Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Palou Tops Opening Practice at Road America

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alex Palou picked up right where he left off last time at Road America – at the top of the board.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and defending winner at the Wisconsin road course, surpassed Colton Herta late in the session to claim the top spot with a lap of one minute, 43.1709 seconds.

“Great start so far,” said Palou. “It doesn’t mean anything. It just means the car is really good. Easy to drive. It’s really great to be back here at a proper track for IndyCar. It’s awesome here. The atmosphere of the track is awesome, so yeah, looking forward to tomorrow.”

Asked why he has taken a liking to the 4.014-mile, 14-turn road course, so much, Palou was quick to list the attributes that make this track one of his favorites.

“[Road America] is a proper track. It’s long, not much traffic when you practice. Really fast. High speed corners, low speed corners – it has everything. Good overtaking spots. Good for strategy. Yeah, just a proper track.”

Santino Ferrucci was third fastest, followed by 2024 Indy 500 champion Josef Newgarden, Christian Lundgaard, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, and Marcus Armstrong rounding out the top-10.

After practice, Ferrucci alluded to the dividends that the alliance A.J. Foyt Racing made with Team Penske has started to pay dividends and the speed he was able to show Friday was evidence of that.

“Last year we were actually competitive here, which was nice,” Ferrucci said. “We were able to take some of that and mix it in with our Penske alliance. Obviously, we get some dampers from them. So, putting everything together, we have a pretty good car.

“I actually feel very comfortable because it’s a car I’ve been on before. I’m not trying to learn something new for the first time this weekend as far as setup goes.

“It’s a very similar car off of Barber, as well. We’re starting to find the sweet spot for me because I don’t drive quite like the other three drivers or like my teammate. It’s been a bit of a learning curve.”

“It’s nice to be quick off the trailer.”

Meanwhile, it was a practice to forget for Juncos Hollinger Racing after announcing earlier today that Nolan Siegel would be driving its No. 78 entry in place of regular Agustin Canapino, who is taking a “leave of absence” weekend in the wake of the media firestorm surrounding the death threats made following the race last weekend at Detroit.

Siegel, pulling double-duty in both the IndyCar Series and Indy NXT this weekend, jumped in the car for Juncos shortly after practicing his Indy NXT car, clocking 17 laps around the road course and finishing the session next to last.

As for the other JHR driver, Romain Grosjean, he found trouble early when his car went off course in the first half of practice and found itself buried windshield deep in the tires. Grosjean was able to climb from the car under his own power, but his team will have work to do to get his car back in racing shape before track activity on Saturday.

Next up for the IndyCar Series in Wisconsin will be the second practice of the weekend at 11:10 am ET on Peacock, leading into pole qualifying at 3:25 pm ET – both airing on Peacock.

Sunday will feature the standard half-hour warm-up session at 12:15 pm ET before the main event goes green at 3:30 pm ET.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.