Alex Palou

Alex Palou climbed to the top of the time sheet in the last practice before NTT P1 Award qualifying Friday for the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Palou topped the 45-minute session with a lap of 1 minute, 9.9383 seconds in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda. He was third in the session this morning on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at 1:09.5213.

SEE: Practice Results

“It’s always fun when you’re fast,” Palou said. “The car was great this morning, and it’s a little bit more comfortable now in practice 2. Hopefully we can keep up the same pace in qualifying. At the end of the day, it’s great to be P1 in practice, but it’s qualifying that matters.”

NTT P1 Award qualifying starts at 4 p.m. ET this afternoon (live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). The 85-lap race starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (live on NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).

Palou wasn’t the only quick driver in the morning session to reaffirm his speed this afternoon under increasingly cloudy skies. Four of the five quickest drivers this morning also finished in the top five this afternoon.

Christian Lundgaard ended up second again in this session with a lap of 1:10.2580 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda, validating the resurgence Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing showed this morning. His teammate Jack Harvey also duplicated his morning effort, again finishing fifth at 1:10.3038 in the No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda.

RLL’s driving trio of Lundgaard, Harvey and Graham Rahal has a best finish of sixth this season, by Rahal at the season opener in March at St. Petersburg and matched by Lundgaard late last month at Barber Motorsports Park.

“The car is fast; it’s as simple as that,” Lundgaard said. “We do have a bit of a concern with braking issues, which we’re trying to figure out. But the car is fast, and we’ve been up there both sessions now. So, I’m quite confident for quali.”

Sandwiched between Lundgaard and Harvey were morning leader Pato O’Ward, third at 1:10.2604 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, and rookie Marcus Armstrong, fourth at 1:10.3022 in the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda. Armstrong joined Palou as the second Chip Ganassi Racing driver in the top five.

Mechanical problems struck Kyle Kirkwood and Helio Castroneves in this session after Colton Herta, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon also dealt with technical gremlins during the first practice.

Long Beach winner Kirkwood participated in the session despite a clutch problem that forced the Andretti Autosport crew to push his No. 27 AutoNation Honda out of his pit stall to get drive. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves’ practice ended when a cloud of white smoke trailed from his No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda about 22 minutes into the session. Castroneves told NBC his engine expired and that HPD and team officials were installing a new engine before qualifying.