By Steve Wittich
Ryan Norman, one of three veterans in the 2019 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series field, ended the final warm-up of the pre-season with the quickest lap of the day.
The 20-year-old turned in a lap of 75.1962 seconds on his 44th of 47 laps, which was 0.17 seconds ahead of his rookie teammate Robert Megennis.
When we saw Norman after the session, we mentioned that ‘you won the test,’ and he quickly fired back – “Now, we have to go win the race!”
That is the perfect response after a successful test.
All ten drivers were covered by only just over a second and the four were within a half-second of Norman.
The Indy Lights Series took part in an official test at Circuit of The Americas less than one month ago, and it was Andretti Autosport rookie Oliver Askew who ended the day with the quickest time.
The 22-year-old followed that up by leading the first session in the final tune-up to the 2019 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The top five drivers were all within one second of Askew. That group included Robert Megennis (Andretti Autosport), David Malukas (BN Racing), Zachary Claman (Belardi Auto Racing) and Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport).
The ten drivers turned a total of 290 laps of the 2.1-mile, 14-turn road course.
Askew, Megennis, Malukas, Claman, and Sowery all ran one set of new tires, while Norman, Falchero, VeeKay, Kohl, and Kellett remained on a carryover set.
Much like their USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 brethren, track time is just part of the final official test before the season-opening race in St. Petersburg. While the lower level series was on track Sunday, the Indy Lights driver were going through presentations, photo-shoots, and interviews with NBC.
The highest level American open-wheel ladder series began their final tune-up with a 90-minute session starting at 11 am. The sky was sunny, the ambient temperature was 83F, and the wind was 8mph from the Southwest.
Series returnee Claman, who is driving the No. 13 car from the Belardi Auto Racing stable was the first of the ten entries on track.
After the first 60 minutes of the 90-minute session, it was Andretti Autosport veteran Ryan Norman that was leading the way with a lap of 76.847 seconds. Claman (Belardi Auto Racing), Oliver Askew (Andretti Autosport), Julien Falchero (Belardi Auto Racing) Megennis and Malukas.
Toby Sowery is testing in a combined BN Racing / Team Pelfrey entry in a deal that came together quickly and at the last minute.
Sowery got a call from the team on Friday, and team manager Nigel Tuckey picked up the Team Pelfrey IL-15 on the same day. The No. 2 was last utilized at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, and the BN Racing crew had to thrash to get it prepared to be on track today.
Sowery’s last open-wheel experience came with the same team at Road America last year in Indy Pro 2000 where he finished second in both races to his teammate then and now, Malukas.
The track reopened at 1:30 pm, but was quiet until 2:30 pm when VeeKay hit the 2.1-mile, 14-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. The 2018 Indy Pro 2000 ran a few more laps on that set of scuff tires before bolting on a fresh set of Cooper Tire slicks and turned his quickest lap of the test at 76.466 seconds.
Norman was the second driver to head out in the heat of the day with the sun beating down, the thermometer at 85F and the track temperature above 120F.
The track was consistently busy over the last 90 minutes with the field turning a total of 396 laps (831.6 miles) in the afternoon stanza.
Each team received three sticker sets of Cooper Tire slicks for the test and all ten entries saved on set for the final fifteen minutes when the track had cooled down a little.
That was when Norman and Megennis traded quick laps a couple of times before the veteran came out on top.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Homestead-Miami Speedway test combined timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:15.196||–.—-||79|
|2||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:15.366||0.1699||78|
|3||4||Julien Falchero||Belardi Auto Racing||1:15.497||0.3004||68|
|4||13||Zachary Claman||Belardi Auto Racing||1:15.751||0.5544||61|
|5||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||1:15.863||0.6665||77|
|6||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||1:15.987||0.7903||72|
|7||67||Dalton Kellett||Juncos Racing||1:16.133||0.9371||70|
|8||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||1:16.227||1.0309||50|
|9||2||Toby Sowery||BN Racing/Team Pelfrey||1:16.472||1.2755||49|
|10||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||1:16.494||1.2977||82|