Briscoe leads opening Fontana practice for Honda

Ryan Briscoe's 217.451mph lap was enough to put the Schmidt-Peterson Honda at the top of the charts for the first practice session.

Briscoe leads opening Fontana practice for Honda

Practice for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race, the second in the series’ Triple Crown of 500-mile oval contests, got underway at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Cal., held under mild sunny skies.

Rookies get extra track time

The three race rookies, Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam and Stefano Coletti had an extra hour to learn the circuit between 8:30 and 9:30, with the full, 23-car field taking to the 2-mile D-shaped oval for a 45-minute session immediately following.

Chaves led the rookie practice in his No. 98 BHA Honda followed by Karam (No. 8 Ganassi Chevrolet) and Coletti (No. 4 KVRT Chevy), while top spot in the full-skate practice ultimately went to the returning Ryan Briscoe in the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Briscoe, who had been contracted to the Corvette team for Le Mans, was unable to take part in the Toronto round because of that contract, even though the car had a bad shunt with Jan Magnussen up in qualifying on Wednesday and never did get to compete.

Briscoe at the top

Briscoe turned a lap of 217.451 mph to lead Marco Andretti’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda at 217.316 mph. Andretti held the top spot for much of the going but didn’t appear to be upset about losing the point within the last few minutes. Briscoe - as well as most of the other top speeders - were aided by the draft in setting their fast laps.

Third through sixth spots were taken by Chevrolet drivers: Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Team Penske), Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Ganassi), Tony Kanaan (No. 10 Ganassi) and Josef Newgarden (No. 67 CFH Chevy), the latter INDYCAR’s most recent winner on the streets of Toronto. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz was seventh with his No. 26 Honda, Scott Dixon eighth in the No. 9 Degree Ganassi Chevrolet (look for the black and gold livery), point leader Juan Pablo Montoya (who had helmet problems early in the going) took ninth in the No. 2 blue and white Team Penske Chevy and Takuma Sato rounded out the top 10 in A.J. Foyt Racing’s No. 14 Honda.

Only the top four practiced within the 217-mph range while speeds dipped as low as 210.802 mph for the slowest practicer, Pippa Mann in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. There were two full-course cautions for cut tires, due in part to the fact that the track hasn’t been able to wash the surface due to the increasing drought in this area, bringing added dust and dirt to the surface.

There will be a second practice at 12:45 that goes through to 2PM, a good simulation for racing conditions on Saturday, which shows the race starting at 1:30PM PDT. Qualifying is set for 4:45-6PM with a later air date on NBCSN.

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