Palou leads opening Detroit practice

The opening practice session at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix ended in a fashion that was mightily familiar to the last as reigning race winner Alex Palou was first among the 27 drivers following Friday’s 75-minute opening practice session with a lap of 1m01.721s in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward shadowed Palou in second with a 1m01.731s lap produced with the No. 5 Honda and Andretti Global’s Colton Herta joined them on the same tenth with a 1m07.796s in the No. 26 Honda to complete an incredibly close top three on the unforgiving street circuit.

“It was busy,” Palou said. “Visited the runoff areas a couple of times here and there just trying to find the limit and the grip of the track,” Palou said. “The track is a lot grippier than it was last year. I think we were like two seconds faster than what we did in practice one last year. The car feels good so far. Pretty happy.”


Two significant meetings with the walls took place during IndyCar’s lone outing on Friday. Andretti’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to introduce his right-rear wheel and suspension to the Turn 7 wall, which broke the assembly and sent him back to the pits from which he did not return. The second was Dale Coyne Racing’s Jack Harvey, who ricocheted the No. 18 Honda off the inside of Turn 7 and met the outside wall — where Ericsson hit — with the right-front suspension, which folded inwards and did additional damage to the car’s floor. Both drivers were uninjured.

“I just caught the inside wall at Turn 7 with promoted me to the outside wall,” Harvey said. “Totally my mistake and I’m sorry to the team.”

Harvey would post the 26th-fastest lap of the day, less than four-tenths faster than new teammate Tristan Vautier who is making his first IndyCar start since 2017.

As the green flag waved over the field, Herta was first to go quickly once most drivers ventured out to set their first competitive laps. His 1m03.0s lap held until Palou set the new standard with a 1m02.6s and Herta fired back with a 1m02.097s after 25 minutes were consumed.

The running order of Herta, Palou, and Scott McLaughlin held for most of the opening 45 minutes until Will Power jumped to second with a 1m02.4474s and McLaughlin improved to retain third with a 1m02.4845s.

Christian Lundgaard also got himself into the mix in fourth with a 1m02.4929s to knock Palou and his improved 1m02.5507 to fifth. The beleaguered Ericsson capped the top six with a 1m02.7515s lap as the 45 minutes ended and the session went into split 10-minute groups to close the day’s activities.

Compiling a list of drivers among the 27 who didn’t lock a front brake and go sailing into a runoff area was seemingly impossible as most — if not all — paid at least one visit to something other than the racing line where a flick-spin or the use of reverse gear was required to continue.

The 45 minutes were mostly clean, with the exception of a light clash between Josef Newgarden and Kyle Kirkwood which led to Newgarden’s car taking on light damage while making contact with Kirkwood on the left and a wall on the right.

Almost halfway through the first 10-minute session, Christian Rasmussen stalled and required a red flag to have the AMR Safety Team restart his car and send the rookie on his way. At the point of the red flag where drivers looked to use the one set of sticky Firestone alternate tires — the only time they’re available prior to qualifying — nobody had improved upon Herta’s 1m02.021s lap.

With half the field filtering back out with five minutes and change left on the clock, Newgarden was the first mover, improving to fifth with a 1m02.5320s lap. Kirkwood, who lost a decent portion of the opening session with engine woes, leapt to eighth as Palou retook first with a 1m01.7210s.

Kirkwood was hard on it with his next lap, taking second with a 1m01.8103s lap. The checkered flag waved on the session with Kyffin Simpson sitting backwards, stalled, and unscathed at Turn 7, which happened moments after Ericsson went through the same corner and smashed his right-rear suspension against the wall.

O’Ward’s first flying lap in the second session on the alternate tires took him to second overall with a 1m01.7315s lap, just over one-hundredth of a second shy of Palou.

Another red flag was necessary with six minutes left after Harvey met wall and crawled to a stop.

Action resumed and Herta claimed fourth with a1m02.0219s lap directly behind teammate Kirkwood. The greatest leap came from Santino Ferrucci who went to seventh with a 1m02.3277s lap to follow Penske affiliates Newgarden and McLaughlin.

UP NEXT: FP2, 9:10am ET, streaming on Peacock


Story originally appeared on Racer