DETROIT (Friday, June 11, 2021) – A driver and a team searching for a hot streak found the top of the practice time sheet on a sizzling day in Detroit.
Will Power and Team Penske – both winless in this NTT INDYCAR SERIES season – burnished their credentials as threats to win the NTT P1 Award and the race Saturday in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit by leading practice Friday afternoon on the Belle Isle temporary street circuit. 2014 series champion Power saved his best lap for last, turning the quick time of 1 minute, 17.2768 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.
Power and the other 24 drivers in the field faced tough conditions, with the bumpy nature of the 14-turn, 2.35-mile circuit compounded by track temperatures tickling 120 degrees, with air temperatures in the mid-80s. Heavy traffic around the circuit also made it tough to assemble a clean lap.
“Yeah, it’s very hot out there,” Power said. “It’s just a physical track. You kind of hold your breath because there’s just so much commitment. I feel all right. The car is in a really good window. I was happy to get a lap in there at the end, with some guys backing up and such.”
The field of 25 drivers will return to the track for NTT P1 Award qualifying for Race 1 at 11 a.m. (ET) Saturday, with live coverage on NBCSN, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network. The 70-lap Race 1 of the weekend doubleheader then follows at 2 p.m., with live broadcasts by NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Four-time INDYCAR SERIES champion Sebastien Bourdais rebounded from a miserable May by ending up second in practice with a top lap of 1:17.4291 in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Bourdais was taken out in crashes not of his doing at both races in the doubleheader in early May at Texas Motor Speedway, and he finished 19th in the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and 26th in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Title contender Pato O’Ward completed a sweep of the top three positions in practice for Chevrolet on home turf. O’Ward’s best lap was 1:17.5143 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Reigning and six-time series champion Scott Dixon was the fastest Honda-powered driver, fourth overall at 1:17.6178 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda. 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, another driver looking for a strong second half of the season, rounded out the top five at 1:17.6587 in the No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.
Championship leader Alex Palou was 15th at 1:18.7996 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He is racing at Detroit for the first time since the event wasn’t held last season during his rookie year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Palou will face an additional challenge Saturday by starting six grid spots behind his qualifying position due to an unauthorized engine change before the Indianapolis 500.
The challenging Belle Isle circuit snared two rookies early. Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin triggered a red flag 14 minutes into the session in separate incidents seconds apart.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Johnson spun exiting Turn 3 in his No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda but made no contact and continued to the pits, where he served a five-minute penalty for causing a red-flag period.
Three-time Australian Supercars champion McLaughlin wasn’t as fortunate as Johnson. His No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet pushed wide in Turn 5 and hit the tire barrier, incurring front wing and suspension damage. McLaughlin was unable to return, losing his only session before qualifying on his first trip to this track.