Hometown favorite Rahal leads final Mid-Ohio practice

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Graham Rahal buoyed spirits of his hometown fans by setting the pace in the final practice before this afternoon’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

The driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing circled the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1 minute 5.0239 seconds (125.012 mph) this morning to lead the 21 Verizon IndyCar Series entries in their last chance to tune their cars for the 90-lap race. Live coverage of the Honda Indy 200 begins at 3 p.m. ET on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO: Warmup practice results; Combined practice results

Rahal, a two-time winner in the 2017 season, was also victorious at Mid-Ohio in 2015. He will start fourth today.

“I think we've got a strong car here, so hopefully we'll put it all together this afternoon and find our way around those guys," said Rahal, currently sixth in the point standings. "I think if we get up front, we've got really strong pace. It's just going to be a matter of working our way there -- figuring out what we've got to do to get there."

Takuma SatoHelio Castroneves, a winner on the Mid-Ohio permanent road course in 2000 and ’01, was second in the session with a lap of 1:05.3007 (124.483 mph). The driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske is second in the season championship standings, three points behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon.

Andretti Autosport swept the third through fifth spots in practice, with Marco Andretti in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:05.5310, 124.079 mph) leading Takuma Sato in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (1:05.5152, 124.075 mph) and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:05.5252, 124.056 mph).

Points leader Dixon, driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, was ninth in the session 1:05.6285, 123.759 mph) as the top 14 drivers were separated by less than a second. Pole sitter Will Power was 16th in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet (1:06.1823, 122.824 mph).

The lone incident of the session occurred when Spencer Pigot lost control of his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet on the exit of Turn 13, the final corner on the track, and hit the concrete wall opposite pit lane. Pigot climbed gingerly from the Ed Carpenter Racing car with assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team.

The 23-year-old from Orlando was checked and released from the infield medical center, and cleared to drive in the race. The car sustained substantial front-end damage.

“A little mistake there, still not quite sure (what happened)," Pigot said. "I think I clipped the curb in Turn 13 and just lost the rear. They’ll put another car together for me and hopefully I’ll be able to get back out there today.

"The speeds we’re going, any little mistake (and) before you know it is happening sometimes, it’s already too late to save it. That was the case and it’s unfortunate and I feel bad for my guys, but we’ll see what happens this afternoon.”

The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is the 13th of 17 races on the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. It will also be the 33rd Indy car event at Mid-Ohio dating to 1980. In addition to the live coverage on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, NBCSN will present an encore race telecast at 7 p.m.

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