Ryan Hunter-Reay's time of 1:08.8057s was the fastest time seen so far this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course ahead of Sunday's Honda Indy 200, as teams worked toward optimising their qualifying laps.
Hunter-Reay's time put him just 0.0278s ahead of Scott Dixon and 0.069s ahead of Takuma Sato as the chequered flag came out on the hour-long session.
However, the timesheet was rather academic as all eyes were on the condition of Justin Wilson, who suffered a serious crash midway through the hour-long session
Wilson clipped the turn 1 tyre barrier at high speed and came to a halt in turn 2. The car did not appear significantly damaged, but when Wilson removed his steering wheel to get out it was clear that he was unable to, instead sitting back in evident pain, suggesting that the impact with the tyres and possibly bouncing over kerbing had led to neck or spinal injuries.
The IndyCar medical team was swiftly on the scene to organise Wilson's extraction, using a neck brace and backboard to stabilise his condition. According to Dr Michael Olinger, Wilson had been dispatched to nearby Mansfield MedCentral for further evaluation. No further details were given of his condition.
With less than two and a half hours from the end of the practice session to the start of qualifying, it was clear that Wilson would not be back in time or able to take part in the race. Dreyer & Reinbold team officials were reported to be urgently meeting with sportscar star Simon Pagenaud as a last-minute replacement.
Pagenaud competed in the final season of Champ Cars alongside Will Power in 2007 and substituted for Wilson's team mate Ana Beatriz at Barber Motorsports Park in April after Beatriz suffered wrist fractures at the preceding race. Pagenaud took part in the IndyCar test session last week at Mid-Ohio as he aims at a full season in IndyCar in 2012.
Wilson's crash resulted in a lengthy full course caution, leaving just four minutes at the end of the session for one final outing on track for the cars. Hunter-Reay used the opportunity to good advantage and leapt from tenth place to first with his final effort, with Sato also improving to bump Will Power out of third place.
Wilson ended up being classified in 11th place having been in fifth place prior to the accident and caution but pushed down by improvements from the likes of JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani after he was sidelined.
The only other notable incident in the truncated session was a spin by Sebastian Saavedra at the final corner of the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit.
Weather could play a big roll in qualifying, as thunderstorms in the area threaten to disrupt proceedings or wash away the grip that the IndyCar practice sessions has laid down so far and leave everyone back at square one again.
Full practice times and positions