By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Colton Herta set the pace of the only practice session for Friday’s Iowa INDYCAR 250 at Iowa Speedway as his fastest speed was 171.990 mph, topping Carlin’s Conor Daly’s speed of 171.488 mph with just four minutes remaining.
The Iowa doubleheader will mark Daly’s second race with the No. 59 team this season and he navigated at the bumpy and physically demanding circuit days with ease despite undergoing rehabilitation to his right shoulder. Last Saturday at Road America, Daly was involved in a heavy shunt following contact with Pato O’Ward, resulting in the pain on his shoulder.
Will Power, Santino Ferrucci and defending race winner Josef Newgarden rounded out the top-five in the 90-minute session.
During the opening 30 minutes, the rookies and first timers took center stage at the 7/8 mile oval and when their time by themselves were over, it was Rinus VeeKay who set the pace and he did it convincingly. VeeKay’s speed of 169.353 mph was almost two miles per hour faster than Alex Palou, who’s fastest speed was 167.553 mph.
Once the veterans began their practice, VeeKay’s speed held up quite well and ended up eighth fastest overall. While the rookie Dutchman flourished, his boss Ed Carpenter couldn’t find grip throughout the session. As a result, Carpenter could only mustered a 166.534 mph that was only good enough for 21st out of 23 cars.
One team who struggled during the 60-minute session and no doubt are aiming for mass improvements before qualifying are the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing duo of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
Rahal reported over the radio of having a loose car and Sato dealt with tremendous over steer, requiring adjustments that took valuable track time away. For the longest of time, they the only ones who failed to crack the 160 mph barrier (159.413 mph for Rahal and 158.922 mph for Sato).
During the final 12 minutes of the session, they were finally able to reach that mark.
Things certainly clicked for Sato, who went from the slowest to 11th quickest at 168.884 mph. Same couldn’t be said for Rahal as ended up the only guy under 165 mph at 164.384 mph, the slowest out of the 23 drivers.
Palou wound up 17th fastest at 167.672 mph and ran a grand total of 150 laps, 78 more laps than the next three guys in line which were Newgarden, last Sunday’s race winner Felix Rosenqvist, and Marcus Ericsson.
The focus now shifts into the fascinating fight for the NTT P1 Pole Award, but it’ll have a new twist. Both laps will matter because the opening lap will determine tonight’s starting lineup while the second determines Saturday’s 250-lap event.
Live qualifying coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. EST on NBC Sports Gold with NBCSN airing the session two hours later.
The first Iowa INDYCAR 250 will begin at 8:30 p.m. on NBCSN. Josef Newgarden is the defending race winner.