For the second straight session, Team Penske led a large parade of Chevrolet-powered and aero kit applied entries near the top of the timing sheet as the teams of the Verizon IndyCar Series completed their final on track action session Friday night in preparation for Saturday’s Diamond Desert Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at the one-mile D-shaped Phoenix International Raceway, the first time the circuit has hosted an open wheel race since 2005.
After claiming the Verizon P1 Award earlier in the day with a track record breaking two-lap effort pf over 192 MPH, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion led the charts once again as the focus shifted to race setups in the nightcap. Castroneves’ hot lap of 186.293 MPH was just slightly faster than teammate Juan Pablo Montoya’s effort to claim second fastest honors on the evening. The big story for the most part on Friday, was the continued domination of the Chevrolet-backed cars as opposed to the Honda-supported entries. For the third consecutive on track session, GM cars swept the first ten places on the scoreboard.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden ended a solid first day of action at PIR by placing third in the final session, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud completing the fast five. Among the second half of the top ten, was the inclusion of CGR’s Max Chilton in eighth, the fastest of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates for 2016. One space ahead of Chilton, was two-time Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter, making his first appearance of the season as he focuses once again on only oval events in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Equally concerning for Honda, is their fastest runner Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay in eleventh, was nearly a half second off the fastest lap set by Castroneves. Twenty-one of the twenty-two cars entered at Phoenix were present for the final session, with the exception of AJ Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato. According to Foyt team manager Craig Baranouski, the team will repair the car Sato crashed on Friday morning, rather than risking a backup car in an effort to save equipment prior to the month of May at Indianapolis.
After suffering a similar crash in the first session, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was able to put their car back together in time to allow James Hinchcliffe to run a limited number of laps in the final session and the same situation held true for Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz, who crashed in the qualifying session, but due to minimal damage was ready to run at the start of the final session.
Of the final 30 minutes scheduled, 26 minutes and 15 seconds were run under green, with the yellow time of over three minutes being included due to the Holmatro Safety Crew being called out to clear debris off the backstretch. Green flag for the Diamond Desert Valley Phoenix Grand Prix is set for 9:15 p.m. eastern time Saturday or 7:15 p.m. local time in Phoenix. The event will be telecast on the NBC Sports Network, your nearest Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network affiliate or via online at indycar.com
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for coverage on Saturday leading up to and following the Phoenix Grand Prix and also tune into The Balance Radio Show at 9:30 a.m. Saturday on for Matt Embury’s further pre-race analysis.