Across 75 minutes, three red flags, and two cars that didn’t make it past the halfway point, the opening practice session for Sunday’s Portland Grand Prix was a messy affair, and when it was over, title contender Alex Palou was the fastest driver on the property.
Sporting a nearly identical PNC Bank livery to that of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, Palou took the No. 10 Honda to a best lap of 58.7824s around the 1.9-mile road course. Meyer Shank Racing showed out in FP1 with Helio Castroneves in the No. 06 Honda (+0.1026s) and teammate Jack Harvey in the No. 60 Honda (0.1063s) claiming second and third.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 11, 2021
Palou’s closest championship rivals were next with Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward in fourth with the No. 5 Chevy (+0.1109s) and Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was fifth in the No. 2 Chevy (0.1123s). Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Romain Grosjean completed to top six in the No. 51 Honda (+0.1231) as the first nine drivers were covered by less than 0.2s.
Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton triggered the first red flag for a harmless spin coming out of the Turn 1 chicane, and back at Turn 12, both Palou, with a wild slide across the grass, and Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin who nosed the No. 3 Chevy into the barriers, added just over nine minutes of stoppage.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato suffered an engine problem in the early moments of the session, recording three laps before the No. 30 Honda was taken back to its trailer for an engine change.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay made it 11 laps before a suspected wiring loom issue shut his car down. Like Sato, he did not return to on-track activity.
Elsewhere in the 27-car field, RLL newcomer Oliver Askew was among the fastest drivers as the session began and ended up 16th; teammate Graham Rahal was 10th. Juncos Hollinger Racing had a smooth return to IndyCar with rookie Callum Ilott, who closed the session in 24th, one spot behind Penske’s Simon Pagenaud.
Fastest Driver: Alex Palou, 58.7824s
Slowest Driver (discounting Hunter-Reay and Sato): Dalton Kellett, 1m00.1986s
Most Laps Turned: 42, Dalton Kellett
• Championship contender Scott Dixon was P15 by the halfway point, pitted for a change of rear dampers, and improved to P11.
• A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was in a familiar place, running P15 as he’s done many times this season.
• Nice job by CGR’s Jimmie Johnson, who was P20 and continuing to show improvement.
UP NEXT: Qualifying, 3:15 p.m. ET, Peacock (delayed on NBCSN, 11:30 p.m. ET)