MADISON, Illinois – Rainy weather has wreaked havoc with the opening-day schedule at Gateway Motorsports Park. Following a late-afternoon practice abbreviated by rain, Verizon P1 Award qualifying for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta & Valvoline was canceled on Friday to allow more time for an extended final practice in the evening.
BOMMARITO AUTOMOTIVE GROUP 500: Practice 1 results; Starting lineup
Conditions permitting, that practice will run from 8:30-10 p.m. ET – a time frame that mirrors when the race on the 1.25-mile oval will start on Saturday. The starting grid for the 248-lap race will be set on entrant points, which puts championship leader Scott Dixon in the first starting position.
“I think, ultimately, everybody wants to qualify,” Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, said. “It's just difficult when you're coming into a track with a new aero kit and we only had, I think, 22 minutes of green time.
“In many ways, I think INDYCAR made the right decision as far as trying to put a priority on getting some running tonight in hopefully dry conditions that will benefit everybody for race setup and that kind of stuff later on. It was going to be hard, I think, schedule-wise to try to get everything in.”
By rule, Dixon does not earn a bonus point or credit for a pole position, though he felt has could have been in contention for it in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“I think our car was pretty good,” said Dixon, whose 44 career wins rank third in Indy car history. “Would we have got the pole? Maybe, maybe not, but right now we're just trying to focus on getting some changes for tonight's practice and obviously make the race car a little bit better.”
Alexander Rossi, second in the standings, 29 points behind Dixon, will start second in the race. The Andretti Autosport driver was fastest in the opening practice that saw but 22 minutes of green-flag time, with a lap of 184.424 mph in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
“We have a little bit of an advantage because we tested here about three or four weeks ago. All of the Andretti Autosport cars had a pretty good baseline to start from, so it’s great that the NAPA Honda was up front.
“But with these changing conditions and the unknowns of different rubber going down, we really don’t know how it will translate. Hopefully we can carry that forward.”
Dixon was second fastest in practice at 182.773 mph. Sebastien Bourdais, also able to test at Gateway in advance of the race weekend, was third quick with a lap of 182.675 mph in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda.
“I’m pretty happy with the SealMaster Honda team,” said the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver, who will start ninth based on entrant points. “We’ve got some more. I was working a pretty significantly faster lap but got some traffic. Hopefully qualifying happens because I think we’d be better off than starting on entrant points, that’s for sure.”
The night practice will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app. NBCSN will air a delayed recap of the session at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ahead of the live race coverage that begins at 8 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.