The NTT IndyCar Series took to the streets of Long Beach on Friday afternoon, and it was Pato O’Ward who put in the fastest lap of the day.
The Mexican driver logged a lap of 1:06.6999 near the end of the day, taking advantage of the rubber that all 27 cars were laying down on the street course.
Scott Dixon was second fastest, but was over a quarter of a second behind O’Ward. The Arrow McLaren driver was simply unbeatable in the opening day of running.
Colton Herta was third fastest, which was not much of a surprise considering the California-native’s quick pace on every street course he races.
Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five, and each looked quick enough to fight for the top spots later on in the weekend.
All drivers had to contend with an extra unknown in the opening session of the weekend, as the city of Long Beach laid down a new stretch of asphalt between turn 6 and turn 8 shortly before race weekend.
The fresh surface was very smooth and did not seem to cause too much trouble, at least not nearly as much as some other sections of the street course.
The bumps entering turn 1 and turn 9 caught many different drivers out, forcing them to use the runoff area to get turned around and back on track.
Most were able to get going on their own, but Agustin Canapino and Helio Castroneves both required assistance from the AMR safety crew after they stalled their cars.
Both drivers were given a penalty for causing a stoppage in the 75-miniute session, and were forced to stop their own running five minutes before the session was over.
Josef Newgarden touched wall exiting turn 5 in the first half of practice, and his Team Penske Chevrolet took a bit of damage to his left side tires as well as the carbon fiber side skirt.
He was able to continue around to the pits, and even ran laps with the damaged side skirt, although he did have to fit a new set of tires.
In the end, everyone was fortunate to not take more damage than they did, as street courses are notorious for wrecking cars with the smallest of mistakes.
The teams will be back on track Saturday morning for another practice session just ahead of a critically-important knockout qualifying session at 2:00 PM Pacific Time.