Andretti Autosport’s Marco Andretti led the way in the second practice session of the Phoenix International Raceway open Verizon IndyCar Series open test on Friday night. Andretti completed 75 laps with a fastest time of 19.4541s and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
It’s always encouraging (to see your name at the top). It’s still early but it’s a good start. What I like about it is, you obviously want to be P1, but today we really focused on the car, the car, the car. We just focused on doing our jobs and maximizing whatever we can. And we ended up all right. I have a hunch that the opposition is turned down, but you might as well be there if you can be. … The atmosphere, a lot of it is just me. I decided for myself that, ‘I’m going to do this for me. I’m going to have fun. I’m going to drive to impress myself, not anybody else.’ When you drive more relaxed, you do a better job.
Graham Rahal was second fastest in the No.15 United Rentals Honda with a fastest time of 19.5036s and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
I think we’re pleased with the performance today. Obviously, we have to take into account that it’s a test, but we worked through a lot of stuff. I don’t think we were necessarily looking for speed to be honest with you, so I was a little bit surprised when we went out right away (in the night session) and did that lap time. We actually backed it up again completely on our own at the end of the session. All in all, I’m pleased with the car. I’d like in race pace to find maybe a couple of tenths to keep up with the Penskes, but we look pretty good. We’re just trying to get through a long checklist of items throughout the winter. I think everyone on the United Rentals team did great job today, and just looking forward to tomorrow.
Takuma Sato who completed 93 laps ended the session in third place and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
Very happy day, I think. … I’ve been out of the car for over five months, and five months has obviously felt long, but it’s a transition for the team, a lot learned and to meet the people, went to the shop and to go through a lot of stuff with engineers and etc., etc. Just like one click and then now jumping in the car, so I was happy and obviously those strong three other teammates helped me out really well for the first session. The car is there already.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in the plain white No.9 Honda was fourth fastest. The Iceman who has become a storm trooper with his white overalls completed 87 laps and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
It’s good to be back in an Indy car. It’s been a little while, so it’s nice to be out running and obviously back here in Phoenix, fond memories from last year. It’s always good to be back at a track that you won at. For us, big changes in the offseason. It’s the second time in the Honda-powered car, first time on a short oval, which as we know is maybe not the best package to have. But all in all, it ran fairly smoothly. … As for right now, the engine feels really good and lap times I thought for what we were doing were actually fairly decent.
Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was fifth fastest just ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball. JR Hildebrand was seventh for Ed Carpenter Racing completing 30 laps.
Speaking following the session he commented by saying:
I think for us, it’s just about starting to build the communication, working with the new engineers on the team or on the (No.) 21 car. I feel great about the couple of guys that have been brought in, Justin Taylor and Dan Hobbs. But we’re all just kind of getting familiar with each other at the same time. Definitely a nice way to be able to do that when we know that we’ve got a good package to start with.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan was eighth fastest in the No.10 NTT Data Honda and speaking following the session, the Brazilian commented by saying:
It was a big change (to Honda) for us. We worked really hard to try to understand off-track how the aero kit worked, and I think we had a pretty good idea. … No big issues, so we’re still learning, learning, scanning through all the lists the engineers have to make it right when we come back. So we’re not really concerned what we’re going to do here today. I mean, we’re here to learn as much as we can, so when we come back we can try to win this thing.
Josef Newgarden who timed the times for Team Penske in the afternoon was ninth fastest with a time of 19.7256s and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
It’s great to be going and fun to be with Team Penske. It’s really been an interesting offseason for me, just I’ve not really wanted an offseason this time around. Normally you like a little bit of a break, but this year I wanted to get going immediately, so it’s been a long wait. But I feel fairly squared away with the new operation and just trying to gel a little bit with the group, the Verizon (No.) 2 car team is all new to me. They’re not new to each other, so there’s great continuity there, but I’m new to the group, so they’re trying to understand me and I’m trying to understand them. I think we had a pretty good start to today. The car was really great off the truck, so we didn’t have to do too much. We just got into our program and had a pretty easy start to the afternoon.
Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top ten with a time of 19.7379s and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
We reset it to zero, so here we are, another year. Last year was fantastic, but we have to use what we learned last year to do even better this year. So I’m very excited. It’s the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to actually capitalize on such a great season, so it was a good test today. Just trying to understand everything that we learned during the winter, going slowly test after test, and hopefully we can put the package together and come back and be strong for the race here.
Ed Carpenter was 11th fastest. Speaking following the session the only owner/driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series commented by saying:
It was a good start to the test. We had good cars here last year, and Josef (Newgarden) and I both qualified well and both were a factor in the race. I made a mistake in the race, otherwise I think we probably would have been on the podium. Coming here, we did a tire test here in the offseason, so we felt pretty good about where we were as a team coming in here, which I think is good for JR (Hildebrand), too, coming in, to make that transition back to fulltime guy a little easier. Chevy does have a good package here and we’re thankful for that. But it’s a good place for us to start. We have a good handle on this track and hopefully we can keep it rolling.
Alexander Rossi was 12th fastest for Andretti Autosport ending the session just ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton.
Helio Castroneves in the No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet ended the session in 14th place just ahead of his team mate Will Power in the No.12 Verizon Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter Reay in the No.28 DHL Honda was 16th fastest and speaking following the session he commented by saying:
It’s just nice to get back to work, really. This is what we do, this is how we operate. This is how we operate mentally. Being away from the racetrack, you kind of feel like a fish out of water, so it’s nice to be back and just be back into it, be back into the rhythm. I wish we were here for a race weekend or something just so you could be in this more. The test is going to fly by, but we have four cars, we’re going to work together as we always do at Andretti Autosport. We’re going to put together the best race car, come back with it and hopefully make for an interesting race when we come back for the Phoenix race weekend.
Carlos Munoz was 17th fastest in the No.14 ABC Supply Co. AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet ending the session just ahead of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports James Hinchcliffe and speaking following the session, Hinchcliffe commented by saying:
This is kind of the unofficial start of the season really for us, to get everybody out here, all the new car and driver combinations, and just the whole field on the track at the same time. You get that kind of competitive spirit going again and that excitement just for the start of the season.
Alexander Rossi was 19th fastest in the No.98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda. Conor Daly was 20th for AJ Foyt Racing just ahead of Ed Jones while Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the order.