By: Spencer Neff
February 12, 2019|6:18 PM
Following an eventful off-season, the NTT IndyCar Series began their at 2019 Spring Training at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The first of two testing days at the 3.4-mile, 20-turn road course started with a two-hour morning session.
That session would be led by Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta. Late in the session, Herta clocked a best lap of 1:48.7443. Herta would be the fastest of the Honda drivers. Just behind Herta, fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson would also turn in an impressive performance.
In his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry, he recorded a best lap of 1:48.8392. Herta and Ericsson were the only drivers to run laps in the 1-minute, 48-second bracket.
Ericsson is one of three drivers with prior racing experience at COTA (Alexander Rossi and Max Chilton have also run Formula 1 at the track).
Leading the way for the field’s 11 Chevrolet-powered entries was 2017 Series Champion Josef Newgarden in third. Newgarden ended the morning with a best lap of 1:49.3531.
Following an absence from IndyCar competition since 2016, RC Enerson has returned with Carlin Racing.
Enerson completed his track time with 1:49.5431, the last car within a second on Herta’s fastest time. Enerson was also the last of four cars to run quicker than 112 MPH. He also logged the most laps of any driver (26).
Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach finished in fifth (1:49.8118). In all, the 24 cars were separated by 3.008 seconds on the final speed chart.
A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan would be last on the time sheet (1:51.7451). Kanaan and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey ran the fewest laps in the first session (7).
The lone red flag of the session came out just shy of 20 minutes in. Just past Turn 11, Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser stalled and needed assistance from the AMR IndyCar Safety Team.
Following the tow-in, the 2017 Indy Lights Champion did not return for the remainder of the session. Aside from Kaiser, all 24 drivers were able to record a lap during the session, with 364 laps being completed in all.
After a one-hour break and a 75-minute Indy Lights practice, Herta continued his domination. In the second session, he eclipsed his fast time from earlier in the day. The rookie ran his fastest lap of 1:46.6258 (11532), the only driver to run a lap in the 1:46 bracket and 115 MPH range.
2018 Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power finished the afternoon second to Herta and fastest of the Chevrolet entries. Power ran the second-quickest lap of 1:47.0144.
Fellow Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves finished third. However, Castroneves is scheduled to run just the two events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, as he did in 2018.
Right behind were the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of rookie Felix Rosenqvist and 2018 NTT IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon.
In all, 16 of the 25 drivers bested Herta’s time from the first session. Rosenqvist and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot turned the most laps of the session (38 each).
A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan would once again be the slowest in the field. The 2004 Series Champion ran just six laps (fewest in the field) and posted a best lap time of 1:51.0791, 4.4533 seconds behind Herta. In all, the 25-driver field combined to record 760 laps.
There were just two red flags during this open test session. Less than 30 minutes into the action, Ryan Hunter Reay stalled between Turn 16 and 17. Despite the incident, the 2012 Series Champion was able to keep going under power.
With less than two minutes remaining, Power spun in Turn 19. The incident would bring out the red flag and end the day.
Wednesday will see the second and final day of testing for the NTT IndyCar Series at Circuit of the Americas. There will be sessions from 10 a.m.-12
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Header Image By John Cote/INDYCAR Media