two races in Houston last year, were eighth and ninth in this session. Power led the morning 45-minute practice.
This 45-minute practice session ended a few minutes early when Jack Hawksworth hit the curbing at the Turns 1 and 2 complex, with the latter curb launching the driver of the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda airborne and then into the outside retaining wall. Hawksworth was OK but the Bryan Herta Autosport team will have a bit of work to do this evening.
Additionally, the curbing at Turn 2 is set to be ground down later today, to reduce the likelihood of liftoffs.
Aleshin (Turn 4) and Tony Kanaan (Turn 2) also had spins in the session but resumed without damage. Teams then completed standing start practice after the second practice session ended.
Here’s practice two times: