Race weekend for the NTT IndyCar Series at Circuit of The Americas has arrived. After three practice sessions on Friday, a familiar face stood at the top of the speed chart. Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power had the fastest lap of the day at 1:47.4401 seconds which came during the second session.
Power qualified on the front row at five of the six races on permanent road courses last year, but only went to victory lane once. “It’s a difficult track, very technical, hard to get the car right,” said Power. “I felt like we got in a pretty good window that session. Felt like we found where we need to be. We’ll just keep massaging on it. It’s going to be tight, it always is.”
Friday Combined Practice Results
Just behind Power was Rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is catching the attention of everyone. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished fourth in the season-opening race at St Petersburg. Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay were up front once again, and Ed Jones rounded out the top five on Friday for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Colton Herta was lightning quick here during testing a few weeks ago, and that continued on Friday. Unfortunately, a blown engine disrupted his day, but the Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver was 2nd fastest in the morning practice. The team was able to replace the engine, and although he missed the second session on Friday, he was able to get out during the warmup. Simon Pagenaud was fastest during that final session.
The major topic on Friday were the rising temperatures and the lack of surface grip on the 3.41-mile circuit. Several drivers had difficulty making the turns, as there were plenty of cars sliding off track. Patricio O’Ward is making his season debut this weekend, in the No. 31 Carlin entry. He just missed the top ten, but got plenty of laps in by the end of the day.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 11 AM ET, followed by qualifying for the IndyCar Classic, which begins at 3 PM on NBC Sports Network. Race coverage on NBCSN begins at 1 PM ET on Sunday.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “The day was OK. We lost a little bit in Practice 2 and we didn’t put up a very good lap on reds (Firestone alternate tires). We look strong on blacks (Firestone primary tires), but we just need to look at the data tonight, especially if we get that rain tomorrow. Overall, I feel good. The PPG Dallara/Chevrolet feels comfy and we need to make sure we execute tomorrow.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “We just finished the first day here at COTA. Unfortunately, not the performance we were looking for. I think we are lacking grip more than we were expecting to, so a lot of work to do for tomorrow. In general, (I’m) just happy to be here with the crew, the ABC people and the Foyt family, so I’m looking forward to a better day tomorrow. Tomorrow we have one more practice before qualifying; we’re going to try to set up the car as good as we can and as fast as we can to have a good race on Sunday.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Today was a bit frustrating. Obviously, this morning, nobody really got any laps in (due to the red flag). This afternoon was kind of our only real practice session; and with the lap being so long, you only get a couple of laps even in an hour session. For us, we feel the track conditions have changed a ton from the test, which is too bad because we thought we had dialed the car pretty well for the conditions then. We definitely have some work to do. I think a lot of guys are struggling. It’s just the nature of this track when it gets hot like this with a bunch of rubber down, but we can certainly make it better. I don’t think we’re as bad as it might look. I made two pretty big mistakes on my red (Firestone alternate) tire lap, but we can definitely work on the car a little bit. I can work on my driving a bit, and hopefully, we can move the Arrow car up tomorrow.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “It’s been a challenging day. Obviously Practice 1 was a bit short with the red flag, so we didn’t get many laps. In Practice 2 we got plenty of laps, but we didn’t really get the Arrow car to where we wanted, so I’m struggling a bit when we do our qualifying sim runs to get a good feeling. When we put more fuel in the car and do longer running, we’re very competitive and I feel very good in the car. It’s a bit similar to how we were in St. Pete, as well, where we struggle a bit with the low fuel, and with high fuel, we’re stronger. We need to analyze and see how we can fix that, so the car has a similar feeling with high and low fuel because then we can be super competitive tomorrow and Sunday.”
SCOTT DIXON: “We had some kind of steering column issue in Practice 1 that really limited our on-track time. By the time we went out on track, the session went red for the No. 88 car. After they got that all cleaned up we were only really able to get one clear lap in the PNC Bank car. We worked on a lot of changes in Practice 2, which will hopefully set us up for a good qualifying run tomorrow.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “I really like this place. COTA is a track that has a lot of different characteristics in one lap, actually. It has high-speed areas and some very low-speed areas. You need a car that is good everywhere, to be honest. You can’t be happy everywhere and you have to have a setup with a lot of compromise. We’re happy with the setup so far with the NTT DATA car and will keep working on it.”
WILL POWER: “Turn 19 is obviously just interesting. You have to use the rule to be fast. The rest, it’s a difficult track. Very technical. Hard to get the car right. I felt like we got in a pretty good window that session. Felt like we found where we need to be.” (About the importance of track time at a new venue): “Yeah, it’s funny. You can do all these miles in testing, come back, and it’s different for the race. You get the basics down, get some good data and such to go away and think about it. Definitely running a different package to what I ran at the test. So, yeah, we’ll just keep massaging on it. It’s going to be tight, it always is. I think the weather looks pretty good actually. We will have a nice weekend.”
TONY KANAAN: “It was a difficult day. As a team, when you’re searching for that big jump, you have to make big swings and we haven’t been fortunate enough to find a good swing. We found what didn’t work today and it was a struggle, but that’s how we learn. We’re not the type of team to give up, so we’ll take a bad day and try to turn it into a positive day tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “Practice 2 was a little frustrating for us. I don’t know that we got a great lap on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but still I don’t know that we quite have the pace to be in the top five yet. At the test, we were fifth and this morning in the first practice we were fifth pretty easily and weren’t even really up to speed yet. We were pushing hard and I couldn’t match that lap time on blacks (Firestone primary tires) this afternoon. We need to take a deep dive into things and figure out why, when it was hot and the sun was out, why we weren’t as good. We’re going to work hard overnight to try to get the TOTAL car faster. Takuma (Sato) set about the same time as us, so we’re going to put our heads together and try to figure out how to go quicker.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “The No. 18 SealMaster Honda was not too bad this afternoon compared to the opposition. That’s really all you can ask. It’s gotten hot and the grip kind of went away, so it’s tricky. We are P8 (position eight) on blacks (Firestone primary tires) and P10 on reds (alternate tires). Not where we want to be, but not dramatic. I think there are a couple of things we can polish and hopefully do a bit better. The Honda engine is still very fresh, so we didn’t really run it at full power. I am hopeful that we can sneak well inside the top 10 in qualifying. If we can do that, I will be pretty happy. We’ll see what happens.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “It was a long learning day. The track is really different from the test. We have a lot of work to do tonight going into qualifying tomorrow. I have a lot of confidence in our No. 19 David Yurman crew that we’ll sort everything out. We’ll see what we can do.”
ED JONES: “The day started off with a tough Practice 1. We had an issue with the throttle sticking, which compromised the session a lot. I think we ended up last, so it really wasn’t representative of our pace. We didn’t really get a good read which really put us on the back foot for Practice 2. We worked hard making good progress on each run and the (Firestone alternate) red tires worked really well. We also had a good long run at the end there. I feel pretty confident, we just need to keep working overnight and make sure we keep up with how the track evolves.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “We tried a lot of things today, some things worked better than others, but we got a lot accomplished. The good thing was our teammate was quick, so we can compare notes to see where we were different and where we can make improvements. We’ll put it all together tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “I’m really excited. The Menards Chevrolet is driving well. The whole team is doing awesome – Team Penske, these guys just never stop digging. We are working on different things. We tried a setup on the red (Firestone alternate) tires that I didn’t like. We put it back to a normal setup and getting back to normal. I think we will be in good shape tomorrow. The car feels really nice. This is a fun track.”
ZACH VEACH: “It was an up and down day for the Gainbridge team, but we’re going in the right direction for sure. We were P18 in the first session, but P6 in the second – and the second session is similar to what we are going to face in qualifying tomorrow. I feel like we’ve got good momentum. I think the Andretti Autosport cars are fast as a whole; we definitely have a shot to get into the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow. We’re going to see what we can do better tonight and then capitalize on that tomorrow when it matters.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “It was a very uneventful day, which I guess is a good thing sometimes. We ran through some changes and have a pretty good idea of where we need to be tomorrow. I think it will be about maximizing the (Firestone alternate) red tires for the conditions that present themselves in qualifying. Generally, it was a pretty drama free day – I think we have the NAPA AUTO PARTS car in a good spot ending day one.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “I think it was a positive day, we ended up fourth overall. We’ve got some areas we need to improve on, so we’ll work on that overnight. I definitely have a few areas on the track where I’d like the car to improve. Everything is a compromise at tracks like this between the front and the rear of the car – it’s about getting that compromise right and putting it all together on track. That’s what we’re working on for the DHL team, and I think we have a direction to head in to help.”
TAKUMA SATO: “We had two practice sessions as well as a warmup today, which is new since we usually do it on race day. We made long runs with full tanks. The car improved a lot from the test, but the conditions compared to then were much different. It was much warmer today than when we tested, so we had less downforce and the tires started to slide, so it was a difficult for everyone. We seem to have a good speed for one lap for qualifying, but we have a lot of work to be done on our long run. It’s exciting to be at COTA; the fans are very enthusiastic. I think we have a lot more speed, so we will keep working on it.”
PATRICIO O’WARD: “I’d say it was a good first day of practice here at COTA. Obviously, I would’ve liked to end the day a little bit higher on the timing sheets, but I know that I’m a bit behind the curve with not having two full testing days here like the rest of the field had back in February. This track requires a lot of technique even in the slow areas, so there really isn’t a lot of room for mistakes, which is why I’m working so hard to get up to speed as quickly as possible. There are definitely some things I need to work through before qualifying tomorrow afternoon, but it’s obvious that the whole Carlin team is very buttoned up and will get me to where I need to be. I think, overall, we’re in pretty good shape heading into qualifying tomorrow.”
KYLE KAISER: “We finished up our first practice day here at COTA. Not the results we wanted, so we have a lot of work to do. We will be going over data and will make some changes to the car to find the time that we are lacking right now. The team is doing a great job, they are putting in a lot of effort. I am working hard looking for time. I am looking forward to making some progress for tomorrow, and hopefully, we can put the No. 32 NFP car further up on the grid so we can have a great race. It’s going to be a long race and a challenging race, but I think we will be fine come race day.”
MAX CHILTON: “It feels good to be back here racing at COTA – it’s just such a great track and I really enjoy driving here. I’d say that it was a pretty productive day for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We continuously made steps forward throughout both practices and by the end of the second practice we were feeling good about how we ended the day heading into qualifying tomorrow.”
JACK HARVEY: “It was kind of a weird day. I’m not 100 percent if we had a decent day and we just need to put all the pieces together or maybe we are lacking a little bit. We will all get together later today and see where we are at. Aspects of today were great, we had a pretty good pace on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and warmup seemed to go pretty well for us. I’m confident in the guys and we will put it all together tomorrow.”
COLTON HERTA: “Today was a challenging day, to say the least. We were quick in Practice 1, but struggled in Practice 2. We just couldn’t get the balance right on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, but I know the car can be quick and that we have the pace. We’re focused on getting fast with the red tires because we know what to look for now. Overall, I am so proud of how hard the No. 88 Latitude Vacation Club guys and how hard the Honda guys worked in between today’s practice sessions to get us on track for warmup. We have such a good group at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, I just hope we can get that quick qualifying result I know we’re capable of getting tomorrow.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “We were really struggling in Practice 2 and caught some traffic on a fast lap, so didn’t quite get there. We used the last 30-minute warmup and found a few things – and ended up P5. We still need to find a bit more out of the car, and out of myself as well, so we’ll keep working.”