It was a repeat performance from Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden as the reigning IndyCar Series champion paced the field of 23 drivers in this afternoon’s practice from Road America.
While Newgarden conceded that his quickest lap from the morning session was aided by push-to-pass, the Tennessee native re-affirmed his pace in practice two by topping the time charts with a lap of 1:42.6279s.
Team Penske president Tim Cindric was interviewed during the practice and has acknowledged that Newgarden and his No. 1 Verizon team have a bit to prove following a difficult stretch of races since his last win in April.
“Since Barber, the wheels kind of fell off a little bit going into the INDYCAR Grand Prix,” said Cindric. “I’d say the Indy 500 missed expectations and Detroit certainly missed expectations, then a tough night at Texas.
“We are looking to try and rebound and a solid weekend will be a real good weekend for us. I remember last year at this point we were 50 points out of the lead, so anything is possible. This place suits him. It’s a total commitment type track and, without a doubt, Newgarden is totally committed wherever he is.”
Newgarden’s time bested runner-up Robert Wickens who was just 0.27s off of the Chevrolet driver, while Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud filled out the top five.
Removing the three Team Penske drivers placed in the top five, it was a Honda-dominated session as they placed 7 drivers in the top 10 on speed and 11 of the top 15 overall.
With this afternoon session progressing at about the same time of day that drivers will qualify on Saturday, and the option for teams to use one set of alternate Firestone red tires, it was a good barometer to gauge speed for the rest of the event.
Graham Rahal improved from his morning showing by placing 6th fastest while his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate of Takuma Sato was solid once again by going 9th on the charts.
Points leader Scott Dixon improved a couple spots from 9th in the morning to 7th this afternoon and will certainly be a threat in his No. 9 PNC Bank Honda driving for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest Andretti Autosport driver of the session as he placed 8th-quick with Marco Andretti holding steady at 10th overall in the session. Alexander Rossi, who was 3rd on the time sheets this morning, was 12th while rookie teammate Zach Veach was 14th.
During the session, team owner Michael Andretti spoke to the INDYCAR Radio Network briefly and stated, “we are okay. Not where we want to be yet, but we are getting there.” Look for the Andretti drivers to be contenders for top-1o qualifying spots come Saturday afternoon.
A.J. Foyt Racing dropped off a bit from practice one to practice two. In the first practice, both Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist were solidly in the top-10. In this afternoon session, TK was 11th (1.028 seconds off the leader) while the rookie Leist was 19th (1.580 seconds off of the leader).
Young Verizon IndyCar Series teams Carlin, Harding Racing and Juncos Racing struggled mightily in the session.
For Carlin, Max Chilton was 20th while Charlie Kimball was 22nd. Harding Racing continues to lament their lack of testing time as Gabby Chaves was 21st and Alfonso Celis Jr. had his first moment in an Indy car during second practice.
Making his first race weekend appearance for Juncos Racing, Celis Jr. went off of the course about 10 minutes into the practice.
Carrying a high rate of speed the rookie driver tried to correct his direction on grass once he exited the racing surface, but it was too little too late as his car slid and backed into the tire barrier.
Celis Jr.’s No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet sustained significant damage to the rear end that popped the rear wing off. He did not return to practice after only 3 laps of competition, though Celis Jr. was able to make laps during the short pit stop practice that followed this session.
The third and final practice in preparation for Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America will be Saturday, June 23 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. Qualifications will be held later that afternoon with the proceedings kicking off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
The KOHLER Grand Prix will be shown live, Sunday, June 24 at 1:00 p.m. on NBCSN as well as through the INDYCAR Radio Network. Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com for the latest coverage from Road America.
Image courtesy of Zach Wenzel/Open-Wheels.com