The lone 90-minute practice session for the pair of Bommarito Automotive Group 500 races got underway at 3:30 pm (CT), with the first half-hour reserved for the drivers who were making their first appearance at World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway.
The skies were sunny, the ambient temperature was 86F, and the track temperature was 116F.
All 23 entries were allowed to complete one installation lap before the newcomers were set loose.
The list of drivers eligible to practice in the first 30-minutes included Oliver Askew, Jack Harvey, Pato O’Ward, Álex Palou, and Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay).
The first of the rookies/newcomers to turn laps at speed was VeeKay. The other four eligible drivers quickly joined him.
After 15-minutes of practice, a lap of 177.072mph, by O’Ward, was the quickest. The rest of the running order was Palou, Harvey, VeeKay, and Askew.
With only one extra set of tires, the second 15-minutes of the rookie/newcomer was reasonably quiet, with the drivers waiting until the very end of the first 30-minutes to head back out on the still green track.
Results of the rookie/newcomer practice
RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM ENGINE FAST LAP (mph) TOTAL LAPS
1 5 Pato O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP Chevy 177.072 13
2 55 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda 176.746 20
3 60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Honda 176.288 17
4 21 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy 175.499 29
5 7 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP Chevy 174.215 25
The one-hour all skate began at 4 pm, with the remaining 18 cars joining the rookie/newcomers on the 1.25-mile, four turn egg-shaped oval, and quickly getting to work.
The first driver to surpass O’Ward’s speed from the rookie/newcomer session was Iowa Speedway pole-sitter Conor Daly, who is back behind the wheel of the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the final two oval races of the season.
With 45-minutes left in the session Daly, with a lap at 179.382mph, had the fastest lap. O’Ward, Herta, Dixon, Palou, Newgarden, Harvey, Rossi, Askew, and Veach made up the remainder of the top 10.
We watched some telemetry early in the session, and drivers were downshifting twice into Turn 1, hitting the brakes and getting back on the throttle at the apex of Turn 2. Going into Turn 3, there was a big lift off the throttle and downshift before getting back on the throttle at the exit of the final corner.
With 30-minutes remaining in the session, Daly was still the quickest driver with his lap of 179.382mph. That was over 1mph quicker than O’Ward in second. The rest of the top ten were Harvey, VeeKay, Herta, Dixon, Palou, Newgarden, Ericsson, and Power.
The bottom five were Kanaan, Andretti, Ferucci, Rahal, and Carpenter, who was the slowest at 172.549mph.
Not long after the all-skate’s half-way point, O’Ward was the first driver to turn a lap over 180mph, as the lap speeds started to climb, and purple laps began to show up on the timing screen.
Per the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network, Santino Ferrucci ended the session early, with what the crew on the No. 18 SealMaster Honda was calling a mechanical issue. The quickest car in this race last year, was only able to complete 40 laps.
In the last 20 minutes of the session, we watched some telemetry, and the top speeds entering Turn 1 were close to 200mph, and the maximum speeds entering Turn 3, were 195mph. The lowest speeds in the south end of the track – Turns 1 & 2 – were just over 150mph. The lowest speeds in the north end of the track – Turns 3 & 4 – were just over 160mph.
Daly and O’Ward traded the top spot within between 20 and 15 minutes remaining, with O’Ward becoming the first driver to go over 181mph, with a lap of 181.526mph.
With 11 minutes remaining, Chip Ganassi Racing sophomore Marcus Ericsson, moved to the third quickest time, just missing out on being the third driver to break the 180mph barrier.
Not long after that, a pair of rookies, Palou and VeeKay, were able to cross the 180mph barrier, making three of the top four as newcomers to World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway. The next driver to go over 180mph was championship leader Dixon.
With qualification simulations in the final five minutes of the session, lap times continued to fall, with Power, Sato, Harvey, VeeKay, and Ericsson all joining the 180mph club.
The 23 drivers turned 1,428 laps (1,785 miles) with rookie Álex Palou the busiest of the bunch, completing 101 laps.
After the session, Daly told Jake Query from the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network that they are in good shape and that he did his qualification simulation early and thinks that there is still a little more speed in the car with more rubber on the track. The Carlin driver was enthusiastic about his chances at his favorite race track.
Pato O’Ward told Rob Howden from the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network that they got a lot of work done in 90-minutes. The No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet rolled off the truck strong, and they were able to fine-tune some things to make it even better. The driver who is third in the championship is looking forward to tomorrow.
Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Presented by Valvoline and Axalta practice results.
RANK CAR NO. DRIVER TEAM ENGINE FAST LAP (mph) TOTAL LAPS
1 5 Pato O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP Chevy 181.532 75
2 12 Will Power Team Penske Chevy 180.961 81
3 9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 180.822 55
4 59 Conor Daly Carlin Chevy 180.581 57
5 30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 180.434 53
6 60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Honda 180.246 80
7 55 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda 180.182 101
8 8 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 180.157 57
9 21 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy 180.104 86
10 88 Colton Herta Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport Honda 179.835 54
11 27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Honda 178.902 53
12 1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Chevy 178.874 64
13 7 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP Chevy 178.753 79
14 14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevy 178.426 52
15 10 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 178.248 70
16 26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport Honda 177.760 54
17 98 Marco Andretti Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda 177.687 56
18 22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Chevy 176.981 54
19 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda 176.917 32
20 20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy 176.824 59
21 4 Charlie Kimball AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevy 176.222 52
22 15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda 175.892 64
23 18 Santino Ferrucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda 173.874 40