Jack Harvey spun. Helio Castroneves crashed. Romain Grosjean’s engine let the smoke out. Will Power crashed.
The opening practice session for the Children’s of Alabama Indy GP wasn’t lacking in drama as the 75-minute frame featured a number of slowdowns and a pair of stoppages among the NTT IndyCar Series field, and once it was over, Team Penske made a statement with Scott McLaughlin’s No. 3 Chevy producing a 1m06.6610s lap and teammate Power claimed third at the checkered flag with a 1m06.8985s run in the No. 12 Chevy. Between them was Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta with a 1m06.8193s in the No. 26 Honda.
“Really happy,” McLaughlin said. “To go P1 at the start is fantastic. I think we’re in a really good spot, but there’s a lot of racing left to do.”
After 45 minutes were gone, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was the fastest in the 27-car field with a lap of 1m07.3779s in the No. 10 Honda.
With Grosjean’s Andretti Honda cleared from the Barber Motorsports Park circuit, the field fired out and kept busy during the last 30 minutes of the session. Some teams gave Firestone’s faster alternate tires a try. Using Firestone’s primary tires, Ganassi’s Scott Dixon took over the top spot with a lap of 1m07.1601s in the No. 9 Honda with 20 minutes remaining on the clock. CGR teammate Marcus Ericsson made it a Ganassi 1-2-3 in the No. 8 Honda with a tour of 1m07.3463s.
At the 15-to-go mark, it was a Honda 1-5 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard in fourth and Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports’ David Malukas in fifth, thanks to the added grip offered by alternate tires.
Another red flag was required when Power crashed on his first flying lap with alternates installed on his car; Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud leapt to P1 on alternates just as the red flag waves with 12 minutes left, posting a 1m07.1071s in the No. 60 Honda. McLaughlin also posted a quick lap to claim third in on primaries.
Although the session was red, IndyCar did not stop the clock, which inspired most of the field to charge out at the same time when Power ambled back to the pits to get reads on car balance with the alternate tires they’ll use on Saturday in qualifying.
In that seven-minute adventure, Lundgaard was first to go P1 and moments later, Ericsson took over the top spot. Herta then went first but McLaughlin ripped it away with a 1m06.6610s lap that stood for the last 120 seconds of the session.
UP NEXT:FP2, Saturday, 12pm ET