With the 104th Indianapolis 500 in the rearview mirror, the NTT IndyCar series made the short trip over to St. Louis for a double-header event this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. Last Sunday Pato O’Ward finished 6th in the Indy 500 to earn Rookie of The Year honors, and today he posted the fastest lap during the only practice session this weekend. The Arrow McLaren SP driver took his Chevrolet-powered car around the 1.25-mile track at 181.532 mph in preparation for tomorrow’s Bommarito Auto Group 500.
A pair of familiar faces were just behind O’Ward on the practice chart, as veteran drivers Will Power and Scott Dixon were able to edge out Conor Daly. The popular driver is back with Carlin Racing this weekend in the No. 59 Chevrolet. Two-time Indy 500 winner and defending Gateway race winner Takuma Sato rounded out the top five on Friday.
Friday Combined Practice Results
“We put a lot of very valuable work in that session,” O’Ward said. “We did everything we wanted to do to prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying and race. There are so many little things that go into it that make a perfect race, so we want to make the best out of it. This Arrow McLaren SP crew gave us some really strong cars to roll out with, and I think it was just fine-tuning from there. I ended the day really happy, and I think we will be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”
There are a few key items to keep an eye on this weekend. Since there will be two races, there will be two opportunities for the pole sitter to grab the win. The last driver to win at Gateway from pole was Helio Castroneves in 2003. Simon Pagenaud was only 18th fastest today, but he is the only driver to finish inside the top five in all three Gateway races since IndyCar’s return. That being said, he has never won here and has only led a total of 13 laps.
Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, and Ed Carpenter combined have just one top-five finish here and none of them have ever led a lap. Tony Kanaan has a great looking livery this weekend, but he has been hot and cold here. He has only led one of the seven races he has started here. He does have two podiums but also has three finishes of 13th or worse.
The first 30 minutes of practice was dedicated to rookies and first-timers so they did get slightly more time on the track today. O’Ward put in 75 laps, while Rinus VeeKay was able to put in 86 total laps. O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew also got 79 laps under his belt after his frightening crash last weekend at Indianapolis. Fellow rookie Alex Palou recorded the most laps with 101 in his Dale Coyne Racing machine. Some drivers didn’t get as much time to work on their car, as Palou’s teammate Santino Ferrucci posted just 40 total laps on Friday. Andretti Autosport didn’t record a lot of laps either, with Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach, and Marco Andretti all under 57 laps, while Hunter-Reay put down a field-low 32 laps during practice.
Qualifications for Bommarito Automotive Group Race 1 will take place just a few hours before the green flag tomorrow. NBC Gold will provide coverage of qualifying, which begins at Noon ET. The driver’s first lap will determine their starting position for Saturday’s race, while their second lap will set the lineup for the second race on Sunday. Coverage for both races begins at 3 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
OLIVER ASKEW (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “It was a good first session. It’s nice to be back in St. Louis and to welcome the fans back, as well. I always love driving around here, so looking forward to building on that practice into qualifying tomorrow. Arrow McLaren SP and Chevrolet did a great job preparing us for this weekend with the quick turnaround. We are ready to go.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 United States Air Force Chevrolet): “Really excited to be back in St. Louis. We finished second here last year, so we’re hoping to regain that form. It was a tough practice, but we did learn a lot throughout that session. Looks like these conditions will be really similar to what it will be tomorrow during the race, so it was good to get a solid amount of laps in. Rinus (VeeKay) looks pretty good in the other car, so we’ll take a look at what they’re doing, work on our car overnight and be ready to go for qualifying tomorrow.”
CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I think we’re in a really good place with the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the races this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway. We went out and did our qual sim pretty early in the session, and then the track just continued to get quicker as practice went on. We knew that was going to be the case, but we wanted to make sure we worked through everything we needed to with only one practice session. The tire seems to be a little different and it’s creating a different feel, but obviously we’re still quick, which is nice. It feels really good to roll off the truck again with a quick car, and so far it’s really just been an incredible effort by the Carlin team. I love this track so much, and with how strong we were here last year and how the car felt today, I’m feeling really good about where we are.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It felt pretty good out there in the PNC Bank Honda. We ran heavier fuel runs and then a few qualifying simulations there at the end of the session. We had to chase the balance there just a bit. We had quite a bit of understeer, so it was nice to be able to dial a bit of that out near the end. We just need to make sure we get qualifying right because this format really bites you when you get it wrong like it did in Iowa. At least in Iowa, it was set up more for passing, whereas it’s more difficult here, we think. Top three is a good start and we’re happy, but you have to wait and see for tomorrow.”
MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think it was a good session, and we rolled off the truck very fast. A huge credit to the team for bringing fast cars here. I think we’re off to a good start with the Huski Chocolate car, and I like where we are here heading into the two races.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We started the session with full fuel for a long run in the SealMaster Honda. I almost ran a full stint when we decided to come in for a quick adjustment to the aero balance. The car felt really good. We were getting quicker and quicker throughout the run. Then we lost drive in the rear, so I had to pit, and that was the end of our session.”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “It was a pretty solid first day. I’ve never been to this track before, and it’s a really, really cool track. Hopefully, we can take a similar car to this one, maybe with some improvements, into the race with us. This is a car that you feel happy going into qualifying with. Overall, I’m really happy with today, and hopefully we can carry that momentum with us that we have built and see what we can do tomorrow.”
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine #ShiftToGreen Honda): “It was a pretty eventful practice even though it was only an hour long. It felt like we got quite a lot done, and we feel pretty good. It was hard to put a lap time in without traffic, so I’m sure everybody is struggling with that. I think the Capstone car, overall, rolled off the truck pretty good. We have some changes to make tonight but should be good. We really focused today on race setup – I think we have to be focused on the race. Basically, after qualifying we’re not allowed to touch the cars before the race, so you have to be focused on race setup. Where you qualify is just where you qualify. The race is more important, so we’re focused on that.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “We spent the session today battling some brake issues and weren’t able to put a run together. It’s unfortunate given that was our only practice session. We’ll see what our teammates had to say and use that to help guide us. Our focus is on putting together a strong race setup and doing what we can with the little time we got today.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 Big Machine Vodka / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “A good day. A one-hour session is really tight. We unloaded, I think, a little bit off, which took us a little bit of time to get going. But at the end of the day, I was really happy. I think I have a car to run in the top 10. Wish we could have unloaded a couple of changes ahead, but this the price of the short weekends like this. Looking forward to it. Beautiful car this weekend with Big Machine Vodka. I love it. I love the way it looks. It’s a doubleheader, so looking forward to it.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 4 Tresiba / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Maybe not the practice session we wanted for the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet. We were pretty quick early on in the session and right through the middle. On our last set of new Firestones, we had some traffic, and it was a little disruptive, so not really able to maximize the speed of the car. But the 14 with Tony (Kanaan) was pretty quick, so we’ll look and see what the Big Machine Vodka car did as far as setup changes, apply that overnight and get ready to qualify and race one of two tomorrow.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It wasn’t a great session for us. The Hitachi Chevrolet has speed; we just weren’t able to find everything we wanted in that session. It’s hard having only an hour to get ready for qualifying and two races. I’m just glad they were able to give us a practice session that was close to race conditions. But I still want more. Now it’s time to go sit with the engineers and figure out a plan for tomorrow and Sunday. I know we will have the Hitachi car ready to go, and I’m excited to race.”
PATO O’WARD (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “We put a lot of very valuable work in that session. We did everything we wanted to do to prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying and race. There’s so many little things that go into it that make a perfect race, so we want to make the best out of it. This Arrow McLaren SP crew gave us some really strong cars to roll out with, and I think it was just fine-tuning from there. I ended the day really happy, and I think we will be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s great to get back in the car after Indy. I think our Menards Chevrolet is good, but we tried a lot of different things on the car with such a limited amount of track time for practice before tomorrow. This practice really was important because these are the conditions we will have for the race tomorrow, so it was important to gather as much information and data as we can to prepare. I will go back and talk with my guys, and we will get a good plan together for tomorrow.”
ALEX PALOU (No. 55 Guaranteed Rate Honda): “It’s a very fun track. Very different to the ovals I’ve done up until now, but a bit similar to Iowa in some ways. I like it because you can work a lot with the car, you can drive it more, kind of like on a road course. I’m getting up to speed now with the ovals. I still need a bit more confidence, but I think we are getting there. It was a pretty good day. We were in the top 10 most of the session, and we ended up seventh, so that’s really good. I’m happy with the No. 55 Guaranteed Rate car, and the team has done a great job. Hopefully tomorrow we can fight for some trophies.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m happy with how that session went for the Verizon team. We ran a lot and did some pretty long runs there to understand the car. We didn’t have to change much because the Verizon Chevrolet was pretty good out of the box. I think we are pretty good, but I also ran a lot by myself. So, I’m not really sure where we are at in a pack. But overall, I’m happy with what we had today.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “It was a tough day. I am just not happy with the balance of the car. I don’t feel confident in either end of the car and don’t know what the limits are. From the very get-go, the car didn’t feel right, but obviously there is more mass that we need to deal with. It just feels like on our end, we’re missing a lot. Takuma (Sato) put in a good lap there, and I don’t know how. I need to look at the data because it’s not feasible for me. The short ovals are challenging for us at the start. It’s going to take work to get in the ballpark, but we did it at Iowa, so we will do it here.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a short practice, and I wanted more time, like I’m sure everyone would have liked to have. We started off loose in the NTT DATA Honda and dialed it in as we went. It seems like the three cars are very quick and hope we can get further up the speed chart tomorrow, when it really counts.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “It’s good to be back in St. Louis, where we had a fantastic race last year. The boys did a phenomenal job. Obviously, we are carrying great momentum from last week with first and third. It’s busy; it just never stops. INDYCAR racing never stops. We have zero chance of resting time, but we’re happy to go back to racing. It’s a very tough field, very competitive. It was only a one-hour session today, and we will go straight into qualifying. So, we had to check our qualifying setup, race trim and so on within a one hour compressed time, so it was very difficult. At least I got a very positive feeling from the car. I’m still not fully confident going into the corner, but we will study the data overnight and hopefully be able to repeat a competitive run tomorrow.”
RINUS VEEKAY (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “That was a pretty good practice. The wind was quite a challenge. You can really feel the wind on these short oval wings. This is a lot different than Indy, way tighter, it feels like you’re driving into a hairpin in Turns 1 and 2. It was fun. We started off decently but made a lot of progress and are right there with the quicker guys. We set our fast time quite early compared to the others. I’m very happy. We still have some things to improve on, but the team is doing an amazing job so far.”