Kanaan leads Chevrolet top-seven sweep in incident-filled NOLA first practice

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AVONDALE, La. – Tony Kanaan has led the opening 90-minute practice session for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), in an incident-filled and a Chevrolet-routed session.

Kanaan posted a flier of 1:18.8753 in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, which edged St. Petersburg polesitter and defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, at 1:18.9292. Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon, clocked in third at 1:18.9662 in the No. 9 Brita Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

What are usually the pair of red Ganassi cars are primarily blue this weekend, Dixon’s car shifting from its usual Target red for its first partner livery of the season. This unofficially marks the first race since 1989 there is not a Target-sponsored Ganassi car in the race.

Until the final minute, 12 of the top 13 runners were Chevrolets, including a top-10 sweep by Chevrolet. Dale Coyne Racing’s Carlos Huertas in 11th was the top Honda runner until the final laps.

However, late fliers from James Hinchcliffe and Gabby Chaves to end eighth and ninth interrupted the Chevrolet dominance. Hinchcliffe, in the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda, was 0.6011 of a second off Kanaan’s best time in eighth overall.

Kanaan led Power, Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud, with Josef Newgarden and Sage Karam the top seven in Chevrolets. Hinchcliffe, Chaves and St. Petersburg race winner Juan Pablo Montoya completed the top 10.

A total of six red flags flew in the session. Jack Hawksworth stopped on track at Turn 3 to cause the first, Francesco Dracone spun exiting Turn 5 to cause the second, a third brief red flag occurred shortly thereafter, Huertas spun exiting Turn 6 and Luca Filippi narrowly avoided him to cause red number four, Hinchcliffe spun exiting Turn 5 in No. 5 for the fifth, and a brief spin by Dixon exiting Turn 1 completed the half dozen.

Stefano Coletti also had a wild ride through the gravel exiting Turn 6 but survived without any further damage.

Second practice runs from 4:15 to 5:35 p.m., for an 80-minute session later this afternoon.


Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”