The highly anticipated Indycar practice session at Gateway International Raceway got off to a slow start due to a heavy downpour and strong winds, which caused an eight-hour delay. When the track finally opened, it provided an exciting and action-packed 60-minute session for the drivers and fans.
Newgarden Tops the Time Sheets
Despite the weather delay, Josef Newgarden wasted no time in showing why he is considered the oval dominator in Indycar. Newgarden, a four-time winner at Gateway, set the fastest lap of the session with a time of 24.9944s at a blistering speed of 180.040mph. This put him in first place for Team Penske, ahead of Alexander Rossi’s Arrow McLaren car by a margin of 0.2425s.
Introducing the Alternate Tires
This practice session also marked the debut of Firestone’s softer alternate tires on an oval. All teams were required to run these tires at some point during the session. Most teams started with the primary tires and then switched to the red-walled alternates in the second half of the session to assess their performance.
Strong Performances from Ericsson and Herta
Early in the session, Marcus Ericsson set the pace for Chip Ganassi Racing with a lap time of 25.3202s, reaching a speed of 177.724mph in his Honda-powered car. However, he was soon overtaken by his future teammate Colton Herta from Andretti Autosport, who recorded a lap time of 25.2607s at 178.142mph.
Dramatic Moments and Caution Flags
As the session progressed, there were several dramatic moments that kept the fans on the edge of their seats. Herta had a heart-stopping moment at Turn 4 on the alternate tires but managed to avoid a collision with the wall. However, the caution flag was eventually waved when Takuma Sato ran wide in Turn 4, although he claimed that he didn’t make contact with the wall.
The session took another dramatic turn when Scott McLaughlin, driving for Team Penske, spun into the grass on the inside of Turn 2. In an attempt to avoid McLaughlin, Will Power hit the wall and spun, and then Marcus Ericsson collided with him at a high speed. This series of events brought the session to an early end.
Newgarden Claims the Top Spot
Despite the eventful session, Josef Newgarden emerged as the fastest driver, finishing almost a tenth of a second ahead of Scott McLaughlin, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, and Alexander Rossi. They will now have a “high-line” practice session later in the evening to lay rubber on the track and improve the conditions for Sunday’s race.
In addition to the on-track action, Indycar officials announced nine-position starting grid penalties for Scott McLaughlin, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, Kyle Kirkwood, and Agustin Canapino. These penalties were imposed due to unapproved engine changes since the last round at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
With the practice session now complete, teams and drivers will have to regroup and prepare for the upcoming race at Gateway International Raceway. The eventful session provided valuable insights into car performance, tire strategies, and overall track conditions, setting the stage for an exciting race day.