By Patrick Stephan (@TSO_Patrick)

Benjamin Pedersen on track at the Music City Grand Prix. Penske Entertainment: Travis Hinkle

Steve Wittich spent this session on the radio broadcast, so I’ve jumped in to cover this session for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. As noted by everyone, it’s a little sticky with the high humidity and we started the session with the track at ambient temperature at 88F and the track at 104.7F.

Note that this morning, INDYCAR worked with the promoters here and they have opened run-off shortcut between turns 1 and 3.  Thus, if a driver misses Turn 1 and goes in to the run-off, they can zig zag around the tire barriers and rejoin the track at Turn 3.  Presuming that Indy Lights will utilize the same procedures as the NTT INDYCAR Series, drivers will lose their lap during practice and qualifying if they take the shortcut.

And if they do that in the race, they will need to make sure they do not gain a time/position advantage, and race control will monitor time lines to make sure no one advances by taking the run-off.

With 30 minutes to go in this Lights sessions, we have point leader Linus Lundqvist leading with a best lap of 1:21.6144, with Matthew Brabham just 0.1260 back. Sting Ray Robb is P3, then Hunter McElrea, Rasmussen, Abel, Bogle, Frost, Pedersen, Simpson, Francis, Jr. and Roe.

A couple minutes later, McElrea moved to P1, pushing Lundqvist to P2, then Brabham, Frost, Pedersen, Robb, Rasmussen, Abel, Bogle, Simpson, Roe, and Francis, Jr.

Matthew Brabham found the Turn 9 run off as he overshot the braking zone for the fastest corner on the track. It has been tightened up a little this year with the barriers pushed out further in to the corner, making that left turn a little sharper.

Davey Hamilton said on the broadcast that most of the corners on this circuit are actually 1st and 2nd gear turns. Considering we have a LOT of 90 degree turns here, that makes sense, but we also have a couple very long straightaway’s going over the bridge in each direction. Those of course end with heavy braking zones – where we expect most of the passing to occur this weekend.

Benjamin Pedersen turned a 1:21.4199 on his 11th lap to take the P1 spot, now followed by McElrea, Lundqvist, Brabham and Frost as we approached the final 15 minutes of the session.

Danial Frost found the Turn 10 run-off with 11 minutes remaining – and may have nosed into the tire barrier – with 11 minutes to go. He was able to get the car in to reverse and return to the circuit – with no major damage apparent. He was 6th at the time with a best lap of 1:21.7294, just 0.3701 off the fast time of Pedersen.

It is interesting to watch how much these cars are moving around as the cars bounce over the bumps.  Particularly in some higher speed sections like when they enter the Turn 4 on the other side of the Cumberland River.  Also we get a lot of shots of cars jumping sideways as drivers are under power and coming up the hill out of Turn 8 to come back to the stadium side of the course. After Turn 8, the road curves (but it’s not a “Turn”) and with the bumps as they move on to the bridge decking while taking that curve, we’re seeing quite a bit of movement and the drivers hard at work.

Benjamin Pedersen took P1 by 0.3080 with a minute to run, and then we had two separate incidents.

Sting Ray Robb hit the wall with the right side at what I believe was Turn 11 – the pit straight. A little behind him, Kyffin Simpson knocked the nose wing off his car (and probably some right side suspension damage) over at Turn 10.

The checkered would fall as the AMR INDYCAR Safety team was attending to Simpson to get him back to the pits. Robb was able to drive his car (with right side damage including a flat right rear tire) back to the pit exit.

Not a great way to end the session for either driver, but they’ll get them fixed in time for qualifying this afternoon at 2:40pm Central Time. Notably – there is a chance for a random shower/thunderstorm this afternoon, so there is no guarantee that session will be dry.

But, regardless, Pedersen was confident on the broadcast that he could remain fast in either wet or dry conditions.

Pos Car Driver Best Time Total Laps Best Lap Gap Team
1 24 Benjamin Pedersen 1:21.0820 22 20 0
Global Racing Group with HMD
2 27 Hunter McElrea 1:21.3900 24 14 0.308
Andretti Autosport
3 83 Matthew Brabham 1:21.3932 22 21 0.0032
Andretti Autosport
4 26 Linus Lundqvist 1:21.4379 20 19 0.0447
HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
5 68 Danial Frost 1:21.4623 23 22 0.0244
HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
6 51 Jacob Abel 1:21.5539 24 20 0.0916
Abel Motorsports
7 2 Sting Ray Robb 1:21.6634 22 16 0.1095
Andretti Autosport
8 28 Christian Rasmussen 1:21.8125 21 15 0.1491
Andretti Autosport
9 7 Christian Bogle 1:21.9303 21 17 0.1178
HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing
10 21 Kyffin Simpson 1:22.0831 21 20 0.1528
HMD Motorsports
11 99 Ernie Francis Jr. 1:22.6846 20 17 0.6015 Force Indy
12 11 James Roe 1:22.7164 18 10 0.0318
HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing