Photo: Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

Palou Fastest as St. Pete Preparation Intensifies at Sebring Test


SEBRING, Fla. – Less than two weeks before the start of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, Alex Palou is starting right where he stopped in 2023 – on top.

Reigning and two-time series champion Palou led the first day of a two-day test Feb. 26 on the short circuit at Sebring International Raceway, turning a top lap of 52.0883 seconds in the No. 10 DHL Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Testing was separated into morning and afternoon sessions, with Palou’s best lap coming in the afternoon on the notoriously bumpy, challenging circuit.

SEEMonday Testing Results

“Nowadays, we don’t get as many tests as we would like,” Palou said. “We would always want to have a lot of test days, but honestly, it’s super important when we are only one week and a half out of St. Pete.

“We want to go through a lot of the engineering list that we’ve been thinking about all offseason. We won’t have enough time. But it’s a way to get the rest of the drivers, just all the crew, all the team together and try and get some ideas in person.”

Testing will continue Tuesday at the historic Florida circuit, with all teams continuing to run without the hybrid system that will be introduced later this season. The 2024 season also opens in Florida on Sunday, March 10 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding.

Fifteen drivers turned laps Monday, with all five of the quickest laps occurring in the afternoon. Right behind Palou was Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with a top lap of 52.1065 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda.

Two-time series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Josef Newgarden was third at 52.1298 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, followed by Colton Herta at 52.1909 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.

2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five at 52.2521 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Drivers combined to turn 1,047 laps, with five different teams represented by the top five drivers on the time sheets. Just .5008 of a second separated the top 11 drivers on the day. Less than a second – .9833, to be exact – separated all 15 drivers on track today.

Kyle Kirkwood led the morning session at 52.5618 in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda fielded by Andretti Global. Kirkwood, from Jupiter, Florida, beat that time in the afternoon with a lap of 52.3341.

“This is a big warmup, the first time our car has been on track since Laguna (last September),” Kirkwood said. “Just working through all the gremlins and getting everyone up to speed. That’s what this test is about, getting the rust off and getting ready for St. Pete so we don’t have any of these gremlins and can roll out in practice at St. Pete and just go fast.”

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