The Verizon IndyCar Series is back at Watkins Glen, where the open-wheel cars haven’t paced the 3.37-mile road course since 2010. The current track record belongs to Ryan Briscoe, who turned a 1:28.1332 second lap back in 2009. Scott Dixon shattered that mark today in practice, by more than five seconds in his Target Chip Ganassi machine.
All 22 cars on track today were faster than Briscoe’s record, but Dixon was clearly dialed in, which should come as no surprise. In six starts at Watkins Glen, Dixon has three wins, four total podium finishes, and has led more laps than any other driver. Right behind Dixon on today’s combined speed chart were Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Dixon’s teammate Tony Kanaan was fourth, and Juan Montoya rounded out the top five.
Jack Hawksworth was the first car not owned by Penske or Ganassi. He and Graham Rahal (7th) were the only two Honda-powered cars in the top 11 on Friday.
Friday Combined Practice Results
There were a total of 943 laps turned on Friday, with Dixon’s 1:22.8740 lap the quickest. The day wasn’t without incident though, as Conor Daly managed to find some water during the first practice session, which sent him sliding hard into the wall in Turn 6. Thanks to a fantastic effort by the Dale Coyne Racing crew, the car was repaired and Conor was able to turn some laps in the afternoon practice session.
Championship leader Simon Pagenaud found trouble in the closing minutes of the final practice session on Friday. His No. 22 Chevrolet shook loose entering Turn 7, and he lost control and ended up in the tire barrier. His car suffered significant left-front damage, but the crew will have it back to peak performance in time for tomorrow’s qualifying session. Kanaan spun at nearly the same time, on a different part of the course. Fortunately, he was able to control the spin, keeping the car from hitting the wall.
Spencer Pigot returned to the cockpit of the No. 20 machine for Ed Carpenter Racing, but with a new look. The Rookie driver has Samsung all over the car this weekend, in an eye-catching livery. Take a ride around Watkins Glen with Pigot’s visor cam, courtesy of IndyCar.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 11 AM, followed by qualifying for the IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen, which begins at 3 PM. IndyCar will stream qualifying live on their YouTube channel, and NBCSN will air the tape-delayed broadcast at 6 PM.
Practice Photos via IndyCar
Juan Montoya: “The PPG Automotive Refinish Chevy was great today. We were able to try a few things out and still were good in both sessions. The conditions were perfect. The track surface and the weather were great. I’m really looking forward to qualifying tomorrow so we can set ourselves up for a good day on Sunday.”
Helio Castroneves: “I have to say that it’s amazing. I’m not sure what (Scott Dixon) feels, but amazing how much G-force we’re pulling in the Carousel. I literally feel my face going like this. You know, it’s like an amazing experience, and what a lot of fun this place is. It’s unbelievable. I wish you guys were standing in Turn 5, which is the Carousel, because you guys are going to see how fast the Verizon IndyCar Series goes in that corner. The Hitachi Chevy looks good. We are very, very slowly but steady working in the car, and lot of details. I could not believe how many details. Since this track is so much smoother compared to what it used to be in the past, there were so many details not only in the setup, the driving, and the grip. Every time you put on new Firestone tires, the track changed. I mean, we started turning laps at 84 (seconds) and then 83s, now only this guy (Scott Dixon) did 82. But it just goes to show that I believe tomorrow is going to be on the lows 82, if not 81s, as well.”
James Hinchcliffe: “It was a pretty horrific day, to be honest. The worst part is we’re not entirely sure why. Luckily we have another practice in the morning to try and get the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car sorted for qualifying and hopefully we can look at Mikhail’s data. He ran pretty strong relative to other guys in our class, so hopefully we can be on pace with him tomorrow.”
Mikhail Aleshin: “I think the No. 7 SMP Racing car had good progress from the first session. As always, I hope we’re going to continue to make progress through the weekend and the next session will be better, and then for qualifying, we have to be at the top. This team is looking good and we know what we need to do so it’s all in our hands.”
Max Chilton: “I’m pretty happy with the start to the weekend in the Gallagher car. This track is very fast and smooth and it’s very similar to the tracks I’ve run in Europe. It’s very challenging physically and definitely a rhythm track. Scott is fast for sure, so I’m sure the team has a lot of data to look over tonight. I hope we can continue to translate what we learned today into more speed for tomorrow.”
Scott Dixon: “What a new track surface does is reduce the difference of having rubber down. When you get a big rainfall, the loss of speed is not as wide the next morning. Even at the test here, we ran about a second slower because it was a lot hotter, but whatever the conditions, the new surface will produce the kind of speeds we’re doing now. The Target car is fast and it’s been a good start to the weekend. I hope we can carry on through to the race.”
Tony Kanaan: “It felt really good to be back on-track at Watkins Glen – this place is just so fast. The No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet was really good today and we were able to get a lot out of the car in both sessions. We got a lot of track time today, especially in that second session, and we were able to take some bigger swings trying some different things out on-track without feeling the pressure of not having enough time. I’m one of the drivers out there that has had the opportunity to race here before with the series, but I’m actually not sure that’s a major benefit. The cars are so different now and where the new guys are able to learn as they go, I have to get old observations about this track out of my head because they just don’t apply anymore.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Overall, a good day for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Team. We tried, and found some good things, but it feels like we are losing touch with the front when the track grips up. Towards the end, physically, I think it took a toll and I didn’t extract the best out of the car so that’s a bit frustrating. We are going to make a couple of adjustments and see if we can make it a bit easier to drive because the car is really quick, but if you can’t run the wheel it doesn’t really help. It’s just a matter of getting the best out of the car. We will come back tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Will Power: “Verizon Chevy was fast today. We made a few changes earlier to see if that would help and it definitely did. We’re pretty confident going into tomorrow in qualifying. The track is great here. Weather has been great, which has been a plus for us. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Takuma Sato: “It’s good to be back in Watkins Glen, such an outstanding track, very high-speed flows, they’ve done a great job with the re-surfacing, good grip and lots of fun. We had a very productive day for a first day. Since we missed the test, we had quite a lot of work to be done so I think today was a very good day.”
Graham Rahal: “It was a very good day I think. We are competitive. Are we 100 percent there? No, we have a little work to do. We had a lap that was up on time but I came up on (Takuma) Sato. That lap might have been two tenths quicker but we’re still a solid few tenths (of a second) off of where we need to be so there is a little work to be done for sure. We’re all chasing Dixie (Scott Dixon) as per usual. We’re going to work hard and see what happens tomorrow.”
Conor Daly: “I have to thank the guys for getting the car repaired for the second practice. It was really a shame to be the unlucky one with the water this morning. Once we got the car out there it was good and we’re trying to improve it step by step. I think for not having run anything in the first session this morning we’re in decent shape relative to the other Hondas. We have a lot to make up but I think we’re generally making progress which is good.”
RC Enerson: “I’d say it was a little bit tough today. We’re trying to figure things out with the car. I’m also trying to figure things out as far as track and driving style. It’s a tricky course especially with the new pavement. There’s so much grip so really it’s finding rolling speed through the corners and making sure our car is there. It’s been working on that pretty much all day. I feel pretty strong going into tomorrow. It’s going to be tough, I know, because it’s a difficult road course, especially, again, with this new pavement as it’s throwing a curve ball into the deal so we’re really working on the setup of the car and trying to dial things in. I think we still have some work to do but I think we can pull it together before qualifying.”
Spencer Pigot: “We had a pretty good day today. Especially in that second session, we seemed to make a lot of improvements. As always, it’s extremely tight and you have to fight so hard for every tenth. I think we can improve more tomorrow and we have a few things to work on so we can hopefully find some more time. The car was great. I can’t thank Samsung, Fuzzy’s Vodka, Rising Star Racing, and Mockett enough for their support.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a productive day. It was nice to have a two-hour practice session at the end and work through several things. We still have a little speed to find and a bit more work to do. We’ve got a good car, I think we can push it into the top five and possibly the top three tomorrow. That’s our priority right now. All hands are on deck trying to figure out exactly what we need. We’ll get after qualifying tomorrow, then see how we do in the race.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It was a good day. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet picked up a lot of speed all day. I think we have a good baseline now and to start the day tomorrow. We’re confident to go qualifying and be up front. Unfortunately, we had little bit of an off-course ride at the end, but nothing dramatic. The guys – they’re the best in the business – will get it fixed up and we’ll be all good for tomorrow.”
Carlos Munoz: “Really tough day if I am honest, really hard. We just missed the balance of the car generally today. We will have to work hard. I know our team is working really hard. We have to do a lot of changes over night. I still have to work; we have one more practice and then qualifying. So I think we have to do big changes overnight to see it in the times. Right now we are really off of P1 and we’re going to have to work hard to be in the top ten.”
Marco Andretti: “Glad to be back at The Glen but it’s been a frustrating first day. We’re not getting what we need out of the car. We have to take a look at things and do what we can before qualifying tomorrow. We don’t want to be sitting where we are now come tomorrow night.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We don’t really have the grip that we need right now… so we’re a bit up a creek and are going to spend some time tonight looking for a paddle. It’s a shame to not have been faster today – this is a track I really enjoy and I have some great memories here. Celebrating my 200th start in victory lane at The Glen is pretty high on my list of goals, so we’ll keep working hard.”
Jack Hawksworth: “It was a fun day. We hadn’t tested here so we worked our way into it and ran through our plan. It was good because we worked systematically. By the end I think we had a decent understanding of the track. Really nice conditions, a really cool track, incredibly fast, I’ve never been to a track like this in my entire life. Literally… never! So, so fast and the grip level is incredible. I mean it’s a three and half-mile track and we’re doing 1:23s, I don’t know what the average speed is but it’s insane. Really enjoyed it and we did some good work so we’ll try to continue that in tomorrow and see if we can put it together in qualifying.”
Charlie Kimball: “It was unfortunate that we had a mechanical failure at the right rear, but fortunately we caught it in pit lane and didn’t lead to anything bad on-track. I know the 83 crew will fix it overnight and be ready for practice tomorrow. We can obviously learn from my teammates (Dixon, Kanaan) after they both finished P1 and P4 in that second session. Max is doing a really good job as well, so everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing has a lot of confidence this weekend. We’ll make it a little better tonight, fine tune it at tomorrow morning’s practice, and hopefully get the job done in qualifying.”
Alexander Rossi: “We weren’t as strong as I think we expected to be, which is a little disappointing based on how we felt after the two tests we had here earlier this year. The lap time increase from the test is pretty extreme – I mean, it’s over two seconds and people are just improving more than we did – we need to understand why that is, for sure. We need to find the grip we need overall, at the moment.”