Marco Andretti tops Friday night test session at Phoenix

Photo: IndyCar
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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Yes, it’s only a test session, but Marco Andretti was fastest during the second of two three-hour test sessions on Friday for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Prix View at Phoenix International Raceway.

Interestingly, the 29-year-old also led last year’s Friday night test session at PIR as once again Honda-powered cars excelled in the cooler conditions.

Last year, five of the top-10 speeds in the night session were Hondas and this year, it was seven of the top-10, including the top six.

Andretti’s best speed in the No. 27 hhgregg Honda of 189.122 was almost two mph faster than his best speed in this session last year, 187.678. From a timing standpoint, that’s a time of 19.4541 seconds compared to 19.6038 seconds last year.

Earlier in the afternoon, Andretti described some of the changes coming to his No. 27 team, with Bryan Herta his new strategist and with Eric Bretzman taking over as technical director for the team.

“It’s too early to tell about anything. Probably these two days will still be early as hell, but good so far, steady, really having fun working with Bryan (Herta), and even having Eric Bretzman there has been a good addition, as well,” Andretti said.

“We’ve been pushing it. That’s for sure. All I can say is the only thing that I think can help is just closing the holes up on the bottom of the floor. But that’s just me.”

Graham Rahal was second, having experimented with an earlier version Honda aero kit rear wing package for his No. 15 United Rentals Honda, at 188.642 mph. Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais and Charlie Kimball completed the top-six Honda sweep, with JR Hildebrand best of the Chevrolet runners in seventh.

Several yellow flags flew for track inspections, but there were no mechanical ailments or incidents during the session.

Arguably the most interesting part of this one was that Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay briefly swapped seats at Andretti Autosport, Rossi taking laps in the No. 28 DHL Honda and Hunter-Reay stepping into the No. 98 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, to see where each other was from a setup standpoint.

Rossi (24 laps) and Hunter-Reay (11 laps) added those laps to their laps in their primary cars to provide 23 car/driver combinations that took place in the session.

Although the ambient and track temperatures both dropped into the 70-degree range this session, Josef Newgarden’s lap from earlier Friday stood as the day’s fastest.

Another set of three-hour sessions, in the same time frames of 1-4 and 6-9 p.m. MT (3-6 and 8-11 p.m. ET) take place tomorrow. Session times from the evening are below:

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”