Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hunter-Reay Fastest in Pre-Qualifying Practice

Ryan Hunter-Reay is fresh off his second victory of 2015 and he was fastest in second practice for the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway. The 2012 IndyCar champion ran a 76.8702-second lap, faster than the track record, a 77.2709 set by Will Power in 2012. Five championship contenders followed Hunter-Reay on the time sheet, all within 0.09 seconds of the American.

Graham Rahal was second fastest for a second consecutive practice session as he was 0.0287 seconds slower than Hunter-Reay. Josef Newgarden made it three Americans in the top three as he was 0.0567 seconds back. Championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth fastest, 0.599 seconds back of Hunter-Reay with Scott Dixon rounding out the top five, trailing Hunter-Reay by 0.0641 seconds. Hélio Castroneves was sixth, 0.0856 seconds back.

Carlos Muñoz was seventh and within a tenth of his Andretti Autosport teammate. Former Sonoma winners Tony Kanaan and Will Power were eighth and ninth. Kanaan was 0.1528 seconds off the fastest lap and Power was 0.2191 seconds back. Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top ten, just under a quarter of a second off Hunter-Reay.

Sebastián Saavedra was 11th in the session with his Ganassi teammate Charlie Kimball in 12th. They were 0.3828 and 0.4182 seconds back respectively. Saavedra caused the only red flag during the session when he ran out of fuel on a qualifying simulation. Mikhail Aleshin was 13th in this session with Marco Andretti in 14th. Aleshin and Andretti were the final two drivers within a half of a second of Hunter-Reay. The fastest rookie was Stefano Coletti, who was 15th, 0.573 seconds back.

Ryan Briscoe was 0.028 seconds behind the Monegasque driver with Coletti's teammate Sébastien Bourdais 0.8019 seconds behind Hunter-Reay. Gabby Chavees and Takuma Sato were 18th and 19th respectively, the final two drivers within a second of the fastest time. Luca Filippi rounded out the top twenty, 1.021 seconds back. Dale Coyne Racing teammates Rodolfo González and Tristan Vautier were 21st and 22nd respectively. Jack Hawksworth, Oriol Servià and James Jakes rounded out the timesheet.

One group for qualifying will feature Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Carlos Muñoz, Will Power, Sebastián Saavedra, Mikhail Aleshin, Stefano Coletti, Sébastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato, Rodolfo González, Jack Hawksworth and James Jakes.

In the other qualifying group will be Graham Rahal, Juan Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball, Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Gabby Chaves, Luca Filippi, Tristan Vautier and Oriol Servià.

Chevrolet has won the last 22 pole positions in IndyCar. Honda's last pole position came at Houston 1 last year when Simon Pagenaud won his first career pole position driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Power has five pole positions this year while Hélio Castroneves has won four. Scott Dixon has won two pole positions while Josef Newgarden has won one. Montoya has not won a pole this year and has only been the top Penske qualifier once. Rahal has yet to make it to the Firestone Fast Six this year. Only three times have Honda made the Fast Six this session. Takuma Sato has done it twice (St. Petersburg, Detroit) and Ryan Hunter-Reay did it once (Long Beach).

Using the second practice results as if they were race results would have Montoya as champion with 564 points and Rahal second, 20 points back. Dixon would be third with 513 points. Newgarden and Power would be tied for fourth with 483 points and the tiebreaker going to Newgarden. Castroneves would be sixth with 479 points.

IndyCar qualifying from Sonoma will begin at 6:00 p.m. ET. NBCSN is scheduled to show the session live after the NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Road America.