Danica Patrick topped the opening practice session for this weekend's IZOD IndyCar Series season finale at Las Vegas with a blazing 224.7mph lap.
The Andretti Autosport driver, who is making her final IndyCar appearance ahead of a full-time switch to NASCAR competition next year, was one of the last drivers out on track. However, her lap of 24.735sec (224.719mph) on the 1.5-mile oval – which has been reprofiled with steeper banking since Indy Racing League or Champ Car World Series cars ran last here – with 10 minutes remaining proved enough to secure the top spot.
With a few minutes to go she headed Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway and Marco Andretti in a top-four lock-out by the Andretti squad, however, a flurry of quick laps late on changed the order significantly.
"It's friggin' fast here," exclaimed Patrick, who drives the No. 7 Team GoDaddy car. "Almost a 225 lap is like Indy speeds. The track is nice and smooth and we'll be three-wide out there, which will be exciting. The race is going to be crazy and the crashes will be spectacular. Nothing would let me turn the page better than winning here."
Oriol Servia lapped 0.077sec slower than Patrick to go second in his Telemundo Newman/Haas entry, while Hunter-Reay and Conway rounded out the top five; the pair was split by Chip Ganassi driver Scott Dixon.
"The numbers (to Texas) are similar in banking, but it feels like a completely different world," Servia said. "It's beautiful and so gentle. It doesn't upset the car too much. I'm happy it doesn't look like Texas because we were slow there."
Helio Castroneves was the top Penske driver in sixth, ahead of Andretti and his teammate Ryan Briscoe.
Championship contenders Dario Franchitti (Ganassi) and Will Power (Penske) were only ninth and 14th while Ed Carpenter, who was quickest at the halfway point of the session, fell to 13th at the end in his Sarah Fisher entry.
The session was put under full-course caution for over half an hour after fluid leaked out of the back of Ernesto Viso's KV car onto the track, and had to be cleaned up.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Danica Patrick Andretti Autosport 24.734s 43
2. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas Racing 24.811s + 0.077s 51
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport 24.827s + 0.092s 36
4. Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 24.849s + 0.114s 57
5. Mike Conway Andretti Autosport 24.863s + 0.129s 37
6. Helio Castroneves Team Penske 24.868s + 0.133s 60
7. Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport 24.869s + 0.134s 29
8. Ryan Briscoe Team Penske 24.872s + 0.137s 54
9. Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Racing 24.874s + 0.139s 54
10. Graham Rahal Chip Ganassi Racing 24.941s + 0.205s 40
11. Charlie Kimball Chip Ganassi Racing 24.942s + 0.206s 39
12. Tony Kanaan KV Racing 24.966s + 0.232s 33
13. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher Racing 24.996s + 0.261s 41
14. Will Power Team Penske 25.013s + 0.278s 56
15. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas Racing 25.016s + 0.281s 51
16. Vitor Meira AJ Foyt Enterprises 25.036s + 0.301s 32
17. Takuma Sato KV Racing 25.042s + 0.308s 47
18. Simona de Silvestro HVM Racing 25.055s + 0.320s 43
19. Pippa Mann Rahal Letterman Lanigan 25.074s + 0.340s 47
20. Wade Cunningham AFS/Sam Schmidt 25.343s + 0.343s 52
21. Paul Tracy Dragon Racing 25.099s + 0.364s 34
22. Dan Wheldon Bryan Herta/Sam Schmidt 25.101s + 0.366s 50
23. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt Motorsports 25.103s + 0.368s 39
24. JR Hildebrand Panther Racing 25.110s + 0.376s 50
25. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 25.120s + 0.385s 52
26. Buddy Rice Panther Racing 25.151s + 0.416s 38
27. Tomas Scheckter Sarah Fisher Racing 25.167s + 0.422s 33
28. Davey Hamilton Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 25.199s + 0.465s 26
29. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest Racing 25.204s + 0.469s 40
30. Townsend Bell Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 25.221s + 0.486s 44
31. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne Racing 25.233s + 0.498s 34
32. Ernesto Viso KV Racing 25.280s + 0.548s 17
33. James Jakes Dale Coyne Racing 25.316s + 0.581s 34
34. Jay Howard Rahal Letterman Lanigan 25.327s + 0.592s 42