After a week off, the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to the track this weekend. This isn’t just another track on the schedule though. Road America is widely regarded by many as the premier road course in the country, and a fan favorite. Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin is the scenic spot where Round 10 of the 2017 season will play out.
Will Power started on pole here last year, and went on to win the race. Roger Penske clearly has the place figured out, as the four Team Penske machines paced the practice chart on Friday. Penske has four wins (1989, 1992, 1993, 2016) at Road America, more than any other team. Josef Newgarden had the fastest lap, at 1:42.8229 seconds. Power, Simon Pagenaud, and Helio Castroneves were next in line, as Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five in practice.
Friday Combined Practice Results
Rossi’s best lap came in the morning practice session. His afternoon didn’t go so well, as he slid off course in Turn 14 and made contact with the tire barrier. His Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay also went off course in Turn 14, but his damage was less significant. Both drivers are notch their first win of the season.
Ed Jones continued to impress in his Rookie season with Dale Coyne Racing, as he was seventh fastest on Friday. His teammate for the remainder of the season will be Esteban Gutierrez, as the team announced on Thursday that he would pilot the No. 18 car in Sebastien Bourdais’ absence. Robert Wickens filled in for Mikhail Aleshin today, as the Russian driver had visa problems getting back into the country. Aleshin is expected to be back in the car on Saturday.
While Penske gave Chevrolet the top four spots on Friday, 12 of the next 13 cars were powered by Honda. Chevrolet has won four races so far this season, while Honda has five wins heading into this weekend’s event at Road America.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at Noon ET, followed by qualifying for the Kohler Grand Prix, which begins at 4 PM, which will air one hour later on NBCSN.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Josef Newgarden: “It was a good session for us. I think we’ve had good cars off the truck. Did we end up 1-2-3-4? That shows you that the cars are very good for all of us. I think we’ve got good, strong cars across the board. You know, we’ll try to carry that into tomorrow. It’s going to be hard to be the best of all of us, even just us four, I think, because we’re all quite close with what we’re doing. We’re learning every session from each other. I was happy with today. I thought it got a little loose in the afternoon with the temperature coming up slightly. We were working on that. But pretty smooth run on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), which was nice to see. We’ll try to carry it into tomorrow and see what we’ve got.”
Conor Daly: “We don’t have the car where we need it today. We’re lacking in front grip, which is a big issue here because there’s a lot of long sweeping fast corners, so obviously we have some things to evaluate and do for tomorrow.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Coming here and not getting to run at the test because of the issue we had, it kind of made us feel a little behind the eight ball. The team obviously has done a great job preparing for the test, and once again rolled off the truck with a pretty fast race car. Fast doesn’t always mean comfortable, though; it’s a pretty big handful out there, I won’t lie. We’re battling different issues at the moment, but we’re still pretty high in the times. It’s a lot of work to do that kind of lap time. We’ll work on it overnight, try to get it a little more comfortable and put ourselves in a position where I feel like I can push the Arrow car a little bit harder. Hopefully we can find a little bit more speed.”
Robert Wickens: “I’m really happy with today. Obviously you always want to make as much progress as possible, and you never know if you’ve done enough or if I should achieve more, or whatever the case is. The biggest thing for me is the car is still in one piece and I haven’t made a terminal error yet (laughter). The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team has done a fantastic job getting me up to speed and making me comfortable. It’s been a strange day because I’m not really sure if I’m doing the next session since I don’t know when Mikhail [Aleshin] is arriving or if he’s arriving. So I’m going to work overnight as if I’m driving tomorrow morning, and if not, then hopefully I can help out the team somehow.”
Max Chilton: “We’re not where we want to be right now, but we’re working hard on making the Gallagher car better. The competition is so close in this series, and on a four-mile track you really have to get a lot of things right to put in a big lap. We’re going to work through what we learned today and prepare to come back stronger for practice and qualifying tomorrow afternoon.”
Scott Dixon: “I’m not completely happy with how our NTT Data car is handling right now. We might have to make some wholesale changes, but I think we’re right on the cusp of getting it right. This track has long straights and you have a lot of time to think about how you judge and setup the corners, which isn’t always a good thing around a place like this.”
Tony Kanaan: “We have some work to do, for sure, on the No. 10 NTT Data Honda before qualifying tomorrow. We just aren’t where we need to be yet on setup for this weekend, but we got a lot of good track time today to rule out what didn’t work.”
Will Power: “It basically looks that way (like my biggest competitors are my teammates). Definitely we just keep learning off each other. That’s going to be the key this weekend. I’m pretty sure we’ll all be at the front in qualifying. It’s about doing a good job and trying to get the most out of your car, and understand where your teammate’s faster.”
Carlos Munoz: “The run on the reds (Firestone alternate tires) wasn’t the best run. We had some traffic and I made a mistake on my quick lap. It’s easy to be in the back when you don’t quite put everything together. The potential of the car was to be between 10th and 14th. We have to prep a little bit more for tomorrow to be in the top 10. We still have to figure out some stuff but we improved the car over the session and we’ll see how we go tomorrow.”
Graham Rahal: “It was a good day, but I would like to have been a little quicker, a little more competitive. We ended up eighth and certainly have some work to do, but we’re going to keep our heads down and keep working hard here to get the GEHL / D-A Lubricant Honda closer to the top of the time sheets. We didn’t start where we would like to be, but it’s important for points that we remain in the hunt every single day, so we’re going to work hard tonight to try to come up with a setup combination that’s going to work better. It certainly isn’t coming easy to us, but we tried a lot of different things today, tried to accomplish a lot but didn’t get a great direction. We’ll keep on it and see what happens tomorrow.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “It was a bit of a mixed day. Obviously driving at Road America is always a pleasure, so I really enjoyed it. We’ve been working a bit with the car. We had a small issue in the first session that cut our session a bit short. In Practice 2 it was a slightly better, but I’m still not 100 percent comfortable with the car on braking, so this is an area that we need to focus on and fix for tomorrow.”
Ed Jones: “It was a pretty good day. The speed has been pretty good all day. The track changed quite a bit in the afternoon session, but we were still fast. The field is really close from where I am to quite a way back. It’s going to be tough in qualifying tomorrow, but I feel confident there are still a few areas we can improve, and if we can do that we can try to get up there in the top five.”
Spencer Pigot: “We made some good progress in the second session. The car felt pretty good on reds (Firestone alternate tires), and we have an idea of what we need to do to be better on blacks (Firestone primary tires). It should be a pretty straightforward fix. The Fuzzy’s Vodka guys are doing a really good job and if we make a few more improvements, we should be able to jump up another handful of positions. It’s been a while since we’ve been out on a road course and it’s great to be back out at Road America. I’m having a lot of fun.”
JR Hildebrand: “I expected to have a little better start to the weekend here, so this was a little bit of a frustrating day. We’ve got a lot of data to look through and we understand where we need to improve. We’ll try to make as much use out of the practice session tomorrow before we qualify and continue working to find speed out there.”
Takuma Sato: “It’s nice to be back in Road America, it’s one of the best tracks we go to. Today was challenging, but I knew it was going to be a little bit tough since I missed the test day last week. I needed to catch up, and then during the session there was very little we could do. We’ll keep working for tomorrow, and hopefully we have a competitive car tomorrow.”
Marco Andretti: “We just need grip right now. I think our balance isn’t terrible, but the car doesn’t feel similar to the test – which that normally means we need to look in another direction. We need to get it feeling like the test and I think we’ll be right back in it.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “It was a pretty challenging day, but I think we ended it on a high note. We’re in the top 10 on the time sheets, but we have a lot of work to do. We have to make the car easier to drive – right now it’s too difficult – I think the whole team feels that way. We’ll put our heads together tonight and make it better tomorrow.”
Charlie Kimball: “Today was a solid day; not a good day or a great day for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team. We need to find a little more lap time. A tenth quicker would put us inside the top six, which is our goal for tomorrow – to make the Firestone Fast Six during qualifying. So we need to look at what we’ve got compared to our teammates and figure out how we can be better heading into Saturday morning’s practice. We’ve got a couple sets of tires to get ready for qualifying, then we’ll try to find some lap time to get inside the top six in the afternoon.”
Alexander Rossi: “We set our quickest lap on the second run on reds (Firestone alternate tires). I think the fact that we were able to do that shows there’s inherent speed in the car. It was a bit of a disjointed session with the off in the beginning, so we were kind of playing catch up after that, but I think the car is good. We need to make a couple of little tweaks overnight to get me more comfortable, but I feel good about the pace the car has today.”