8.2.13 – Friday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was filled with a slew of on-track activity. With Andretti Autosport being the only team in INDYCAR to have drivers in each ladder of the Mazda Road to Indy plus the IZOD IndyCar Series, you could say it was pretty busy.
The track went green this morning with USF200 practice, the trio of Andretti drivers set to the track for thirty-minute session and then qualified later in the afternoon. Garett Grist led the way and will start second in tomorrow first of three races this weekend. His qualifying effort was followed by Luca Forgeois qualifying his Mazda-powered machine into the 11th position; this will be Luca's first race with Andretti Autosport. Teammate Austin Cindric will start 15th in the No. 77 Nightrain car for tomorrow morning's Race One.
Next up on track was the Pro Mazda series and teammates Matty B (formally Matthew Brabham) and Shelbilly (aka Shelby Blackstock). The duo posted one-two times on the speed charts after two practice sessions today. Shelby is fresh off his first career victory while Matty B hopes to clinch his eighth win this season.
Our Firestone Indy Lights crew had a quiet day with just one hour-long practice session. Championship points leader Carlos Munoz held on to the top spot on the time sheets for today's lone practice session, while teammate and Ohio native Zach Veach came away fourth fastest (just being ousted of third quick on the last lap).
In IZOD IndyCar Series action, the Andretti quartet took the track for two practice sessions today. Reigning champ and recent ESPYs winner Ryan Hunter-Reay led the way for the Andretti stable and posted a time fast enough for third on the combined charts. "It was a pretty productive day. We lost some overall grip in the track today… I think everybody experienced it – it's the same for everyone, but it's a bit of an engineering exercise to stay on top of the track (conditions). I think the whole team is in the same ballpark, and we have competitive race cars; that's all we can ask for. We just have to go and make it better for qualifying and the race. We've got the No. 1 DHL Chevy up front and we can work from there."
RC Cola driver Marco Andretti came in seventh in the speed rankings. The third-generation racer was yesterday named the honorary chairman for the Dr Pepper Snapple United Way campaign. "DPS is a great friend and sponsor of Andretti Autosport," said Marco, "and I am honored to be part of their 2013 United Way Campaign," said Andretti. "Promoting the campaign on my car is a fun way for me to highlight a great organization like United Way and show my support for DPS's efforts to give back to their local communities."
The Mayor of Hinchtown took to the 2.258-mile course behind the wheel of the GoDaddy Chevy and was eighth fastest for the day. Hinchcliffe will qualify the No. 27 machine in group one's qualifying session. "I think any day you get a bunch of green running is productive," said the 26-year-old. "I think the team is all in the ballpark – it's great to see all of the Andretti Autosport cars quickish, but it's always tight here. I think we're just that one change away from being able to fight with the top two or three guys. With Ryan (Hunter-Reay) being quick, we have some data to look at, but all-in-all pretty happy with the progress we've made in the GoDaddy Chevy. We found some good things – tried some things we've been wanting to try for a while. It's nice to be back to a full, normal race weekend after a doubleheader when everything is so crammed and you can't really get things done. We have another day of practice, and we'll keep chipping away at it… it all comes down to what you can do on the reds (alternate red tire) because qualifying is so important here."
Team Venezuela's E.J. Viso was 16th fastest of the day over two practice sessions on the 13-turn permanent road course. The 28-year-old will look to better his previous best qualifying effort of eighth (2010) during tomorrow's afternoon qualifying session in the first group. "Here we are, getting ready for this weekend; we've been through a lot of changes in the setup," the Caracas, Venezuela native said. "I believe that we are in good shape for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race. This last session, we went with new tires, but for some reason we didn't have the grip we were expecting. However, up until that point, we were in the top five. Looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow."
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