By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Alexander Rossi struck the first blow of the Gallagher Grand Prix weekend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, pacing Friday’s opening practice session.
The 2016 winner of the Indianapolis 500, piloted his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course in one minute, 10.092 seconds to lead the way after switching to the red Firestone alternates late in the session to jump to the top of the board.
Josef Newgarden, who returned to action Friday following his visit to the hospital last weekend in Iowa, seemed no worse for wear during the 90-minute session, as he was one of the faster cars on the standard Firestone tires, as well as the Firestone alternates, finishing the session in second-place.
The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion was re-evaluated after practice to determine his clearance for the remainder of the weekend and a short time later, word came down from IndyCar officials that he indeed would be cleared to proceed with qualifying and the race.
Colton Herta, winner of the GMR Grand Prix back in May, will be looking to make it a clean sweep on the IMS road course on Saturday and showed some speed in Friday practice as well, timing in third fastest.
Scott McLaughlin was fourth on the timing sheet at the end of practice, with Alex Palou rounding out the top-five. The defending IndyCar champion was also fast on the standard Firestone black tires as he attempts to keep his focus on track while embroiled in a lawsuit with his current team, Chip Ganassi Racing.
Graham Rahal was sixth quickest, followed by Felix Rosenqvist, Christian Lundgaard, Helio Castroneves, and Conor Daly filling out the top-10.
Further down the scoring pylon were drivers like six-time champion Scott Dixon, Will Power, Rinus VeeKay, and Pato O’Ward, all of whom will have some work to do for the remainder of the weekend.
O’Ward in particular had a tough time in practice, making several off-track excursions as his team battled with the handling on his Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Next up for the IndyCar contingent will be qualifying, which will take place at 1:00 pm ET on Peacock. Teams will then gear up for race day, hitting the track for warm-up on Saturday morning at 8:15 am before heading into the race at Noon on NBC.