James Hinchcliffe pulled off a last-minute to flyer to reign again in the third practice session for the Honda GP of Alabama. The Canadian’s lap of 1m08.7351s in the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda as the checkered flag flew was a comfortable 0.3s clear of second-quick Sebastien Bourdais as Honda-powered cars continued to set the pace at Barber Motorsports Park.
Friday’s leaden skies gave way to hazy sunshine for Saturday morning’s third practice — although inclement weather, possibly including thunderstorms, could be in store for this afternoon’s scheduled qualifying session, promising more complexity to what has already proven a challenging weekend for the drivers and their teams.
Continuing Friday’s red flag fest, Zach Veach triggering a stoppage 10 minutes in by burying the Gainbridge Honda in a gravel trap — with the team being concerned enough about the amount of debris trapped onboard that it sent the car back to the garage for a cleanup. Will Power — who will be going for three straight poles to start the year this afternoon but has struggled for pace thus far at Barber along with his Penske teammates — also had a couple of off-course excursions early on. Power had a wild moment onto the grass although he was able to gather the Verizon Chevy back up and continue.
“Very tough to get the car in the window — I’ve never had a lock-up like that!” revealed Power. “I was lucky the grass wasn’t wet, man, or I’d be straight into the barrier.”
By the end of the session, the Australian felt he’d found some speed, even though he was still only 15th overall.
When Jack Harvey looped his Meyer Shank Honda at Turn 1, the resulting litter on track triggered a series of grassy excursions for Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta and most significantly, Marcus Ericsson, who crunched the left-front suspension of his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda against the guardrail.
That incident burned track time down to six minutes — which was further shortened when Graham Rahal beached his One Cure Honda after another big lock-up. After getting Rahal going, IndyCar sent the field out for one final lap. Scott Dixon made the most of it to leap up into third. But moments later he was overshadowed, like everyone else, by Hinchcliffe.
Herta and Takuma Sato rounded out the top five, with Spencer Pigot the quickest Chevy runner in sixth.
UP NEXT: Qualifying at 4 p.m. ET.