Colton Herta looked ready to complete a two-day sweep atop the time charts at IndyCar’s two-day Spring Training at Circuit of The Americas – until Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi took the top spot on his penultimate lap with just a few minutes remaining in Wednesday’s final session.
Rossi’s best lap of 1m46.8535s in the afternoon session edged the Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie by 0.1466 seconds – but left Herta with the fastest time of the two days at 1m46.6258s set on Tuesday afternoon.
“This track just suits my driving style a lot,” Herta said. “The team has been working really hard to get the car where it needs to be. Obviously, they’ve made really big gains in the winter time compared to last year, and we’re kind of seeing that. Really stout job by the boys.
“We were quickest this morning and P2 by a tenth (of a second) this afternoon. And there’s still more to find. We are still working on getting the balance as it gets colder. When it was warmer, we were really good, so I think we’ll be fine for the race as it should be warmer. Overall the team had a great test. I’m really happy with how everyone is working so hard and putting in so much effort to get everything done.”
Third fastest was Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay at 1m47.1757s, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who led for most of the afternoon session, with at 1m47.2941s.
“It’s been positive,” Rosenqvist said. “Yesterday we had a big gap to the front guys, so I had to do a bit of homework last night. My NTT DATA car has seemed to be quick in every session this year. I think we can really fight in the top five, but there are still things we have to learn and work on.
“For me, I kind of learn every time I’m out. But after two days here, it feels like we’re done and it’s time to move on to Sebring.”
Graham Rahal rounded out the top five as Hondas swept the top six spots, with Scott Dixon sixth quickest. The reigning series champion wasn’t pleased with the feel of his car.
“We had a big break before the last 45 minutes (of the afternoon test session),” he began. “We tried a few different things, but I don’t feel like we really got — it kind of just feels really disconnected for me in some portions of the track, quite good in others. I don’t think I did a really good job in piecing together a lap either. It seems like there is something wrong with the suspensions too. That is what we were kind of chasing before. The steering wheel is kinked to the left and then also when it brakes, it brakes funny. We’re trying to figure that as well.”
Simon Pagenaud was the fastest Chevy in seventh, followed by the Hondas of Arrow Schmidt Peterson’s James Hinchcliffe and Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci and Penske’s Josef Newgarden tenth.
Marcus Ericsson brought out a red flag earlier in the session for light contact with the barrier at Turn 2. Will Power went of at Turn 19 with 45 minutes to go in the session, bringing out another red flag. Jack Harvey’s spin at Turn 6 with 10 minutes to go brought another brief halt to action.
Tony Kanaan’s No.14 Chevy spent a large chunk of the day in the garage, as it did yesterday when gearbox problems limited him to 16 laps. AJ Foyt Racing made several setup changes Wednesday before Kanaan went out for 20 laps. His best time of 1m48.5553s was 23rd fastest of the 25 participants.
“We had a productive day today,” Kanaan said. “We made big changes and we tried to separate the changes between the cars so at least we are learning as a team now. Matheus [Leist] is helping quite a bit, so a happy day for us. We came here trying to learn what we did over the winter on the shaker and on the simulator and things were pretty close, so we’ll take it from here and try to improve it until the first race. This is our first test and we have three more before St. Pete, so I’m excited.”
In all, 25 drivers completed 2,367 laps over 11 hours of testing.
For now, the series bids farewell to COTA until its inaugural IndyCar race on March 22-24. The NTT IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is just weeks away on March 10.