Honda teams ended Friday at Long Beach with something that was missing at St. Petersburg and Phoenix: speed and optimism.
“I feel good about where we’re at,” said Graham Rahal, who was third fastest in his No. 15 RLL Honda (ABOVE). “I felt good about it in St. Pete, too, to be honest. I feel good about what the car’s giving me right now. We’ve got more work to do, I think, but we’re close.”
Team Penske’s Will Power was fastest overall in his No. 12 Team Penske Chevy. His lap of 1:07.5992 was 0.2231 seconds clear of James Hinchcliffe’s best for Honda, a 1:07.8223 in the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, and 0.2861 ahead of Rahal, who said he’ll wait until qualifying is over before making any final proclamations on how the Honda runners will fare.
“It’s hard to say because typically where we start to lose it is in qualifying when [Chevy teams] turn up the knob one extra notch we don’t have,” he continued. “I think we have a pretty good horse to ride. I was around a lot of [Chevy] guys like [Tony] Kanaan and [Scott] Dixon, and was able to catch them, or stay with them, so I don’t know. We’ll have to see where we are tomorrow.”
Hinchliffe’s race engineer credited Honda’s revised aero kit for improving the brand’s competitiveness after it struggled at Long Beach in 2015.
“Since we fitted the new aero kit on street and road courses, the car just feels a lot more consistent and sensible to work with,” Allen McDonald said. “Here last year, the car was doing a lot of different things in the corners. It isn’t perfect, but we now know what to expect and we’ve been able to get a lot more from the package than was previously available. We are certainly happier with the performance it’s providing.”
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