By: Tanner Watkins
March 8, 2019 | 1:00 PM
After a long offseason wait, the NTT IndyCar Series season already has two practice sessions for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in the books. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way in the afternoon session which saw many drivers set best lap times on the Firestone alternate compound tire.
Hunter-Reay’s best lap – which was the top time combined between the two Friday practice sessions – came in at 1m0.8969s, a shade ahead of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot at 1m0.9812s. Pigot was the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver in a practice session where the Bowtie performed better than this morning.
Max Chilton (P5, 1m1.1171s) and Charlie Kimball (P8, 1m1.1681) were both quick in Chevy machines for Carlin while Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden (P9, 1m1.1811s) and Will Power (P10, 1m1.1896s) rounded out the top-10 for the General Motors brand.
Honda still performed admirably, placing Marco Andretti in third place with a best lap of 1m1.0351s and rookie Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver Colton Herta in fourth with a time of 1m1.0776s. With Alexander Rossi slotting in sixth, that marked four Andretti-affiliated drivers inside the “Fast Six” during Friday practice.
Riding the excitement of having Robert Wickens at the track, James Hinchcliffe and his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 5 also found his way into the top-10 with a run that placed him seventh-quick at 1m1.1453s.
After leading this morning’s practice session, Felix Rosenqvist was 14th on the time sheets in the afternoon (1m1.5020s). The Swede’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate was one spot better, as Scott Dixon came in at 13th-quick and a time of 1m1.4284s.
The majority of times in the afternoon were quicker than best lap times set in the morning. Part of that is due to teams making adjustments to their cars in an attempt to dial-in their setups for Sunday, but the Firestone alternate compound tire certainly helped as much as anything.
Teams were granted use of one set of Firestone alternate “red” tires in this session with conditions closely reflecting what we will see for qualifying tomorrow afternoon. This allowed 19 of the 24 drivers to set their best times on the Firestone alternate compound, including the fastest 11 drivers in the second session.
Additionally, each driver improved their time from the morning practice to the afternoon.
The field remained tight throughout the second practice session, with less than a second separating the top 22 drivers. Graham Rahal (P11, 1m1.2129s) turned the most laps in the session with 23 circuits completed.
And that does it for day one of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! The teams will be back on track Saturday morning for a 10:25 a.m. Eastern practice. That 45-minute session will set the stage for Firestone Pole Qualifying at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday afternoon.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com for the latest from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Header image by Chris Owens/INDYCAR.