Power leads Iowa’s only practice
Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden sent a message Friday that Team Penske has every intention of winning Saturday’s 250-lap race at Iowa Speedway.
Newgarden was among the quickest in the 26-car field for most of the 90-minute session – the only practice on the schedule for the doubleheader – and he was usurped by Power, who set the bar with a lap to 173.285 mph in his No. 12 Chevy and stayed on top for the entire duration. McLaughlin followed Power moments later with a best lap of 173.083 mph which was good enough for third place; Newgarden’s fast lap of 171.557mph set on his fourth lap was solid and was still good for seventh at the checkered flag.
With impound rules governing Saturday activities, drivers are forced to start the race with the chassis configuration chosen for the morning qualifying session. As a result, most teams focused on finding the best race setup instead of chasing the ultimate speed that would make the car perfect for qualifying but undriveable for two hours of racing.
“I think we’re in the window,” Power said. “Obviously a lot of good cars and good drivers, so you’re never going to predict who will be where. I hope to finally have a good qualifying – at least start in front. I feel good in the car.
For most of the 90-degree afternoon, the uneventful session was led by Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly. His 173.239 mph run in the No. 20 Chevy ended up good for second place after Power moved the pack as the Bowtie-powered cars went 1-2-3.
Fourth place belonged to Alex Palou, the fastest of the Chip Ganassi Racing drivers with a lap of 172.764 mph in his #10 Honda. Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward finished fifth in the #5 Chevy at 172.687 mph and the top six was completed by CGR’s Marcus Ericsson in the #8 Honda with a run of 171.819 mph.
While most of the lead drivers felt confident about their cars for Saturday, some were puzzled by their lack of pace. Teams will work late into the night to find improvements to apply for qualifying, but with no opportunity to try these setup changes before the grid is set or before the race, whatever is done to the car before qualifying is what struggling pilots will be. stuck with when it’s time to go for a run.
“It was a tough first session,” said Alexander Rossi of his 20th-place finish Andretti Autosport Honda. “We’re not even at the window, to be honest. We have work to do at night. It was our only practice session and we go directly to qualifying tomorrow. It’s a parc fermé race so it could be difficult tomorrow.
The session opened with the usual practice of teams sending out their drivers for a setup lap before all 26 participants stopped and sat for varying lengths of time. After 30 minutes Daly was fastest with a lap of 173.239mph in his #20 car and most of the drivers had clocked in between 15 and 30 laps which clocked in under 19 seconds for most of the field.
Daly set the lap in his first moto, as did Josef Newgarden and Graham Rahal, who followed in second and third, who held until halfway through the session. There was little movement as the teams focused on race setups, but once the switch to qualifying simulations was made, Palou moved into second place with 35 minutes to go. O’Ward was next, taking second place from Palou.
With 26 minutes remaining, Jimmie Johnson took sixth place, and when he reached 20 to go, Power took and held onto top spot with a 173.285 mph and teammate Scott McLaughlin climbed to third just before the track turns yellow to wait for a fox to make its way across the track and clear the circuit.
NEXT: Qualifying, 10:30 a.m. ET