Newgarden paces WWTR practice

High heat and humidity greeted 24 NTT IndyCar Series drivers at World Wide Technology Raceway early Saturday afternoon for the one and only practice session of the one-day oval event. Josef Newgarden was fastest of the bunch, posting a best lap of 178.600mph in the No. 2 Chevy as he led a Team Penske 1-2 with teammate Scott McLaughlin close behind with a 177.669mph in the No. 3 Chevy.

They were chased by a quartet of Hondas as Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay was closest in P3 with the No. 28 (177.541mph), followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal in the No. 15 (177.473mph) and the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Dixon in the No. 9 (177.463mph) and Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8 (177.393mph).

Elsewhere in the field, Felix Rosenqvist led the Arrow McLaren SP team in P7 with his No. 7 Chevy (177.163mph) with teammate and title contender Pato O’Ward in P10 with the No. 5 Chevy (176.701mph). Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean impressed in the No. 51 Honda during his first official practice session on an oval where he went P11 (176.608mph), and back in P17, championship leader Alex Palou was searching for speed (175.906mph).

AS IT HAPPENED

With 90 minutes at their disposal, teams eased into the session as they got to work on learning how Firestone’s revised tires — with thinner tread and more grip on the right side — needed to be tuned for maximum duration and performance. Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett were the first to venture out and post meaningful times, and by the time wound down to 60 minutes remaining, it was Penske’s Josef Newgarden sitting atop the field with a best lap of 177.562mph.

Teams worked through more setup changes amid the caution periods for track inspections, and with the final return to green with 17 minutes to go, fans saw a flurry of action as drivers sought whatever clear spaces they could find to perform qualifying simulations on new tires. Penske’s McLaughlin leapt ahead of Newgarden for P1 with a 177.669mph tour of the 1.25-mile oval as the clock wound down to 10 minutes, and from there, Newgarden retook P1 a few minutes later with a 178.600mph lap which he held to the checkered flag.

TAKEAWAYS

Fastest Driver: Josef Newgarden, 178.600mph

Slowest Driver: Ed Carpenter, 173.129mph

Most Laps Turned: 74, Will Power

• Rough start to the event for Ed Carpenter Racing with Rinus VeeKay in P22 and team owner Carpenter last in P24.

• Similar note for A.J. Foyt Racing, which had a disappointing test at WWTR recently; Sebastien Bourdais was P21 and Dalton Kellett completed the ECR hug in P23.

• There were a few wiggles and worrisome moments, but no crashes or contact took place during the session.

• Once teams are done with qualifying, their cars will be impounded by IndyCar — a standard practice that began last year for single-day events. Where that has added meaning comes with the chassis setup choices that will be made for qualifying; since the cars cannot be altered before the race, most teams will avoid going for setups that reward short bursts of speed that would be hard to manage over a full stint in the race.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: Qualifying, 5:00 p.m. ET, Peacock