Drivers and teams in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES already have raced this season on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course during the GMR Grand Prix on May 14, but that didn’t prevent eight drivers from turning laps during a private test Thursday, June 23 on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course in preparation for the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday, July 30 at the track.
Official times and speeds were not released, but here are five takeaways based on media reports and social media traffic from the test:
Herta Stays on Pace on IMS Road Course
Colton Herta won the GMR Grand Prix during an inspired drive in mixed conditions in April, and that speed stayed with him during sunny conditions Thursday in which the temperature tickled 90 degrees.
Herta was quickest in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, nearly two-tenths of a second ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi.
The GMR Grand Prix victory is a highlight of an otherwise disappointing season so far for Herta, who was expected to contend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship but is 11th in the standings after eight of 17 races. Still, Herta has the natural speed to get hot and reel off a string of consecutive wins to climb back into title contention.
His pace Thursday and victory in May prove more success on the IMS road course during the Gallagher Grand Prix could be an important keystone in any title charge.
Rossi Resurgence Continues
Alexander Rossi never is content with being second on any speed chart, his final location Thursday in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. He was nearly two-tenths of a second slower than test leader and Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta.
But Rossi can take heart that he was quicker than Arrow McLaren SP duo Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, third and fourth at the test, respectively. Rossi also was quicker than teammate Romain Grosjean, who was fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
That indicates Rossi’s recent resurgence should continue through the summer. He has clawed out of a deep early-season hole with six consecutive finishes of 11th or better since April, including fifth in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, second at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear and third in the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR.
Rossi has climbed to seventh in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings after sitting 27th after two races. Expect that ascent to continue.
Good news for Felix Rosenqvist: McLaren Racing announced this week he will stay with the team in the 2023. Bad news for NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans: The team didn’t say whether the amiable Swede will stay with Arrow McLaren SP for another season or move back to Formula E with McLaren’s new team in the all-electric global series.
Like Alexander Rossi, Rosenqvist has reversed a dismal early season lately with strong, consistent results. He has produced four consecutive top-10 finishes since May, climbing to eighth in the standings.
That surge continued Thursday during testing. While Rosenqvist was fourth-quickest among the eight drivers on track in the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, he was less than a half-tenth of a second behind teammate Pato O’Ward and slightly more than a half-tenth behind Rossi, who was second.
Rosenqvist also was the workhorse at the test, turning 93 laps, more than any other driver.
If Rosenqvist makes way for another driver next season at AMSP, he looks to leave the series with his head held high if this renaissance continues.
The Kids Are All Right
Devlin DeFrancesco and Kyle Kirkwood were the only rookies testing Thursday at IMS, but they hung close with the senior set.
DeFrancesco ended up sixth overall in the No. 29 PowerTap Honda, about .25 of a second behind teammate Grosjean, who was fifth. Kirkwood worked on a variety of setups and ended up sixth in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, about a half-tenth behind DeFrancesco.
After two weekends off, racing will resume Sunday, July 3 with The Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the All-New 2023 Civic Type R (noon ET, NBC, Peacock Premium, INDYCAR Radio Network).
But two teams – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Juncos Hollinger Racing – will squeeze in a private test Monday, June 27 at Sebring International Raceway. The bumpy mix of concrete and asphalt on the historic Florida road course simulates the challenges of street circuits about as well as any permanent road course in North America.
RLL will roll out its three-driver lineup of Jack Harvey, Christian Lundgaard and Graham Rahal. JHR will provide Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires standout Benjamin Pedersen with his first drive in NTT INDYCAR SERIES machinery.