Josef Newgarden, the winner of this year’s Indianapolis 500, showcased his skills once again as he topped the 90-minute practice session at Iowa Speedway. With a best lap time of 18.242s and a speed of 176.428mph, Newgarden proved his dominance on the 0.875-mile oval. Throughout his career, Newgarden has led an impressive 1,056 laps and has secured four wins in just 12 starts at this venue.
The early stages of the practice session saw Ed Carpenter from his own team take the lead with a speed of 172.678mph. However, he was closely followed by Alex Palou from Chip Ganassi Racing, who was trailing by just 0.3mph. It was Marcus Ericsson, Palou’s teammate, who eventually claimed the top spot at the 10-minute mark with a speed of 173.811mph.
Fierce Competition and Tire Degradation
As the session progressed, several drivers, including Ryan Hunter-Reay from ECR and Colton Herta from Andretti Autosport, began setting quick lap times. However, it was Newgarden who first entered the 176mph range, securing the fastest time of the practice session with a speed of 176.428mph.
Throughout the session, teams focused on evaluating tire degradation, a crucial factor on Iowa’s well-worn asphalt. Even Newgarden, with his impressive lap time, experienced a significant drop in speed when using used tires, losing over 25mph from his fastest time.
The practice session had its fair share of incidents. Agustin Canapino spun his Juncos Hollinger Racing entry at Turn 1, triggering the first yellow flag of the day. Fortunately, he managed to avoid colliding with Alexander Rossi’s Arrow McLaren.
Conor Daly, substituting for the injured Simon Pagenaud at Meyer Shank Racing, opted to use new rubber midway through the session. This decision paid off as Daly climbed to fourth place with a lap time of 174.003mph.
With just one-third of the session remaining, more drivers decided to switch to new tires. Marcus Ericsson secured second place with a speed of 175.887mph, while Pato O’Ward from Arrow McLaren, who had not previously tested at Iowa Speedway, claimed fourth place with a lap time of 175.470mph. O’Ward also showcased impressive pace over five and ten laps during his run.
As the minutes ticked away, tension grew on the track. Colton Herta narrowly avoided hitting the wall at Turn 4, while his teammate Romain Grosjean had a close call with Alex Palou at Turn 3.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Santino Ferrucci’s AJ Foyt Racing entry caused a brief yellow flag when he ran high through Turn 2.
In the final moments of the practice session, Scott McLaughlin from Team Penske opted for new tires and secured second place with a lap time of 175.968mph, trailing Newgarden by just 0.0477s. Takuma Sato also made the same choice, resulting in a sixth-place finish with a speed of 175.288mph. Christian Lundgaard, the winner in Toronto, claimed seventh place for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Marcus Ericsson, who finished in third place, completed the most laps during the practice session, with a total of 126 laps under his belt.
Qualifying for the races will take place on Saturday at 8:30am local time (9:30am ET). The starting grids will be determined by each driver’s first and second tours of a two-lap run.