Herta and Bourdais fastest on Friday at Portland

by Jordan Groves

Colton Herta and Sebastien Bourdais have finished as the fastest drivers in the two Friday practice sessions prior to this Sunday’s 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway.

As is often the case in the first practice session of a race weekend, the track conditions were far from perfect. The twenty-three drivers racing this weekend were met with an extremely slippery racing surface, with lap-times slowly improving as the session went on. Before that, however, many drivers would be caught out by the conditions and would find themselves half-spinning or off-track.

Once the chequered flag came out to end the first practice session, it was Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s rookie, Colton Herta, who was at the top of the time-sheets. The nineteen-year-old set a best lap-time of 57.4293 to take the top spot, with his lap just being a tenth of a second slower than the pole position time seen one year ago at Portland, set by Team Penske‘s Will Power.

Just one tenth of a second separated Herta from Alexander Rossi in second place. The Andretti Autosport driver was the fastest of the four championship contenders heading into this weekend’s penultimate race of the season. His fellow title contenders, reigning champion Scott Dixon and current championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, were just behind him in third and fourth respectively, with just three-tenths of a second separating the trio. Newgarden was the only Chevrolet driver inside the top ten, with Honda stealing a march in the early going of the race weekend.

It was a decent session for the four Andretti Autosport drivers. The aforementioned Rossi led his team-mates, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach and Ryan Hunter-Reay, all featured inside the top ten, occupying positions five, seven and nine. Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s James Hinchcliffe and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist were sandwiched in between the Andretti drivers, with Hinchcliffe finishing the session in a strong sixth and Rosenqvist just behind in eighth.

Our winner from last weekend, Takuma Sato, completed the top ten in the opening session of practice, with the two remaining Penske’s of Will Power and Simon Pagenaud just behind in eleventh and twelfth. Pagenaud, who is now in second-place in the standings, will hope to be up with his title rivals in the remaining sessions of the weekend.

Further back, a couple of drivers were making their return to the cockpit in the first practice session of the weekend. After missing the last two races, Max Chilton was back behind the wheel of his #59 Carlin Chevrolet and set the thirteenth fastest time. His session was not without incident, however, as he was involved in a close call with Pagenaud after exiting the pits directly in front of him.

Also returning was Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey. The British driver would set the seventeenth-fastest time ahead of eighteenth-placed Ed Jones, also making his return after vacating the #20 Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter for the last two races.

Propping up the field in twenty-third and last place was Conor Daly. The American had not been scheduled to drive this weekend, but he received a last-minute call-up to replace Marcus Ericsson at Arrow Schmidt Peterson after the Swede was called to fulfil his reserve driver duties for Alfa Romeo Racing at the Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Practice one top twelve results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIME
188Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing57.4293
227Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport57.5538
39Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing57.7922
42Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske57.8504
598Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta57.9006
65James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson57.9479
726Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport57.9619
810Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing58.0262
928Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport58.1618
1030Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing58.1906
1112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske58.2343
1222Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske58.3294

Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5671/2019-08-30/indycar-results-p1.pdf

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

The second practice session of the day saw no let-up in the mistakes out on the track, as the drivers continued to try and get to grips with the tricky Portland International Raceway. No one showcased this better than Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais.

The Frenchman put in a lap right at the end of the session to take the top spot on the time-sheets, but on the very next lap, he would slide off of the track at the exit of the penultimate corner and would hit the tyre wall head-on. Thankfully, Sebastien was able to slow his car enough to avoid causing too much damage to his #18 Honda, but the incident would, nevertheless, bring out the red flag and end the session prematurely.

Bourdais’ lap-time of 57.9213-seconds was enough to see him hold on to first place. He would ultimately edge out Team Penske’s Will Power by just two-hundredths of a second. The lap-times were slower than those seen in practice one, with Bourdais half a second slower than the benchmark set by Colton Herta earlier in the day.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s rookie, Felix Rosenqvist, set the third-fastest time of the session. The Swedish driver is looking for redemption after just missing out on what would have been his first win at the last road-course race at Mid-Ohio in July. He will also be hoping to retake the lead in the rookie of the year standings after Santino Ferrucci took over the top spot after his pair of fourth-place finishes at Pocono and Gateway.

Rosenqvist’s fellow rookie, Colton Herta, was fourth-fastest in the second session after leading the way earlier in the day. He will be hoping to be in the mix for his second win of the year after having had a torrid time since his first win way back in March at the Circuit of the Americas.

Josef Newgarden was the fastest of the quartet of title contenders after setting the fifth-fastest time. His rivals, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud, were just behind him in sixth and seventh respectively, with Scott Dixon further back in eleventh place. This weekend could be crucial for Pagenaud, Rossi and Dixon, as a poor result could leave them virtually out of contention heading into the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in a few weeks time.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing were inside the top ten as they continued to get back up to speed. Harvey took the eighth-fastest time and will want to be inside the top ten at the end of Sunday’s race for what would be the fifth-time in only the eight races he has entered this season. Arrow SPM’s James Hinchcliffe was just behind him in ninth-place, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato rounding out the top ten once again in tenth place ahead of the aforementioned Dixon.

Further back, Conor Daly continued to make progress as he gets up to speed with his new surroundings at Arrow SPM for this weekend. Daly moved up from twenty-third place in the first practice session to take twenty-first place in session two, improving his lap-time by half a second to set a 58.7111. Conor still trails his new team-mate, James Hinchcliffe, by half a second, but there is still plenty of time for him to get faster; especially as he has not raced on a road course in the NTT IndyCar Series in over a year.

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Practice one top twelve results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIME
118Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan57.9213
212Will PowerAUSTeam Penske57.9502
310Felix Rosenqvist (R)SWEChip Ganassi Racing58.0602
488Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing58.0848
52Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske58.0969
627Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport58.2102
722Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske58.2207
860Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing58.2489
95James HinchcliffeCANArrow Schmidt Peterson58.2791
1030Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing58.2856
119Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing58.3076
1219Santino Ferrucci (R)USADale Coyne Racing58.3372

Full results of practice can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/INDYCAR/Documents/5672/2019-08-30/indycar-results-p2.pdf

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