CLICK: Full practice 3 results from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Having finished Friday's two practice sessions with the fastest lap on the timesheets, Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay picked up where he left off by slicing more than eight tenths of a second off his previous best time to emerge quickest in Saturday's sole practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course ahead of qualifying.
Hunter-Reay's time in the morning session was 1:05.7082s (123.711s) compared with his lap of 1:06.5316s (122.180mph) on Friday at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn permanent road course. It put him almost a tenth of a second ahead of Ganassi's Scott Dixon who was second-fastest in the 45-minute morning practice.
A late flying lap meant that Justin Wilson was only a fraction off that in third place for Dale Coyne Racing, and after that there was another tenth of a second back to the fourth-fastest man Simon Pagenaud in the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport #77.
"We were quick yesterday and we're quick this morning so hopefully we can translate that into what we need when it counts," said Wilson. "That's the key is doing it when it counts. So we'll see what we can do. It's very close right now with the times and one small mistake can catch you out in qualifying."
The session was slightly delayed while an oil spillage from a support race was attended to on pit lane. Once proceedings got underway, everyone improved their times on Saturday compared with their previous outings: of the 22 drivers, all but one were within two-thirds of a second of Hunter-Reay's benchmark time, indicating a very competitive and closely-matched field for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Only Jack Hawksworth was outside that range, and in fact he was 1.3237s off the leader's pace as the Bryan Herta Autosport team struggled to get a set-up that suited the driver and the course. There was only a single red flag stoppage this time, after KV AFS Racing's Sebastian Saavedra went off the track in turn 12 and needed retrieving.
Penske appeared to be continuing a curiously low-profile strategy, with leading championship contenders Will Power and Helio Castroneves down in 11th and 15th places respectively, neither man having yet finished in the top ten in any of the times practice sessions at Mid-Ohio. The third member of the Penske squad, Juan Pablo Montoya, was even further back in 18th position in third practice, which is the last chance the cars get to fine-tune their cars before qualifying gets underway.
Showers are forecast to sweep the are shortly before qualifying which will take place at 2pm local time (7pm BST) and follow the familiar format for street and road course events in the Verizon IndyCar Series. That means the field is split into two 11-car groups from which the top six in each progresses to round 2 which consists of a single ten-minute session. The top six from this group go forward to the third and final round, which is the Firestone Fast Six pole shootout.
There will also be a further half-hour warm-up session on Sunday morning before the race itself, which takes place at 3.50pm local time (8.50pm BST) on Sunday afternoon.See full practice 3 results from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course