Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo paces opening ABC Supply 500 practice

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LONG POND, Pa. – Returning to race competition for the first time in three weeks, Verizon IndyCar Series teams are as eager as their fans to return to Pocono Raceway for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500.

Pocono’s three unique turns and straightaways make for a special challenge for team and driver. Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda) scored the fastest lap in this morning’s practice session, clocked at 40.5530 seconds and 221.932 mph around the 2.5-mile triangular oval. It is the only practice ahead of Verizon P1 Award qualifying this afternoon (1:30 p.m. ET, RaceControl.IndyCar.com).

CLICK HERE: ABC Supply practice 1 resultsABC Supply 500 qualifying order

Aleshin was followed by teammate and Indy 500 pole sitter James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 40.8553, 220.290 mph), Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka/ECR Chevrolet, 40.8794, 220.160) and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda, 40.9227, 219.927) and Carlos Munoz (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, 40.9240, 219.920). Munoz was credited with turning the fastest lap without an aerodynamic tow at 219.613 mph.

“They call it the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for a reason,” Hinchcliffe said. “This is a very difficult place to get the setup right. From a driver point of view, it’s a difficult place to get comfortable race running.”

Neither Hinchcliffe nor Aleshin raced at Pocono in 2015, making their outright pace to start the weekend a bit of a surprise. Not too much, though, considering they qualified first and seventh, respectively, on the other superspeedway on the 2016 schedule at Indianapolis in May.

“A bunch of us came out here a few weeks ago and tested, and that’s very valuable, for sure,” said Hinchcliffe. “We’re taking the knowledge from the test that applies to today and obviously worked out pretty well with the team cars 1-2, so big credit to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Based on the last superspeedway we were on (Indianapolis), that went pretty well, so hopefully we can try and replicate that.”

Early in the session, defending Pocono race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda) found trouble when he crashed at the exit of Turn 1. The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion was uninjured.

“We were just on a qualifying simulation there,” said the 16-time Indy car race winner. “We just had it a little too far forward on the balance and the front grabbed it just a little bit … and the rear just all of a sudden snapped.”

The car’s chassis, in which Hunter-Reay also won the 2014 Indianapolis 500, suffered significant damage.

“Yeah, (the hit) was big,” said the American. “It always hurts in these cars. You never get used to it. It’s something you never get used to. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll have to deal with it and we can still win this thing.”

Hunter-Reay was not the only past Pocono frontrunner to have trouble in the morning practice. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet) also crashed in Turn 1 an hour into the session. Kimball, who scored his second career podium at Pocono in 2013, also walked away but was surprised when his knees knocked the steering wheel out of the car upon impact.

“I turned into (Turn) 1 and bottomed a little bit,” Kimball explained. “Then the rear started to slide. I caught it a couple of times and couldn’t catch it anymore. Went around and impacted pretty heavy.”

Kimball wasn’t sure if the car could be repaired in time for qualifying this afternoon.

“We were trying to mileage out our Chevy engine before tonight’s practice so we would be good to go (with a new engine) for tonight’s practice and tomorrow’s 500 miles,” he said. “I have a lot of faith in the guys that they will give me a car that I can race tomorrow. Physically, I will be OK.”

The session ended when 2014 Pocono race winner Juan Pablo Montoya crashed in Turn 2. He also walked away uninjured but admitted after that he was unsure if his No. 2 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet could be fixed in time to qualify.

Championship leader Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) was 14th fastest in the session. Teammate Will Power, 58 points behind Pagenaud in the title chase, was sixth.

Rookie Conor Daly finished the session 21st in his first visit to the “Tricky Triangle” (42.1618, 213.463 mph), but he carries a story much bigger than his own this weekend on his Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Usually driving the No. 18 car, Daly is piloting the No. 88 BC Forever entry at Pocono in tribute to Indy 500 teammate Bryan Clauson, who died on Aug. 7 from injuries sustained in a crash at the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas.

Single-car qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 begins at 1:30 p.m. ET, with a live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. NBCSN’s telecast of qualifying airs tonight at midnight ET.

A final practice session runs from 5-5:30 p.m. this afternoon and will also stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Coverage of the 200-lap, 500-mile race, scheduled to be the 13th completed event on the 16-race schedule, begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Practice 1 results:

Rank

Car

Driver Name

C/A/E/T

Time

Speed

Diff

Gap

Best Lap

Total Laps

1

7

Aleshin, Mikhail

D/H/H/F

00:40.5530

221.932

--.----

--.----

4

27

2

5

Hinchcliffe, James

D/H/H/F

00:40.8553

220.290

0.3023

0.3023

24

36

3

21

Newgarden, Josef

D/C/C/F

00:40.8794

220.160

0.3264

0.0241

29

33

4

98

Rossi, Alexander (R)

D/H/H/F

00:40.9227

219.927

0.3697

0.0433

24

26

5

26

Munoz, Carlos

D/H/H/F

00:40.9240

219.920

0.3710

0.0013

5

24

6

12

Power, Will

D/C/C/F

00:41.0186

219.413

0.4656

0.0946

47

49

7

10

Kanaan, Tony

D/C/C/F

00:41.1427

218.751

0.5897

0.1241

24

25

8

83

Kimball, Charlie

D/C/C/F

00:41.1669

218.622

0.6139

0.0242

12

30

9

2

Montoya, Juan Pablo

D/C/C/F

00:41.1725

218.593

0.6195

0.0056

37

39

10

20

Carpenter, Ed

D/C/C/F

00:41.2109

218.389

0.6579

0.0384

25

25

11

41

Hawksworth, Jack

D/H/H/F

00:41.2167

218.358

0.6637

0.0058

26

28

12

9

Dixon, Scott

D/C/C/F

00:41.2954

217.942

0.7424

0.0787

15

25

13

28

Hunter-Reay, Ryan

D/H/H/F

00:41.2973

217.932

0.7443

0.0019

5

5

14

22

Pagenaud, Simon

D/C/C/F

00:41.3167

217.830

0.7637

0.0194

34

35

15

3

Castroneves, Helio

D/C/C/F

00:41.3228

217.797

0.7698

0.0061

28

29

16

14

Sato, Takuma

D/H/H/F

00:41.3746

217.525

0.8216

0.0518

23

26

17

27

Andretti, Marco

D/H/H/F

00:41.3762

217.516

0.8232

0.0016

31

31

18

8

Chilton, Max (R)

D/C/C/F

00:41.4907

216.916

0.9377

0.1145

14

30

19

15

Rahal, Graham

D/H/H/F

00:41.5382

216.668

0.9852

0.0475

32

37

20

11

Bourdais, Sebastien

D/C/C/F

00:41.5446

216.635

0.9916

0.0064

13

32

21

88

Daly, Conor (R)

D/H/H/F

00:42.1618

213.463

1.6088

0.6172

33

37

22

19

Mann, Pippa

D/H/H/F

00:42.7145

210.701

2.1615

0.5527

12

37

(R) Rookie (C)hassis: D=Dallara | (A)erokit: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (E)ngine: C=Chevy, H=Honda | (T)ire: F=Firestone

Total Laps: 666

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