Photo: Brandon K. Carter/ASP, Inc.

Rosenqvist Rockets to Top of Timing Sheet in Opening St. Pete Practice

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The 2024 NTT IndyCar Series season is officially underway.

Friday’s opening practice session for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the first laps turned in anger this year, with Felix Rosenqvist striking the first blow of the weekend with a lap of one minute, 0.339 seconds.

Rosenqvist enters 2024 with a new team, having moved over to Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 Honda entry after spending the past three seasons with Arrow McLaren.

“Really smooth start for us,” Rosenqvist said. “I would say I haven’t had a bunch of running this winter, so I think we’ve been feeling confident coming here, but also unsure how we’re going to stack up when everyone is out there pushing.

“So, yeah, a little bit relieved actually and a little bit surprised as well. I thought we were going to be good, but not as quick straight away, but obviously I think it’s still early days, and everyone is going to improve a lot. We’re going to try to see if we can keep that gap ahead. Yeah, so far so good. Really happy.”

His former teammate at Arrow McLaren, Pato O’Ward, who came agonizingly close to winning this race one year ago slotted into second place, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong, Will Power from Team Penske, and Ed Carpenter Racing returnee Rinus VeeKay to round out the top-five fastest cars.

“Felix is on another planet out there, but everyone else is extremely close,” Power quipped about the hot start for Rosenqvist on Friday.

2022 St. Petersburg winner Scott McLaughlin was sixth-fastest, with Romain Grosjean giving his Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet a good run in seventh in his first race with that team. Colton Herta would finish practice in eighth, along with defending series champion Alex Palou in ninth and Callum Ilott in 10th in his relief drive for Arrow McLaren.

The opening practice featured a new format on a trial basis that broke the session up into different segments in an effort to alleviate traffic issues that have become more prevalent in recent years on the tight confines of the street course.

All 27 cars ran the first 20 minutes, which Rosenqvist paced, followed by the field being split in half according to odd and even pit box numbers. For the remainder of the session, the two groups alternated in 10-minute increments as they worked to dial in their setups.

While the verdict is still on future use of the format, which is not planned to be used for the remainder of the weekend, Power was positive about Friday’s first iteration of it.

“Honestly it’s a very similar flow to qualifying,” Power said. “You get the ten minutes, so you have to get a run done. Yeah, I didn’t mind it. It’s been very difficult in the past just to get a lap, and each time you went out, you got clear runs. For me I liked the format.”

The next on-track action for the St. Petersburg weekend will a standard practice session on Saturday at 9:35 am ET leading into qualifying at 2:00 pm ET.

A short warm-up session will take place on Sunday morning at 9:10 am ET, followed by the green flag for the 20th annual Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 12:30 pm ET on NBC.

Practice Results

RankCarDriver NameC/E/TTimeSpeedDiffGapBest LapTotal Laps
160Rosenqvist, FelixD/H/F01:00.3390107.393–.—-–.—-2024
25O’Ward, PatoD/C/F01:00.8112106.5590.47220.47221919
311Armstrong, MarcusD/H/F01:00.8182106.5470.47920.00702123
412Power, WillD/C/F01:00.8409106.5070.50190.02271922
521VeeKay, RinusD/C/F01:00.8848106.4310.54580.04392023
63McLaughlin, ScottD/C/F01:00.9106106.3850.57160.02581924
777Grosjean, RomainD/C/F01:00.9246106.3610.58560.01401921
826Herta, ColtonD/H/F01:00.9937106.2400.65470.06911624
910Palou, AlexD/H/F01:01.0200106.1950.68100.02631819
106Ilott, CallumD/C/F01:01.0545106.1350.71550.03452023
112Newgarden, JosefD/C/F01:01.0606106.1240.72160.00612121
129Dixon, ScottD/H/F01:01.0728106.1030.73380.01221821
1345Lundgaard, ChristianD/H/F01:01.0927106.0680.75370.01991720
147Rossi, AlexanderD/C/F01:01.2464105.8020.90740.15371923
1527Kirkwood, KyleD/H/F01:01.2476105.8000.90860.00121920
1678Canapino, AgustinD/C/F01:01.2823105.7400.94330.03472323
1728Ericsson, MarcusD/H/F01:01.3071105.6970.96810.02482123
188Lundqvist, Linus (R)D/H/F01:01.3377105.6450.99870.03061829
1920Rasmussen, Christian (R)D/C/F01:01.3784105.5751.03940.04072223
2014Ferrucci, SantinoD/C/F01:01.5243105.3241.18530.14591920
2118Harvey, JackD/H/F01:01.6268105.1491.28780.10251727
2215Rahal, GrahamD/H/F01:01.6303105.1431.29130.00352525
234Simpson, Kyffin (R)D/H/F01:01.7223104.9861.38330.09202224
2441Robb, Sting RayD/C/F01:02.0336104.4601.69460.31132020
2566Blomqvist, Tom (R)D/H/F01:02.0724104.3941.73340.03881114
2630Fittipaldi, PietroD/H/F01:02.6532103.4262.31420.58082126
2751Braun, Colin (R)D/H/F01:03.7562101.6373.41721.10302425

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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.