Josef Newgarden was fastest around the 1.8-mile street circuit from St. Petersburg, Florida for the first IndyCar practice session of the weekend, leading Will Power and Colton Herta.
The session got off to a slow start as there were technical timing issues that had to be sorted through before the cars could start setting timed laps.
After a ten minute delay, all 24 cars were allowed back on track to tackle the circuit for the first 45-minute session of the weekend.
The sun was out and track temperatures were high – 121°F or 50°C – but that didn’t stop the drivers from laying down some seriously fast laps.
Newgarden lapped the circuit with a time of 1:00.803, a quarter of a second faster than last year’s pole winning time. In fact, the top eight cars were all able to run very similar times and were all able to best last year’s pole time.
Power and Herta, who each always seem to do well on street circuits, closely followed the two-time champion on the timesheets, both lapping within three hundredths of a second.
Scott Dixon had a good day, and was able to get his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda just under the 1:01 barrier which was good enough for sixth on the day.
Last week’s breakout winner Alex Palou was only able to log a time good enough for 20th on the charts, but he still has plenty of time to find his pace before race day.
Romain Grosjean led the field for a time early in the session, but ended the day in 19th after the more experienced drivers pushed faster towards the end of the afternoon.
There were a couple spins during the session from Grosjean, Felix Rosenqvist, and Sebastien Bourdais, but all were able to stop their cars before they hit the barriers and only brief stoppages were required.
Drivers have one more 45-minute practice session tomorrow morning, before going straight into qualifying at 13:45 Eastern time that afternoon.