Herta stays ahead in wild second Nashville GP practice

Jake Galstad/Lumin Digital Agency

Herta stays ahead in wild second Nashville GP practice


Herta stays ahead in wild second Nashville GP practice


Colton Herta kept his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda at the top of the charts after leading a frantic second practice for the NTT IndyCar Series’ inaugural Music City Grand Prix.

The 45-minute session got off to a less than ideal start as Scott Dixon brought out the red flag after he spun and stalled his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn 4. The session resumed roughly five minutes later, with Dixon’s CGR teammate Marcus Ericsson going top of the leaderboard moments later with a lap at 1m17.9705s, with Herta lurking behind at 1m18.2018s.

The likes of Andretti teammate Alexander Rossi and CGR’s Alex Palou found the top spot briefly before Herta made his presence felt again with 20 minutes remaining in the session. The 21-year-old Californian was the first driver of the weekend to break into the 1m15s bracket after pushing a lap at 1m15.6874s on a set of Firestone primary tires around the 2.17-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit.

Moments later, Graham Rahal clipped the left rear at Turn 8 wall, which was enough to end his session as he returned to pit road and stepped out of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

With 16 minutes to go, Palou — who has to take a six-place grid penalty this weekend — wheeled his No. 10 CGR Honda to second with a lap at 1m15.9810s. However, Herta’s crew put a set of alternate tires on his No. 26 and he duly reset the fastest lap of the session at 1m15.3529s with 12 minutes to go, which remained untouched for the remainder of practice.

“It was like a zoo out there — whole bunch of exhibits in Turn 9 and Turn 4,” Herta said. “I didn’t get a read at all (on the Firestone alternates). The tire temp wasn’t in; the braking capability was pretty low and traction was extremely low. So like it’s kind of signs of the reds weren’t in yet. But, I’ve got a good read of what the car was. We found some really cool stuff, actually, that we’re borrowing from our teammate Rossi there, so thanks for him. Yeah, the car feels really good right now. Obviously, the time sheets tell the story, but I’m feeling really confident with the car on the track, which is really nice.”

Rossi went second fastest moments later on a set of alternates, with a lap at 1m15.8292s.

Rookie Scott McLaughlin spun under braking and backed the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet into the tire barriers at Turn 7, which damaged his rear wing and brought out the session’s second red flag with eight minutes remaining.

“I got two or three laps on the reds and got a sort of feel for it. Didn’t learn much, apart from we gained a lot of rear lock-up and that’s sort of why I spun there,” related McLaughlin. “I hit the brake, basically same pressure, same point and it just went around on me there.”

The session resumed with five minutes to go, but the red flag came out with 3m30s to go after Rossi crashed heavily into the outside wall at Turn 10. Fortunately, he was near the entrance to pit road and managed to coast to his stall, dragging his front wing under the car and right-front tire flat during the drive in.

As a result of the number of incidents, practice was extended to allow drivers to grab one more timed lap

Traffic swarmed the track, but Max Chilton, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud all ended up having issues. For Dixon, it was another spin in the same corner as earlier. However, while whipping around to continue, the New Zealander clipped the rear wing on the wall, leaving the wing dragging behind the six-time champion.

Chilton and Romain Grosjean had some tight racing on the last run at the end of the session as the pair made contact, which resulted in the two sharing opinions of the incident afterwards on pit road.

Overall, the asphalt playground in downtown Nashville has made a challenging but positive impression on drivers.

“It’s very physical,” Herta said. “It’s tough. You know, if the track wasn’t physical enough, the heat and humidity will get us Sunday too. Yeah, it’s certainly going to be like St. Pete.

“We’ll probably all have ripped-up hands after the thing, but no, the track is honestly so much fun to drive. On paper, it doesn’t look great, right? Like a lot of 90-degree corners; but how the bumps are, and honestly they are 90-degree corners, but they’re all super different. So it makes it super interesting. Everybody has done a great job promoting it and building the track. It looks spectacular, and it’s definitely a challenge for us.”


UP NEXT: Qualifying, 4:30 p.m. ET, Peacock