James Hinchcliffe’s final tour of the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course during the third practice outing of the NTT IndyCar Series’ 2019 visit vaulted the Canadian to the top of the timesheet entering qualifying.
Interrupted three times due to spins for Zach Veach and Graham Rahal plus a crash for Hinchcliffe’s stablemate Marcus Ericsson, the third practice session not only saw Hinchcliffe back up his Practice 2 performance but also returned a series of Hondas to the front of the field.
Sebastien Bourdais owned the fastest lap for much of the session’s 45-minute duration but was relegated to the second spot when Hinchcliffe went three-tenths of a second faster during his final timed lap — a trip around the scenic circuit guaranteed by INDYCAR following Rahal’s spin with a mere 10 minutes remaining on the clock.
Reigning IndyCar champion Scott Dixon improved to third on his final timed lap but could only come within 0.4983 seconds of Hinchcliffe’s new fastest lap of the weekend, which dipped 0.2643 seconds under his Friday speed.
Fast throughout the session, Takuma Sato placed fifth, 0.0248 seconds off Colton Herta’s pace which landed the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda in fourth.
Spencer Pigot was the quickest Chevrolet representative in sixth over Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi in the bottom half of the top 10, which was split by 0.6130 seconds.
Despite his spin and subsequent loss of five minutes during the session, Veach was within 2.3513 seconds off Hinchcliffe’s top time and ended Practice 3 placed 24th. DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley was the only driver to set his best lap on red-sidewalled alternate Firestone Firehawk tires and was 0.3536 seconds quicker than Veach.
With 853 practice laps turned, qualifying is next for IndyCar in Birmingham, Alabama and will be shown live on NBCSN at 3 p.m. CDT on Saturday.