Honda got its groove back Friday at Barber Motorsports Park and leading the charge besides its flagship Chip Ganassi Racing squad were the efforts from Sam Schmidt’s and Bryan Herta’s teams.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier paced Friday’s first practice, then ended the day third fastest with Schmidt Hamilton teammate Simon Pagenaud in fourth. An off for Vautier at the end of practice one interrupted what had been a good day.
“It was disappointing at the end of the first practice to cause a red because of a mistake, but no, I’m very happy with the car that the team has given me today,” Vautier said. “I think that I still have some room to keep improving, and we need to carry the momentum from today into tomorrow.”
Pagenaud estimated there were still gains to be made as the car struggled in some portions of the track.
“We still have quite a bit to do, as we are losing a lot in very important sectors; otherwise the car would be golden,” said Pagenaud. “There’s still a little bit of work to do but overall whether it’s Honda, whether it’s the team, and working with Tristan, this weekend has all been quite enjoyable.”
Schmidt told IndyCar Radio he hoped Honda had done its homework after both cars suffered exhaust problems at St. Petersburg, but remained cautious until the race concluded on Sunday.
Meanwhile at Herta’s Barracuda Racing, driver Alex Tagliani ended Friday in second place and put in an early candidate for quote of the year given his position on the timesheets.
“I am really proud of what the team accomplished here this weekend,” he said. “Obviously we are accustomed to being in the Firestone Fast 6 last year. I really didn’t like using the Port-a-Potty in the back of the grid. It feels good and hopefully we can have a good qualifying and it’s a tough race to pace here, so qualifying will be key.”
The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.
IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.
This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.
INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists
IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.
“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.
“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.