Helio Castroneves appears to be tired of playing the bridesmaid role in Edmonton.
After finishing second in three of the last four events in the Alberta city, Castroneves went out and posted the best time of today’s opening day of practice for the IZOD Indy Car Series race in Edmonton.
He started strongly by topping the 25-driver field by getting around the 2.224-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit in a time of 1:16.4920 a time that was better than the pole-winning time recorded by Takuma Sato (1:18.5165; 101.971 mph) a year ago.
“We came with a really good package, and between my teammates and I, we tried some random things in the first session to get where we were this afternoon,” Castroneves said. “We like the direction that we are going and we are very encouraged for tomorrow. We know tomorrow and Sunday are the days that matter, so we want to stay up front then, so we'll continue working.”
Two-time Edmonton winner Scott Dixon carded the second-best lap of the day in the Honda-powered Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine while Mike Conway surprised by putting his A.J. Foyt Racing DW12 into the third spot in both of the day’s sessions.
“We went out on new tires, got a red flag straight away, and we went back out, (Sebastien) Bourdais was in front, and he blocked me when I was trying to get past him on the out lap,” Dixon recalled. “And then obviously, it's just trying to get a clear lap in, and we really didn't get one. But the car seems pretty decent.”
Series points leader Ryan Hunter-Reay improved to eighth after a trying first session that ended in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. The winner of three consecutive Indy Car starts, Hunter-Reay was benched late in the first session and ended up 22nd before the afternoon improvement.
"We had a rough start to the day, but we really improved the car,” Hunter-Reay reported. “We've come a long way to end up eighth, and we have a long way to go to be closer to the front for qualifying. We're just lacking overall grip, but we definitely have a lot of communication within the team, so we'll compare notes tonight. You know, if there's one little detail that's off, that could make a big difference, and having teammates allows you to maybe find something you wouldn't have on your own. It's been a trend for Andretti Autosport to improve the cars each day, so I expect to be better tomorrow."
IndyCar officials have penalized Hunter-Reay with a 10 grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change following the Toronto event while hitting Dixon and Simona De Silvestro with a 10 grid spot penalty for utilizing a sixth engine this season.