The long wait is officially over. The Kohler Grand Prix will be the first Verizon IndyCar Series event at Road America since 2007, and the 26th IndyCar race at the track since it hosted its first IndyCar event in 1982. That last race in 2007 was special for a couple of drivers that were turning laps in practice today. Sebastien Bourdais won that event from pole position, and on the podium was a teenager named Graham Rahal. It was an outstanding day for Graham, driving for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. Today he was fastest driver in practice, driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Rahal’s fastest lap was 1:43.0224 seconds, and he was followed by Team Penske drivers Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, with Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth rounding out the top five. The 22 drivers recorded 632 laps over the course of the two practice sessions on Friday.
Friday Combined Practice Results
While every driver was excited to be back at Road America, the one that was the happiest was Josef Newgarden. Less than two weeks after his devastating crash at Texas Motor Speedway that resulted in a broken shoulder and finger in his hand, the Ed Carpenter Racing driver was back behind the wheel on Friday for practice.
Newgarden had a plate and 13 screws inserted into his body to hold his bones together, but said the shoulder was still somewhat numb. He said the biggest issue was with his bruised hands, which were obviously in pain. It’s an incredible feat for Josef to be back in the car, and he has been cleared by the medical staff to participate the rest of the weekend. Robin Miller (RACER.com) caught up with Josef on Friday.
Fortunately there weren’t any accidents during Friday’s practice sessions, though a number of cars were spinning off course, and a few did some off-roading.
There have been six drivers that have won the Road America race from pole position (Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve, Bruno Junqueira, and Bourdais). There are also six drivers that have gone on to win the series championship after winning at Road America (Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Villeneuve, Alex Zanardi, Cristiano da Matta, and Bourdais). The only two current teams that have won here are Team Penske (three times) and Chip Ganassi Racing (two times). Newman/Haas Racing holds the record with ten wins at the famed road course.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at Noon ET, followed by qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, which begins at 4 PM.
Practice Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “The DeVilbiss Chevrolet was much better during the second practice. We tried a few things and went in a different direction than from the first practice. We gained on it and we feel pretty strong going into qualifying tomorrow.”
Helio Castroneves: “I think we’re in good shape with the Hitachi Chevrolet. We tried several things and learned a lot. I’m confident that we’ll be good for qualifying tomorrow. I haven’t raced here in some time, so getting the rhythm was important today along with finding good balance with the car.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Today was a struggle, to be honest. We had a really productive test here last week and we were kind of hoping to unload with a similar feel but that just was not the case. Track conditions are wildly different and we’re seeing a lot of guys struggle to find a good balance, and we were no different. We took some big swings at it in the sessions and over lunch but we still aren’t one hundred percent happy with the balance. Also, we didn’t get a run on tires there at the end. We had just pulled out when the red flag came out. I’m sure that the speed will come. If you look at the times of the top two, it’s quite close so I’m not too worried yet. We’ll have a good think about it tonight and come back strong tomorrow.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “I’m very happy to get to know this track as I’ve never been here before. The entire field is really close on lap times so it will make for a good race. We have a little bit of work to do on the No. 7 SMP Racing car but I think we will be good for qualifying tomorrow.”
Max Chilton: “I think it was a great session for the Gallagher team today. With having some testing here until my belt I had some added confidence. This morning I knew we were much better than where we ended up on the timing sheets, as I made a few mistakes. I knew the car had speed and if I corrected it in the afternoon we would be fast, and we were. I’m adjusting well to the track and the conditions and I’m happy with where we are so far.”
Scott Dixon: “I think I’m pretty happy overall with the Clorox car and we are playing with some aero changes for tomorrow. We had good speed in Practice 1 and didn’t take a new set of tires at the end of Practice 2 so we weren’t up on the timing sheets at the end of the day.”
Tony Kanaan: “I know we all keep saying it, but it’s so nice to be back here on-track at Road America. We didn’t run as many laps as the rest of the field in the first session, but even without the extra laps the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet felt pretty good. We worked through a few different changes in the second session and we were able to find even a little more lap time. We’re feeling good heading into tomorrow, so we’ll make a few changes tonight and see what we can do tomorrow in qualifying.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was an interesting day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We improved the car from this morning, but we are still trying to get it back in the zone with the tire we are using this week, which isn’t easy. Overall, the field is very tight, so every little bit we gain is going to count. We will just keep working on it and see what we can do to improve the car for tomorrow.”
Will Power: “The tire never feels in the road, never feels like it has a lot of bite. That is just the surface. It makes it interesting. I mean, it makes it good. You really have to get your balance right and drive it right to get the time. You see a lot of people making mistakes and pushing the limits. These cars are crazy fast in the corners now, the Carousel. Almost makes you wonder if you could be flat around there. I enjoy this track a lot.”
Takuma Sato: “It’s great to be coming back to Road America. It’s a favorite of everyone’s and the fans have waited so long for this. Look it’s Friday and it’s already like race day as a lot of crowds have come out which is fantastic. Great weather today, a great circuit which is a classic type – very narrow and very fast – and it feels really good. We had to go through quite a few items since we couldn’t make the test here so this was our first run with the 2016 package and we had a lot of things to do. Busy test day and I think we were reasonably okay but we still need to work really hard to get the speed out of the ABC Supply car for tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Graham Rahal: “It’s nice being fastest but we all know it’s just Friday. We’re really limited on tires so I’m surprised we ended up where we did. We have a set less than everybody else since we weren’t able to run five laps in the first 20 minutes of the first session due to the electronics problem. We had an antenna that is supplied by Cosworth that was faulty. At first we didn’t know that was the problem. When we turned it on, it fried the logger box. Then when we put a new logger box in, the antenna fried it too. Cosworth got it sorted out but we lost 40 minutes of practice time in the first session and didn’t get the extra set of tires. I’m really pleased with our tire usage with everything we faced in the first session. The Gehl / D-A Lubricant car had a good pace but that lap should have been better. I’m a little disappointed in myself because I threw at least a tenth of a second away on the last corner. We’ll keep our heads down and keep pounding hard to make the car better. It’s awesome to be here at Road America. On the out laps you see all the fans and it’s spectacular. It’s far better than I ever remember a Friday being here. There are people everywhere and we can’t thank (Verizon IndyCar Series) fans enough. This proves to everyone that has never been here what Road America is all about.”
Conor Daly: “It’s cool to be on track here, it’s a really fun place to drive around. It presents new challenges for us though, since it’s a totally different road circuit than what we’ve been on all year. We’re just sorting through the things that we need to get through to get ready for qualifying.”
Gabby Chaves: “It’s a whole lot different driving here in an Indy car than the other series I’ve run here before! Obviously we’re dealing with 200 mph top speeds versus 120 mph. So it’s quite a bit different, everything comes at you a lot faster! We’re just going through our program right now. I think we took a pretty big step forward in the second practice session and that we have the potential to be way more up front than we finished today. We’re running through our program and it’s just a natural progression. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you go forward again, I think we’re just going through that right now.”
Spencer Pigot: “The first session went all right earlier, it was good to get back out on the track. Road America is a lot of fun. We seemed to struggle a bit in the second session for whatever reason. We need to go over everything and make sure everything is all right because the car seemed to change a lot between sessions. Hopefully, we can figure out what the problem is and work for a good qualifying spot tomorrow.”
Josef Newgarden: “We got through a lot of really good things today. I feel really good about where we are at, we have a really fast car. We opted not to do another tire run there at the end and focus on doing more tomorrow and to have more tires later. We made some good changes in that session and I would be surprised if we aren’t near the top six tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: “I liked the Menards Chevy today. We threw quite a bit at it. The track is really changing quite a bit, but I think we’re in a good place for tomorrow. This is a challenging place, so it’s very important to get the car in as good a place as possible. I’m looking forward to learning more in practice tomorrow and move into qualifying with a lot of confidence.”
Carlos Munoz: “I think it was a positive practice today compared to the test last week. We were a bit more competitive, but we still have work to do. I think the second practice we tried some stuff that just wasn’t as good (as the first practice). There is still one more practice tomorrow before qualifying and we will have to put everything together and set up a great car. Again, everyone is really close together in times, which shows everyone is very competitive in (the Verizon IndyCar Series). Overall, positive practice to follow the test we just had here.”
Marco Andretti: “I’m not feeling too bad after that run. Right now the guessing game is going to be what we need to do for balance on the reds (alternate tire). I’ve never run (the reds) here, only a couple guys have during a (tire) test last fall, so we just don’t know where the balance is going to go on reds. It’s going to be a bit of a guessing game for qualifying tomorrow. I think we’re going to be able to get aggressive with trying to get the UFD / Snapple car to turn and hopefully the reds will help the rear.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “I’m happy to be back at Road America, this is such a fun track and the fan support so far this weekend will be great. Now, I’ll have to tell you tomorrow after qualifying exactly how happy I am though. But we made progress today. Timing wise – we didn’t get our last tire run in, which was crucial to us. I think we were probably looking a time good enough for P3 for the DHL Honda had we gotten that run in.”
Jack Hawksworth: “Today was quite a good day actually. We did quite a lot of stuff – experimenting with things between this morning and this afternoon. I think we found a pretty competitive car so hopefully we’ll sit down tonight and fine-tune everything. The only question mark for me is the red tire, what’s going to happen when we put that on in qualifying. We’ve seen this year that we can be uncompetitive on the blacks but we put reds on and we become competitive and vice versa so hopefully we can get that right. It will require a bit of luck as well because nobody’s run the reds here but we’ll do our best with that as well. Black tire-wise, I’m pretty happy with it, the ABC Supply car’s in the ballpark. We tested a lot of stuff and had quite a clean day which is nice. It’s good to run for a day and when we can run clean, we can have a good day.”
Charlie Kimball: “I’m really disappointed with how today went. It’s not anywhere as fast or competitive as we want to be. Fortunately our teammates were logging some really good times, so we’ll be able to go back tonight and see where we can learn from them. I’m really struggling with the sensation of grip around here. We’ll make it better overnight. I think we already have a couple of good ideas for some changes we want to make for tomorrow and we’ll just go from there. That’s the nice thing about running on a track with a lot of corners – you can find a little bit of lap time in each of the corners.”
Alexander Rossi: “It was an OK first day. The track is a little bit different than it was at the test, so we will need to try to understand why that is. Third through 16th is all within two-and-a-half tenths. If we find a little bit of speed we’ll be right in the top three which is good. But, there is still a big gap to the top two guys and we will have to try to figure out how to close in on that gap tonight.”