IndyCar | Detroit GP | FP1 | Palou pips O’Ward to top spot

Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Jones
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Defending champion Alex Palou was fastest in opening practice for the Detroit Grand Prix on Sunday.

The cars left the unique Detroit pit road the same way they had finished the Indy 500 last weekend, as everyone rushed out, all neatly in line, to test out their road and street track cars and dust off any cobwebs that might have gathered since the chequered flag flew around the Indy Road Course 3 weeks ago.

Having come back in to let the engineers have a look at the car and check for any issues, all cars started to slowly spill out onto track with around 35 minutes to go.

One of the main stories going into this weekend was the arrival of two drivers we weren’t expecting to be racing. 

Firstly the number 51 of Dale Coyne Racing machine, Tristan Vautier who will be making his first IndyCar start since Texas in 2017.

Secondly, the arguably more shocking one was Tom Blomqvist being replaced for the next two rounds in Detroit and Road America. The number 66 will be driven over these rounds by veteran, and part-owner of Meyer Shank Racing, Helio Castroneves. The Brazilian appeared to have hung up his boots at the end of the 2023 season after an incredible career where he achieved 

The early running was led by Christian Lundgaard who held top spot for the first half of free practice 1 before Alex Palou knocked him off with around 25 minutes left in the session. 

Scott Dixon, Kyle Kirkwood, Alex Palou, Rinus Veekay, Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, Alex Rossi, Christian Lundgaard, Josef Newgarden and Felix Rosenqvist all found themselves down the escape road at some point in the session following lock ups. Choosing the safe option and to live another day instead of chasing victory in a practice session. 

Colton Herta was the one who topped the latter half of the session, his time of a 1.02.0 over 4 tenths quicker than his nearest competitor Will Power.

It was a different set of circumstances for his Andretti Global teammate Kyle Kirkwood who set the least amount of laps in the session, putting after his lock up and only completing four laps before coming back onto track in the final stages. Only to make things worse by colliding with last weekend’s Indy 500 winner Newgarden as the 2x champion misread traffic and ran into the back of Kirkwood, both drivers escaping with minor damage.

In the split practice sessions, there was plenty of drama. Marcus Ericsson crashed at turn 7 and damaged his right rear suspension as the Swede’s bad start to life at Andretti continued.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Jack Harvey did the same, but the British driver’s car ended up much worse off, breaking his right front suspension. It brought out the red flag.

A 1:01.7210 from Alex Palou saw the Spaniard top the charts by a hundredth to Pato O’Ward. Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood were within the same tenth.

McLaughlin, Newgarden, Ferrucci, Armstrong, Power and Lundgaard completed the top 10. 0.751s covered them.

Notable names outside the top 10 were Scott Dixon in P12, Alexander Rossi in 15th and Felix Rosenqvist in P16.