Colton Herta carried his speed from Thursday’s open test into the opening IndyCar practice session for this weekend’s season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, setting the morning’s fastest time — and then beaching himself in the gravel.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Herta earned P1 with a 1m10.7335s to beat Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist by just 0.07s, kicking up a lot of gravel in the process as he explored the track’s limits. It didn’t really bite him until right at the end, though, when he lost it at the top of the Corkscrew and brought out a red flag in the final minute.
Behind Rosenqvist, Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci made it a rookie (and Honda) 1-2-3, with Team Penske’s Will Power ending the morning as first of the veterans in P4.
It was a mixed morning for the title contenders. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the fastest of them in P6 at 1m11.1581s, with teammate and points leader Josef Newgarden three places further down the timing screens.
“The car’s pretty good,” said Newgarden. “It’s a typical first session in IndyCar — no one wants to go out, and then when we do go out we get all the reds. So we’re taking the medicine there — if you don’t want to deal with the reds, you should go out early.
“We didn’t get a great run. I thought the car felt OK. We tried some stuff from last night and got an idea of what we did and didn’t like. We’ll go back out this afternoon and hopefully get a clearer run. I think were kind of in the window with the (track) time we had yesterday, but we’re going to use that extra time in the second session and maybe do another long run. I think degradation is going to be really bad here.”
Scott Dixon’s outside chance at securing a sixth championship this weekend began with his going 14th fastest, which might not have been headline-grabbing, but it was a far better start to the day than Alexander Rossi had. The Andretti driver, who comes into the weekend as Newgarden’s closest rival in the points, finished the morning dead last, 2.2s off the overall pace and more than 0.8s slower than Ed Jones in P23. Rossi spent the latter part of the session out of the car in pitlane while the team worked to address what it described as a “hardware issue”, but in the four laps that he did spend out on the track, the No. 27 looked like a handful.
Aside from Herta’s off, the only incident of any consequence came about halfway in when Tony Kanaan lost the rear of the No. 14 at Turn 11 and stranded himself in the gravel, bringing out the red flags.
UP NEXT: Practice 2 from 5:10-5:55 p.m. ET