Rossi, Pagenaud and Rahal! quick in first practice at Honda Indy Toronto

By Steve Wittich

The ambient temperature when Friday’s 75-minute practice got underway was 73F. Under the bright sun, the track temperature was a steaming 118.2F.

After a quick install lap, the veteran drivers returned to pit road to wait until later in the session. However, the track wasn’t silent as the rookies, who had an extra set of Primary Firestone Racing Tires (blacks), were busy.

Palou (who has had an ‘interesting’ week – more on that later) is one of seven drivers who has never turned laps on the 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit and was the quickest of the 19 drivers that had turned laps.

Rookies Malukas, DeFrancesco, Lundgaard, Ilott, and Kirkwood had the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh best times.

Jimmie Johnson, in the No. 48 Carvana Honda, was out on the Alternate Firestone Racing Tires (reds) early to get a read on the grippier of the tires on a race-length stint.

With 41 minutes remaining, the red flag came out for concern with a patch of the track surface in Turn 2. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team looked at the patch and pronounced it good (for now).

Felix Rosenqvist had just set the quickest lap when the red to inspect the track came out. Rossi, Power, Pagenaud, and Palou rounded out the top five.

With 30 minutes remaining, Ilott brought out the red flag. The No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet made contact on the driver’s left at the exit of Turn 1 after sliding across the concrete patch.

The car sustained front wing, left front, and left rear suspension damage.

Right before the second red came out, Rahal went quickest, with Rosenqvist, Rossi, Power, Pagenaud, Palou, Dixon, Newgarden, Ericsson, and O’Ward in the top ten.

Only Johnson and Palou had been out on the reds with 20 minutes remaining in practice.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, the third red flag of practice came out. This time it was for Johnson, who oversteered on the bumps on entry in Turn 8, spinning 360 degrees before making contact with the front wing.

The green flag came back out with 15 minutes remaining, with 18 drivers on reds.

Helio Castroneves, who twice – once by merit (2000) and once by points (2014 Race #2) – has started on the pole at the Honda Indy Toronto twice, is clearly getting more comfortable on the road and street courses, going into the top five late in the session.

With ten minutes remaining, Power made light contact with the left rear at the exit of Turn 8, leaving a black mark on the bright white wall.

Turn 8 continued to bite, causing the fourth red flag of the session when Helio Castroneves ended nosed into the tires. He hit the bumpy brake zone wrong, which sent the No. 06 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda bounding.

Dixon, the car immediately in front of Castroneves, also had an issue in Turn 8, going long into the runoff, but continuing.

The green flag returned with two minutes remaining in the 75-minute session, with most drivers completing one lap “at speed.” However, finding space is not easy with 25 cars on a 1.786-mile, 11-turn Exhibition Place street circuit.

Pagenaud told Dave Burns that it was a good practice but thinks they can still find more with an improvement to the rear end’s stability.

The top ten were within a half-second of leader Rossi.

Honda Indy Toronto practice times

127Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda1:00.6090——23
260Simon PagenaudMeyer Shank RacingHonda1:00.69910.090124
315Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda1:00.70310.094127
48Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda1:00.72620.117227
52Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevy1:00.76500.156029
67Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevy1:00.79360.184623
726Colton HertaAndretti Autosport w/Curb-AgajanianHonda1:00.86890.259924
89Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda1:00.98540.376424
912Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy1:00.99320.384228
1010Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda1:01.05220.443233
1130Christian LundgaardRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda1:01.17490.565931
126Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda1:01.24540.636419
1351Takuma SatoDale Coyne Racing w/RWRHonda1:01.26040.651430
1418David MalukasDale Coyne Racing with HMDHonda1:01.26270.653725
153Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevy1:01.31710.708131
1628Romain GrosjeanAndretti AutosportHonda1:01.35350.744530
1729Devlin DeFrancescoAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportHonda1:01.52520.916231
1845Jack HarveyRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda1:01.65801.049032
1921Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevy1:01.67661.067625
205Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevy1:01.69061.081626
2114Kyle KirkwoodAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy1:01.83501.226027
2220Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevy1:02.15011.541125
2377Callum IlottJuncos Hollinger RacingChevy1:02.68742.078419
2448Jimmie JohnsonChip Ganassi RacingHonda1:03.02382.414837
254Dalton KellettAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy1:03.08732.478329