By: Spencer Neff
March 3, 2023
Scott Dixon kicked off his quest for a record-tying seventh INDYCAR Championship by leading opening practice for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The driver of the No.9 led a Top Five sweep for Honda-powered entries, with Colton Herta of Andretti Autosport second. Dixon clocked a best lap of 1m01.6145 (105.170), .033 of a second better than Palou.
The four-car team, also featuring the fastest rookie in Marcus Armstrong (ninth), has not won on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit in Florida since 2011 (Dario Franchitti).
Although Ganassi would lead the speed chart, Andretti Autosport made waves during the session.
In addition to Herta, Kyle Kirkwood entered his sophomore campaign by ending the first on-track session fourth. Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud filled out the Top Five.
2020 Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay ended the 75-minute session in sixth, best of the Chevrolet entries, in his Ed Carpenter Racing.
Facing a track under windy conditions, several drivers found trouble early on this weekend.
During the first 15 minutes, which were reserved for rookies, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Benjamin Pedersen spun in Turn 4, heavily damaging the front wing of his No. 55.
The early red flags continued later as part of the track surface was torn up between Turns 3 and 4.
Pedersen and fellow rookie Canapino were the first drivers to utilizer the alternate Firestone tires during the session,
The first red flag during the full-field portion of the afternoon running was for Pagenaud, who spun in Turn 4. Fortunately, there was no damage for the 2016 INDYCAR Champion and his No. 60.
2008 St. Petersburg winner Graham Rahal would have similar issues in Turn 4, while his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Christian Lundgaard made contact with the Inside wall in Turn 3.
Similar to RLLR’s Jack Harvey, Team Penske’s Joe Newgarden broke a left toe link after contact in Turn 9, forcing an early end to the session for all but Harvey.
Friday’s lone on-track session is done and now the focus shifts to preparations for qualifying. Here is the remaining schedule for this weekend.
At-track schedule (All Times Local/Eastern Time):
Saturday, March 4
10-11 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice (Limited guarantee of 45 minutes of green flagtime), Peacock
2:15-3:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock
Sunday, March 5
9-9:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock
Noon – NBC Sports on air
12:23 p.m. – “Drivers, start your engines”
12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (100 laps / 181 miles), NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and Peacock (Live)
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