Ryan Hunter-Reay, seeking to somehow recover from a devastating setback at Milwaukee, topped the opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma with a 1 minute, 17.7150 lap around the Sonoma Raceway road course.
Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion, remains mathematically alive in this year’s title fight but dropped to 108 points behind Milwaukee race winner Will Power after he was knocked out early one week ago with a suspension failure on his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Four of the six drivers that can still win the championship made up the Top 5 drivers in this first, 45-minute session. Behind RHR was Scott Dixon (sixth in the standings, -130 points), who took his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to second with a time of 1:17.8990.
Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, was third-quickest (1:18.1895), followed by Helio Castroneves (1:18.2732), Power’s teammate and closest rival in the championship at 39 points back. Rounding out the Top 5 was Power himself (1:18.4046).
This particular group of drivers largely kept their runs on the low-grip Sonoma circuit to a minimum. In fact, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, and Power didn’t make their way on to the course until around the midway part of the session, when Kanaan was leading the way with his 1:18.1895 lap that was ultimately eclipsed.
The two other title contenders, Simon Pagenaud (third, -92 points) and Juan Pablo Montoya (fifth, -114 points), ended up mid-pack on the speed charts. Pagenaud had an off-course excursion during practice due to a reported braking issue and had the 16th-fastest time (1:18.9928). Montoya was a bit better with the 12th-fastest time (1:18.7962).
Another practice session is coming up later today at 4:15 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices).
Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma – First Practice Times