Christian Lundgaard’s first visit to the streets of Nashville got off to a perfect start with the fastest time of the opening Practice session for Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix.
The Dane, who finished second last time out on a modified version of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Grand Prix course, finished the disrupted session on top after setting a lap that was just under two and a half tenths quicker than his fellow Scandinavian Felix Rosenqvist whilst several drivers found the escape roads.
One year on from a wild debut race, Nashville welcomed the IndyCar community back for the second edition of the Music City Grand Prix and the final street course race of the season. The circuit had been slightly redesigned since the opening event, with the track surface being reprofiled to reduce bumps. The entry of Turn nine was also narrowed due to several hospitality units being added near the corner.
Simona De Silvestro and Paretta Motorsports returned to the IndyCar fold for the first time since Road America bumping the field back up to 26.
The opening Practice session also saw the debut of the new eco-friendly guayule tyre that will be used this weekend instead of the traditional alternative compound of tyre, with the new compound being from the guayule plant that is grown in the Southwest of the United States.
Firestone’s new tyres were put through their paces during the opening stages of the session, with several series rookies going out early to learn the circuit. However, for series veteran Helio Castroneves, the opening Practice session got off to the worst possible start after losing valuable track time after suffering a misfire.
Dalton Kellett brought out the first red flag of the weekend after locking up on the run down to Turn four, going down the escape road and stalling his number four K-Line machine. Once the AJ Foyt racing car was removed, Practice got back underway with just over 47 minutes left to run.
Few drivers could take advantage of the clear track as Rinus Veekay was next to fall foul of the Turn four chicane suffering a carbon copy of Kellett’s earlier incident with the red flag brought out once again as on-track officials tried to remove the Dutchman’s car.
Castroneves’s dismal session worsened when the Brazilian slid into the barrier on the run down to Turn four, damaging his suspension as he tried to drag his 06 Meyer Shank machine back to the pits for repairs.
At half distance, Scott Mclaughlin led hometown hero Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward, with Scott Dixon a tenth ahead of championship leader Will Power in fifth.
Colton Herta had been running at the seventh before he too went down the Turn four escape road bringing the red flag out for the third time in the session as the Californian managed to engage reverse gear and drive back to the pits.
Devlin DeFrancesco became the next to visit the circuit’s many escape roads when going too hot into Turn nine, forcing a quick turnaround from the young Canadian.
But whilst some rookies struggled, Lundgaard shined around the tricky streets topping the times ahead of Felix Rosenqvist and fellow rookie David Malukas also showing some good early speed in the number 18 Dale Coyne racing machine.
McLaughlin led Newgarden and Alexander Rossi, while Power, Herta, Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean rounded off the top 10.
Even though he came into the weekend without knowing the track, the early pace wasn’t a massive surprise for Lundgaard when he spoke to selected media outlets, including Motorlat, shortly after Practice.
“I must say I wasn’t really expecting to be up here today. Never been here before, and the pace was there. You see, Malukas in P3 as well, I think the rookie field this year is quite strong, and for me in Toronto, the car was good, which was the last street circuit before coming here; we were expecting to have a good package, and it seems like the package is there.”