Pocono – Practice One Update
Practice One is in the books at Pocono Raceway. First the bad…There were three incidents which brought out yellow flags. Early on, Ryan Hunter-Reay had the rear-end of his car whip around on him and he had a hard hit into the outside wall of Turn One. His car hinted at going all the way over before coming to a stop against the inside retaining wall. He was uninjured, but the same cannot be said for his DHL machine. He will be forced to go to his backup car for the remainder of the weekend.
Later in the session, Charlie Kimball had a similar incident in pretty much the same spot. His car did not appear to suffer as much damage as Hunter-Reay’s, so it has not been determined if it can be repaired before qualifying at 1:30. With time in the practice session running out, Juan Montoya hit the wall in Turn Two. My travelling cohort, Paul Dalbey, saw Helio’s backup car being unloaded, creating speculation that it may be turned over to Montoya. We’ll see.
As far as the good part of the session, Mikhail Aleshin paced the field in the first practice with a top speed of 221.932 mph. His Schmidt Peterson Motorsport teammate and my pick to win, James Hinchcliffe, was second quickest with a speed of 220.290. Nashville native Josef Newgarden had the third quickest time, followed by Alexander Rossi while Carlos Muñoz rounded out the Top-Five.
If you’ll notice, four of the five fastest cars were powered by Honda. Josef Newgarden was the lone Chevy representation in the Top-Five. It makes sense that a car that was successful at Indianapolis would also succeed here.
It’s also notable that the Andretti cars seem fast here, after struggling mightily most of this season. Hunter-Reay was fast in the early going before he stuffed it into the wall. Of Course, Marco is still struggling – managing to be only seventeenth quick at 217.516, more than four miles an hour off the pace.
I continue to be impressed with how unique this facility is. The grandstand here is huge, but it has an eclectic feel to it. The twin spires look much bigger in person as they tower over the massive stands.
Since this is sponsored by ABC Supply, it would make sense that the 81 year-old legend, AJ Foyt, would be very visible this weekend – since he has two ABC Supply cars in the field. He was prominent all morning, as he was chauffeured around in his golf cart.
I was able to catch a quick photo of Josef Newgarden just before he screamed out of the pits in practice. Although I picked James Hinchcliffe to win, I would not discount Newgarden. He looked strong this morning.
As I was typing this, there was a press conference going on featuring three of the four Team Penske drivers – Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Juan Montoya. I’m not sure why Helio Castroneves wasn’t included. Like him or not, Montoya is great in this settng and had many more candid and frank answers. It would be nice if more drivers were this open and honest.
That’s going to do it for now. Qualifying takes place at 1:00. I’ll be back here later on this afternoon with a wrap-up of qualifying as well as more photos from Pocono. For even more photos, follow me on Twitter at @Oilpressureblog. Be sure and check back later this afternoon.