Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rossi Surfaces in St. Pete Warm-Up


The final Verizon IndyCar Series session ahead of its first race of the year saw Alexander Rossi place his No. 27 NAPA Honda atop the morning warm-up timesheet.

Rossi, who captured the victory at Watkins Glen International last year, hovered around the middle of the running order during the brief warm-up outing before finding speed on his 17th of 22 total laps.

A penalty for impeding a flying lap of Tony Kanaan’s during qualifying caused Rossi to lose his two fastest laps, which knocked him out of the Firestone Fast 6 and relegated him to a 12th-place starting position.

At 1:01.6182, Rossi’s session-leading pace was a significant 0.8611 seconds slower than the weekend’s fastest lap thus far, set by Scott Dixon in Practice 3. Rain overnight erased the progress made by IndyCar and the various support series on hand in gripping up the temporary street circuit which resulted in slower times, as did the teams’ focus on using the morning warm-up to get a feel for race setups and full fuel loads.

Kanaan placed a Chevrolet engine just 0.0468 seconds behind Rossi’s Honda, with Ryan Hunter-Reay ensuring half of Andretti Autosport reached the top three by laying down the third-fastest time.

Gabby Chaves, who landed his No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet eighth on the grid for his first road course race since Road America in 2016, led reigning series champion Josef Newgarden in completing the top five, which was covered by 0.4256 seconds.

Gabby Chaves with Harding Racing after St. Pete warm-up
Gabby Chaves debriefs with Brian Barnhart and Al Unser Jr. after morning warm-up. | Photo: Ben Hinc / The Apex

Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Will Power and Spencer Pigot comprised the remainder of the top 10, creating an even split of Chevrolet and Honda engines.

Pole sitter Robert Wickens ended warm-up with the 20th fastest lap, pushing only to 1.9665 seconds within Rossi’s time.

Zach Veach in 12th was the quickest rookie. The Andretti newcomer entered his first race day as a member of the all-American team as the weekend’s 16th-fastest driver.

The 110-lap race itself is all that remains of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend and is scheduled to go green at 12:40 p.m. EDT. Live television coverage will open on ABC 10 minutes earlier.

Aaron Durant
Aaron Durant
Aaron Durant leads The Apex as its editor-in-chief. When not bringing his racing journalism vision to life at The Apex, Durant enjoys snowboarding, playing the drums, reading and trudging through an endless queue of podcasts.


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