By: Tanner Watkins
April 6, 2019 | 12:00 PM
As many drivers have been left scratching their heads following the first three on-track sessions from Barber Motorsports Park, James Hinchcliffe will be one of the happiest competitors in the IndyCar paddock heading into qualifications.
The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver led all drivers with a 1m8.7351s lap. It was the second consecutive practice that Hinchcliffe has led this weekend after being sick with flu-like symptoms just a few days ago.
Keeping with the trend this weekend, the final practice session was slowed by multiple off-track excursions and a few red flag periods. Zach Veach’s rough weekend didn’t get any better when he flew through the gravel trap at Turn 5 and brought out the first red of the day.
Veach’s team was unable to clean the gravel out of the car’s essential components before the session concluded and he finished the practice dead-last in 24th.
The next red flag was displayed following a brief off-track run by Jack Harvey, which peppered the entry of Turn 2 with grass. After Ryan Hunter-Reay went through the corner and slid into the gravel trap, Marcus Ericsson did the same.
Unfortunately for the No. 7 Honda driver, Ericsson’s off-track ended up in a retaining wall which produced significant suspension damage to the SPM machine.
Just a few moments after the session went green again following the removal of Ericsson’s car, Graham Rahal locked up the tires on the entry to Turn 5 and slid his No. 15 Honda into the gravel trap. With the front tires sitting in the grass and the rears in the gravel, Rahal had to be retrieved by the INDYCAR Safety Team – prompting another red flag.
Turn 5 has been a problem area for many drivers this weekend. The downhill left-hand hairpin begs for front tire lock-up and it got the best of Will Power, Takuma Sato, Felix Rosenqvist, and the aforementioned Veach.
After Rahal’s car was removed, INDYCAR allowed teams one timed lap to close the session. That allowed Hinchcliffe to sneak in the only sub 79-second lap of the session, and Scott Dixon was able to put together a lap that slotted him in at third-quickest (1m9.2334s).
Five Honda drivers took the first five spots: Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais (P2, 1m9.0351s), Dixon, rookie Colton Herta (P4, 1m9.2444s) and Takuma Sato (P5, 1m9.2692s). For the second session in a row, Spencer Pigot (P6, 1m9.2784s) was the quickest Chevrolet driver as he topped Simon Pagenaud (P7, 1m9.2837s) for best in class.
On the combined time charts, Hinchcliffe was one of ten drivers to set their fastest time of the weekend in today’s morning practice. A total of 13 drivers were unable to improve on Friday afternoon’s second practice time, and Felix Rosenqvist is the only driver who had set their fastest practice lap of the weekend in Friday morning’s opening practice.
Qualifications for tomorrow’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will go green this afternoon at approximately 4:00 p.m. Eastern, live on NBCSN and streamed by the IndyCar Radio Network. Timing and scoring for qualifications can be found by visiting RaceControl.IndyCar.com.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.