New pavement or old, Alexander Rossi knows how to get around Road America with pure speed.
Rossi led the opening practice Friday for the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America presented by AMR at the freshly repaved track, turning a top lap of 1 minute, 41.7790 seconds in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Rossi won this NTT INDYCAR SERIES race by 28.4 seconds – one of the largest margins in recent series history – in 2019 on the previous asphalt covering the 14-turn, 4.014-mile road course.
SEE: Practice Results
He's with the Arrow McLaren team now, after winning the race in 2019 and the pole in 2022 with Andretti Autosport, but Rossi remains at home at the picturesque “America’s National Park of Speed.”
“Really you don't do anything different,” Rossi said about the new pavement. “I think it's just there's more potential from the car and the tire, so you have to have probably a higher level of commitment than you did last year.
“Last year with the surface, I never thought it was particularly bumpy, but the car slid around on the track quite a bit more than it does now. You feel the car digging in more than you did before. But everyone has that advantage now. Really, your approach is no different whether it was low grip or high grip.”
David Malukas showed signs of emerging from a recent slump by ending up second at 1:41.8652 in the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda. Malukas has finished 20th or lower in his last three starts this season.
Championship leader Alex Palou, winner of two of the last three races this season, ended up third at 1:41.9486 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and fellow series champion Scott Dixon was fourth at 1:41.9544 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Pato O’Ward rounded out the top five at 1:41.9778 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, putting two Arrow McLaren cars in the top five.
Up next is practice at 10:55 a.m. ET Saturday, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 1:55 p.m. (both live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). It’s a safe bet that Rossi’s 2022 pole time of 1:44.8656 will crumble in qualifying, and Rossi thinks Dario Franchitti’s track record of 1:39.866 set with a different chassis and engine formula in 2000 also is in jeopardy.
“We can do that,” Rossi said, smiling.
Marcus Ericsson was sixth in practice at 1:42.0426 in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz, putting four of the top five drivers in the standings in the top six when the time clocks stopped on the 75-minute session. The notable absentee was recent Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner and championship second place Josef Newgarden, who was 16th at 1:42.6013 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
Live coverage of the 55-lap race starts at 1 p.m. ET Sunday (USA, INDYCAR Radio Network). It’s the eighth of 17 races this season as the series heads toward its midway point.