Simon Pagenaud corners on Toronto IndyCar street circuit
Simon Pagenaud powers out of Turn 5 on the streets of Toronto in July 2017. | Photo: Chris Jones / INDYCAR

By laying down the fastest lap during Friday’s Practice 2 on the streets of Toronto, Simon Pagenaud finalized a sweep of the weekend’s first day for Team Penske in advance of Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

The 45-minute session saw Firestone alternate tires in use by the 21-car Verizon IndyCar Series field. Quicker lap times than were seen in the morning session reflected the increased grip level offered by the softer-compound tires.

Pagenaud was one of the first drivers to turn a lap quicker than 61 seconds on Friday. It was a 1:00.2573 from the Frenchman that stood as the fastest lap of Practice 2 when the checkered flag flew.

As is the nature of most every temporary street circuit on the IndyCar calendar, the streets of Toronto present themselves as a tight and ultra-bumpy challenge for the drivers.

In eight previous IndyCar starts at Toronto, Pagenaud has never qualified better than second or finished better than fourth.

“I feel very comfortable,” Pagenaud said. “It’s great to be back in Toronto.

“This track is so much fun to drive on because it’s different to other tracks. Here it’s very low grip — you slide around in the corners. The tarmac changes throughout the corner and it’s giving you a great challenge … You need to change your driving corner to corner.

“It’s not boring, I can tell you that.”

With the No. 1 Chevrolet, decked out in DXC Technology branding, atop the timesheet, Pagenaud’s teammate Will Power put his No. 12 Verizon-liveried machine in the second position. Power’s best lap of 1:00.4844 came on the 11th of his 20 laps.

As was the case in Practice 1, Scott Dixon was again the fastest Honda-backed driver around the 1.786-mile, 11-turn street circuit. Dixon’s 1:00.6253 was the third-fastest lap on the leaderboard at the conclusion of Practice 2.

Scott Dixon enters Turn 5 on Toronto IndyCar street circuit
Scott Dixon sets up for Turn 5 during IndyCar practice on the streets of Toronto. | Photo: Joe Skibinski / INDYCAR

Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda slotted in just behind Dixon, trailing the championship points leader by 0.0135 seconds.

Helio Castroneves completed the top five in the No. 3 Hitatchi-badged Chevrolet with a lap that was nearly a half-second quicker than his chart-topping time from earlier in the day.

Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and JR Hildebrand completed the top 10, allowing Honda and Chevrolet each to comprise half of the group each.

Gutierrez, Munoz Find Trouble

Practice was slowed twice by red flags. The first pause in the action came seven minutes after the green flag when Dale Coyne Racing’s Esteban Gutierrez made contact with the wall in Turn 1 and stopped on course at Turn 2. The session resumed after five minutes of red-flag time.

Esteban Gutierrez drives for Dale Coyne Racing at 2017 Toronto IndyCar race
Esteban Gutierrez speeds through Turn 1 during Practice 2 for the 2017 Honda Indy Toronto. | Photo: Chris Jones / INDYCAR

“It’s not ideal because we lost track time, but sometimes as a driver you have to push and find the limit of the car, especially in my situation where I’m learning the car,” Gutierrez said after his incident.

“We made some very positive changes from Practice 1 to Practice 2, and I think we can keep that positive momentum … I just tried a different line in Turn 1, which didn’t work out very well, but we have to look forward.”

Carlos Munoz brought out the second red flag 26 minutes later when he made contact with the wall in Turn 2. The pause was brief, with the session going back to green one minute later for six more minutes of running.

Saavedra Completes First Day With SPM

In a surprise announcement on Thursday, Sebastian Saavedra was named to the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda regularly piloted by Mikhail Aleshin.

One day later, the 27-year-old Colombian driver turned a best lap of 1:02.1493 in his first time on a street circuit since racing at the 2015 Toronto event with Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It’s a little bit of a last-minute scenario, which leaves very little time to prepare,” Saavedra said.

Sebastian Saavedra locks up his brakes entering Toronto IndyCar Turn 1
Sebastian Saavedra locks up the brakes on the No. 7 Honda entering Turn 1 at Toronto. | Photo: Joe Skibinski / INDYCAR

Saavedra’s participation in Friday’s duo of 45-minute practice sessions marked his first time in the cockpit of an Indy car fitted with Honda’s engine and aero kit.

“We went out there and tried to get familiar with this Honda-powered machine,” he continued. “This is my first time in a Honda-powered car with this aero kit, so definitely there’s a lot to learn, but altogether very positive.”

The series will be back on track on Saturday morning for Practice 3 at 10 a.m. EDT. That third and final practice session will be followed by qualifying at 2:15 p.m. The 85-lap race itself is set to go green at 3:47 p.m. on Sunday, with live television coverage on CNBC opening at 3 p.m.

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