While championship contender Alexander Rossi had the fastest full lap during Friday’s pit stop-focused “warm-up” session at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, it was title hopeful Simon Pagenaud who had the quickest pit lane visit.
Pagenaud’s 23.9511-second trip from pit in to pit out was marginally quicker than the best from his teammate Josef Newgarden, whose pit delta was two-hundredths of a second slower.
The other championship challengers didn’t fare quite as well. Alexander Rossi’s best pit delta ranked him 10th and Scott Dixon’s quickest trip down Laguna Seca’s unique pit lane was even slower at 28.6472 seconds, ranking him 19th out of 23 drivers. Sebastien Bourdais didn’t participate in the session, reducing the 24-car field’s size by one.
Even though Pagenaud’s time from pit in to pit out was quickest, his best in and out laps, stretching from the start/finish line to pit in and pit out to the start/finish line, were not at the top of the results for those sections. Rossi’s 1:06.4814 in lap topped the chart while Charlie Kimball had the fastest out lap at 1:14.9643 — nearly six-tenths of a second quicker than second-fastest Colton Herta.
Unique to Laguna Seca are the portions of the track that precede pit in and follow pit out. Prior to the official start of pit lane is 0.075 miles of track that, while short, could allow a driver to make up time before satisfying the pit lane speed limit. During pit stop practice, Marcus Ericsson traversed this section of track quickest at 5.4666 seconds. Nearly 1.3 seconds split Ericsson from Ed Jones in 23, proving just how vital this small area of track might be during Sunday’s 90-lap race.
Similarly, the longer 0.262-mile section from pit out to just before cars rejoin the track after the Turn 2 hairpin showed a great variation from fastest to slowest. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest from pit out to the true pit lane exit at 11.8854 seconds. At the other end of the timesheet was Spencer Pigot who was nearly 1.5 seconds slower. Over three pit stops during the race, that difference would equal 4.5 seconds gained or lost.
With varying pit stop strategies likely in play for Sunday’s race, the time it takes to get from the beginning to the end of pit lane could have a direct impact on who wins the season-ending contest.
Next up for the series is Practice 3, set for Saturday at 10 a.m PDT Saturday. The final knockout qualifying procession of the year will follow at 1:35 p.m. track local time.