|Pietro Fittipaldi after second practice.|
PHOTO: Brock Beard
For O'Ward, this year's Indy Lights Champion, it's his first start in the series. After teammate Colton Herta drove his #8 Harding Group Chevrolet off the track in Thursday testing, damaging the suspension, O'Ward was the slowest driver in Friday's first practice. He then surprised mid-way through the second session with the fastest lap overall, holding the spot for at least ten minutes of the one-hour session. O'Ward ended up 3rd, trailing only defending champion Josef Newgarden and current point leader Scott Dixon.
HOW WAS PRACTICE? AT ONE POINT YOU HAD SIX-TENTHS UP ON THE FIELD.
O’Ward: “We’ve been working on the car to have a strong one on reds and I think we have it. I think there’s still some in me. It was my first time in reds, so so far I’m pretty happy and we’re just gonna continue with the setup for the race. I think we’re getting to the point for qualifying where it’s pretty sweet. But there’s still some long way for the race. . .”
HOW DIFFERENT WAS THE TRACK FROM TESTING?
O’Ward: “There’s just a lot more rubber down. Today, in the morning, the track was really fast. But I was getting back into rhythm, and I was getting blocked – I didn’t get any clean laps. But I’m happy I got some clean laps in this session and I’ve got a good idea where I’m at.”
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL FOR THE RACE?
O’Ward: “I just want to learn as much as I can. I don’t want to put so much pressure on me - obviously, as a driver, you want to do well. Obviously, a Fast Six would be nice and a top-ten finish, top-five finish, but I don’t really want to put that on my mind. I think if I do my job, the results are gonna come by themselves.”
ANY PLANS SET TO RUN FULL-TIME INDYCAR IN 2019?
O’Ward: “Right now, I’m just focused on this weekend. But hopefully something materializes for the coming years. I hope I’m in IndyCar.”
Just down pit road, Pietro Fittipaldi debriefed with the Dale Coyne Racing team after a strong 9th-place rank in the second practice, second among the rookies behind O'Ward. Fittipaldi arrives in Sonoma for his sixth start of the year, and comes off a career-best 9th-place run two weeks ago in Portland.
HOW WAS IT OUT THERE?
Fittipaldi: “It was good. The track’s really slippery, especially now in this afternoon session. Not in the morning, but now in the afternoon, the hotter conditions just sliding a lot, rears locking under braking – it’s like that for everyone. So, it’s difficult to get a lap together, but our #19 Dale Coyne Paysafe car was good today, and just try to put it together for qualifying, that’s the important one for tomorrow.”
IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME RACING AT SONOMA?
Fittipaldi: “Yeah, first time racing here.”
DID ANYONE IN YOUR FAMILY HAVE ADVICE FOR RUNNING THIS TRACK?
Fittipaldi: “I don’t think my granddad (Emerson Fittipaldi) has raced here, but Max (Papis), my uncle raced here also with the Cup cars in NASCAR, Christian (Fittipaldi) raced here. It’s a tough track, very technical, a lot of elevation change. They said the same thing I’m experiencing: you’re sliding around a lot here, and it’s tough to get to used to that. And then the race is gonna be very difficult because you have to make the tires last for 25 laps. So, I’m looking forward to the challenge and trying to get another top-ten finish.”