The NTT IndyCar Series took to the streets of Nashville for the opening practice session of the weekend on Friday afternoon, and it was the rookies that were the most impressive.
Christian Lundgaard in particular was the star of the day, setting the fastest lap time just one week after earning his maiden IndyCar podium.
The 21-year-old completed a lap of the circuit in 1:15.9659, nearly a full quarter of a second faster than Felix Rosenqvist in second place.
Lundgaard’s accomplishment gave RLL its first top session time in a full year, as Graham Rahal’s practice time was the last time the team was on the top of the timesheets.
Another rookie David Malukas set the third fastest time of the afternoon, and continues his own rise through the standings as he becomes more and more comfortable with his Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Callum Ilott completed the most laps during the 75-minute session, running 31 laps around the 2.17-mile course.
Helio Castroneves lost valuable track time, as his brand new engine was misfiring from the outset. Honda engineers worked on the problem on pit lane, and sent him back out halfway through the session.
That did not last long, however, as the veteran touched the wall while braking for turn 1 after only nine laps in the books, and broke his rear toe link in the process.
Another driver to have a rough day was Dalton Kellett, who stalled his car while trying to spin his car around in one of the runoff areas. He was not the only one to have to utilize the emergency areas past the braking zones, as Rinus VeeKay also got stuck attempting to turn around.
Both incidents brought out the red flag, and both drivers were served a five-minute time penalty for causing a delay.
The session also saw the first official running of Firestone’s innovative Guayule tire, which uses more sustainable rubber in the sidewalls in the weekend’s softer compound, alternate tire.
Branded with green paint instead of the typical red paint, the new tire’s performance will be evaluated for future use at more races next season.
The next time the 26 drivers will be on track will be Saturday at noon Eastern Time, followed by qualifying later in the afternoon when a few rain showers are expected to build in the area.