By: Tanner Watkins
May 10, 2019 | 10:00 AM
If fans were looking for a shake-up at the top of the INDYCAR Grand Prix leaderboard, they had just that until the dying moments of this weekend’s first practice session.
When a red flag flew with just two minutes left in the opening NTT IndyCar Series practice on Friday, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was quickest on the leaderboard. Eventually, the AMR Safety Team retrieved the stalled car of Helio Castroneves and IndyCar Race Control allowed an out lap and one full lap for the 24 drivers.
After all was said and done, it was a familiar face atop the board as Will Power led the session in his blacked-out Team Penske machine. The defending INDYCAR Grand Prix (and Indianapolis 500) winner posted a time of 1m9.2890s to best Pigot’s 1m9.4256s lap.
Power was pleased with the introduction of Firestone’s new primary tire compound for the INDYCAR Grand Prix – at least following first practice. He also noted that the No. 12 team and the rest of Team Penske has some searching to do before a tight qualifying session this afternoon.
“The tire feels awesome,” Power noted of the tire. “It is way better than last year.” In response to his car’s handling, Power stated “It is kind of a different set-up… I had a lot of push and got closer there at the end but we still need to think about what we need to do to be better.”
In the session’s early going, Honda was dominant by taking the top six spots for the first 30 minutes of track time. It wasn’t until the end that Chevrolet worked Power, Pigot and Josef Newgarden (P5, 1m9.5282s) into the top five to make things respectable.
Still, Simon Pagenaud was the only other driver in the top ten for Chevrolet as Honda ended up with six representatives in the first ten spots.
Scott Dixon was quickest in class for Honda, leading the way with a lap of 1m9.4536s that put him third-quickest in the overall classification. His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist slotted in closely behind as fourth-fastest, his best lap registering a time of 1m9.5272s.
Rounding out the top ten, Andretti Autosport enjoyed a solid start to the weekend by placing Ryan Hunter-Reay (P6, 1m9.5339s), Zach Veach (P7, 1m9.5356s) and Alexander Rossi (P10, 1m9.6213s) in the better half of the field. Takuma Sato was ninth-fastest for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with a best lap of 1m9.6161s.
A few drivers found their way off of the track during first practice, though no wall contact was made. The session was halted for the stalled cars of Castroneves and, earlier in the session, Patricio O’Ward.
Castroneves struggled in this first session, registering a best lap of 1m10.2992s that was second-to-last – only ahead of A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan.
Rosenvist completed the most laps in the opening session with 23 circuits posted while the next closest competitors were Power and Jack Harvey with 19 laps complete. All drivers posted times on the Firestone primary tire compound in this session, which featured cold temperatures in the low 50s to start the day.
The NTT IndyCar Series will be back on track at 12:30 PM Eastern for their second and final full-length practice of the race weekend. IndyCar’s drivers will take part in an autograph session from 11:00 to 11:45 AM Eastern for those that may be reading from the track, so make sure to check that out as well.
Qualifying for tomorrow’s INDYCAR Grand Prix will be held this afternoon with group one rolling off at 4:35 PM Eastern. All sessions can be seen on NBC Sports Gold’s INDYCAR Pass with coverage also being provided by the IndyCar Radio Network.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for full coverage of all things Indy during this 2019 month of May.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.