Conor Daly topped the times on a Friday evening practice session at Gateway that delivered mixed emotions for Carlin, and an unwelcome scare for championship leader and race polesitter Josef Newgarden.
Daly (pictured) unseated Newgarden to stake his claim to the top spot with seven minutes left on the clock, and improved on his next lap to set the benchmark at 181.931 mph. Would it be fast enough to keep him there during the last few minutes? We’ll never know, because less than a minute after Daly set his best time, Carlin teammate Charlie Kimball ran high out of the final corner and pounded the wall hard enough to trash the right-front corner of his car and bring proceedings to a premature end.
This was bad news for Team Penske, which had spent the preceding minutes frantically trying to diagnose a murmur from Newgarden’s engine. Chevy engineers replaced the coil pack and had just gotten the No. 2 fired up for an exploratory return to the circuit when Kimball had his accident. Now, the team that claimed pole just a short time ago now face a long night trying to determine whether they need to change the engine.
“It was something very faint,” said Newgarden. “It felt like a small hesitation. It’s normal; it’s big-time auto racing and you’re pushing these things to the limit. Maybe I was going too fast!
“The car felt awesome. Everything felt great. Chevy’s going to have a look and make sure we’re ready to rock; just trying to diagnose it here and make sure we’re in good order. But I’m feeling very confident. We’re doing everything we can to give [Chevy] information, they’ll look everything over and make sure we’re all right, and we’ll be ready to race tomorrow. No problem from my end. We’re going to be ready to rock tomorrow night.”
Down at the other end of pitlane, Daly acknowledged the importance of a strong session for a driver looking for a way back into the series full-time.
“That’s where we wanted to qualify,” said Daly, who will line up 18th tomorrow after catching a patch of oil during qualifying. “That was such a shame, because I love this track, and I know this car is fast and our long run pace was not bad. I’m just happy to be here and thankful to do this race. I’ve always wanted to do this race. I’m excited for tomorrow. It’s going to be a lot of work, though. Days like this are really important; we want to be able to do something strong every weekend. I’m trying to fight for a full-time seat. I want to be here with these guys fighting to win races.”
Zach Veach occupied the top of the timing screens for the first half of the session, and was quick enough to still be camped in third when Kimball hit the wall. Behind him, RLL’s Takuma Sato and Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five.
UP NEXT: Bommarito Auto Group 500, Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN