By: Spencer Neff
September 20, 2019 | 6:10 PM
As he looks to close out his season on a strong note, Ryan Hunter-Reay led this afternoon’s second practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
In his third visit to the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course, the Andretti Autosport driver posted a best lap of 1m8.9105s. Although the NTT IndyCar Series returns to Laguna Seca for the first time since 2004, Hunter-Reay is one of four drivers with previous experience in an IndyCar at the track.
Repeating his effort from earlier in the day, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist was second on the chart. As the fastest rookie in the 24-car field, the current Rookie of the Year leader was just .020 seconds off the fastest lap.
After leading opening practice, Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie Colton Herta made it a 1-2-3 for Honda entries.
In fourth, Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud was the quickest of the Chevrolet-powered cars. Additionally, the 2016 champion ranked fastest of the four title leaders in his Team Penske machine.
In fifth, Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci made it three rookies in the top five for both sessions.
Following Pagenaud, his teammate Josef Newgarden ran sixth while Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was ninth. After finishing last during the opening practice, Alexander Rossi was just 23rd during the afternoon run.
Issues abound for title contenders
In the opening practice, Rossi’s Andretti Autosport team spent much of the session getting his car dialed in. After a late hardware issue, he was slowest in Practice 1.
During Practice 2, two more of the championship contenders found trouble.
About halfway through the session, Dixon went off track and into the gravel run-off. Moments later, Pagenaud went into the Turn 2 gravel. Fortunately for Pagenaud, he was able to continue on.
Tomorrow morning, there will be one last chance for the four championship contenders – as well as their 20 competitors – to get things right before qualifying.
Rossi leads as Herta, Jones stall during warmup
Following the 45-minute practice and a 15-minute break, teams were given an additional 30 minutes of practice. As was the case at Circuit of The Americas, Road America, and Portland, there will be no morning warmup before Sunday’s race.
Therefore, the session today was utilized as a pit stop practice/”warmup”. When things wrapped up, Rossi had turned things around and ran the fast lap of the session (1m10.0988s), beating out teammate Hunter-Reay by .7938 seconds.
Including Andretti Technology-supported Herta, the team claimed four of the top five spots. Rounding out the top six were Dixon (fourth) and Pagenaud. Making his second start of 2019 for the team, Conor Daly finished fifth.
During the session, a few drivers saw issues while on pit road. Less than 10 minutes in, Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa’s Ed Jones stalled on pit road, adjacent to Turn 11. After a brief red flag, Herta would suffer the same fate as Jones in a nearly-identical spot.
Late in the running, Graham Rahal caught the curbing in Turn 8 and spun down the famed “Corkscrew”. Fortunately for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver, he was able to retire without causing a delay.
Also of note during the session was Sebastien Bourdais’ absence. During the NBC Sports Gold stream, Townsend Bell reported the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver was dealing with neck soreness.
As a result, Bourdais and his No. 18 team opted not to participate in the warmup. Later during the broadcast, Team Owner Dale Coyne relayed optimism Bourdais would be fine for the rest of the weekend.
Here is the remaining schedule of on-track activity for this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. In addition, broadcast info is included. All times are local track time (Pacific Time).
Saturday, Sept. 21
10 – 10:45 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice 3, NBC Sports Gold (live)
1:35 p.m. – Firestone Fast Six Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live)
Sunday, Sept. 22
11:30 a.m. – Driver introductions
11:30 p.m. – NBC on air
12:08 p.m. – Start engines command
12:15 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (90 laps), NBC (live)
Header image by Stephen King/INDYCAR.