The NTT IndyCar Series’ return to a newly-paved Road America produced an incredible display of speed led by Alexander Rossi who topped the 27-car field with a best lap of 1m41.7790s.
With Dario Franchitti’s all-time IndyCar lap record of 1m39.866s from the CART IndyCar Series in 2000 with his Reynard-Honda as the standard to challenge, Rossi was closest in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevy as the group bolted on Firestone’s faster alternate tires to complete their running with qualifying simulations. Rossi’s 2022 pole lap of 1m44.8656s gave a good indicator of how much speed the new tarmac and Firestone’s new tires produced as the American knocked more than three seconds off his most impressive lap prior to the repave.
“It was interesting for us, having tested here last week, to understand the differences between the tires we used last week and the tire that Firestone brought for this weekend, because no one that tested here last week had that tire,” Rossi said. “Understanding how those offset and then trying the Firestone Reds for the first time was important. It was an interesting session and there’s definitely a lot to digest overnight.”
Behind Rossi was Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas in second with a 1m41.8652s produced in the No. 18 Honda and in third, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou weighed in with a 1m41.9486s lap in the No. 10 Honda.
Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon nearly matched him with a 1m41.9544s in the No. 9 Honda to claim fourth, and closing out the top six, Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward registered a 1m41.9778s in the No. 5 Chevy and CGR’s Marcus Ericsson conjured a 1m42.0426s tour in the No. 8 Honda.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which made a few engineering and mechanical changes coming into a Road America, showed promise with Christian Lundgaard (P7) and Graham Rahal (P11), and of the surprises, Team Penske’s recent test at the track did not deliver the pace it was expecting as its fastest driver was Scott McLaughlin (P15).
Elsewhere, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s debut for Ed Carpenter Racing went better than expected (P22) in his first IndyCar road racing outing in 18 months. He and teammate Rinus VeeKay (P26) have plenty of work to do with the team before Saturday as the group looks to solve some of its season-long issues in the speed department.
UP NEXT: FP2, Saturday at 10:55am ET