INDIANAPOLIS – Scott Dixon sent a reminder this morning that he’s still a threat in this afternoon’s INDYCAR Grand Prix.
The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, who qualified a disappointing 18th on Saturday, was fastest in today’s final practice before the 85-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The 37-year-old New Zealander turned a best lap of 1 minute, 10.8157 seconds (123.989 mph) on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn permanent road course to pace the 24-car field in the session.
INDYCAR GRAND PRIX: Warmup practice results; Combined practice results; Race start tire designation
“We took some pretty good tires toward the middle part of the session,” Dixon said. “Everybody uses (push-to-pass) a little bit (in the warmup). The performance was definitely a little bit better.”
Dixon’s starting position in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda is the 41-race winner’s lowest on any kind of track since he was 19th at Pocono Raceway in 2016. He hasn’t started this this far back on a road or street course since Mid-Ohio in 2014 – when he started 22nd and charged to victory.
“(Qualifying) was a bad run in general, in terms of how we picked (tires) and in trying to get back up to speed with the car,” Dixon said. “We’ll see what today brings. We’re starting a ways back in 18th, so hopefully we can make up a good piece forwards.
“It’s hard to see how we’ll be in traffic. We’re starting a long way back. We’ve got to hope for a strategy shift that gives us a good chunk. We’re trying to shoot for a good finish. Some of that is out of our hands.”
Pole sitter Will Power was second fastest in the warmup with a lap of 1:10.8371 (123.952 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power is a two-time INDYCAR Grand Prix winner – in 2015 and ’17 – both times starting from the pole.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third on the timesheet with a lap of 1:10.9309 (123.835 mph), but the Andretti Autosport driver needed a tow-in from the AMR INDYCAR Safety Team when his No. 28 DHL Honda stopped on track at the close of the warmup.
The session was originally slated for 30 minutes but was extended by five minutes following a lengthy red-flag delay caused when Marco Andretti pulled off in Turn 1 with smoke pluming from his No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda.
Team co-owner Bryan Herta said the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian crew was still trying to determine what went wrong on the car.
“We’re not sure yet,” said Herta, who calls Andretti’s race strategy from the pit stand. “The guys are back in the garage looking at all the data right now. Marco felt something funny and we just shut it off as a precaution. We’ll have to look at the data and understand if it’s something we need to change or not.
“It’s not ideal, obviously, because we missed (most of) the warmup. That was our chance to really dial in the car with full tanks and get ready for the race. We’ll do the best we can and do whatever we need. We’ll be ready to go racing.”
The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team was called into action for another red flag when several Canadian geese descended on the grassy area in Turn 12.
Power and Simon Pagenaud are the only drivers to win the four previous INDYCAR Grand Prix events on the IMS road course. Live coverage of the 85-lap race begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.