Colton Herta hit the front just before the afternoon practice session for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio effectively ended a few minutes early by virtue of a minor crash involving Josef Newgarden.
The Harding Steinbrenner driver — who overcame a brief off-course run of his own earlier in the session — was exultant over how his No. 88 Capstone Honda responded to its switch to the option red tires in the closing stages of the 45-minute session.
“I picked up 1.1s — that’s a pretty big step up for how short the track is,” noted Herta. “And there’s some pretty big points where you’re gonna gain time — Turn 12, it really grips up when you have these reds, Turn 2 and Turn 4 and 5.”
He made made more of that gain than anyone else. Team Penske’s Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power took the second and third positions, 0.20s and 0.26s respectively off Herta’s best. Honda rounded out the top five with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, both within 0.3s of Herta,
The session resumed with enough time for one more lap — leading to some frustration for Tony Kanaan, who felt Carlin’s R.C. Enerson had been a little overly aggressive in elbowing his way past the AJ Foyt Racing No. 14 during the out lap — while Pagenaud, too, was thwarted by traffic in his quest for one more fast run.
Power had moved to the top of the times on black tires a half-hour in, before switching to the reds for the first time of the weekend. Interestingly though, the Verizon Chevy driver couldn’t get within a tenth of his best time after that.
Herta, though, made a big improvement — and a timely one. Moments later, Newgarden lost the back end of his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevy into Turn 9 on his first flying lap on reds, skating into the tires and lightly damaging the rear wing.
“It’s not too bad. Just got loose and backed it in,” rued the championship leader, who wound up 11th. “I’ve just kind of kinda been fightin’ it this whole session, I don’t know why.”
First session pace-setter Scott Dixon also indulged in a spin exiting Turn 9 earlier in the session — fortunately a safe interval before Alexander Rossi came zipping past. Neither driver was in the mix at the top of the times, though, with Rossi winding up 13th — just as he did in the morning session — and Dixon 16th.
The patched surface in the Keyhole corner continued to be problematic, although the drivers seemed to think that as the track rubbers up over the course of the weekend, it will be less of an issue.
UP NEXT: Practice 3 at 10 a.m. Saturday