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Marco Andretti fastest on Friday at Barber

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Marco Andretti put Andretti Autosport and Honda back on top in the second 45-minute free practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series’¬†Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 3 of the 2017 season.

The driver of the No. 27 Honda, running in a plain red-and-white livery this weekend with United Fiber & Data only in an associate sponsor role this weekend, put down a best time of 1:07.7134, after installing a set of Firestone’s red alternate tires.

Team Penske’s pair of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power also got into the 1:07 bracket, as did initial Barber winner Helio Castroneves and six-time Barber podium finisher Scott Dixon.

Six of the top 10 were Hondas in this session after Penske and Chevrolet completed a 1-4 sweep in the morning session.

Two red flags interrupted running, a pair of lazy spins for both Max Chilton at Turn 15 and Ed Jones at Turn 5, with neither Brit (yes, Jones is Dubai-based) incurring any damage to their cars.

Meanwhile Ryan Hunter-Reay had a moment as he ran wide at Turn 2 and made light contact with the outside ARMCO barrier to his left front tire, but again sustained no visible damage. Charlie Kimball had a quick off-and-on at the end of the session but escaped unharmed.

Third practice runs tomorrow morning with qualifying coming Saturday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. CT and local time, then on air on NBCSN and online at 3:30 p.m. CT.

Times are below.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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