Andretti leads field in opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete practice

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Race fans can rejoice: the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season is underway at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a slight delay for track work in the morning, Marco Andretti (No. 27 hhgregg Andretti Autosport Honda) led the inaugural practice session of the year with a time of 1 minute, 3.7559 seconds (101.638 mph) on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course.

Practice 1 results

Carlos MunozAndretti was followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan (No. 10 NTT Data Honda, 1:03.8450) and Scott Dixon (No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda, 1:03.8798), James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 1:04.1560) and defending series champion Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 PPG Automotive Finish Team Penske Chevrolet) rounding out the top five at 1:04.2131 (100.914 mph).

After several incidents in Turn 3 of the track during support series practices Thursday, INDYCAR modified the area overnight by moving approximately 180 feet of wall on the drivers' left side back some 40 feet and adding curbing to the right side of the right-hand turn. The result changes the turn’s apex and makes it slower corner with a traditional braking area.

Turn 3 ran issue-free in the first session. The same could not be said for Turn 10. The new season got off to a rough start for 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, whose No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet backed into the wall of Turn 10 on just his fifth lap of the session. Power was unhurt and, in fact, drove his damaged car back to pit lane.

Practice 2 begins this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. A live video stream of the 45-minute session can be found at RaceControl.IndyCar.com. Qualifying is set for Saturday and the 110-lap race airs live at noon ET Sunday on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

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