Red flags were the order of the day in the Friday afternoon second practice session for the Edmonton Indy. But despite causing two of the flags themselves, Helio Castroneves and Mike Conway both finished in the top three, sandwiching Scott Dixon in the timings.
Unlike the somewhat laid-back pace of the morning session, most cars were quickly out onto the track at Edmonton City Center Airport and were setting representative times within the first five minutes of the start of the second hour-long session of the day.
Simon Pagenaud initially continued the way that he'd left off in the morning by going top of the timesheets, with a lap of 1:16.9387s on his fifth lap of the session. However, local hero Alex Tagliani proved that his Bryan Herta Autosports machine was also a force to be reckoned with by going top with a lap of 1:16.7686s, and Rubens Barrichello also laid out his stall by setting a time just four hundredths of a second off Tagliani to slip into second place.
Simona de Silvestro was late joining the fray, after the team spent the inter-session break tracking down and fixing down the oil leak problem responsible for the reports during the morning session of smoke coming from the back of the HVM-Lotus car.
James Hinchcliffe had just gone top with a lap of 1:16.5740s ahead of Tagliani to make it a Canadian one-two when Justin Wilson spun and stalled across the apex of turn 5 to bring out the first brief red flag of the day. The track had barely gone green when Charlie Kimball caused a sequel, locking up trying to beat Simona de Silvestro into turn 1 so that he didn't get stuck behind the HVM on his fast lap. As a result of the near miss Kimball went into the runoff and lightly nudged the tyre wall, avoiding any damage to the #83 but triggering the red flags for the second time just before the midpoint of the hour.
Turns 1 and 5 on the bumpy, challenging circuit continued to prove particularly problematic for the drivers, but for the most part the drivers were able to keep the engine running and rejoin the track under local waved yellows. Oriol Servia was a frequent flier through both run-offs, and Dennis Reinbold confirmed that the team were having problems with the #22's braking system that were causing them concern and stopping them running at a representative pace.
Penske's Helio Castroneves was the first of the top championship drivers to top the timesheets with a lap of 1:16.4920s, but then he stumbled over his team mate Will Power in turn 1 and spun the #3 car, forcing the third red flag of the session with a little over 15 minutes remaining. There was no contact, and Castroneves was quickly refired and sent on his way again.
The stop-start nature of the session continued when a fourth red flag came out five minutes later for Mike Conway, who rolled to a halt near the entrance to pit lane with a seeming technical problem. That proved to be one of the longest stoppages of the afternoon and by the time the track went green again there were only five and a half minutes remaining for the entire field to stream out and make a last frantic assault on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn temporary circuit, which also included some drafting practice down the straights.
Scott Dixon popped up to second spot just 0.0027s behind Castroneves, and Mike Conway put his earlier glitch behind him to jump ahead of James Hinchcliffe into third place just after the chequered flag came out. Less than a tenth of a second covered the top four, with the top 18 cars all in the 1:16s by the end of the hour. With the singular exception of Simon Pagenaud, everyone improved their times over their practice 1 outings.
After a quiet and indeed somewhat lacklustre session, Ryan Hunter-Reay succeeded in jumping up to eighth place by the end to put him just in front of his main rival for the IZOD IndyCar Series title, Will Power. It had earlier emerged that Hunter-Reay had been parked in practice 1 by race director Beaux Barfield for the last part of the session, as a result of his on-track tangle with James Jakes in turn 12.
The incident - which saw Hunter-Reay nearly run into Jakes and force the slower car wide, and gesture angrily at Jakes in the process - was the culmination of a sequence of encounters between the two over the previous few minutes, leading to Barfield deeming Hunter-Reay's last actions as unsportsmanlike conduct and ordering the Andretti Autosports #28 to park.
While that was over and done at the finish of practice 1 with no lasting repercussions for the American, Hunter-Reay will still have a ten-place grid penalty for Sunday after having to make an unscheduled engine change following the race in Toronto. Dixon and de Silvestro will also have penalties to serve this week, with both of them now over their limit of five engines for the full season.
Saturday action includes a third one-hour practice session at 9am local time (4pm BST) ahead of qualifying in the afternoon at 1pm (8pm BST). Rain is forecast overnight, raising the prospect of a damp track for some or all of the running, and it's likely that the rubber laid down by the IndyCar and Indy Lights cars on Friday will be washed away and leave the drivers to start from scratch on a green track.
Full practice 2 times