IndyCar’s season finale weekend kicked off Friday afternoon with a 75-minute practice session around the iconic Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The fastest driver at the end of the afternoon was Josef Newgarden, who lapped the 2.24-mile course in 1:11.4103.
The two-time champion is still in the championship race, and was happy to start the weekend off on the right foot.
Colton Herta was second-fastest, but was over four-tenths of a second slower over the course of his lap. Behind him were two of his Andretti team-mates Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi in third and fourth.
The current points leader Will Power ended the session in seventh, and said afterwards that he will be pushing for pole in order to cover off his challengers.
Scott Dixon, who is tied with Newgarden 20 points behind Power, ended his day down in 17th. He will be looking for more pace on Saturday to prevent yet another race starting in the rear.
The theme of the afternoon was tires, which fell off very quickly. Even after just two or three laps, drivers reported that the already slick track became even harder to drive.
The entire field was struggling to even stay on the track after just a dozen laps on their tires, meaning the rest of the weekend could be very tough.
The degradation was so bad that less than half of the field even attempted more than 20 laps, because to do so would use up their allocation of tires before the critical sessions later in the weekend.
Jimmie Johnson brought out the only red flag of the session when he ran his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda into the barriers in turn 6.
There were many others who took trips through the dirt and gravel, however, as nearly everyone pushed past the limit at some point in the session.
Drivers will have a second practice session to come to grips with the slick track before pushing all out in qualifying on Saturday afternoon.