INDIANAPOLIS – It’s no great secret that Team Penske driver Will Power is one of the two best drivers on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
His three GMR Grand Prix victories attest to that.
He proved he is still fast during Friday’s 90-minute practice session for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix, topping the charts with a 1:09.9487 lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet.
What is uncertain, however, is how different the track surface will be when the Indy cars return for Friday’s qualifications in the late afternoon. That’s because the NASCAR Xfinity Series will have two practice sessions on Friday.
The NTT IndyCar Series utilizes Firestone tires and NASCAR uses Goodyear. The different rubber compounds on the track will completely change the grip level and characteristics.
“Kudos for P1 because I get to pick the qualification group,” Power said. “I’ll be going out second. The first session will be difficult because of the NASCAR rubber.
“It’s a good thing to think about before qualifying here. I hope I have a shot at the pole. The track really evolves.”
Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser & Sullivan was second fastest in his Honda at 1:10.1242.
“Our car was really well connected today, we spent a lot of time on the sim,” Ferrucci said. “We wanted to roll out with something for qualifying today and we did.”
Ferrucci was involved in an incident wit Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Honda that brought out the first of two red flags. Hunter-Reay was warming up his tires and weaving around the course, while Ferrucci was on a hot lap at speed.
The two cars made contact and that sent Hunter-Reay off the race course.
“You can’t impede someone on a hot lap,” Ferrucci said. “I was clearly on a hot lap and he was warming up his tires. Because it was practice, I would say that’s a warning.”
Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing was third in a Honda at 1:10.1648.
“It was a good practice session. I think again, like in Texas, all three of us at Chip Ganassi Racing had really strong cars,” Ericcson said. “I was feeling comfortable straight away on the blacks out there. We did some tweaking and some smaller stuff on the setup. I think we found some small bits and pieces and then on the reds we felt strong again and competitive. I had a good feeling in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda car. Overall, it was a very positive session. I think we are looking good for this afternoon and for tomorrow for the GMR Grand Prix.”
Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP was fourth at 1:10.1874 followed by Scott Dixon at 1:10.2054. Hunter-Reay was sixth at 1:10.2846 and three-time Indy GP winner Simon Pagenaud, the defending race winner, was seventh at 1:10.3129.
Kyle Moyer calls Pagenaud’s race strategy at Team Penske and is equally curious to see how the track conditions change after the NASCAR Xfinity practice.
“We’ll see how much they help us or hurt us,” Moyer said, regarding to the Goodyear and Firestone compounds.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske and IMS President Doug Boles watched Friday’s practice session from an area on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway golf course. This is the first race since for Penske as owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.