James Hinchcliffe, the defending champion of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, was fastest in this morning’s Verizon IndyCar Series practice session on the 1.8-mile St. Pete street circuit – the first of two practice runs for the series today.
“There’s a little more attention with being a past winner, but the goal remains the same this time around,” Hinchcliffe told assembled media at St. Pete.
Hinchcliffe logged a time of 62.9326 seconds at 102.967 mph in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Andretti Autosport Honda. He led a Honda sweep of the Top 3 times in Practice 1, with Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson (62.9385 seconds/102.958 mph) and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato (63.0603 seconds/102.759 mph) in P2 and P3, respectively.
Team Penske’s Will Power led the Chevrolet contingent with the fourth-fastest time in the session (63.1932 seconds/102.543 mph), followed by St. Pete resident and KV Racing Technology driver Sebastien Bourdais in fifth (63.1948 seconds/102.540 mph).
Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan completed the Top 10 in the session.
Other notables included Helio Castroneves in 11th, defending series champion Scott Dixon in 13th, and Penske newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya in 14th. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz was the fastest of the four rookies in 15th.
The top 18 drivers in the session, from leader Hinchcliffe all the way back to Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball, were separated by less than one second.
A second IndyCar practice will take place this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Live timing/scoring and audio will be available on IndyCar.com.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.