Josef Newgarden dominated first practice at Laguna Seca for Team Penske in a perfect start to the weekend for the championship contender.
Newgarden set a 01:11.4103, a sizeable margin ahead of the Andretti Autosport trio of Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean, and Alex Rossi.
The Team Penske driver is currently second in the championship and 20 points behind his teammate championship leader Will Power.
Newgarden explained in the post-qualifying press conference to MotorLat and other media that Practice 1 was quite difficult and the track wasn’t at it’s grippiest.
He said: “Yeah, just a tricky session. As was just asked, there was a lot of people going off, there was a lot of dirt on the track, so it was quite difficult to put it together. So not a very straightforward session. But I think very productive in a lot of ways.
“It's not a lot of running, and you're trying to make the most use of just a couple runs, and I felt like we did that, so I was happy about that.
“But obviously early days in the weekend for us and the Hitachi car.”
Laguna Seca has been notorious for high tyre degradation due to it’s abrasive surface and the drivers could be pushed into a four-stop strategy during Sunday’s race. The 2014 IndyCar champion also lamented the lack of tyre sets available at the Californian circuit.
Power explained: “Yeah, that's definitely possible. There's enough degradation for that. We'll have to see in warmup when you actually do a full run what it is, but yes.
“We would run, yes. We've asked. We keep asking. We would run if they gave us some more tires, but they don’t.
Former Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson has previously raced on delicate tyres with the incredibly soft Pirelli tyres and said he usually benefits from races with high tyre degradation.
The Indy 500 winner said: "Yeah, I'm hoping it's going to be a high-deg race, and it seems to be that way. Usually our team and myself from my experience, we're usually pretty good at that. Yeah, the tires seemed to degrade quite quickly here. It was the same in the test and the same today in practice.
All three Team Penske drivers are involved in the championship fight and Newgarden dismissed any notions of a tense atmosphere inside the team.
“No, we get along well all of us, and so do the team. I think that's a strength of ours at Team Penske is we really are -- we're all competitive. We all want to win. But we're a unit, and everybody works together.
“You get the benefit of that. You could pop any one of us in any of these cars and they'd all do the same thing. That's how good each group is. So we work really well together.”