THERMAL, Calif. – Marcus Ericsson was the quickest of four Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top 10 Friday as the two-day NTT INDYCAR SERIES open test at The Thermal Club took the checkered flag.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Ericsson produced a best lap of 1 minute, 38.4223 seconds in the No. 8 Honda, nearly a second quicker than the top Thursday time of 1:39.3721 turned by Colton Herta in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.
Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing capped an impressive performance on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout by ending up second at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda. 2022 series Rookie of the Year Lundgaard also was second quickest Thursday and the only driver to finish in the top five on both days of the test at the private, world-class facility located just outside Palm Springs, California.
Kyle Kirkwood was third at 1:38.7885 in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. 2021 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Kirkwood joined Andretti after driving for AJ Foyt Racing as a rookie in 2022.
Ending up third on the time sheets continued an impressive, yet deceiving, performance for Kirkwood at this test. He ended up 15th on the time sheets Thursday, but he missed the afternoon session due to a clutch change after recording the second-quickest lap in the morning.
“It’s a new team for me, new group of guys, kind of jelling with them to see how everyone operates,” Kirkwood said. “I wouldn’t say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right? This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.”
“Honestly, it felt pretty easy to get to the top in this car. It’s not really needed to try and overextend anything.”
Another second-year driver, Callum Ilott, was fourth overall at 1:38.8404 in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Ilott was the quickest Chevrolet-powered driver and led the afternoon session with his best lap.
Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong rounded out the top five at 1:38.8409 in the No. 11 Honda. 2021 series champion Alex Palou was the third-quickest Ganassi driver, seventh at 1:38.8718 in the No. 10 Honda. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon was the other Ganassi driver in the top 10, 10th at 1:38.9762 in the No. 9 Honda.
Thursday leader Herta dropped to 15th Friday, with a best lap of 1:39.1047.
Up next for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday, March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. NBC and Peacock will provide live coverage starting at noon ET.