It was all about rookies in Friday’s opening practice period for Saturday night’s Bommarito 500 as Santino Ferrucci and Marcus Ericsson showed the way around Gateway’s fast oval.
Continuing to show his prowess at turning left, Ferrucci threw down a lap of 184.804 mph (24.3501s) in his Cly-Del Honda to lead all 22 runners.
“We didn’t test and I don’t have any sim (simulator) experience here but my team just gave me a great car,” said the 21-year-old Connecticut native who finished fourth last week at Pocono. “I was able to work on my driving in that session and I think we’ve got some speed. I’ve been looking forward to another short oval since we ran at Iowa.”
Ericsson, who had a seventh at Texas, was right behind his fellow rookie at 184.529 mph in his Arrow SPM Honda.
“I didn’t know what to expect about ovals,” admitted the veteran of Formula 1. “We’ve had some good runs on the ovals and I think we’ve got a good car here — but it’s only the first session.”
Five-time IndyCar champ Scott Dixon was third fastest at 184.433 mph in Chip Ganassi Racing’s PNC Honda and point leader Josef Newgarden was fourth at 184.348 mph in Team Penske’s PPG Chevrolet.
Alexander Rossi, who trails Newgarden by 35 points with three races remaining, turned in the fifth-best lap of 183.685 mph in Andretti Autosport’s NAPA Honda while Pocono winner and reigning Gateway champ Will Power was sixth at 183.607 mph in Penske’s Verizon Chevy.
Simon Pagenaud, who sits third in the standings 40 points behind his teammate Newgarden, was only 14th among the 22 cars with a lap of 182.342 mph.
UP NEXT: Qualifying is set for 5:30 E.T. and airs live on NBCSN.