Herta Fast, Title Contenders Up To Speed In Portland

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Colton Herta set the fastest time in NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday at Portland Int'l Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)
Colton Herta set the fastest time in NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday at Portland Int'l Raceway. (Al Steinberg Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Rookie Colton Herta has taken to the Portland Int’l Raceway like a veteran.

Perhaps that is because Portland is the site of his first test in an Indy car last year.

Herta was the fastest driver in Friday’s combined practice sessions for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland. He lapped the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course in 57.4293 for a fast lap at 123.115 mph in the No. 88 Honda.

Alexander Rossi, who trails Josef Newgarden by 46 points in the NTT IndyCar Series standings, was second quick at 57.5538 (122.849 mph) in the No. 27 NAPA Honda.

“We didn’t get a lap in on Reds, so I think our theoretical is being third quick,” Rossi said afterwards. “Overall, I’m super happy with the NAPA car. We’ll have to figure some things out overnight but overall I think the general pace is there and we just need to fine tune it.”

Scott Dixon, 70 points back, was third at 57.5538 (122.342 mph) in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, followed by Newgarden at 57.8504 (122.219 mph) in the No. 2 Chevrolet.

Marco Andretti rounded out the top five with a fast lap at 57.9006 (122.113 mph) in the No. 98 Honda.

Earlier in the day, several of the championship contenders talked about their battle with two races to go in the NTT IndyCar Series championship.

Newgarden has a 38-point lead over Team Penske teammate and 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud.

“I don’t think it’s a secure position, but it is the favorable one,” Newgarden said. “If we lose it, it probably would sting a bit more. If you are 38, 48 points back, I think it stings less. It sucks either way. But if you lose it with a bigger advantage, then yeah, I think it just stings a bit more.”

Pagenaud believes he has to look straight ahead and focus on his own car, rather than count the points or do the scenarios in his head.

“The only control over my destiny is to do the best I can,” Pagenaud said. “It doesn’t really matter what Josef or Alex, or Scott do. It really is about my own performance.

“I’m really focused on that, focused on being in the moment as much as possible. We’ll see what we can do. The car felt much, much better today. Step by step we’ll get the little details and get quicker and quicker as a team.

“I’m pretty excited about this weekend. It’s really awesome to be at in point of the season, last two races, four guys in the championship, it’s really exciting.”