Colton Herta opened this weekend’s NTT IndyCar Series round at Portland with the fastest time in Friday morning’s opening practice session.
Herta stopped the clocks with a best of 57.4293s to put himself 0.1s clear of Alexander Rossi, with Scott Dixon a further 0.2s back to finish third fastest.
The morning had two main themes: a slippery surface, and a strong start for Honda. The story of the latter was told on the timing screens, where points leader Josef Newgarden went fourth fastest to stand as Chevy’s sole representative in the top 10. Penske teammate Will Power came close to joining him though, falling just 0.04s shot of bumping Gateway winner Takuma Sato out of P10, and Simon Pagenaud was 0.9s behind Power for 12th fastest.
But for many, the challenge of keeping the car pointed forwards was just as significant as making it go fast. James Hinchcliffe was the best illustration of that, bookending his session with spins but still finding enough time to rattle off the sixth-fastest lap of the morning in the Arrow SPM car (behind Marco Andretti, whose performance made Andretti Autosport the only team to have two cars in the top five).
At least half a dozen other drivers survived an array of half-spins and wheels-in-gravel moments, all of which ultimately proved to be harmless, although Santino Ferrucci booked himself an early place on the highlight reel with a one-handed save of a lurid sideways moment in the final minutes.
Elsewhere, Max Chilton and Pagenaud gave each other a scare when Chilton exited the pits directly into the Indy 500 winner’s path with three minutes remaining. Neither seemed inclined to make way for the other, and Pagenaud muscled the Carlin out of the way to claim the corner.
Conor Daly’s late call-up as replacement for Alfa-bound Marcus Ericsson at Arrow SPM ended with him at the bottom of the tables, 1.7s down on the ultimate pace and 0.19s behind Charlie Kimball who, coincidentally, was his teammate five days ago at Carlin.
UP NEXT: Practice 2 at 5:40 p.m. ET