Last year, it was an absence of IndyCar’s E85 ethanol fuel that kept teams off track for a few hours during a private test at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and this year, it was the absence of another critical component — tires — that left 13 drivers sitting idle for most of the morning in Monterey.
Once the truck with all of the new Firestone tires meant to be used by Andretti Autosport, Arrow McLaren SP, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Juncos Hollinger, and Racing Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing arrived, rapid mounting began and after a quick lunch break from 11-11:30 a.m., the field of 13 drivers took to the 2.2-mile road course and ran until 7 p.m.
CGR’s Scott Dixon set the early standard, and by mid-afternoon, AMSP’s Felix Rosenqvist sat atop the time chart. He’d hold the spot for most of the day until CGR’s Alex Palou claimed the fastest lap towards the end of the test.
“So we started really well, both Scott and I, and we were super-comfortable with our cars,” Palou told RACER. “Then we went through the middle phase of the day where track was not so good and we tested a bunch of stuff; some worked, some didn’t. And at the end, we had some good tires left so we did a good time and I was happy with the balance of the car.
“We didn’t expect the track to say yes to extending the test to 7pm, so we got a lot of laps in – I did, like, 100. So we are ready to race here and also I think we learned some good stuff for Portland. They are really different tracks, but there’s always stuff that you can take away from Laguna to Portland. It’s always nice to be fast at a test heading to the last two races of the year.”
RLL’s Christian Lundgaard got things going as one of the first to venture out and the Rookie of the Year leader promptly looped his No. 30 Honda coming out of Turn 11. The harmless spin was immediately rectified with a burst of power which lit up the rear tires and rotated the car in the right direction. Other than a few harmless offs, CGR’s Marcus Ericsson was the only driver to crash.
The championship contender went off in Turn 6 and broke the left-rear suspension and rear wing assembly. After losing approximately three hours to the necessary repairs to his No. 8 Honda, Ericsson returned for the last 90 minutes of the test and climbed to fifth on the 67th of the 69 laps he turned on the day.
Similar to Ericsson, Andretti’s Devlin DeFrancesco put in a late lap that was good enough for seventh with 15 minutes remaining, but he was demoted to eighth when the Indy 500 leapt to fifth a few moments later.
Next up on the schedule is a late afternoon practice session on Friday in Portland as the penultimate round of the season gets under way in Oregon.
1: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 1m11.440s
2: Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevy, 1m11.677s
3: Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP Chevy, 1m11.710s
4: Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1m11.801s
5: Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 1m11.824s
6: David Malukas, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1m11.893s
7: Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 1m11.967s
8: Devin DeFrancesco, Andretti Autosport Honda, 1m11.999s
9: Callum Ilott, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevy, 1m12.011s
10: Jack Harvey, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1m12.061s
11: Christian Lundgaard, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1m12.299s
12: Takuma Sato, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1m12.531s
13: Jimmie Johnson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, 1m13.449s
— Marshall Pruett (@marshallpruett) August 29, 2022