LEXINGTON, Ohio -- In a season that hasn't come close to matching his expectations, Will Power found a hint of better days ahead during the afternoon practice session at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Power, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship runner-up three years running, is 10th in the standings entering the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 4 -- Round 14 of 19. He's earned two Verizon P1 Awards, but third place at Milwaukee is the best result in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
"It's definitely hard to get the car right, this year period for me," he said. "We’re starting to understand, so definitely we're on the right track."
Power's fastest lap (19 of 19) of 1 minute, 05.4332 seconds in the 45-minute afternoon session was more than two-tenths of a second faster than his 2012 pole-winning lap time. The track record of 1:05.347, held by Dario Franchitti (August 1999) and Gil de Ferran (August 2000), will definitely be challenged in the three rounds of knockout qualifications for the Verizon P1 Award on Aug. 3 (2 p.m. ET).
Click it: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio combined practice results || Qualifying groups
"We got a good time in at the end. A few mistakes during the session but we’re narrowing it down," Power added. "I’d love nothing more than to get on the pole here and have a chance to win a race. But good so far, and we’ll keep working hard."
Scott Dixon, who has won the past three races to vault to second in the championship standings with six races remaining, was second fast (1:05.4469) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. In addition to seeking his third consecutive victory at Mid-Ohio (and fifth overall), Dixon is seeking to become the first driver under INDYCAR sanction to win four races in a row. Sebastien Bourdais won four consecutive events in the Champ Car World Series in 2006.
"It’s just a tough race being an old-school American road course," said Dixon, who has started fourth and on the pole in his past two victories at Mid-Ohio. “We’ve had other ones like this, but they’ve been taken away."
Click it: Dixon paces first practice
Reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay was third (1:05.5018) in the No. 1 DHL car for Andretti Autosport, while Franchitti was fourth (1:05.7019) in the No. 10 GE car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.
Luca Filippi, who hours earlier was confirmed by team co-owner Bryan Herta as the driver of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car for the 90-lap race, checked in fifth on the time sheet at 1:05.7364. Filippi, an 11-time winner in five seasons in GP2, tested the car for the first time July 31 at Mid-Ohio.
Six different teams were represented in the top 10 as 24 drivers completed 797 laps combined in the two sessions. The top 18 cars were separated by less than a second.
Click it: Listen to the post-practice news conference
A 45-minute practice (10:30 a.m.) precedes qualifications.