EDMONTON, ALBERTA (AP) - Ryan Hunter-Reay’s bid to win a fourth consecutive IndyCar Series race got off to a rough start in Edmonton.
The series points leader was penalized in Friday’s first practice session _ he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct _ for running James Jakes wide on the course. Later, IndyCar said he’ll be dropped 10 spots on the starting grid because his Andretti Autosport team changed his engine after the July 8 race at Toronto.
“It was a rough day,” Hunter-Reay said, adding Jakes “was off the pace on the racing line.”
Jakes had slowed going into Turn 12 in front of Hunter-Reay, and Hunter-Reay responded by moving his car over and forcing Jakes off track. IndyCar initially said Hunter-Reay flashed an obscene gesture at Jakes, but replays showed he just waved his hand at the driver.
“I talked to him since. No big deal. It’s all sorted out. No problem at all,” Hunter-Reay said. “When you’re running slower, let’s say you blew your corner and you’re kind of taking your time on the way into the pits, you’re supposed to move out of the way for the guys on the hot lap.”
Hunter-Reay goes into Sunday’s race with a 34-point lead over Will Power in the standings. His streak of three consecutive wins pushed him to the top of the standings, and he’s the first American driver to lead the points since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
Meanwhile, IndyCar on Friday said Scott Dixon, who is fourth in the standings, and Simona de Silvestro will also be penalized 10 spots on the starting grid because both arrived in Edmonton with their sixth different engine. New rules this year permit teams to use just five engines all season, and engines can only be changed after 1,850 miles without incurring a penalty.
Dixon remained confident in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.
“I’m happy with my car,” said Dixon, who lost an engine early in the race at Toronto. “There’s lots of great passing points on this track, and it’s going to be a hell of a race.”
Power, who lost the points lead after Toronto, agreed.
“Today showed that the racing here in Edmonton is going to be very competitive,” Power said. “It’s tough out there and I was pleased with what we were able to get done. We will see what effects the weather has on tomorrow’s qualifying but I expect things to be tight.”
But Hunter-Reay was not pleased with his car’s performance. He was 22nd in the morning session, eighth in the afternoon and finished ninth overall combined.
“We’re lacking overall grip right now. We’re sliding around too much,” he said. “We need to get the right mix, and I think (Saturday) is going to throw a bit of a wrench into it because it’s supposed to rain a lot (during qualifying session).”
Helio Castroneves was the fastest Friday, and at third in the series standings, he’s considered the quiet threat for the championship.
Castroneves said he worked Friday with Penske Racing teammates Power and Ryan Briscoe to fine-tune their cars for Saturday’s qualifying.
“We came with a really good package, and between my teammates and I, we tried some random things in the first session to get where we were this afternoon,” Castroneves said. “We like the direction that we are going and we are very encouraged. We know (Saturday) and Sunday are the days that matter, so we want to stay up front then, so we’ll continue working.”
Dixon finished second on the day, and Mike Conway third. Simon Pagenaud, who led the morning practice, was fourth overall and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top five.