September 25, 2023

O’Ward leads Dixon into an incident-filled first practice session in Detroit

The new, fast, narrow and bumpy course in the streets of downtown Detroit raised many red flags, but towards the end of the session Pato O’Ward led the way for Arrow McLaren ahead of Ganassi legend Scott Dixon.

AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet’s Benjamin Pedersen was the first driver to complete full laps, with the additional set of primaries all IndyCar rookies receive for road and street courses. But it was Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda’s rookie in the No. 11 car who first dived under the 1970s barrier, setting a time of 1:09.9 seconds, followed by a time of 1:08.1 seconds, then a time of 1:06.5 seconds and then an average of 149.929 km/h. around the 1,645-mile course. Ultimately, Armstrong brought that time down to 1m05.2832, 90.712 mph.

Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino caused the first red flag of the session. He was 1.1 seconds behind Armstrong’s early benchmark when the No. 78 went long into turn 1 and required a restart. After 14 of the 19 Indy NXT cars finished in the turn 1 lap in the first session of that series, it was no surprise that it was a scene of incident among the 27 participating IndyCars.

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Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Kyle Kirkwood beat Armstrong on his fifth lap, landing an effort of 1:05.1620 and then dove under 65 with a time of 1:04.9870, slightly faster than Arrow McLaren-Chevrolet’s Felix Rosenqvist.

2021 champion Alex Palou briefly made it to the top, but his best effort was bettered by Colton Herta (Andretti), who lapped in 1:04.3840 seconds – 91.979 mph – then Scott Dixon moved into second, 0, 13 seconds behind Herta and 0.1 seconds ahead of Palou.

With 50 minutes of the 90-minute session remaining, Canapino slammed into the wall with both sides of the car at Turn 7, ruling him out of the session. Then Graham Rahal caused the second red flag when he ran straight into turn 3 and stopped when he tried to come back.

At 21st lap Helio Castroneves’ Honda engine blew due to an electronics issue, while Marcus Ericssson red-flagged with half an hour to go after going long and stalling in Turn 1, and not long after Scott McLaughlin also spun and had to restart.

With 17 minutes left, Devlin De Francesco and Palou were in the second lap of turn 3 and had to be rescued.

At the wave of the green several drivers appeared on changing tires and Pato O’Ward jumped to the top with a 1.03.5436s, an average of 93.196 mph. topped it with a 1m03.0773s, one second ahead of the new P2 driver, McLaughlin and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard.

Behind O’Ward, times continued to tumble, with Herta moving into second – albeit 0.6767 seconds off his former Indy Lights teammate – while Will Power was third, just hundredths ahead of McLaughlin.

Kirkwood took O’Ward’s advantage to less than half a second, then Rossi came within 0.3 seconds of his teammate, as Palou and Dixon moved into the top six, before the latter followed by a lap within 0.0986 seconds from Palou.

A late improvement by Felix Rosenqvist put all three McLarens in the top six, while Callum Ilott’s final flyer took him to ninth, ahead of McLaughlin, Ericsson and Lundgaard.

Newly crowned Indy 500 champion Josef Newgarden was 15e while Romain Grosjean should have been stronger, but his fastest lap was hampered by Pedersen, in a difficult session for the Foyt cars.

The second practice session for the Chevrolet Detroit GP begins Saturday at 9 a.m. local (Eastern) time.


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Story originally appeared on Racer

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