The NTT IndyCar Series was on track Thursday for the first open test session of the 2023 season, with all 27 full-time drivers tackling the private Thermal Club facility in southern California.
The track is not one that usually hosts anything other than track time for paying members, but came to an agreement with the series to run the two-day test because it is one of the few permanent tracks that has warm enough weather in early February.
There were two distinct sessions during the day, and it was Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta that topped the timesheets for both.
The fifth-year driver was able to lap the lengthy course, just over 3 miles, in 1:39.9303 in the morning run, and lowered that time to 1:39.3721 in the afternoon.
His Andretti team-mates did nearly as well, with Kyle Kirkwood finishing with the second fastest time in the morning, and Romain Grosjean putting in the fourth fastest time later in the day.
Christian Lundgaard and Alex Palou finished second and third respectively in the faster afternoon session, with reigning champion Will Power rounding out the top five.
Marcus Armstrong was the top-placed rookie, putting in a lap of 1:39.9077 in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and finishing tenth on the day.
The 22-year-old was one of a few drivers that brought out a red flag during the day when his car stopped on track just as the session was ending.
Other drivers found themselves off course and had to be rescued by the safety crew, including Christian Lundgaard, Devlin DeFrancesco, Agustin Canapino, Helio Castroneves, and Felix Rosenqvist, who left the tarmac twice.
There was no major damage caused during the incidents, and most drivers were able to drive back to the pits after being pulled from the gravel.
Sting Ray Robb completed the most laps of anyone, with the Dale Coyne Racing rookie logging 63 laps over the course of both sessions.
Drivers and crews will analyze their performance, make changes overnight, and will be back on Friday for a second day of testing.
After that is complete, the next time anyone will complete any on-track running will be at the first race of the year on the streets of St. Petersburg.
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