No rest for the weary in the NTT IndyCar Series. After the Month of May concluded at Indianapolis, teams and drivers hit the streets of Belle Isle today for practice for the Detroit Grand Prix. There are actually two races this weekend, as the event is the only remaining double-header on the schedule. Alexander Rossi is still miffed at the missed opportunity to capture his second Indy 500 last weekend, and used that fire to top the practice charts on Friday.
The Andretti Autosport driver turned a best lap of 1 minute, 15.1367 seconds around the temporary street circuit. His blazing lap was more than a half-second faster than any other driver. The championship contenders were all fast on Friday, with Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the top five.
Friday Combined Practice Results
Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud tapped the Turn 13 wall on Friday and broke a toe-link on his Penske Chevrolet. Other than a few wall kisses, there weren’t any major issues during the day. The Carlin Racing duo of Max Chilton and Patricio O’Ward were back in action on Friday, after missing the Indy 500 last weekend.
The lap times were greatly affected by the tire compound, which should play a huge role in the strategy for both the qualifying and races this weekend. Even Rossi acknowledged that his fast lap wasn’t a true reflection of their speed. “Considering most of the guys didn’t get a run on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I’m not sure how relevant our session times were,” he said. “Overall, I think the team has carried on well from last year. We had a good car last year; all four cars were strong. To be able to pick up where we left off is a strength.”
The qualifying session will be different this weekend than typical non-oval events. The 22-car field is split into two groups of 11, and each will be given 12 minutes of track time. The order will be determined once both groups have run, with the driver with the fastest lap taking pole position for the race on Saturday.
Qualifying for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 1 begins at 10:45 AM ET on NBC Gold, and will air at Noon on NBC Sports Network. Saturday’s race coverage begins at 3 PM on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I think we had a decent start today, not 100 percent sure where we stack up. I think we’re a little bit further back than where we were on that final red (Firestone alternate) tire run. Some of the Andretti (Autosport) boys look really good. Some of the (Chip) Ganassi (Racing) guys look really good. We’ll see. I think we’re in that top-five mix. In the pecking order we’re probably more towards the back of the top five. A little bit of work to do. So far, not too terrible.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “We started the morning with a car I didn’t like and we didn’t do good lap times in the morning, so we decided to go towards Tony’s (Kanaan) car for the afternoon which helped a little bit but it’s still not where we want to be. The ABC Supply Chevy has room for improvement for tomorrow. We’ll regroup tonight and see what we can do for a good qualifying tomorrow.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Not as productive of a day as we were hoping for in the Arrow car. We lost some track time in the first session, which wasn’t ideal. Then in Practice 2, I was really surprised with our balance on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). I’m glad we got a chance to run those before qualifying. Firestone did say there was a slight difference from the 2018 tire, and we certainly felt that. We need to look deep into it and try to make sure we get the balance right for qualifying tomorrow morning.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “I thought it was a good day in the Arrow car. Like always this year, it’s a new track for me, so it takes a bit of time to get into. I think, especially a track like this, it’s a bumpy street track, it’s quite different to what I’m used to from my last few years of racing. So, it’s definitely a new challenge, and it took a bit of time, but I thought in Practice Two, I was getting there. On the blacks (Firestone primary tires) during that session, I think we were up in the top 10, so that was looking good. We had some issues at the end, so we couldn’t really get a run on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the black runs were really promising. The two tire compounds seem quite different, so there’s work for us to do there to understand them better, but I feel like we’re in a good place.”
SCOTT DIXON: “We had a little bit of an issue with the throttle pedal (sensor) that we caught and managed to swap out. But man, it’s a really tough circuit here in Detroit. You have to be very aggressive and really nail the right calls on using the right tires at the right time. But that is just another reason I love coming here. It’s a huge challenge with two races in as many days and coming right off the Indianapolis 500. We unloaded fast and have a good PNC Bank car and I think we’ll be ready to go and in a good spot for tomorrow to get the weekend started.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “It’s been a tough day in the No. 10 car in Detroit. We didn’t really start off where we wanted to, and as a result, we were kind of far back in both practice sessions. It seems like we picked up a little bit of speed in the warmup session at the end of the day, and we tried to focus more on the qualifying and the race stuff which we normally do. We’re just working on some things now, so hopefully we can get back up to normal speed tomorrow for qualifying in the NTT DATA car.”
WILL POWER: “It was a pretty good day actually. I feel like the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet is in the window that we need. We’ve really struggled here the last couple of years, so I think we’ve come back with a better car for sure. It’s going to be an interesting race, with the way the tires degrade. I think there will be a number of different strategies. There is a chance of rain tomorrow, which always mixes things up, so we will just have to see.”
TONY KANAAN: “It was a productive day. We’re trying a couple different setups to understand what we need for tomorrow.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “I think we had a decent day today. It seems like the Fifth Third Bank car has good pace. The race is going to be interesting. Qualifying is going to be important, but I think there are going to be guys throughout the race that are really going to struggle. The (Firestone) tires seemed to be designed to fall off very quickly. We’re just going to go out there and see what we get, but the car has pace. Tomorrow morning is going to be important and we’ve got to put a good lap together and go racing.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “I haven’t seen the lap times, so I don’t know where we are at. We tried a couple of things to improve the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. Now we will look at everything and see what we can come up with to get where we want to be for tomorrow’s qualifying session.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “It’s kind of weird going from the giant pit lane at IMS to this one in Detroit. But we’re enjoying it. We tried a couple things on our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing car today that we’re trying to learn from, from simulation work. We’ve been figuring it out and we’re taking it step-by-step. Right now, the car is so different from last year to this year set up wise, so it’s still a bit of a learning curve. I’m not very comfortable by all means, but that said, I’m confident we’ll be all set by the time we head into the race tomorrow.”
ED JONES: “It wasn’t the best start to the day, but we made some positive changes to the car for the afternoon session. We made a lot of progress with those and even during the session made some more gains. If we can do the same for tomorrow morning, heading into qualifying, I think we’ll be in a really good place.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “Overall, I think we had a pretty good day. The Autogeek Chevy seems to be in a pretty good spot. We made some changes throughout the day and made some good improvements, which is always encouraging. Hopefully we can find a little bit more overnight and give it our best for qualifying.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “Detroit is a lot more physical, but you have to be sharp with your mind because you are running so close to the wall. You have to be on top of your game. But a different on-top of your game than Indy. At Indianapolis it is all flowing speed. The track can slow down everything. Here it is just the opposite. You really have to be up on the wheel. I think we did a really good job today. I’m very happy with the DXC Technology Chevy. I think we have really good pace. It’s going to be hard this weekend for several reasons. We have a car that can be in the top five easily. We just have to extract the best out of the car and ourselves. Here, starting in front is better. There is always a lot of action mid-pack. Starting in the three rows allows you to strategize. That would be nice for sure. Top-five is what we are shooting for. It’s very tight. I think we are in good shape. There is going to be a lot of tire degradation in the race. It is going to be interesting. I think we can expect some surprises.”
ZACH VEACH: “Overall, I think it was a pretty good day for the Gainbridge team. We were P7 in the first session, then P12 in the second and P2 in the warmup. I’ve been pretty happy with the car – it rolled off quick. I have little things I have to work on to match where Alex (Rossi) is for qualifying tomorrow, but I think we have a really good shot at having a good weekend here in Detroit.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “Considering most of the guys didn’t get a run on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I’m not sure how relevant our session times were. Overall, I think the team has carried on well from last year – we had a good car last year; all four cars were strong. To be able to pick up where we left off is a strength.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “It’s good to be back on track in Detroit. The session time was short today, so we tried to get in as much as we could before qualifying in the morning – and then two races. We have a good starting point; we just need to tweak on it from here. We, obviously, have good data to pull on from last year and we’ll pair that with what we found today, and with our teammates. We’re focused on putting the DHL car in the best possible position for the race.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It was a tough day. Detroit is always a fun place. It’s the bumpiest track in the series and the fans are always very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We really want to carry the momentum after the Indy 500 but today the No. 30 car struggled a bit. We need to find a new solution and direction. We split the program between the two cars and the No. 15 car seems to be happier, so we have a big job tonight to get the car better.”
PATRICIO O’WARD: “Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much when we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on in this afternoon’s practice because of a problem with the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. We have quite a bit of data from the (Firestone primary) black tires that we can use, but we’re just a little bit behind and going in a little bit blindsided to qualifying with the reds. We’re going to work with what we have and look at exactly how we can use it to give it our best shot tomorrow in qualifying. I’m confident in the team and know they’ll work hard tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible spot for qualifying and the race tomorrow.”
MAX CHILTON: “It was a typical Detroit day – lots to pack in with a limited amount of on-track time. Every session around here is critical because you don’t get as much time out there and there are usually quite a bit of yellows (caution flags). We’re now going into qualifying tomorrow, but we, unfortunately, didn’t get a time with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) because of the red flag. We chose to do it in the warm-up, but lots of others seemed to have the same idea so we had a bit of traffic. Our pace seems to be okay. It’s not where we want it to be at the moment, but I think we haven’t really gotten a fair representation because we didn’t do a red run with clean air. We’ll see where we end up in qualifying, but I’m pretty confident with our race pace.”
COLTON HERTA: “Pretty average first day at Belle Isle. We weren’t as quick as we would like to be, but we have a lot of data and information to go over to be prepared for tomorrow’s qualifying. The No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda boys will work hard tonight so we can make the car is quick and ready for two races this weekend.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “After having a strong 2018 in Detroit, we were hoping for more speed rolling off the truck – but the car doesn’t feel like it did last year, so we are working to adapt. True practice time is a little limited on a doubleheader weekend – we jumped around on setups but never got to fine tune the car. We’ll take a look at everything tonight and work to come out strong in qualifying.”