Andretti cars head up Pocono practice as Carpenter crashes

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Ed Carpenter is regarded as an oval track expert in the IndyCar Series, but the team owner/driver faces an uphill climb this afternoon at Pocono Raceway.

Driving the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for the team bearing his name, Carpenter crashed late this morning in the only practice session before single-car qualifying.

The back end of Carpenter’s car stepped out as he was exiting Turn 3, it did a 180-degree spin and made solid contact with the SAFER Barrier.

Carpenter emerged unharmed but the car sustained significant left-side damage, leaving the No. 20 crew little more than three hours to make repairs. Carpenter drew the 13th qualifying position in the 22-car order.

“The car had felt pretty good,” Carpenter said. “Graham (Rahal) was coming in the pits in front of me and slowing up. I don’t know, I maybe lifted a little bit for him slowing down to keep the gap and it may have shifted the balance.

“Frustrating, not the start that we wanted for the Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet but we’ll just have to rebound. It’s early in the weekend and we can recover from it.”

Carpenter hadn’t had time to assess the repairs necessary but knew it would be extensive.

“It wasn’t good,” he said of the damage. “It got the whole left side. It will be underwing, suspension. The real question with hits like that is if it gets the engine or gearbox. We’ll find out.”

Andretti Autosport drivers dominated the top of the speed chart in the practice that was also interrupted when Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones spun and made light contact with the front of his No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda in Turn 2.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2015 Pocono race winner, was fastest in the practice with a lap of 219.268 mph (41.0456 seconds) in the No. 28 DHL Honda out of the Andretti stable. Hunter-Reay’s teammates – Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi – finished fourth, sixth and seventh, respectively, as Honda drivers locked down six of the first seven spots.

“First time back in a year; we didn’t test here this year,” Hunter-Reay said. “Always great to be back at Pocono, but we’re just trying to get a feel for the new tire compound and the track after a hard winter, as they always have here. The bumps are a little bit different, things are a bit different, so it’s just a re-acclimation session.

“You have everybody getting ready for qualifying so you have everybody on completely different levels of downforce. It’s really tough to tell where you stand.”

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud was the lone Chevrolet driver near the top of the chart, second fastest at 219.211 mph in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Tony Kanaan was third in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda at 219.160 mph.

Josef Newgarden, who took the 2017 points lead on back-to-back wins in the last two races, was 20th of the 22 cars that turned laps. His fastest circuit on the 2.5-mile triangular oval was 214.778 mph in the No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet.

Newgarden leads teammate Helio Castroneves by seven points in the championship, with Scott Dixon eight points back. Castroneves was ninth fastest in practice in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet; Dixon was fifth in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

The pole winner will be determined by the fastest cumulative time over two laps in this afternoon’s qualifying session. Dixon drew the first spot in the qualifying order. Andretti, Hunter-Reay and Sato drew the final three positions.

source: indycar.com

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