Pato O’Ward led the opening practice Friday morning for the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but another significant story was the resurgence of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
O’Ward drove to a best lap of 1 minute, 9.4981 seconds in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in the 75-minute session that started on a damp track due to morning rain but ended on dry asphalt.
SEE: Practice Results
“Every time we come here, if you gain a tenth (of a second), you gain six or seven spots – sometimes even more,” O’Ward said. “Qualifying is probably going to be like that. It’s a busy day. We’ve made some good changes to the car. What we need to do now is make sure we follow the track to where it’s going.”
Up next today is practice at 1 p.m. ET, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 4 p.m. (both sessions live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course that incorporates part of the famous oval on which the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge will be contested Sunday, May 28.
The 85-lap GMR Grand Prix is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).
Christian Lundgaard was second at 1:09.4988 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – just seven ten-thousands of a second behind O’Ward.
Lundgaard was one of two drivers from RLL – which largely has struggled in the first four races of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Jack Harvey was fifth overall at 1:09.5976 in the No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda fielded by RLL.
“Everyone knows I like this place,” Harvey said. “I just like being at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Everything about this place is cool. Naturally, I feel like I’ve always gone well here. The attitude is, ‘Let’s leave no stone unturned,’ as many times as we can. It’s a nice start to the weekend, for sure.”
Sandwiched between Lundgaard and Harvey were 2021 series champion Alex Palou, third at 1:09.5213 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda, and Scott McLaughlin, fourth at 1:09.5465 in the No. 3 Odyssey Battery Team Penske Chevrolet.
Three contenders for victory in this event, including reigning race winner Colton Herta, encountered various technical problems that limited their track time during practice.
Herta missed a significant chunk of the session while the Andretti Autosport crew fixed an oil leak on his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Two-time series champion Josef Newgarden sat in the pits for a while with a clutch problem on his No. 2 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet, and six-time series champion Scott Dixon also was stationary in the pits with an electrical problem on his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.