Though he doesn’t factor into the championship story that will play out during Sunday’s 85-lap race, Ryan Hunter-Reay showed his speed as the Verizon IndyCar Series’ finale weekend began at Sonoma Raceway.
The driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda from Andretti Autosport turned only seven laps during the hourlong session Friday morning. One of those seven revolutions of the 2.385-mile road course was completed in 1:17.5742, putting Hunter-Reay atop the 25-car field.
Leading the points entering the final race of 2018, Scott Dixon was second fastest in Practice 1 with a best lap 0.2526 seconds slower than that of fellow Honda driver Hunter-Reay.
Team Penske’s Will Power and Simon Pagenaud were third and fourth, respectively, as the fastest pilots representing Chevrolet. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti rounded out the top five which was split by just over half a second.
Honda-powered cars occupied the remainder of the top 10 with drivers Ed Jones, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach and Sebastien Bourdais lapping within eight-tenths of a second of Hunter-Reay’s top time.
One red-flag period interrupted Practice 1 when James Hinchcliffe spun at Turn 2 and slid into the tire barrier in his No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Hinchcliffe spun again at the session’s end, following a similar mistake for Rossi earlier.
The first official IndyCar sessions for Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward saw the Indy Lights graduates land 16th and 24th in their Harding Racing machines, respectively. Herta was 1.2519 seconds off the pace laid down by Hunter-Reay while O’Ward was more than six-tenths of a second further back.
Josef Newgarden, battling food poisoning and mechanical problems, turned no timed laps during Practice 1.
A second 60-minute practice session is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. PDT Friday.