Palou Tops First Ever Practice Session in Portland

3 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Alex Palou has never raced at Portland International Raceway before, and despite bringing out a red flag, the young Spaniard managed to go fastest in practice ahead of the Grand Prix of Portland.

With thirty-eight minutes remaining, Palou ran too wide in turn twelve and spun in the dirt, coming to a stop just before the edge of the tyre barrier. He was very lucky to avoid damage and continue his run to the top.

Before the session began, it was announced that Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Rinus Veekay will be given a six-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change this weekend that will be enforced after qualifying. Not the birthday gift the now twenty-one year old Dutchman.

With forty-four minutes remaining in the session, Max Chilton brought out the first red flag of the day after he spun in turn two. The Carlin driver used too much curb in the first corner and lost the back end as he came around turn two, stopping on track. He was not the only victim of the chicane, as Scott McLaughlin also used too much curb and went straight into the grass on the outside of turn two as he tried to return to the racing surface.

The one year break from the demanding Portland circuit caught out experienced veterans as well, as Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly were all reminded how unforgiving the curbs are with brief off-track excursions.

Two Honda drivers experienced engine issues throughout the session, as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato were unable to run many laps in the session. Hunter-Reay reported issues accelerating through the gears and hitting the top of the rev range, while Sato reported an odd sound from the engine as well as vibrations and went behind the wall early. Sato’s team stated that they will perform a full engine change before qualifying.

With eleven minutes remaining McLaughlin got caught out again, this time locking up his right front tyre in the final corner and colliding with the barrier. His car was not damaged severely, but yet another growing pain for the Team Penske rookie as he continues to learn a track he’s never been to.The green flag was back out with seven minutes left, leading to a frantic scramble to get final runs in.

Behind Palou, Meyer Shank Racing finished the session in second and third as Helio Castroneves finished ahead of his teammate Jack Harvey. Harvey spent time at the top of the timing charts during the session and consistently ran in the top five, so the British driver will be hoping for a return to form like he was in at the beginning of the season.

Championship leader Patrio O’Ward finished the session in fourth, spending most of the day in the top five like Harvey ahead of him. Rounding out the top five was Josef Newgarden, putting three of the top points drivers among the fastest in the session.

Romain Grosjean, another rookie to PIR, adapted quickly to the new circuit finishing sixth ahead of the defending GP of Portland winner Will Power in seventh.

Andretti Autosport had two drivers finish in the top ten, with Rossi and Colton Herta finishing eigth and ninth respectively. Finishing out the top ten was Graham Rahal, who was consistently in the top ten all session.

Rahal’s teammate for the rest of the season Oliver Askew finished the session in sixteenth on his return to the IndyCar Series, while debuting rookie Callum Ilott finished twenty-fourth for Juncos Hollinger Racing.

Qualifying for the Grand Prix of Portland will begin at 1515 EST / 1215 PST / 2215 BST.

Grand Prix of Portland First Practice Results

1Alex Palou10ESPChip Ganassi Racing00:58.782 sec.
2Helio Castroneves6BRAMeyer Shank Racing00:58.885 sec.
3Jack Harvey60GBRMeyer Shank Racing00:58.888 sec.
4Pato O’Ward5MEXArrow McLaren SP00:58.893 sec.
5Josef Newgarden2USATeam Penske00:58.894 sec.
6Romain Grosjean (R)51FRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing00:58.905 sec.
7Will Power12AUSTeam Penske00:58.919 sec.
8Alexander Rossi27USAAndretti Autosport00:58.932 sec.
9Colton Herta26USAAndretti Autosport00:58.947 sec.
10Graham Rahal15USARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing00:58.991 sec.
11Scott Dixon9NZLChip Ganassi Racing00:59.008 sec.
12Scott McLaughlin (R)3NZLTeam Penske00:59.066 sec.
13Felix Rosenqvist7SWEArrow McLaren SP00:59.109 sec.
14Marcus Ericsson8SWEChip Ganassi Racing00:59.118 sec.
15Sebastien Bourdais14FRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises00:59.291 sec.
16Oliver Askew45USARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing00:59.298 sec.
17Rinus VeeKay21NEDEd Carpenter Racing00:59.309 sec.
18James Hinchcliffe29CANAndretti Steinbrenner Autosport00:59.312 sec.
19Ed Jones18UAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan00:59.338 sec.
20Jimmie Johnson (R)48USAChip Ganassi Racing00:59.455 sec.
21Conor Daly20USAEd Carpenter Racing00:59.536 sec.
22Max Chilton59GBRCarlin00:59.584 sec.
23Simon Pagenaud22FRATeam Penske00:59.680 sec.
24Callum Ilott (R)77GBRJuncos Hollinger Racing00:59.917 sec.
25Dalton Kellett4CANA.J. Foyt Enterprises01:00.198 sec.
26Ryan Hunter-Reay28USAAndretti Autosport01:00.269 sec.
27Takuma Sato30JPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing01:22.252 sec.
(R) – Rookie
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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