Photo: Walter G. Arce Sr. /ASP Inc.

DEHARDE: Friday Austin IndyCar Musings

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

AUSTIN, Texas– The NTT IndyCar Series visits Circuit Of The Americas for the first time in series history and Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic can have many questioning who they should pick for a good result at the 20 turn, 3.41 mile natural terrain road course.

Josef Newgarden led the opening practice session with a lap of 1 minute, 48.6567 seconds to average 112.980 mph. The winner at St. Petersburg, Newgarden was just ahead of Colton Herta by .1372 seconds but Herta had to deal with some mechanical misery as his Honda engine expired.

Herta’s engine expiring meant he could not participate in the second practice session but he was able to get on track for the pit stop practice/warmup session.

The second session had defending Indianapolis 500 champion Will Power leading standout rookie Felix Rosenqvist by .1749 seconds while Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay were third and fourth in both sessions. They were the only drivers in the top five in both sessions so Andretti Autosport might be a team to look out for.

Three drivers had some good improvement between sessions. Of note, Sebastien Bourdais went from 20th in session one to 10th in session two, Zach Veach went from 18th to sixth while Ed Jones went from 24th (last) to fifth. This result comes a day after being cleared to drive following a small non-displaced fracture of the distal fourth metacarpal in his left ring finger that came from the incident Jones had in St. Petersburg on March 10th.

A few drivers went wide on the exit of Turn 19 during the second practice session necessitating an announcement from INDYCAR.

“INDYCAR is not enforcing track limits at Turn 19.”

Turn 19 is the penultimate corner on the circuit and is a fast left hander before the pits. If a driver goes off the right side of the road and then pits, that driver would have to cut all the way across the track. We’ll see if that happens during the race.

Moving on to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, it was good to see Oliver Askew put St. Petersburg behind him and put his car on pole for race one of the Indy Lights double header. Askew has 13 pole positions throughout his time in the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and has 17 podium finishes since his first start in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship in 2017 at St. Petersburg. One question became obvious upon seeing him after his sponsor duties with the large novelty check.

What does Askew do with all those hats?

“I give them out to little kids and my friends,” said Askew. “They love them, I don’t keep any of my trophies or any of my hats or any of my stuff. They don’t mean a whole lot to me, I like the stats!”

If Askew wins the Freedom 100, expect his tone to change.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.