AUSTIN, Texas – The final moments of the first NTT IndyCar Series practice of the INDYCAR Classic weekend provided a glimpse of what’s to come this weekend.
A lengthy red-flag stoppage of the 45-minute session Friday morning – necessitated when rookie Colton Herta suffered a mechanical issue on the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda stranded his car and left a trail of fluids on the permanent road course – allowed the remaining 23 entered drivers a single flying lap to close the session.
INDYCAR CLASSIC: Practice 1 results I Weekend schedule
The action was furious, but no one was able to surpass the lap that Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden laid down before the red flag. Newgarden, fresh off a win in the season opener two weeks ago, was clocked at 1 minute, 48.6567 seconds (112.980 mph) on the Circuit of The Americas permanent road course to take honors in the opening session.
Even though the practice was abbreviated due to the 16-minute red flag for Herta’s issue, it was a welcome sight for Newgarden to see his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet atop the timesheet. He was only 11th fastest in two days of open testing on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile circuit a month ago.
“I think Session 2 (Friday afternoon) is going to be more telling,” Newgarden said. “It’s always good to start with speed in Session 1, but we had a long red flag and not a lot of people got to run for very long. It’s probably not the best indicator, but a little bit of speed in the car at first is always a good sign.
“We’ve made some good progress compared to the test. Is it going to be enough for the whole weekend is really what we’re going to need to find out in the next session.”
With green-flag time limited, no driver turned more than 10 timed laps in the opening session. Newgarden’s best came on his third of just six laps completed. Despite the mechanical issue, Herta held the second-best lap time at the session’s end, at 1:48.7939 (112.837 mph).
“I went out of the pits, did a half a lap and the engine gave up,” the 18-year-old explained. “Hopefully we can get it ready for Practice 2, though. There was no indication before it happened.
“Believe it or not, it is tougher to make an engine than it seems,” Herta added, “and it’s tougher to make it at the highest level like this.”
Alexander Rossi was third on the speed chart with a lap of 1:49.0456 (112.577 mph) but opted not to make the flying lap at the end of the session in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda. Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth at 1:49.5011 (112.108 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was among the few to make a jump on the last-lap flyer. The driver of the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda climbed from near the bottom of the pack to ninth.
Two more practices await the drivers on Friday afternoon and both stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The first session runs from 3:05-4:05 p.m. ET and will be followed immediately by a 30-minute session starting at 4:10 p.m. that will permit live pit-stop practice and green-flag running on track. The latter practice takes the place of the typical race-morning warmup practice that will not be held this weekend.
A final pre-qualifying practice begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and streams on INDYCAR Pass. The battle for the NTT P1 Award, with three rounds of knockout qualifying, begins at 3 p.m. Saturday, airing live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sport Gold app and INDYCAR Pass.
Coverage of the 60-lap race commences at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Live timing and scoring supplemented by radio network commentary is available for all weekend sessions at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.