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PRESS RELEASE/IndyCar – Photo: IndyCar Website

Alexander Rossi made a statement on practice day for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader weekend, gapping the NTT IndyCar Series field by more than a half-second with his fastest lap.

Following three practice sessions on Friday, Rossi sat atop the timesheet with a best lap of 1 minute, 15.1367 seconds (112.595 mph) around the Raceway at Belle Isle’s 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit. The Andretti Autosport driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner was 0.5274 of a second quicker than Josef Newgarden but wasn’t sure it was an accurate reflection of the results.

“Considering most of the guys didn’t get a run on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I’m not sure how relevant our session times were,” said Rossi, driver of the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda who finished a narrow second to Simon Pagenaud in Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. “Overall, I think the team has carried on well from last year. We had a good car last year; all four cars were strong. To be able to pick up where we left off is a strength.”

Newgarden was second for the day with a lap of 1:15.6641 (111.810 mph) in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Like Rossi, Newgarden was unclear if his effort was worthy of the standing.

“I think we had a decent start today, not 100 percent sure where we stack up,” he said. “I think we’re a little bit further back than where we were on that final red-tire run. Some of the Andretti boys look really good, some of the Ganassi guys look really good. We’ll see.”

Following Rossi and Newgarden on the speed chart were the four most recent winners of Detroit races. Scott Dixon, winner of Race 1 last year, was third in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (1:15.7824, 111.635 mph); Will Power, winner of Race 2 in 2016, was fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:15.8713, 111.505 mph); Ryan Hunter-Reay, winner of Race 2 in 2018, was fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:15.9896, 111.331 mph); and Graham Rahal, who swept to victory in both 2017 races, was sixth in the No. 30 Fifth Third/United Rentals Honda (1:16.0757, 111.205 mph).

Simon Pagenaud – winner of the two most recent NTT IndyCar Series races, the INDYCAR Grand Prix and 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – placed 10th overall in Friday practice with a lap of 1:16.2923 (110.889 mph). Pagenaud did cause a red-flag stoppage of practice when his car brushed the wall exiting Turn 12, causing light left-side damage to the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.

Pagenaud leads Newgarden by one point atop the standings heading into the weekend. Rossi is third in the championship, 22 points behind Pagenaud.

With practice now complete, the focus shifts to a qualifying session and 70-lap race each of the next two days. Qualifying differs from the normal knockout round system used at other NTT IndyCar Series road and street courses. Instead, the 22-car field is split into two groups, with each receiving 12 minutes of track time. The fastest overall driver wins the NTT P1 Award pole position for the race, with the fastest driver in the other group starting second. Each group’s fast driver earns a championship point.

On the 30th anniversary of the first Indy car race in Detroit, Sunday’s race will mark the 30th Indy car race to take place in the Motor City. Races were held on a downtown street circuit from 1989-91 before moving to the Belle Isle circuit, with events held from 1992-2001, 2007-08 and annually since 2012. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix has conducted a doubleheader weekend each year since 2013.

What They’re Saying’ from practice at Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear

AUSSIE, WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet):  “It was a pretty good day actually. I feel like the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet is in the window that we need. We’ve really struggled here the last couple of years, so I think we’ve come back with a better car for sure. It’s going to be an interesting race, with the way the tires degrade.  I think there will be a number of different strategies. There is a chance of rain tomorrow, which always mixes things up, so we will just have to see.”

KIWI, SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda):  “We had a little bit of an issue with the throttle pedal (sensor) that we caught and managed to swap out. But man, it’s a really tough circuit here in Detroit. You have to be very aggressive and really nail the right calls on using the right tires at the right time. But that is just another reason I love coming here. It’s a huge challenge with two races in as many days and coming right off the Indianapolis 500. We unloaded fast and have a good PNC Bank car and I think we’ll be ready to go and in a good spot for tomorrow to get the weekend started.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think we had a decent start today, not 100 percent sure where we stack up. I think we’re a little bit further back than where we were on that final red (Firestone alternate) tire run. Some of the Andretti (Autosport) boys look really good. Some of the (Chip) Ganassi (Racing) guys look really good. We’ll see. I think we’re in that top-five mix. In the pecking order we’re probably more towards the back of the top five. A little bit of work to do. So far, not too terrible.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “We started the morning with a car I didn’t like and we didn’t do good lap times in the morning, so we decided to go towards Tony’s (Kanaan) car for the afternoon which helped a little bit but it’s still not where we want to be. The ABC Supply Chevy has room for improvement for tomorrow. We’ll regroup tonight and see what we can do for a good qualifying tomorrow.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):  “Not as productive of a day as we were hoping for in the Arrow car. We lost some track time in the first session, which wasn’t ideal. Then in Practice 2, I was really surprised with our balance on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). I’m glad we got a chance to run those before qualifying. Firestone did say there was a slight difference from the 2018 tire, and we certainly felt that. We need to look deep into it and try to make sure we get the balance right for qualifying tomorrow morning.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):  “I thought it was a good day in the Arrow car. Like always this year, it’s a new track for me, so it takes a bit of time to get into. I think, especially a track like this, it’s a bumpy street track, it’s quite different to what I’m used to from my last few years of racing. So, it’s definitely a new challenge, and it took a bit of time, but I thought in Practice Two, I was getting there. On the blacks (Firestone primary tires) during that session, I think we were up in the top 10, so that was looking good. We had some issues at the end, so we couldn’t really get a run on the reds (Firestone alternate tires), but the black runs were really promising. The two tire compounds seem quite different, so there’s work for us to do there to understand them better, but I feel like we’re in a good place.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s been a tough day in the No. 10 car in Detroit. We didn’t really start off where we wanted to, and as a result, we were kind of far back in both practice sessions. It seems like we picked up a little bit of speed in the warmup session at the end of the day, and we tried to focus more on the qualifying and the race stuff which we normally do. We’re just working on some things now, so hopefully we can get back up to normal speed tomorrow for qualifying in the NTT DATA car.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a productive day. We’re trying a couple different setups to understand what we need for tomorrow.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fifth Third Bank/United Rentals Honda):  “I think we had a decent day today. It seems like the Fifth Third Bank car has good pace. The race is going to be interesting. Qualifying is going to be important, but I think there are going to be guys throughout the race that are really going to struggle. The (Firestone) tires seemed to be designed to fall off very quickly. We’re just going to go out there and see what we get, but the car has pace. Tomorrow morning is going to be important and we’ve got to put a good lap together and go racing.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda):  “I haven’t seen the lap times, so I don’t know where we are at. We tried a couple of things to improve the No. 18 SealMaster Honda. Now we will look at everything and see what we can come up with to get where we want to be for tomorrow’s qualifying session.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda):  “It’s kind of weird going from the giant pit lane at IMS to this one in Detroit. But we’re enjoying it. We tried a couple things on our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing car today that we’re trying to learn from, from simulation work. We’ve been figuring it out and we’re taking it step-by-step. Right now, the car is so different from last year to this year set up wise, so it’s still a bit of a learning curve. I’m not very comfortable by all means, but that said, I’m confident we’ll be all set by the time we head into the race tomorrow.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): “It wasn’t the best start to the day, but we made some positive changes to the car for the afternoon session. We made a lot of progress with those and even during the session made some more gains. If we can do the same for tomorrow morning, heading into qualifying, I think we’ll be in a really good place.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):  “Overall, I think we had a pretty good day. The Autogeek Chevy seems to be in a pretty good spot. We made some changes throughout the day and made some good improvements, which is always encouraging. Hopefully we can find a little bit more overnight and give it our best for qualifying.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet):  “Detroit is a lot more physical, but you have to be sharp with your mind because you are running so close to the wall. You have to be on top of your game. But a different on-top of your game than Indy. At Indianapolis it is all flowing speed. The track can slow down everything. Here it is just the opposite. You really have to be up on the wheel. I think we did a really good job today. I’m very happy with the DXC Technology Chevy. I think we have really good pace. It’s going to be hard this weekend for several reasons. We have a car that can be in the top five easily. We just have to extract the best out of the car and ourselves. Here, starting in front is better. There is always a lot of action mid-pack. Starting in the three rows allows you to strategize. That would be nice for sure. Top-five is what we are shooting for. It’s very tight. I think we are in good shape. There is going to be a lot of tire degradation in the race. It is going to be interesting. I think we can expect some surprises.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda):  “Overall, I think it was a pretty good day for the Gainbridge team. We were P7 in the first session, then P12 in the second and P2 in the warmup. I’ve been pretty happy with the car – it rolled off quick. I have little things I have to work on to match where Alex (Rossi) is for qualifying tomorrow, but I think we have a really good shot at having a good weekend here in Detroit.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda): “Considering most of the guys didn’t get a run on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I’m not sure how relevant our session times were. Overall, I think the team has carried on well from last year – we had a good car last year; all four cars were strong. To be able to pick up where we left off is a strength.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda):  “It’s good to be back on track in Detroit. The session time was short today, so we tried to get in as much as we could before qualifying in the morning – and then two races. We have a good starting point; we just need to tweak on it from here. We, obviously, have good data to pull on from last year and we’ll pair that with what we found today, and with our teammates. We’re focused on putting the DHL car in the best possible position for the race.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda):  “It was a tough day. Detroit is always a fun place. It’s the bumpiest track in the series and the fans are always very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We really want to carry the momentum after the Indy 500 but today the No. 30 car struggled a bit. We need to find a new solution and direction. We split the program between the two cars and the No. 15 car seems to be happier, so we have a big job tonight to get the car better.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet):  “Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much when we put the reds (Firestone alternate tires) on in this afternoon’s practice because of a problem with the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. We have quite a bit of data from the (Firestone primary) black tires that we can use, but we’re just a little bit behind and going in a little bit blindsided to qualifying with the reds. We’re going to work with what we have and look at exactly how we can use it to give it our best shot tomorrow in qualifying. I’m confident in the team and know they’ll work hard tonight to make sure we’re in the best possible spot for qualifying and the race tomorrow.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet):  “It was a typical Detroit day – lots to pack in with a limited amount of on-track time. Every session around here is critical because you don’t get as much time out there and there are usually quite a bit of yellows (caution flags). We’re now going into qualifying tomorrow, but we, unfortunately, didn’t get a time with the reds (Firestone alternate tires) because of the red flag. We chose to do it in the warm-up, but lots of others seemed to have the same idea so we had a bit of traffic. Our pace seems to be okay. It’s not where we want it to be at the moment, but I think we haven’t really gotten a fair representation because we didn’t do a red run with clean air. We’ll see where we end up in qualifying, but I’m pretty confident with our race pace.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda): “Pretty average first day at Belle Isle. We weren’t as quick as we would like to be, but we have a lot of data and information to go over to be prepared for tomorrow’s qualifying. The No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda boys will work hard tonight so we can make the car is quick and ready for two races this weekend.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 AutoNation/Curb Honda):  “After having a strong 2018 in Detroit, we were hoping for more speed rolling off the truck – but the car doesn’t feel like it did last year, so we are working to adapt. True practice time is a little limited on a doubleheader weekend – we jumped around on setups but never got to fine tune the car. We’ll take a look at everything tonight and work to come out strong in qualifying.”


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