Team Penske finished the rain-delayed opening session for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 with all three cars in the top four, led by Josef Newgarden, but Scott McLaughlin suffered a spin that sent teammate Will Power into the wall and into the path of Marcus Ericsson.
Almost eight hours after it was originally scheduled to occur, IndyCar’s one-hour opening practice session at World Wide Technology Raceway commenced at 6:50 p.m. local time, with the rain finally gone for a while.
Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport was the first driver to break into the 178mph zone, with a 25.2607s lap of the 1.25-mile candy corn-shaped oval. Then Newgarden – chasing a remarkable record of winning all oval races in an IndyCar season – clocked a 180.040mph effort, ducking beneath 25s.
Alexander Rossi then moved to second for Arrow McLaren but then was the first driver to switch to the alternate tires, a new venture for Firestone and IndyCar this weekend. While he was testing the durability of this softer rubber, his top time was eclipsed by Scott McLaughlin – who will have to take a nine-place grid penalty for an early engine change – and Felix Rosenqvist in another McLaren. Rossi completed over 30 laps on the softer rubber, but felt the fronts going away from lap 24.
Takuma Sato became the fastest of the Chip Ganassi Racing cars with a 179mph lap, moving into third, as last year’s WWTR polesitter Will Power ensured all three Penskes were in the top four.
With 10 minutes to go the yellows came out when Sato appeared to graze the wall through Turns 3 and 4, but the two-time Indy 500 winner kept the sidewalls of his reds paint-free. Colton Herta also survived an amazing fishtail moment when his car snapped every which way, but after pitting he continued unfazed.
With Sato not rubbing the wall, the session of course resumed swiftly, but the cars only had a couple of laps to get up to speed before there was a significant shunt. McLaughlin spun coming out of pitlane, firing across the grass onto the track. Edging high to ensure he avoided his stricken teammate, Power hit the Turn 2 wall hard enough to collapse his right-side suspension. He spun out of control and into the path of Marcus Ericsson, the Ganassi car impacting Power hard nose-to-nose. The pair was thus precluded from taking part in Saturday night’s high-line practice session.
Also abandoning his hopes of taking part in the high-line practice was Graham Rahal, who felt a major handling imbalance on his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda which could not be cured by the end of the session. He was 5.5mph off teammate Christian Lundgaard, and 7.5mph adrift of newest teammate Conor Daly, who did a fine job in his first session as replacement for Jack Harvey and wound up eighth.