Alex Palou laid down a marker and debutant Christian Lundgaard stole the show in the NTT IndyCar Series’ sole Friday practice session ahead of qualifying for this weekend’s race on the IMS road course.
Palou, who comes into the weekend with a 42-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, rattled off his 1m10.8839s lap shortly after the No. 10 crew bolted on a fresh set of Firestone alternates with 10 minutes left on the clock. That time remained unbeaten, although only barely — Rinus VeeKay, who’d held P1 a couple of times during the session, managed to get the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Chevy to within 0.0233s of Palou’s time.
Pato O’Ward popped up late to go third fastest for Arrow McLaren SP with a lap 0.04s down on VeeKay’s, and had a similar margin over Jack Harvey, who wound up fourth fastest for Meyer Shank Racing. Team Penske made its presence among the top order felt with Josef Newgarden and Will Power fifth- and sixth-fastest respectively; Power’s result came despite his needing to be restarted halfway through the session after he overshot Turn 1 and then missed the cutoff road.
Minor issues for @12WillPower as he heads into turn 1.
He stalled and is getting restarted.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) August 13, 2021
But the story early in the weekend is Lundgaard, who was participating in his first IndyCar practice session at the wheel of the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan entry. The Alpine F1 reserve driver established himself in the top 10 early on the harder compound tires, and after switching to reds for his final run, wasted little time in wrapping his head around the softer rubber and planted the car seventh fastest, just 0.25s down on Palou’s time, and narrowly ahead of teammate Graham Rahal.
Nashville winner Marcus Ericsson and Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi completed the top 10. Rossi’s result was a decent recovery after his car stopped near the pit exit and needed to be dragged back to the pits with 17 minutes left on the clock, but that incident served as a precursor for a more serious one that struck teammate Colton Herta in the final minutes. The Californian was attempting to return to the track after having an assortment of handling problems attended to when he got onto the radio to report a clutch problem. Simultaneously, the Andretti pitwall noted that his car had no oil pressure. The No. 26 was immediately shut off, prompting the only red flag of the session to allow for it to be retrieved.
Other than an assortment of minor lock-ups and a couple of harmless trips down the escape road, the session was largely uneventful. That was a huge boost to Lundgaard’s preparation for his first IndyCar qualifying session, and it also worked out well for Top Gun Racing, which is making its debut this weekend. The team took full advantage of the green flag time, and RC Enerson completed 26 laps — just shy of Lundgaard’s benchmark of 27 — to finish 22nd fastest among the 28 entries.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN & Peacock