By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
PORTLAND, Ore. – Colton Herta starts his Grand Prix of Portland journey by setting the early tone during Friday morning’s opening practice session at Portland International Raceway with a time of 57.4293 seconds.
Herta, who’s currently 14th in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings, was the only man to hit the 123 mph mark at 123.115 mph and out ran second place Alexander Rossi by 0.1245 seconds.
While it should be all smiles, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Herta’s fastest time occurred in his first stint but afterwards, his Harding Steinbrenner Racing squad made drastic changes to the No. 88 Capstone Turbine Corporation Honda and wasn’t satisfied how it ran when he hit the 1.964-mile circuit.
“I didn’t like it at all after the changes unfortunately. It’s good to go through it,” Herta said. “That did some interesting stuff that maybe we can counterbalance with other stuff. We might keep it, we might not. I’m not really 100% sure but for sure the car was really good in the first two runs. It was a little too loose, especially on the second new tire set so maybe there’s a little bit more time in it. I’m happy that we’re starting off well.”
Following Herta and Rossi are championship leader Josef Newgarden, defending champion Scott Dixon and fifth-place Marco Andretti.
Andretti trailed Herta’s time by 0.4713 seconds, saying the balance of his No. 98 Orberto Honda felt good, but his main objective was finding a proper direction after being a part of the one-day testing session earlier in the month with his other Andretti Autosport teammates.
“I think we rolled off with good balance,” Andretti said. “The Oberto car was good out of the gate which kind of confirmed what we thought from the test here. We tested pretty good. It was more about getting a direction.
“It always helps in Indy car and then it’s fine tuning from here. It’s easier said than done to stay on the right side of the curbs, so hopefully we can do that.”
James Hinchcliffe, who ended up sixth fastest, made the highlight reel for all the wrong reasons as his No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda spun out twice during the 45-minute session, notably in the Shelton Chicane with just a few minutes remaining.
Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, Ryan Hunter-Reay and defending grand prix winner Takuma Sato round out the top-10.
The gap between Herta and 15th place Sebastien Bourdais was under a second, showcasing that any room for improvement is a difference maker while any error can be harmful. The 23-car field will have time to make changes as second practice will commence at 5:40 pm EST.