ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon led his second consecutive practice session by pacing third practice this morning for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, improving his best lap by nearly a second from Friday. It was the final session before knockout qualifying this afternoon.
Dixon’s No. 9 GE LED Lighting Honda posted a fast lap of 1 minute, 1.6240 seconds (105.154 mph), which beat his fast lap from Friday of 1:02.5591 as conditions proved more optimal around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course for the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers. Nineteen of the 21 cars entered this weekend posted laps faster than Dixon’s top lap from Friday.
Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg practice results: Practice 3; Combined session results; Qualifying groups
Following Dixon in today’s practice were: James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 1:01.6660), defending Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda, 1:01.7015), Chip Ganassi Racing sophomore Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Honda, 1:01.7477) and St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 Dale Coyne Race Honda, 1:01.7634).
Speaking in a similar tune to Friday, Dixon was pleased with the pace of his Chip Ganassi Racing car. But having never won on the streets of St. Petersburg in 12 previous starts and his team switching from Chevrolet to Honda power this season, the 36-year-old Kiwi knows practice times count for little.
“I think the reset for us (in the offseason), we finished sixth (in the championship) last year and needed to look deeper inside the team and try to regroup a little bit, and I think that’s definitely paid dividends, but, you know, it’s practice," Dixon said. "It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t pay anything. Hopefully that means we’ll pick up some momentum later today in qualifying with the GE car and have a good weekend remaining up front.”
The session was the first of the weekend to go without interruption of a red flag, though Takuma Sato grazed the Turn 3 wall, causing negligible damage to his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
Next up for the Verizon IndyCar Series are three rounds of knockout qualifying at 2:55 p.m ET, concluding with the Firestone Fast Six to determine the Verizon P1 Award pole winner. Live stream coverage can be found RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The 2017 season kicks off Sunday with the 110-lap race, airing live at noon ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.