Ryan Hunter-Reay

SONOMA, California – He may be out of the championship picture for 2018, but Ryan Hunter-Reay reminded on Friday that he’s still a threat to win the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Hunter-Reay posted the best lap of the opening practice for the race weekend at Sonoma Raceway, at 1 minute, 17.5742 seconds (110.674 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. The Andretti Autosport driver is fifth in the point standings but was officially eliminated from title contention at the most recent race, the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 2.


Takuma Sato“It was a good opening session,” Hunter-Reay said. “I felt pretty confident with the car, definitely some improvements we can make. But now we need to get ready for slicker conditions and a hotter track temp, windier conditions later today. The target will continue to move.”

Behind Hunter-Reay, the 2018 championship battle waged on among the four eligible drivers. Points leader Scott Dixon was second quick in the session with a lap of 1:17.8268 (110.322 mph) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Will Power, with a glimmer of title hope at 87 points behind Dixon heading into the weekend, was third on the timesheet at 1:17.8818 (110.244 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Alexander Rossi, second in the championship standings and trailing Dixon by 29 points, was eighth fastest in practice at 1:18.2738 (109.692 mph) but had a pair of laps where he slid slightly off track in the Turn 9 area.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, also 87 points behind Dixon, is the other driver still with a chance at the title, but the defending series champion didn’t turn a lap in the 45-minute practice. The team reported that the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet encountered fuel pressure issues and was working to rectify it for the second practice on Friday.

The second practice, a 60-minute session, starts at 6 p.m. ET and airs live on NBCSN. A final practice set for 2 p.m. ET Saturday streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Verizon P1 Award qualifying to determine the starting grid for the 25-car field begins at 6 p.m. Saturday with a live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com and a same-day NBCSN telecast at 8 p.m.

Live race coverage of the 85-lap season finale to determine the 2018 champion kicks off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.