All nine of the Andretti Autosport teams took to the track today to begin preparations for this weekend's Grand Prix of Baltimore Presented by SRT. With all steps of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder joining our IZOD IndyCar Series teams we have a busy weekend ahead of us packed full of on-track action.
Today's practice sessions got off to a bumpy start, literally. Track conditions presented unforeseen challenges and shortened sessions today as cars found themselves launching over the railroad tracks located on the front straight. The Andretti Sports Marketing team, our sister company and this weekend's race promoter, quickly went to work on the issue and placed a temporary chicane on the circuit. A permanent chicane will be placed overnight tonight with track conditions ready to go for morning practice. The shortened practice will add to the excitement of the weekend as teams will have limited data to prepare the cars for qualifying and race conditions.
Team GoDaddy.com driver James Hinchcliffe finished fifth in today's 30-minute afternoon session and will look ahead to more track time tomorrow.
"Obviously, 95 percent of the track is going to be the same tomorrow as it was today," explained Hinchcliffe. "It's just the chicane might have a little different profile, but at least we had a chicane to work with at the end of the day today. The Go Daddy Chevy was reasonable, but it's tough with so little track time. The gap to the guy in first is still pretty big, so we'll take what we can from today.
"Big credit to the series and everyone at Andretti Sports Marketing for getting us out there and getting us a solid half hour of practice," he continued. "It's unfortunate what transpired, but I think everybody did a good job and kept their heads cool and we put on at least a bit of a show for the fans here today. We'll hit the track running tomorrow and everything will be good and forgotten."
Ryan Hunter-Reay, second in the championship points standings with DHL/Sun Drop Chevy, recorded a seventh-place finish in today's afternoon practice after experiencing braking issues. He did not run in the shortened morning session.
"We can't take much away from today for the DHL/Sun Drop car," said Hunter-Reay. "We had some braking issues that we had to sort out for tomorrow. We're seventh and we can definitely improve from there. It's good. The track is going to change a lot tomorrow and we can't react too much on what we learned today."
Marco Andretti, driver of the Team Dr Pepper TEN Chevy had limited run-time today and recorded an 18th place-finish in the afternoon session.
"We never had a lot of consecutive laps for the Dr Pepper TEN car and here you need laps to develop a rhythm, so we were never in a rhythm for Practice 2," said Andretti. "Lap time will come from a rhythm. Once we get the track to where we're going to keep it, we can start working on getting faster."
Firestone Indy Lights drivers Carlos Munoz and Sebastian Saavedra ran only one practice session today and will qualify tomorrow on the streets of Baltimore. Saavedra was ninth in today's practice session in the AFS Racing machine. This is his second time racing at the Grand Prix of Baltimore, after finishing 13th last year with the IZOD IndyCar Series. Munoz was 12th in today's practice session.
Due to the delayed schedule today qualifying sessions were canceled for both Star Mazda and USF2000. The starting grid for Race One will be determined by point standings for both series.
Star Mazda drivers Sage Karam and Zach Veach will start second and tenth, respectively, in Race One tomorrow. Karam posted the quickest time in the morning session today in the No. 88 Comfort Revolution car while Team K12 driver Veach recorded a fourth-place finish and experienced electrical problems in the shortened afternoon session.
Meanwhile in USF2000, Shelby Blackstock ran as high as fifth in the first practice session and was sixth in the second session. He will start in the eighth position for Race One tomorrow. Thomas McGregor ran as high as 10th in today's first practice session and was 11th in the second session. This is his first time racing on the streets of Baltimore. He will start seventh in tomorrow's race.
Source: Andretti Autosport