Simon Pagenaud “allowed” Penske Sprint Cup stablemate Brad Keselowski to borrow his No. 22 Menards Chevy during the series’ test on June 15, but he took it back Friday during the Verizon IndyCar Series’ first practice at Road America, setting the fastest lap with a time of 1m43.480s (139.644mph).
“What a fantastic place this is especially with the Indy cars,” Pagenaud said on the NBCSN broadcast. “These days we go so fast through the corners you have to brake really deep and you barely have time to downshift all the gears to the apex so it’s intense but I mean the scenery’s beautiful and I think we’re going to have a really good race. The straights are so long with the drag that we have that It’ll produce good racing.”
Carlos Munoz was second quickest, .0756s behind Pagenaud. Jack Hawskworth, one of the only drivers who did not test at the track (but drove in sports cars in 2014), was third quickest. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon (1m43.8849s) and Tony Kanaan (1m44.1246) rounded out the top five in a caution-free 75-minute session.
Josef Newgarden, who was cleared to practice Friday after fracturing his right clavicle and suffering a small fracture in his right hand, clearly pushed hard in the session and ran as high as fifth. He could be seen holding his wrist after his first five-lap stint, but when he went back out he jumped up to P5, settling in as 10th-quickest with a best lap of 1m, 44.4318, just under a second off Pagenaud. He had a few moments – a spin in Turn 7 15 minutes into the session and went a bit wide going over the Turn 3 chicane.
“Man it felt better than I expected,” he told RACER. “I’m happy and I think we’re going to be OK. I ran a lot of laps and didn’t have any issues so I have to thank all the people who helped me get back in the car.”
When Newgarden jumped out of the car, he told NBCSN the car felt good.
“I’m sad I missed that test but I think JR did a great job getting us where we need to be,” Newgarden said. “Me personally, I was trying to focus a lot on what I needed to to get through it, and I felt all right. It’s going to be hard I think but I’m hoping I have enough to muster it for the weekend.
“I’m going to be pushing for it. I gotta convince more people, I can assume. Laugh I don’t think it’s going to be easy but I think I’ve got enough to make it happen. I want to have enough to make it happen.”
Graham Rahal suffered an electrical issue and did not get a lap in until there were 20 minutes remaining. His Rahal Letterman Lanigan crew changed steering wheel, Cosworth took out his ECU, reset and put it back in. When he took to the track, he jumped to P4 and ended ninth fastest.
A second practice session is scheduled at 4 p.m. ET.