PORTLAND, Ore — I don’t know if it was the early start time, the fact that we’ve not been to this race track in two years or what, but Saturday’s first NTT IndyCar Series practice session of the weekend at the Portland International Raceway was as wild as you’ll see. The entire 75 minutes were action packed.
In the end, it was almost easier to list those who weren’t involved in an off track excursion rather than who were. Still, it was all about trying to find the limit and that’s exactly what several drivers did.
Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay both had engine issues. Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin, Conor Daly, Max Chilton, Jimmie Johnson and others got off course.
By time the checkered flag flew, a familiar name was on top. Despite a mid practice spin, Palou (58.7824-seconds) topped the speed charts in session No. 1 in his No. 10 Honda. It was a great comeback for him as he brought out the red flag for getting off track at 9:36 a.m. PT. He lost five minutes of practice as a result, but that didn’t faze him.
It was also a much needed to start to September for them since August was brutally unkind to the second year driver. He was seventh, 27th and 20th respectively in the three races which saw his 50+ point lead evaporate to a 10 point deficit.
He had championship company up front on Saturday too. Points leader Pato O’Ward was P4 in his No. 5 Chevrolet. The Mexican driver turned in a time of 58.8933-seconds. Third in points Josef Newgarden (58.8947-seconds) was fifth. The other championship front runners in Scott Dixon (11th) and Marcus Ericsson (14th) were outside the top 10.
The only other two drivers in the top five were Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves (58.8850-seconds) and Jack Harvey (58.8887-seconds). They were second and third respectively.
For Castroneves, this was his first time he’s been back to Portland since 2001. So, for him to be this quick this early, well it’s a great sign.
The session was tight in .2-seconds separated 1st from 10th. 23 cars were within a second of the top lap.
Session 1 Results
This was the final practice of the weekend and essentially serves as the pre race warmup that is typically had on race day morning. But, with a Noon local time start, there’s no time to do this on Sunday, hence the Saturday late afternoon final session.
This practice was a little more tame in nature in the sense the drivers had 75 minutes of practice this morning, three rounds qualifying after and now 30 more minutes. The speed chart wasn’t more irrelevant now with most teams and drivers eyeing which tire compound would be the primary one of use for Sunday’s 110 Lap race.
With a lot of stoppages in the only other practice and qualifying being a different beast in nature, this session was the one to figure out a race day plan.
See, the tire is different this weekend in comparison to the last time out here in 2019. That’s why I don’t put a ton of stock into the speeds below, but they’re still worth mentioning.
Scott Dixon led the way for a Ganassi sweep of the speed charts. He turned in a time of 59.4111 seconds. Palou was P4 (59.7467 seconds) while Josef Newgarden (59.6296 seconds) and Ed Jones (59.6403 seconds) were second and third respectively. Harvey (59.8976 seconds) rounded out the top five.