MONTEREY, Calif. – It’s the first time in 15 years since the NTT IndyCar Series has competed at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which means everyone starts from scratch.
That worked to rookie driver Colton Herta’s benefit as the 19-year-old driver ran the fastest lap in Thursday’s six hours of testing at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile natural terrain road course.
Herta’s No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Honda turned 63 laps with a fast time of 1:10.0720 for a speed of 114.979 mph.
“I think there are only a handful of drivers like Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan that have ever raced here in an Indy car,” Herta told SPEED SPORT. “It’s like COTA, it helps that we are starting from Ground Zero. The circuit has changed, and the cars have changed and that helps a lot and helps from setup as well.
“It’s a place where nobody knows what to expect.”
Team Penske driver Will Power was second quick at 1:10.5383 (114.219 mph) in his No. 12 Chevrolet. Another rookie driver, Felix Rosenqvist, was third at 1:10.5896 (114.136 mph) in the No. 10 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Josef Newgarden, the NTT IndyCar Series points leader, was fourth at 1:10.6406 (114.054 mph) in the No. 2 Chevrolet followed by Graham Rahal’s Honda at 1:10.7709 (113.843 mph).
There were 1,629 laps turned in the test session. The morning session saw Alexander Rossi turn five laps in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Honda with Hunter-Reay turning seven laps in the No. 27 Honda to compare setups at Andretti Autosport. That has become a common tactic for this team at test sessions.
Because Thursday was a test session, the speeds count for real beginning Friday with practice for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. There are four drivers still mathematically alive in the battle for the NTT IndyCar Series championship.
Newgarden leads Rossi by 41, Simon Pagenaud by 42 and Scott Dixon by 85. This is one of two races on the schedule that pays double points, so a victory is worth 100 points instead of the typical 50.