Alexander Rossi’s recent top form continued at Road America on Friday when he led the extended practice session with a lap of 1’45.6027 in the No. 27 Honda. Rossi was seeded with the faster Firestone spares and was covered by Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta in P2 – also on spares – with a 1m45.7361s in the #26 Honda. The manufacturer’s dominance of the top three was completed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson in No. 8 with a 1:45.8050.
Team Penske’s Will Power was first in the Chevy brigade in fourth place as the championship leader set a 1:45.8592 lap in the #12 grid position. Alex Palou’s No. 10 Ganassis was fifth with a 1:45.9140 and Penske’s Scott McLaughlin completed the top six with a 1:45.9316 run in the No. 3 Chevy.
After 20 minutes of IndyCar’s experimental 75-minute opening practice session at Road America, 11 of the 27 drivers — mostly the rookies and those who needed extra laps — had ventured onto the warm, 4.0-mile street course, run by a mixture was covered by clouds and blue skies. By the 30 minute mark everyone was out but many teams chose to sit for longer periods during the session to save tires for other outings as the extra 30 minutes of practice didn’t include an extra tire allocation for the weekend.
The returning Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing set the fastest early lap of 1m47.6760s. When the full field got down to business, Romain Grosjean quickly took the lead with a time of 1:46.9302. Grosjean’s teammate Rossi was next in the lead, improving the fastest lap to a lap of 1’46.6714s.
Herta was the next big mover, finishing second in the session with a 1:46.7539, and Ericsson followed in third with a 1:46.8876, relegating Grosjean to fourth. The red flag flew as Helio Castroneves spun and stalled at Canada Corner and after losing five minutes the session resumed with about 12 minutes remaining.
With IndyCar’s special concession allowing teams to use a set of alternative tires for Friday’s FP1 – but not for tomorrow’s FP2 ahead of qualifying – the remainder of the session was spent getting a feel for the alternatives . While the first three didn’t change, the sticker tires – combined with the natural progression and improvement of the track surface – saw an increase in speed across the board.
“Today was good,” said Rossi. “It was a little strange having the alternative Firestone tires on day one so it will be interesting to see how that plays out tomorrow. Of course the track development will get better with every session of the weekend so we’ll have to see how that carries over from practice to qualifying. The #27 rolled really hard, which is a positive these weekends when it’s so tight and you have to start from a good position. Hats off to the team and their performance.”
Elsewhere in the field, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard was a slightly promising 13th and Ilott was unhindered by his recent broken wrist and posted the 15th fastest lap of the day after missing the last lap in Detroit.
Simona De Silvestro’s first IndyCar circuit on the road in seven years ran into trouble early on when her rear brakes caught fire after just six laps. During that time, the Ed Carpenter Racing hosted Paretta Autosport driver beat her initial lap time by nearly three seconds to finish the day in 27th place with a time of 1m48.7490s – roughly a second behind ECR teammate Rinus VeeKay in 22nd place .
NEXT: FP2, Saturday, 10:45 a.m. ET