Graham Rahal was fastest and Josef Newgarden was happiest following Friday’s practice sessions for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America.
Rahal, quickest during an open test at Road America on June 15, continued to impress with a fastest lap of 1m43.0224s in the Gehl Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – just .14 seconds faster than Will Power’s 1m43.1608s in the Verizon Chevy. Both were a half-second clear of the afternoon field. Points leader Simon Pagenaud paced the morning session, and his 1m43.480s (139.644mph) lap was good for third fastest overall.
“My car feels decent and I’m pretty pleased, but it’s only Friday and it’s a long weekend,” said Rahal, who finished third in 2007 on the fast, 4-mile road course as a teenager in Champ Car. “I’ve always loved this place, I almost grew up here spending so much time watching my dad race.
“Considering we missed [all but 20 minutes] of the morning session with electrical problems, it’s a good way to start.”
Power, who scored his initial win of 2016 at Detroit, marveled at the speeds.
“It’s crazy fast in the corners, almost flat out in the carrousel and that’s insane,” he said. “But it’s fun and a great race track that rewards bravery.”
But most of the attention was on Newgarden, who is running with a a plate and 13 screws holding his fractured right clavicle in place along with a broken bone in his right hand, suffered in an accident at Texas two weeks ago.
“I really haven’t been bothered by my shoulder but my hands hurt all the time because they got bruised pretty bad,” said the 25-year-old who stood 15th overall with a lap of 1m43.893s in the Direct Supply Chevy.
“It’s painful but manageable. This is probably one of the best tracks I could have tried to run on because the high-G corners are all right-handers. I don’t think I could have run if we were at Iowa so I’m happy for all the good help I had to get back in the car. But I was determined to drive.”
Pagenaud, who owns an 80-point lead in the championship, figures to be tough since he’s always run well here, be it Formula Atlantic, Champ Car or the former ALMS.
“It’s hard to imagine how fast we’re going through some of these corners and it’s all about commitment,” he said. “But it’s a great track and I’m so glad we’re back here.”
Carlos Munoz was fourth fastest overall at 1:43.556 in the Andretti Honda, followed by Jack Hawksworth at 1:43.674 in the ABC Supply Honda of A.J. Foyt.
There is one more practice period Saturday morning before qualifying.
Combined practice results: