MONTEREY, Calif. (Friday, Sept. 8, 2023) – Colton Herta wants the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey to be a throwback weekend, in more ways than one.
Herta led the opening practice for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season finale Friday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, turning a top lap of 1 minute, 7.5382 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda featuring a livery very similar to the iconic paint scheme his father, Bryan Herta, drove to victory at this track in 1998 and 1999. His top lap came on Firestone primary tires, which have less grip but are more durable, since he had no time to try the Firestone alternate tires due to late incidents triggering red flags in the 75-minute session.
SEE: Practice Results
“We didn’t get to do a proper run,” Herta said of the alternate, red-sidewall tires. “I think some of the teammates did, which is a good thing for me at least to understand what they do and how we can make the car a little bit better.
“But it’s really close. I feel really happy with how everything is. It’s a good-looking race car this weekend, and I hope to try to make it to Victory Lane with it.”
Another throwback Herta hopes to enjoy Sunday at this circuit is victory. He won from the pole here in 2019 and 2021.
Up next is a second practice at 1 p.m. ET Saturday (live, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network), followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5 p.m. ET. Live coverage of the 95-lap race starts at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Herta’s top lap in the Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian machine wasn’t quite as quick as the best time Thursday during the series’ Open Test, 1:07.2762 by Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. But it still topped the INDYCAR SERIES track record of 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves in 2000, as the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit was repaved in May.
Pato O’Ward was second in practice today at 1:07.5911 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, followed by teammate and Alexander Rossi at 1:07.6336 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Both were quicker than Castroneves’ track record.
Marcus Ericsson ended up fourth at 1:07.7913 in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Kyle Kirkwood rounded out the top five at 1:07.8502 in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport.
Juri Vips, who made his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut last weekend at Portland, was the quickest rookie after placing sixth at 1:07.9175 in the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Alex Palou, who clinched his second series championship last weekend, was 12th at 1:08.0687 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing. Palou is the defending winner of this race.
There were five red flags during the session as the 27 drivers came to grips with the fast new pavement. Two drivers – Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 DHL Honda of Andretti Autosport and Power – made barrier contact in separate incidents. Neither driver was hurt, but their cars sustained moderate damage.