LEXINGTON, Ohio — Ryan Hunter-Reay continued his recent surge of momentum, setting the pace on the first day of practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
The Andretti Autosport driver was fastest in the second of two 45-minute sessions on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with a lap of one minute, 4.2961 seconds (126.428 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
Hunter-Reay is hopeful his early speed bodes well for a strong showing in Sunday’s race.
“Today, it was a good run. The car was good,” said the 36-year-old Floridian, whose best finish in 11 previous races at Mid-Ohio was third place on two occasions, including his first-ever Indy car podium finish in 2003.
“We just made some improvements on it and made the right steps through the session, with some (changes) session to session,” Hunter-Reay added. “We didn’t test here a week ago, so it’s nice to see we have the pace from last year, that we were able to roll in and improve from last year.”
Hunter-Reay has finished third (Iowa Speedway) and sixth (streets of Toronto) in the past two races.
Three Verizon IndyCar Series championship contenders trailed Hunter-Reay on the day’s time sheet.
Josef Newgarden was second at 1:04.4375 (126.150 mph) in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing was third in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda (1:04.4910/126.045) and Simon Pagenaud landed fourth in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet (1:04.5625/125.906).
Dixon leads the standings with five races remaining in the season. The four-time series champion is three points ahead of Helio Castroneves, 19 in front of reigning series champion and 2016 Mid-Ohio winner Pagenaud and 23 up on Newgarden.
“I think it’s a good start for the No. 9 NTT Data car,” Dixon said. “Finishing P3 overall today isn’t bad, but you always want to be at the top at the end of the day. I love racing here, I love Mid-Ohio and all its challenges. I hope we can continue to improve tomorrow and put on a good show Sunday.”
Both practice sessions ran issue-free, other than light rain that brought all cars to pit lane for 15 minutes in the afternoon practice.
Sunday’s race will be the 33rd for Indy cars on the scenic, undulating permanent road course since 1980.
Next up for Indy car teams is Verizon knockout qualifying at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with live coverage on NBCSN.
Full practice results can be viewed on the next page…