Josef Newgarden made yet another statement of intent about winning his third Astor Challenge Cup as he led practice for the Grand Prix of Portland on Friday at Portland International Raceway.
2017 and 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden was quickest with a lap of 58.5769 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. The top lap continued a recent resurgence for Newgarden, who pulled to second in the championship standings – within three points of leader and teammate Will Power – after winning the last event Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
The 75-minute practice took nearly three hours to complete due to three red flags for minor on-track incidents and another one lasting one hour, 21 minutes for a hydraulic issue on a large video screen adjacent to the front straightaway.
“Strange day,” Newgarden said. “Odd red today. But we all waited it out and got on track and felt really positive to start the weekend. I was really happy with our car and our start point.
“The test (last Friday at Portland) was very productive for us. We learned a lot about the track here specifically in different temperatures, and that paid dividends today. Feeling confident tomorrow and think we can have a good run in qualifying.”
NTT P1 Award qualifying is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. ET Saturday. A 45-minute practice will precede qualifying at noon ET, and a 30-minute final practice will conclude a hectic Saturday for drivers and teams at 7:15 p.m. ET. Qualifying and both practice sessions will be broadcast live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Another American driver continued a recent upswing during practice Friday, as rookie David Malukas was second at 58.7024 in the No. 18 HMD Honda on the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course. Malukas finished a career-best second behind Newgarden at WWTR.
Scott McLaughlin helped Team Penske take two of the top three spots as he ended up third at 58.7156 in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet. McLaughlin is sixth in the standings, 54 behind leader Power, and one of seven drivers still eligible to win the championship with two races remaining.
Alexander Rossi was fourth at 58.7639 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda, as the top four drivers in practice each were quicker than Alex Palou’s pole-winning lap of 58.7701 from last year.
Colton Herta helped Andretti Autosport land two drivers in the top five as he was fifth at 58.8246 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Newgarden and McLaughlin were the only two among the seven drivers still in contention for the Astor Challenge Cup to end up in the top five of the time sheet today.
Points leader Power was 10th at 59.0287 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, while third-place Scott Dixon (-14 points from lead) was 11th at 59.0325 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
Fourth place Marcus Ericsson (-17) was 16th at 59.2860 in the No. 8 PNC Bank Honda, with fifth place and reigning series champion Palou (-43) ninth at 58.9988 in the No. 10 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda. Seventh place Pato O’Ward (-58) was 22nd at 59.6261 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.