ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Road America is a nearly unanimous choice as the favorite permanent road course among Verizon IndyCar Series drivers. The chance to try out the 2018 car with its universal aero kit added to their excitement today with opening practice for the KOHLER Grand Prix.
Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden paced the 45-minute session on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn circuit in the Kettle Moraine area of Wisconsin with a 1 minute, 43.0477 seconds (140.230 mph) in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. A second practice is set for 4:15 p.m. ET today and will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
KOHLER GRAND PRIX: Practice 1 results
The 23 drivers entered this weekend turned a total of 288 laps in the first practice. Several participated in a private team test at the track last week but today served as the first opportunity for everyone to decipher how the 2018 car compares to last year’s version with the manufacturer-produced competitive aero kits from Chevrolet and Honda.
James Hinchcliffe, who ran 17th on the opening-session timesheet, said the differences may be fewer at Road America than any other track on the schedule.
“This track is probably going to be the most similar to 2017 just because, with the old kit we could come here in a very low-downforce configuration,” said Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. “Last year's kit at low downforce is comparable to this year's kit, maybe not max-max, but normal trim level.
“I don't think we're going to notice the difference (in aero kits) as much here, even just in the feel from behind the wheel. It will be something to see what the racing is like.”
Four Honda-powered drivers followed Newgarden on the speed chart for the opening practice under cloudy, cooler conditions. Takuma Sato was second in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1:43.4729, 139.654 mph), with Alexander Rossi third in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda for Andretti Autosport (1:43.5603, 139.536 mph).
“It was just the first session so we’re trying to figure out this new car around this place,” Rossi said. “Colder conditions are great for us. We love running the cars in colder weather so I don’t think it’s a negative at all.”
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Robert Wickens was fourth at 1:43.5774 (139.513 mph) in the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, with Marco Andretti fifth in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian (1:43.8825, 139.103 mph).
Defending KOHLER Grand Prix winner and current points leader Scott Dixon was ninth in the session. Will Power, the 2016 race winner was 14th.
Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying to determine the pole winner starts at 4 p.m. Saturday. (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com, youtube.com/indycar and the INDYCAR Mobile app; same-day telecast at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN). The race airs live at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.