Simon Pagenaud

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Simon Pagenaud picked up where he left off a year ago at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, leading this morning’s opening practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

In 2016, Pagenaud overcame a back injury to win the Mid-Ohio race, kick-starting the Team Penske driver’s charge to the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. The driver of the No. 1 Menards Chevrolet topped the time sheet in the 45-minute practice with a lap of 1 minute, 4.9079 seconds (125.236 mph) around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course.

HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO: Practice 1 results

Alexander RossiFollowing closely behind Pagenaud was Ohio native at 2015 Mid-Ohio winner Graham Rahal, who was second in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda with a lap of 1:04.9422 (125.170 mph).

“We’ve got some work to do – it’s definitely a bit of a handful right now – but we’re OK,” Rahal said. “Obviously, it’s got some decent pace in it. We were on a lap there that I think was better, would’ve put us P1, but I had to lift because I caught up to Marco (Andretti) there, but that’s OK. It’s part of the game. So far, so good.”

Andretti ran third in the session, with a lap of 1:04.9814 (125.094 mph) in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, ahead of a pair of Team Penske drivers. Helio Castroneves was fourth in the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet (1:04.9834) and Will Power fifth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (1:05.1323).

Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing is the championship leader after 12 of 17 races, three points ahead of Castroneves. Dixon, in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, was ninth in today’s first practice (1:05.2320).

Rahal was relieved by the cooler temperatures at the track today. The threat of storms this afternoon has diminished and the forecast is for comfortable temperatures in the upper 70s all weekend.

“When it’s hot, this is the most physical place we go to all year,” Rahal said. “Luckily today, mid-70s, the weather looks perfect all weekend. Definitely not too bad now.”

A second 45-minute practice begins at 2:15 p.m. ET today and streams live on Three rounds of knockout qualifying air live on NBCSN beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. Coverage of Sunday’s 90-lap race commences at 3 p.m. on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore presentation at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.