Hunter-Reay tops after early Mid-Ohio practices
LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — If the IndyCar Series is going to make it 3 for 3 when it comes to caution-free races at Mid-Ohio, the drivers will need to clean it up before Sunday’s Honda Indy 200.
Friday’s afternoon practice was stopped twice for drivers going off course, causing a disjointed session.
“The first practice was fine,” four-time Mid-Ohio winner Scott Dixon said. “The second practice was pretty much a waste of time with all the reds (flags). We only got one or two laps at speed. It was pretty slippery out there with all the dirt and stuff. Hopefully, tomorrow goes a little bit smoother.”
Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport had the best time during the morning session. The pole winner for last year’s Mid-Ohio race clocked a 1:06.5316 for an average speed of 122.18 mph in the morning session. His pole time last year was 1:05.3519.
KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was fastest in the afternoon session with a 1:06.8271. Combining the two sessions, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ’s Simon Pagenaud was second in 1:06.6731, while Dixon was third for Chip Ganassi Racing — the winner of the last five races at the track. Rookie Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson was fourth, and Bourdais fifth.
Points leader Helio Castroneves was 18th in the morning session and 11th in the afternoon, while Team Penske teammate Will Power — second in the points chase — was 13th in each session.
The last caution period during an IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio were from laps 57 to 59 in 2011. That’s 201 straight laps without a yellow flag.
“We’re going to try,” said Tony Kanaan, 20th in Friday practice. “I think that’s the beauty of it. Look at the quality of the drivers and the teams. You don’t have mechanical failures or drivers making mistakes. You have a full green-flag race.
“I enjoy that a lot. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be sometimes. The last two races, I think the fans loved it. They liked the way it was.”
The 2011 race saw just two caution periods for eight laps, but the 2010 race tied a track record for IndyCar cautions with five. The 2008 race had the most yellow-flag laps with 19.
“The quality of driver in the (series) in 2014 is better that we’ve ever had,” said last year’s race winner, Charlie Kimball, 17th best in Friday practice. “I do think another opportunity for another full-green race is there, but a lot of things have to go right for that to happen. If someone has a mechanical problem, it has to be close enough that they can get in the pit lane or get off line and get out of the way and not have any contact. It’s definitely a challenge to do it a third year in a row, but with the quality of the field the opportunity is there.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, who is in his first year in his return to IndyCar, after stints in Formula One and NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, didn’t know the series had a 2-year, no-caution streak riding on Sunday.
“You’re going to have races like that,” he said. “It’s going to be hard physically. It depends on what the weather does. That will play a big part of it.”
Other notables from Friday’s sessions were Marco Andretti in seventh, Montoya in eighth and Columbus-born Graham Rahal 13th.