Alexander Rossi’s recent front-running form continued on Friday at Road America as he led the extended practice session with a lap of 1m45.6027s in the No. 27 Honda. Set using Firestone’s faster alternate tires, Rossi was covered by Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta in P2 —also on alternates—at a 1m45.7361s in the No. 26 Honda. Completing the manufacturer’s dominance in the top three was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8 with a 1m45.8050.
Team Penske’s Will Power was the first among the Chevy brigade in fourth, as the championship leader posted a 1m45.8592s lap in the No. 12 entry. Ganassi’s No. 10 of Alex Palou was fifth with a 1m45.9140s and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin closed the top six with a 1m45.9316s run in the No. 3 Chevy.
After 20 minutes passed in IndyCar’s experimental 75-minute opening practice session at Road America, 11 of the 27 drivers — primarily the rookies and those in need of extra laps — had ventured out on the warm, 4.0-mile road course covered by a mix of clouds and blue skies. Everyone had taken to the circuit by the 30-minute mark, but many teams opted to sit for extended periods during the session to preserve tires for other outings, as the extra 30 minutes of practice did not come with any additional tire allocation for the weekend.
The returning Callum Ilott from Juncos Hollinger Racing posted the fastest early lap at 1m47.6760s. Once the full field got down to business, Romain Grosjean quickly took over the top spot with a 1m46.9302s. Grosjean’s teammate Rossi was next to lead, improving the fastest lap to a 1m46.6714s lap.
Herta was the next big mover to take second in the session with a 1m46.7539s and Ericsson followed in third with a 1m46.8876s which nudged Grosjean down to fourth. The red flag flew as Helio Castroneves spun and stalled at Canada Corner, and after losing five minutes the session resumed with approximately 12 minutes remaining.
With IndyCar’s special concession allowing teams to use a set of alternate tires for Friday’s FP1—but not for tomorrow’s FP2 prior to qualifying—the remainder of the session was spent getting a feel for the alternates. While the top three did not change, the sticker tires — in combination with the natural progression and improvement of the track surface — saw speeds increase across the board.
“Today was good,” Rossi said. “It was a bit weird to have the Firestone alternate tires on day one, so it will be interesting to see how that translates tomorrow. Obviously the track evolution will continue to get better every session of the weekend, so we will have to see how that will translate from practice to qualifying. The No. 27 rolled off really strong, which is positive on these weekends when it’s so close and you’ve got to start from a good point. Hats off to the team and their effort.”
Elsewhere in the field, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard was a somewhat promising 13th and Ilott was unhindered by his recent wrist breakage, posting the 15th-fastest lap of the day after missing the last round in Detroit.
Simona De Silvestro’s first IndyCar road course session in seven years hit trouble early on as her rear brakes caught fire after just six laps. In that time, the Ed Carpenter Racing-aligned Paretta Autosport driver would knock almost three seconds off her initial lap time and close out the day in 27th with a 1m48.7490s — approximately one second off of ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay in 22nd.
UP NEXT: FP2, Saturday, 10:45 a.m. ET