Hits, spins, breakups, and Honda made the headlines throughout Friday’s opening NTT IndyCar Series session on the streets of St. Petersburg.
On the optimistic aspect, the engine builders and tuners at Honda Performance Development seem to have discovered some added energy and torque after Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon led a 1-2-3-4-5 for the model together with his No. 9 entry. Coming off a 2022 occasion the place Chevrolet had a transparent benefit, the primary session of the brand new season supplied hope that each producers will give one another the enterprise on a extra common foundation.
“It’s always fantastic to be here in St. Pete,” Dixon stated. “First session was a little mixed. We had some track repairs. The session ran really late but it was a nice and long hour and 15 minute session, which was good. It was a couple of sets of tires for most of the field, but we ended at the top, which was a nice way to start the weekend. Now, the tough part (is) trying to stay there.”
Dixon’s prime lap of 1m01.614s edged Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta whose No. 26 Honda was simply 0.033s behind. In truth, the complete prime 5 have been all on the identical tenth as CGR’s Alex Palou (+0.064s), Andretti’s Kyle Kirkwood within the No. 27 Honda (+0.070s) and Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud within the No. 60 Honda (+0.081s) have been capped by the Frenchman’s 1m01.696s lap. Owing to Team Penske’s dominance right here one 12 months in the past, Chevy’s main performer wasn’t who we anticipated as Rinus VeeKay served discover of his intentions with the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing entry in sixth (+0.236s).
Penske’s session ended with Will Power as its main consultant in eighth (+0.227s) however that wasn’t essentially the most notable merchandise for the reigning sequence champions. Defending race winner Scott McLaughlin was the primary of the Penske trio to hit the wall, bending his right-rear suspension’s toe hyperlink. His No. 3 Chevy crew made fast repairs and despatched him on his approach, however because the 75-minute session drew to a detailed, McLaughlin was within the wall once more, damaging the left-rear toe hyperlink. Soon after, teammate Josef Newgarden clouted the wall together with his left-rear wheel, pitted, and climbed from his automobile because the session reached its remaining minutes.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing noticed Jack Harvey discover sufficient pace to steer the group in seventeenth, however that was a small comfort as teammates Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard additionally had encounters with the wall. Rahal, particularly, cited vital braking points as the explanation for his trouble-filled session. New pavement utilized between Turns 3 and 4 additionally prompted issues; a crimson flag was wanted to examine the difficulty areas and repairs are anticipated to be carried out in a single day.
A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Benjamin Pedersen additionally had a couple of adventures that left the No. 55 Chevy sitting in a few runoff areas.
Of the optimistic surprises, CGR rookie Marcus Armstrong was ninth in his first official session, and Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Ilott was twelfth. Another shock was the debut for the three-car Arrow McLaren group; Pato O’Ward was quickest as anticipated, however he was practically a half-second adrift from Dixon.
It’s going to be an extended evening for the groups who anticipated to star on Friday and got here up brief.
UP NEXT: FP2, 10 a.m. ET Saturday