Hunter-Reay And Newgarden Lead The Way At Sonoma

Ryan Hunter-Reay during practice at the Grand Prix of Sonoma. © [Jamie Sheldrick / Spacesuit Media]

By Joe Jennings

In the opening day of practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma, the season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series, Ryan Hunter-Reay and reigning champion Josef Newgarden topped the speed charts after two rounds of practice around the picturesque 12-turn, 2.385-mile road course.

Hunter-Reay’s speed was 110.681 miles per hour and Newgarden’s was a tick slower at 110.378 mph.

Said Hunter-Reay, “It was a good start to the day; we were P1 this morning and overall. We went to some pretty aggressive changes this afternoon, knowing that Practice 2 was our last opportunity to do it before qualifying – being that you don’t want the car too far off in Practice 3 tomorrow morning. We made some changes, got aggressive with it and it was the wrong way. So, we’ll make some changes and head back to where we were in Practice 1, and hopefully, get the DHL car back to its good form.”

Added Newgarden, who missed the first practice round due to fuel pressure problems and a case of food poisoning, “I think we were OK. We tested here last week, so we were pretty ready to go. It was difficult this afternoon, to be honest. When I first went out, I wasn’t very happy the first run and then we made really good progress the second run and seemed pretty decent compared to last week. We were happy with our cars when we tested here last Thursday, so we felt optimistic coming into the weekend and now we’re just trying to go through the motions and make the right steps all the way up through the end of Sunday.”

The race results will determine the 2018 series champion and all eyes are on point leader Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi. Going into the race, Dixon holds a 29-point advantage over Rossi, but double points are up for grabs with 104 points possible for the winner should he win the pole, lead a lap and lead the most laps.

In Friday’s practice, Dixon timed third fastest and Rossi held down the eighth spot.

Dixon noted, “Conditions were a little tough today and we’re down around 30-40 percent overall on downforce compared to last year. Tomorrow could be different and tricky. You have to get the braking right for sure. I also think the temperature is going to play a huge part in what tires you take. We’ll take a look at it tonight and see what we need to do in order to make some gains for qualifying in the PNC Bank car.”

Said Rossi, “I think we made a step forward this afternoon from this morning. We had the test yesterday, which I thought was really good for us, but this place changes so quickly and so often. What you have one day doesn’t necessarily transfer completely the next day. We definitely have some work to do overnight – we need to put our heads together. But this isn’t the first time we’ve had a bad Friday, so I have a lot of confidence in the 27 NAPA team that come tomorrow afternoon we’ll be all right.”

25 cars are entered, including a pair of Harding entries for rookies Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta.  Throughout O’Ward ran with the leaders to end up sixth with Herta 20th.

Qualifications take place at 3 p.m. PT on Saturday.



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