Several IndyCar drivers pulled closer to breaking the one-minute per lap barrier during Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest on the 1.88-mile temporary street course with a speed of 1:00.8295.
James Hinchcliffe was second fastest (1:00.8724), followed by Will Power (1:00.9933).
“Not a bad way to start the season,” Hunter-Reay told the IndyCar Radio Network. “But it’s early still and we need to get our heads together at Andretti tonight and figure out how to make them go even faster tomorrow.”
Fourth fastest was Scott Dixon (1:01.1004), followed by defending series champion Josef Newgarden (1:01.1012), 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (1:01.1542), rookie Robert Wickens (1:01.2190), defending St. Pete Grand Prix winner Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.2741), Tony Kanaan (1:01.3185), 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato (1:01.3491) and Marco Andretti (1:01.3780) was bumped from 10th to 11th at the last minute by Rossi.
All told, Honda-powered cars held 8 of the first 11 spots in the session.
12th through 20th were Matheus Leist, who was fastest in the first practice, with a best lap of 1:01.4385, followed by 2016 series champ Simon Pagenaud (1:01.4509), Spencer Pigot (1:01.5505), rookie Jordan King (1:01.5579), Ed Jones (1:01.5819), Gabby Chaves (1:01.6177), Zack Veach (1:01.8423), Charlie Kimball (1:01.9166) and Graham Rahal (1:01.9993).
Lastly, 21st through 24th were Zachary Claman De Melo (1:02.0368), Max Chilton (1:02.0636), Jack Harvey (1:02.1640) and Rene Binder (1:02.3254).
Chaves recorded the most laps (22) of all 24 drivers.
Just like it was to several drivers in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, Turn 4 continued to be a confounding issue in the second practice.
Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato joined others like Tony Kanaan and Hunter-Reay from the first practice by spinning into the Turn 4 run-off area before righting their cars and getting going again.
Also, Hunter-Reay just missed smacking the wall after hitting a bump in Turn 9.
“Everybody’s sliding around down there,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’m sure no one’s going to say their totally happy with their car.”
With about 10 minutes left in the session, rookie Rene Binder spun backwards entering Turn 3, yet somehow also avoided hitting the wall. Safety workers helped him get his car righted and he took the car into the pits.
With about 3:30 left, 2016 IndyCar champ Simon Pagenaud also spun in Turn 3, leaving him to gently and slowly make his way back to the pits.
Saturday, there will be a third practice at 11:10 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 2:20 p.m. ET.
Sunday, the pre-race warm-up takes place at 8:45 a.m. ET, pre-race ceremonies and driver introductions take place at Noon, with the green flag set to start the season opener at 12:30 p.m. ET.