Photo: Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Colton Herta Leads Treacherous, Rainy Road America Practice

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series certainly had their hands full in the second practice session of the weekend at Road America with rain making for treacherous conditions.

Despite it all, Colton Herta found himself at the top of the board when all was said and done by more than two seconds over his next closest competitor, leading the way with a lap of two minutes, 7.3027 seconds.

After a hair-raising session that saw a number of drivers run off track and a handful of red flags, Herta eventually called it a day in the waning minutes of practice, when conditions just became too risky.

It’s getting a little too sketchy and I think we kind of learned what we wanted to learn,” said Herta. “Hopefully it lets up a little bit more and we can go back out, because we’ll be ready to go back out, but it doesn’t seem like it is. And with cars not running, it’s probably not going to get much better.

With the track in the second year of its repave, Herta tipped his hat to the powers that be at the facility for fixing some of the issues that were present before to allow them to practice as well as they could in Saturday’s rainstorm.

“This was a place that we had a lot of problems with rivers and ravines and it got pretty nasty when it rained. They seemed to fix that by adding a lot of drainage, so great job to everybody at Road America.

“Then this Gainbridge Honda seems fast in the dry, seems fast in the wet. Hopefully that translates to a good result later this afternoon.”

Will Power was second fastest in practice, with rookie Christian Rasmussen, Christian Lundgaard and Scott McLaughlin rounding out the top-five.

“That was awesome,” McLaughlin said. “It was just sick. It was awesome. I love the rain. I love it.

“The XPEL Chevy was good. I went off a few times, but that’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to find the limits. I haven’t driven an open wheeler car in the rain much, so every chance I get, I always tell the guys, like ‘Let’s go out.’ And they’re a little funny about it or whatever, but sometimes the driver gets his way.”

The remainder of the top-10 fastest drivers were Marcus Ericsson, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi, rookie Theo Pourchaire, and Rinus VeeKay.

Among those drivers that found themselves in trouble in the treacherous conditions was defending race winner Alex Palou, who went off track into the Turn 14 gravel trap, causing the first red flag with a little more than 34 minutes left in the session.

Palou also ran into problems in the final minutes of practice when his No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda stopped just after leaving pit road, bringing out the final red flag when the AMR Safety Crew was dispatched to rescue his stranded machine.

Others having issues included Pietro Fittipaldi in the Turn 12 gravel trap, which also nearly saw a collision between Alexander Rossi’s car approaching the scene and a safety vehicle that had pulled out to head over to Fittipaldi’s car nearby.

Luckily, the two vehicles avoided each other in the near-miss, though Rossi was handed a time penalty for the incident.

Also running into issues of his own was Kyle Kirkwood, who looped his Andretti Global Honda at the exit of the final turn leading onto the frontstretch, sliding into a sponsorship sign trackside before nosing into the tire barrier with seemingly minimal damage to his machine.

Rain is expected to move out of the area before qualifying later today, scheduled for a 3:25 pm ET start on Peacock. Herta is the defending polesitter at Road America.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.