Sonoma IndyCar: Hunter-Reay leads opening practice
Andretti Autosport Honda’s Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the field by a quarter-second in FP1 as the Verizon IndyCar Series prepares for its season finale and its final race at Sonoma Raceway.
The 2012 series champion beat 2018 title favorite, Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing, by 0.2526sec to set a 1min17.5742sec lap on the Firestone primary tires – an average speed of 110.681mph.
Dixon was 0.55sec ahead of five-time Sonoma polesitter Will Power who – along with Penske-Chevrolet teammate Josef Newgarden - retains a very outside chance of this year’s championship.
They require maximum points – win and leading most laps – along with Dixon to finish lower than 22nd in the 25-car field, and for Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) to finish lower than ninth.
Simon Pagenaud fans had cause for cautious optimism after FP1, as their man, who has struggled with the 2018 aerokit on road courses all season, clocked fourth fastest time behind Power, a mere 0.0768sec slower.
Both were in a happier state than teammate Newgarden who took no part in the session due to a mechanical issue.
Marco Andretti was fifth for Andretti Autosport, ahead of the second Ganassi-Honda of Ed Jones while Graham Rahal slotted the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda into seventh.
Title contender Rossi was struggling, suffering a spin on the way to eighth fastest time, seven-tenths off his pacesetting teammate and only a fraction ahead of his rookie teammate Zach Veach.
Dale Coyne Racing had three in a row, Sebastien Bourdais leading rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and Santino Ferrucci, while Indy Lights aces Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward – on their official race weekend debut in an IndyCar – were 16th and 24th, 1.25 and 1.6sec off Hunter-Reay’s pace.
James Hinchcliffe suffered two spins in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Honda but outpaced Robert Wickens stand-in Carlos Munoz.
Second practice, which includes a chance to run on Firestone’s red alternate compound, begins at 3pm local (Pacific) time.
Sonoma, IndyCar first practice:
|25||1||Josef Newgarden||no time||-||-|
Herta satisfied with IndyCar test, despite accident
Sonoma IndyCar: Newgarden fastest, O’Ward stars in FP2