2020 Race Season AutoNation INDYCAR Challenge at CotA NTT IndyCar Series

Power pushes to top of practice chart at INDYCAR Classic

Story Credit: INDYCAR PR
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo

AUSTIN, Texas (Friday, March 22, 2019) – A fixture up front in qualifying on permanent road courses last season, Will Power was perched atop the leaderboard following three opening-day practices for the INDYCAR Classic, in preparation for the first NTT IndyCar Series race at Circuit of The Americas.

Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Power posted the best lap of the day in the second of the three sessions, when teams first tried a set of the softer, faster Firestone alternate tires. The 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner soared around the spectacular 20 turn, 3.41-mile circuit in 1 minute, 47.4401 seconds (114.259 mph).

“It’s a difficult track, very technical, hard to get the car right,” said Power, whose 35 career wins are tied for seventh most in Indy car history. “I felt like we got in a pretty good window that session. Felt like we found where we need to be.”

Power qualified first or second at five of the six 2018 NTT IndyCar Series races on permanent road courses but was only able to convert one – the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – into a victory and finished third in the season championship.

“We’ll just keep massaging on it,” Power said in anticipation of NTT P1 Award qualifying on Saturday and Sunday’s 60-lap race. “It’s going to be tight, it always is.”

Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist continued to impress on the heels of his fourth-place finish in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. The Swede was second fastest Friday with a lap of 1:47.6150 (114.073 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.

“I really like this place,” Rosenqvist said. “COTA is a track that has a lot of different characteristics in one lap, actually. It has high-speed areas and some very low-speed areas. You need a car that is good everywhere, to be honest. You can’t be happy everywhere, and you have to have a setup with a lot of compromise. 

“We’re happy with the setup so far with the NTT DATA car and will keep working on it.”

Rookie Colton Herta had the most eventful day. The son of former Indy car driver Bryan Herta was second in the morning practice but suffered a mechanical issue late in the session that forced a lengthy red flag to halt practice. Herta’s Harding Steinbrenner Racing crew worked feverishly to replace the engine in his No. 88 Honda, and while he missed the entire second practice, he was able to turn valuable laps in the warmup to get a sense for how the car reacted on the Firestone red-sidewall alternate tires.

“Today was a challenging day, to say the least,” Herta said. “We were quick in Practice 1 but struggled in (the warmup). We just couldn’t get the balance right on the red Firestone tires, but I know the car can be quick and we have the pace. 

“Overall, I am so proud of how hard the No. 88 Latitude Vacation Club guys and how hard the Honda guys worked in between today’s practice sessions to get us on track for warmup. We have such a good group at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, I just hope we can get that quick qualifying result I know we’re capable of getting.”  

Only a single 45-minute practice remains at 11 a.m. ET Saturday (livestream on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold). NTT P1 Award qualifying begins at 3 p.m. and airs live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and INDYCAR Pass.

The INDYCAR Classic is the second of 17 races on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule. Coverage of the race starts at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Circuit of The Americas is offering a $100,000 bonus to the driver who wins the pole position and the race.

Jared DePouw
Jared is the founder of RealOpenWheel.com but works as a small business accountant. He also officiates high school football and lacrosse in his free time.