Chip Ganassi Racing’s plan to open the new NTT IndyCar Series season did not include having its drivers place 15th, 17th, 19th and 24th in the opening session. But it wasn’t the first time CGR has gotten off to a slow start at St. Petersburg, and as its fastest driver on Friday says that despite the unexpected outcome, there’s no reason to panic.
“I think it was a pretty decent session,” said Marcus Ericsson, whose No. 8 Honda was 0.6397s behind overall leader Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport. “We had a test program we went through and made the changes we wanted. The track was a little different than we expected. It was a little gripped up. We will have to work on the balance for tomorrow.”
Defending series champion Alex Palou offered a similarly upbeat and surprising take on the day.
“It felt good to be back on track and back on ‘practice mode,’” he said. “It was a busy, busy session. Only 45 minutes, but we got to test a lot of stuff. We found some good stuff for the car so hopefully we can keep improving for tomorrow and get a good qualifying spot in the afternoon.”
CGR’s Jimmie Johnson was the only driver to face adversity with an offtrack excursion in opening practice. All four CGR entries will need to find fast solutions to try, thanks to the next session starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday and less than three hours afterwards to make adjustments for qualifying at 12:30 p.m.
“Unfortunately, we had some issues that cost us some track time but it’s great to be back at St. Pete,” he said. “I got a little aggressive into turn 10 and had to take the run-off road, so we really didn’t get as many laps as we had hoped. It was nice to be back on the track, get a few reps, so I can sleep on it tonight and get ready to go again tomorrow.”