Takuma Sato and Will Power

AVONDALE, Arizona – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing continued setting the pace in the Phoenix open test at ISM Raceway this afternoon, but familiar faces are nipping at the heels.

Takuma Sato, in the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, logged the fastest lap in today’s third of four practice sessions on the 1.022-mile oval, at the preseason gathering of all Verizon IndyCar Series teams. Sato’s lap of 189.728 mph (19.3920 seconds) is the best of the weekend thus far, with only a three-hour session under the lights this evening remaining.

Trailing closely behind Sato three past series champions, each coming from a traditional powerhouse team – Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport.

PHOENIX OPEN TEST AT ISM RACEWAY: Afternoon practice results; Combined practice results

Will Power, the 2014 champion, was second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, at 189.276 mph (19.4383 seconds). Next came four-time champ Scott Dixon, third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (188.477 mph). Dixon was followed by 2012 series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay, with a lap of 188.331 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport.

“It's been good,” Power said. “Definitely gone through all the processes and tried to do some qualifying simulations, because that's what time we'll be qualifying the car when we come back in April.

“Really enjoying this car, the 2018 car is awesome. Our No. 12 Verizon Chevy’s been pretty good the whole time. We just had the wrong gears in (Friday) when we did our qualifying (simulation) run. We're really in a good window, I feel like. So are a lot of people, by the look of it.”

That window includes Hunter-Reay, who was also happy with the progress that his crew made in improving his car from the first day of the open test.

“We made some good gains in the No. 28 DHL Honda overnight,” Hunter-Reay said. “We continued to work on setup for overall balance and I think we find ourselves in a position where we're two or three changes away now.

“We’re P4 to end what would be, I think, a qualifying simulation session, so it's a good start for when we come back. Now we’ll focus on race running tonight.” 

The last practice session runs from 8-11 p.m. ET and streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The Phoenix open test is the only series-mandated test for all teams prior to the 2018 season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

The series returns to ISM Raceway for the second race of the season, the Phoenix Grand Prix, on April 7 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).