ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – If the first official practice session of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season is any indication, fans may be in for another wild and unpredictable season.
The top four spots on the speed chart from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg were filled by drivers who didn't win a race last season. Simon Pagenaud, who joined Team Penske in 2015, paced the 22-car field on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit in the opening session with a best lap of 1 minute, 1.7246 seconds (104.982 mph) in the No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet.
For complete practice results, click here.
"It's the first practice of the whole year so it's a nice start," said Pagenaud, who has four career Indy car victories but went winless and finished 11th in the 2015 championship for Team Penske. "The Hewlett Packard Enterprise car is nice right now, but there's a lot of work to do still. It's just a start."
Pagenaud was followed by Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (1:01.7870, 104.876), three-time St. Petersburg winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (1:01.8051, 104.846) and Takuma Sato in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda (1:01.8411, 104.785).
"It's Practice 1 and everything feels happy, so it's a good place to be," said Hawksworth, in his second season with AJ Foyt Racing and third overall in the Verizon IndyCar Series. "We've just to keep working now and get some more."
The Verizon IndyCar Series will conduct a second practice session at 3:40 p.m. ET today, ahead of Verizon P1 Award pole qualifying March 12 and the 110-lap race to open the 16-event season March 13 (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC).
Ryan Hunter-Reay, in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport, was fifth quick and fastest among those who won a 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series race. Reigning champion Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) was sixth, as engine/aero kit manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda split the top six positions evenly.
Will Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and five-time St. Pete pole sitter who holds the track lap record, wasn't as fortunate. Just five laps into his session, Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet made heavy contact with the outside wall in the kink between Turns 9 and 10. Power walked away without injury, but the car suffered significant right-side damage.
All track action from the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg can be followed via live video and audio stream at racecontrol.indycar.com.