Joe Jennings, IndyCar Correspondent
After getting off to a rough start due to rough railroad tracks in downtown Baltimore, the IZOD IndyCar Series managed an abbreviated practice session late Friday afternoon. After morning practice had to be curtailed, officials installed a temporary tire barrier on the front-stretch, and it slowed the cars enough to complete a practice session satisfactorily.
The tire barrier was erected as a temporary measure and a two-curb chicane will be installed this evening, allowing for practice and qualifying on Saturday and lead into Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore.
I was very sure I was going to stick with my two-chicane program.
Will Power led the 25-car field during practice, topping the speed charts with a run of 90.646 miles per hour around the 12-turn, 2-mile temporary street course.
Power was not concerned with the pending track changes and believes everything will work out acceptably. He went on to say that street and road courses often have rough patches of ground to deal with.
Said Tony Kanaan, one of the driver reps, “We thought we could take the chicane out, but we learned the tracks aren’t the same as they were a year ago (due to weather and settling). We thought we would have a better passing zone until we found it didn’t work. It was a great response from IndyCar, Tony Cottman and the city itself, to be able to change the track.
Speeds on the first day of practice usually set the order of the qualifying order but today’s speeds are being nullified in favor of Saturday’s morning’s practice times.
Simon Pagenaud timed second fastest at 90.123 mph with Scott Dixon third quick at 89.867 mph.
The combined practice sessions had Power on top followed by Marco Andretti, Rubens Barrichello, Pagenaud and Dixon.
“I was very sure I was going to stick with my two-chicane program,” Beaux Barfield, IndyCar director of competition, said after the second practice session ended. “With the new chicane being installed tonight, I think they will be able to out and adapt pretty quickly and we should have a good practice session in the morning. We will be out there late tonight completing the chicane. We will have to move some walls around to get room to put the asphalt in. It will be a little different chicane because we had three curbs last year and this one will have two. We will use the rubber that was just laid down as a guide.”
He went on to say that he thought the three curbs used a year ago were too confining and after running his ideas past several drivers, they all supported him, believing it would improve the flow of race traffic. The pavement leading up to the railroad tracks is the area that has been affecting the racing surface.
The IndyCars will take to the track for an hour of practice on Saturday morning followed by qualifications at noon.
The Grand Prix of Baltimore takes the green flag at 2:45 p.m. on Sunday. The NBC Sports Network will telecast the race live, coming on the air at 2 p.m. ET.