The NTT IndyCar Series stayed on the west coast for the second consecutive weekend, visiting the iconic Laguna Seca for the penultimate round of the 2021 season.
The first of two practice sessions was 45 minutes in length, and it was Josef Newgarden that ended the session at the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1:11.7125.
Colton Herta was only 0.080 seconds off the pace, placing his Andretti Autosport Honda into second place.
The championship leader Alex Palou finished in third, as he looks to make a statement by wrapping up the championship early later this weekend.
Ed Jones and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five, with each clocking a lap just over the 1 minute 12 second barrier.
Pushing the limit too far
There were a couple incidents that stopped the action momentarily, with Helio Castroneves the first to lose control under braking and need assistance to free himself from the gravel.
Multiple drivers dipped their wheels into the dirt, including Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in the opening laps, who then also needed assistance at the very end of the session.
As time ran down, many drivers pushed the limits too far and kicked up dust cloud after dust cloud as each ran wide of the track limits.
Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, and Rinus VeeKay all had close moments, but were able to continue on their way.
Honda on the charge
Newgarden’s Chevy-powered Team Penske ride may have been at the top of the timesheets, but it was Honda that showed it had the power early.
11 of the top 12 positions were held by Honda-powered cars, putting a rare division in the often equally-matched powertrains.
Honda seemed to have the formula that was needed around the 2.24-mile course, with the cooler temperatures helping them even more.
It remains to be seen if the advantage will hold throughout the weekend, but an early advantage is often one of the deciding factors by time the race comes around.
Drivers will be back on track on Saturday for the second practice session, followed by qualifying later in the afternoon.