Ryan Hunter-Reay is continuing exactly where he left off. The defending Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner led the pair of practices on Friday with a time of one minute and 8.7836 seconds.
“The track was good – this is quite a bit hotter than we’re used to here at Barber,” Hunter-Reay commented. “It takes some getting used to and the track conditions have certainly changed, but we’ve tested here quite a bit – we tested here in the off-season and we definitely can’t get enough of Barber. It’s going to be a little bit hotter (tomorrow) and the track temp is going to go up, so we’ll look at what we did her last year preparing for qualifying. The Andretti Autosport car is great right now, we’re not where we want to be yet, but I expect to see all four of us up front (tomorrow).”
Hunter-Reay has shown speed so far this year in the first two events to start the season as he finished second at St. Petersburg and dominated at Long Beach before contact with Josef Newgarden took him out of the event.
Sebastian Bourdais timed in second quickest, backing up the speed that he showed two weeks ago at Long Beach.
“We know how slick this place can be when it gets hot and how much tire degradation can be a factor,” Bourdais commented post-practice. “We come here (in March) and test for two days and it’s drizzling and it’s British weather in the 50s, no wind, and the track is awesome – and the car feels great and it’s super fast. And then we come back and the track is 125 degrees, and it’s gusty, and you’re like, ‘Is this the same car?’ You’re two seconds slower and you’re P1. And that’s interesting.
“I think it’s very difficult to anticipate what might happen; the track might not pick up any speed at all and it’s getting very slick out there. We’ll see what happens.”
Josef Newgarden was third quickest, followed by current points leader Will Power and James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe is hoping to not repeat last year’s Barber experience as he ran into issues early and was stuck in one of hte run off spots most of the race without at toe back to pit road.
“We were here for spring training and had a little bit of an idea of what to expect this weekend, of course the conditions are a bit different now which has a huge effect on the track. The team did a great job though, obviously Ryan (Hunter-Reay) was quickest both session,” Hinchcliffe commented. “I’m happy with the United Fiber & Data Honda, but still a little bit of work to do for tomorrow.”
Past race winner Helio Castroneves was sixth quickest, followed by Marco Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud. Long Beach race winner Mike Conway was 16th quickest.
Graham Rahal’s struggles continue as he was only 19th quickest and got off course after contact with the tire barrier in turn 15.
The Verizon IndyCar Series teams will get one more practice in the morning on Saturday with qualifying scheduled for 2 p.m. local time.