Marco Andretti appeared to put the lie to Honda struggling for pace at Phoenix. He set a 187.678mph lap that narrowly beat champion Scott Dixon to top time.
Andretti turned 67 laps but it was his 19th that delivered the punch to take the #27 Andretti Autosport entry to the top of the times, lapping the 1.022-mile course in 19.6038sec. Dixon’s Ganassi-Chevrolet was a scant 0.0028sec slower.
Backing up Honda’s apparent pace increase was James Hinchcliffe, whose Schmidt Peterson Motorsport car in fourth split the Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolets of Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden.
One team that took a different tack was this afternoon’s pacesetters, Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves were 11th and 12th fastest, running on worn tires, while Juan Montoya and Will Power propped up the times. Power’s #12 team quit early because of the high number of yellows caused by cut tires – eight this evening, five this afternoon.
Gabby Chaves continued to impress with ninth fastest in the second SPM car, while rookie Max Chilton was 13th and completed the most laps of anyone this evening (99).