Rahal sets pace in opening practice at Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, New York – Cool conditions greeted Verizon IndyCar Series drivers for opening practice in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, but that didn’t prevent the competition from heating up in the first of two on-track sessions today.

Graham Rahal, with hopes flickering in the season championship chase, was fastest around the iconic Watkins Glen International road course with a lap of 1 minute, 23.2603 seconds (145.712 mph) in the 45-minute practice to start weekend activities on the iconic Watkins Glen International road course.

INDYCAR GRAND PRIX AT THE GLEN: Practice 1 results

Rahal, driving the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, sits sixth in the standings, 111 points behind leader Josef Newgarden. He must be within 103 points or less of the leader following Sunday’s race to keep his title hopes alive.

“It’s a good start, but we need to find a way to keep it up,” Rahal said. “The car feels competitive but we definitely have more work to do. But it’s a good start and I would say it’s in the hunt.”

Conor DalyRahal was followed on the time sheet by another driver still alive in the championship hunt. Alexander Rossi, in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda, was second at 1:23.4686 (145.348 mph). A pair of Chip Ganassi Racing drivers were next, with Max Chilton (No. 8 Gallagher Honda) third at 1:23.5154 and Scott Dixon (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) fourth at 1:23.5485.

Dixon – a four-time winner at Watkins Glen, including last year – is second in the championship, 31 points behind Newgarden. Honda took seven of the first eight spots in the practice session, with only Spencer Pigot breaking up the dominance by running sixth fastest in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing (1:23.8425).

Newgarden was ninth in the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, just ahead of teammates Simon Pagenaud (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) and Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet).

Jack Harvey, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in May at the Indianapolis 500, is set to make his first start on a road course this weekend. He was 20th in the first session in the No. 7 AutoNation Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“I felt good,” said Harvey, whose best lap was 1:25.5645 (141.788 mph). “People call me a road course racer but I haven’t actually driven on a road course for over a year, I guess. It’s such high commitment here that as we start to build our momentum, the time’s just going to keep coming. I know there’s areas to improve from the get-go, I told the guys that straight away. But I felt comfortable, felt like it was a decent first session.”

Charlie Kimball, in the No. 83 Tresiba Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, turned just two laps in the practice before his car was taken back to the garage area with reported electrical issues.

The afternoon practice is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET, followed by pit stop practice at 3:55 p.m. Both will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Verizon P1 Award qualifying streams live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com at 3 p.m. Saturday, with a delayed telecast at 7 p.m. on NBCSN. Live race coverage starts at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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