A lively Saturday morning practice on the St. Petersburg street circuit featured four red flags and three drivers quicker than 61 seconds including Ryan Hunter-Reay, who improved on his previous best time of the season-opening weekend to stay atop the combined practice timesheet.
While technically quicker than his best lap yesterday, the better word to describe Hunter-Reay’s Practice 3 performance is consistent. The DHL-backed Andretti Autosport pilot’s 1:00.8966 was 0.0003 seconds faster than his mark to beat Friday, maintaining his claim to the fastest lap of the weekend.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Takuma Sato joined Hunter-Reay in the 60-second group with the three separated by an infinitesimal 0.0067 seconds.
Simon Pagenaud and Will Power ensured that all three Penske cars made it into the top five and gave Chevrolet a 3-2 advantage in the group.
Ed Jones, behind the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing car on the road and street courses this year, was sixth fastest and just ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon in seventh and Felix Rosenqvist in eighth.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie Colton Herta slotted into ninth ahead of Marco Andretti, whose No. 98 Honda represented the second Andretti car in the top 10.
Three of the four red flags occurred early enough in the session to run afoul of a new INDYCAR rule mandating a five-minute stop-and-hold penalty for any driver causing a red flag during a practice session.
Zach Veach slid through Turn 13 and made rear contact with the wall outside Turns 13 and 14, Ben Hanley stopped off course at Turn 4 and Max Chilton found himself in the runoff at Turn 8. Jones, who also ended up in the Turn 8 runoff, brought out the final red flag close enough to the scheduled end of the session that INDYCAR elected to show the red and checkered flags together.
Knockout qualifying culminating in the first Firestone Fast Six of 2019 is set for 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage on both NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold with INDYCAR Pass.