Storms and a torrential downpour at the NOLA Motorsports Park played havoc with the second practice for the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana on Friday afternoon.
The skies opened just 15 minutes before the second 80-minute session was due to get underway sending spectators, drivers and team members alike running for cover. The race officials also issued severe weather warnings advising everyone to seek shelter in a safe place in advance of thunderstorms bringing lightning strikes sweeping over the Avondale area.
The downpour proved relatively short-lived, but it still took the track workers time to get the 2.74-mile, 13-turn road course back into a serviceable condition, meaning that the green flag for the session was some 70 minutes after the originally scheduled time and shortened to just one hour.
Even so, the now-drying track still had pools of water scattered around which meant that the circuit was too wet for slick tyres while at the same time too dry for the wet-weather tyres which would overheat and break up while running in the stretches where the track had now dried off. As a result, only four drivers ventured out of pit lane for the most tentative of exploratory laps.
After 20 minutes of inactivity, race control threw a red flag to attempt to dry out the track further. That took half an hour, leaving only 10 minutes remaining at the end of the session for the drivers to come back out once the green flags were shown.
Unsurprisingly, everyone's time were well down on what they had achieved in the earlier midday session. Penske's Will Power emerged with the best time of the disrupted second session with a lap of 1:20.1704s (123.038mph) after turning just seven laps, some way down on Tony Kanaan's 1:18.8753s first session benchmark.
"Usually over the weekend if it's dry, more and more rubber will get laid and the faster it will get," noted Power. "But if it rains it resets the track again and makes it difficult. The track is actually quite fast.
"I have a feeling Ganassi will be pretty strong here," he added. "We have to see what we've got. It is a strong team with four very fast drivers."
Power was a tenth faster than Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay in second place, with Power's team mate Simon Pagenaud in third ahead of KV Racing Technology rookie Stefano Coletti who was the only other driver to get within a second of Power's time.
"We have had a great day in the #4," said the GP2 veteran. "We worked through a lot of things in the first practice session and ended up finishing P6. The second session was shortened due to the rain and the track was still half wet and half dry, but we were able to get a few good laps in at the end and finished P4. We still have some work to do in practice 3 tomorrow and then hopefully we will have a good qualifying session in the afternoon."
In total, 18 of the 24 drivers went out and ran a combined 117 laps compared with 571 earlier in the day before the chequered flag came out. Marco Andretti ran the most laps with 11 in the books, while BHA's Gabby Chaves and KVSH Racing's Sebtasien Bourdais only put in sighting laps during the time available.
"We had other ideas for this afternoon, but the weather decided otherwise. Overall, I am pretty optimistic for this weekend," said the Frenchman.
Kanaan and his Ganassi team mates Scott Dixon and Sage Karam were among the half dozen drivers not to even come out during the session. Also staying safely in pit lane rather than risking harm to their race cars were CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden and Dale Coyne Racing duo Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone.
"It's still really early in the weekend, but finishing P1 in our first practice session on this track is a good feeling," said Kanaan of his day as a whole. "The car tested really well here a few weeks ago, so I was confident that we had a good car coming into this weekend. It was much hotter this afternoon than it's been when we've tested here in the past, so our lap times were much slower but the track is still really good."
AJ Foyt Racing's Jack Hawksworth and Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's Luca Filippi were handed penalties for being late to the mandatory driver weigh-ins ahead of practice. Hawksworth was docked two minutes of practice time, and Filippi five for their respective transgressions.
Drivers will now have another 45-minute practice on Saturday at 12.30pm before qualifying, which is scheduled for 4.15pm. The teams will have a half hour warm-up opportunity on Sunday morning ahead of the 75-lap race which gets underway shortly after 2.30pm (8.30pm BST).
See full Friday practice 2 times from Louisiana.