Smooth sailing continued on the new asphalt of Road America for Alexander Rossi during pre-qualifying practice Saturday morning. But the same can’t be said for NTT INDYCAR SERIES champions Scott Dixon, Will Power and Alex Palou.
Rossi led the incident-strewn session with a top lap of 1:40.9112 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, nearly a second quicker than his overall leading time of 1:41.7790 on Friday as times continue to drop on the freshly repaved 14-turn, 4.014-mile circuit. Rossi won the pole for this race last year at 1:44.8656, a time that will be obliterated during NTT P1 Award qualifying at 1:55 p.m. (live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). The track record of 1:39.866 set by Dario Franchitti in 2000 with a different chassis and engine formula in also is in jeopardy.
The cars of six-time series champion Dixon and two-time and reigning series champion Power both suffered heavy damage in a collision between the duo. That incident came just a few minutes after Palou spun into the barrier, incurring significant damage to his car.
Colton Herta ended up second at 1:41.0584 despite two spins in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Felix Rosenqvist was the second Arrow McLaren driver in the top three, third at 1:41.2572 in the No. 6 onsemi Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
David Malukas, second in practice Friday, continued his strong pace by ending up fourth at 1:41.3010 in the No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda. Rookie Marcus Armstrong led the powerful Ganassi team in fifth at 1:41.3488 in the No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda.
The Power-Dixon collision was the flashpoint of an incident-strewn session that included more than 25 minutes under a red flag.
Eighteen minutes into the session, six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Dixon spun in his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn 12, also known as Canada Corner. He rejoined the new asphalt surface off the racing line when the No. 28 Delaware Life/DHL Honda of Romain Grosjean passed. Dixon then veered into the racing line and collided with the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet of Power, who was trailing Grosjean.
Both cars careened into the barrier, stopping in the runoff grass with heavy damage. An agitated Power climbed from the wreckage to confront Dixon with demonstrative finger pointing and a quick shove. Neither driver was hurt.
That incident was the second collision involving a former series champion from Chip Ganassi Racing in the session. Current championship leader and 2021 series champion Alex Palou side-swiped the tire barrier in Turn 14 with force after spinning off course seven minutes after practice started. Palou was unhurt, but his No. 10 The American Legion Honda incurred significant damage.
Palou’s incident came moments after a near-miss accident by Herta. He did a complete spin off track in Turn 7 just moments into the session but only hit a trackside sign, continuing to the pits and then returning to turn more practice laps.
Herta also triggered a red flag with six minutes remaining when he spun in Turn 12, with his car stalling.
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.