The field of 25 IndyCar drivers return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this weekend, and wasted no time getting out on track for the weekend’s only practice session.
Rookie Alex Palou topped the timesheets, putting in a time of 1:10.1777 around the 2.439-mile course. The 23-year-old Spaniard jumped into the top spot in the last 10 minutes of the session, and was able to hold it for the remainder of the time.
Palou finished in 19th when the series visited the IMS road course in July, but will look to improve upon that result with his strong start to the weekend.
Cooler temperatures gave the drivers more grip and more power from their 2.2-liter V6 engines, leading to times that quickly approached the fastest qualifying laps from the first time drivers visited the circuit earlier this season.
Multiple drivers reported understeer throughout the session, and a few had trouble with the gusty winds that came and went. Overall, however, it was a mostly clean session and all drivers were able to complete at least 10 laps, with some running many more than that.
Near the end of the session, Marcus Ericsson touched the grass and ended up stalling his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda due to the resulting spin. The recovery of his car brought out the red flag, leaving only a couple minutes at the end of the session for everyone to take one last run.
Scott Dixon worked through his normal practice program, finishing in fourth on the charts and doing his best to get his car set up perfectly for the upcoming qualifying session this afternoon.
The points leader would like to spend the entire weekend at the front, but only needs to have a couple decent finishes to wrap up the title before the finale at St. Pete.
Dixon’s main challenger in the points, Josef Newgarden, looked strong right out of the gate. He spent most of the session in the top five positions, but ended the session in sixth spot.
Helio Castroneves, who is filling in for a recovering Oliver Askew, had a tough time wrangling the #7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy. Multiple times throughout the session, the 45-year-old struggled to keep the car under control and took a trip through the grass at one point.
This is the first time Castroneves has been behind the wheel since the Indy 500, and the first time he has driven a car with the new Aeroscreen on a road course. He ended the session down in 23rd and will look to improve for qualifying later today.
Another late addition to the race, Sebastien Bourdais took his time getting familiar with the car, and ws only able to pilot his #14 AJ Foyt Chevy into the 22nd best time of the session.
The Frenchman has been busy this year with sports car racing, but has not been in an IndyCar since last season when he ran full-time for Dale Coyne Racing.
The drivers’ next chance to get behind the wheel will be for qualifying, which will be run later in the afternoon as the sun gets lower in the sky. There is a slight chance of rain for the session, which could significantly mix up the order for the first race of the double-header.
Qualifying for the first race of the Harvest GP double-header begins at 6:20 PM EDT.