BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – After a frustrating qualifying on Saturday, Marco Andretti needed a pick-me-up. By leading this morning’s wet practice at Barber Motorsports Park, the driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda may have the confidence needed to charge to the front in this afternoon’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First.
On a damp but drying track, Andretti was the only driver to put on slick tires near the end of the 30-minute session and posted the fastest lap of 1 minute, 14.3711 seconds (111.334 mph). Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda), who will start fourth in this afternoon’s 90-lap event on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course, clocked in the second-fastest lap at 1:17.8426 (104.609 mph) while using Firestone’s wet-condition tires.
Andretti’s teammate, Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Herta Autosport Honda, 1:19.1519), and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, 1:19.2775) ran third and fourth, respectively. Three cars – driven by James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin and Zach Veach – didn’t participate in the practice.
Overnight rain added a new element to the warmup session, as slick conditions forced drivers to put Firestone wet weather tires on their machines. With more rain possible during the race, 18 of the 21 cars took to the 17-turn circuit to explore the conditions.
“It was really slick out there,” said Tony Kanaan, who turned just four timed laps in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “We didn’t want to take any risks, so we did a couple things for Honda, couple things for me to get familiarized with. This is the first time I’ve driven the Honda engine in the aero kit in the rain, so it was fun. Yesterday and the day before, I think we struggled a little bit with the (warmer) conditions This cooler weather helps our cars and hopefully we’ll fight to the front.”
Two-time Barber winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda) ended the session fifth quick with a fast lap of 1:19.3439 (104.443 mph) while having a special guest in his pit box. Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso, recently announced as a sixth driver in Andretti Autosport’s Indy 500 stable for McLaren Honda Andretti, stood in Hunter-Reay’s pit stand for the session listening to team operations on radio. Team CEO Michael Andretti, who will call Alonso’s race strategy at Indy, was alongside.
The third race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season is just hours away. Coverage of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First can be found at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.