Colton Herta still hasn’t found the sweet spot in the No.88 Harding Steinbrenner car’s handling, but it was quick enough for him to post the fastest lap in Saturday’s final NTT IndyCar Series practice session at Portland International Raceway.
Herta reeled off a 57.9939s lap to with three minutes to go, and it proved to be the only sub-58s lap of the morning.
“We had new tires at the end, so that was what it was down to,” Herta said. “We’re not completely there yet – Turn 2 and Turn 7 we have some handling issues, but the car is so awesome everywhere else that we kind of make up for it.”
Josef Newgarden came closest to matching the HSR rookie with a best lap of 58.1022s, putting him just 0.07s clear of fellow Penske driver Will Power. The Australian might have gone quicker, but Newgarden went wide and into the dust in the final couple of minutes and rejoined immediately ahead of his teammate, forcing Power to take the long way around in order to pass him and complete his lap.
Scott Dixon was fourth-fastest ahead of Alexander Rossi. He, like Power, appeared to have better pace than his final position suggests, but lost some time to a big oversteer moment shortly after he bolted on his final set of tires, and then struggled to find a clear bit of track in the last two minutes.
That battle to escape traffic was a familiar one down the field: Sebastien Bourdias, who ended the morning 10th-fastest, was another who believed that he still has some untapped speed to lean on.
“I didn’t really get a great read,” he said. “We got a bunch of traffic and stuff. It’s always so difficult here to get a lap. I think if I’d put a lap together we’d probably be top five. But we’ll see who gets it right on the reds.”
The session was interrupted twice by red flags, the first of which came early on after a spin by Matheus Leist. That was followed later by Santino Ferrucci’s Dale Coyne Racing Honda grinding to a stop just after he exited the pits. “It just shut off,” he reported.
Immediately following the session, the entire pitlane assembled for a minute’s silence in tribute to French driver Anthoine Hubert, who was died earlier today from injuries sustained in a Formula 2 crash at Spa.