The NTT IndyCar Series’ Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicked off Friday. Racers performed in a pair of practice sessions prior to qualifying for Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at the IMS road course.
The first of two practice sessions took place Friday morning. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward topped the session, followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou.
A surprising name was at the bottom of the timing charts — Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta. A mechanical issue with his No. 28 Gainbridge Honda meant the Valencia, California native was able to complete just one lap in the opening practice session for the race that he dominated in 2022.
In that 2022 race, the risky decision from his father and former strategist Bryan Herta, allowed Colton to take the lead after an impressive save en route to his seventh career victory. Herta was able to complete 18 laps in the second practice session Friday as he looks for his first win since last season’s GMR Grand Prix.
Like Herta, Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves had troubles in a practice session on Friday. A blown engine forced the Meyer Shank Racing crew to swiftly make repairs to the No. 06 SiriusXM Honda in time for qualifying.
Although the repairs were completed, the qualifying session was one to forget as the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner qualified 26th of 27 drivers.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard was one of Friday’s surprises. He finished second in each of the practice sessions and qualified on pole. He is sure to be a factor come crunch time in Saturday’s race. Starting at the front is critical for a victory on the IMS road course.
Heading into the GMR Grand Prix, there are a few drivers that stand out to me as ones who could be standing on the top step of the victory podium Saturday evening.
Team Penske’s Will Power
Five wins in 13 tries. Need I say more? Will Power has been the class of the field more times than not when the IndyCar Series goes to the IMS road course, but 2023 will be a bit more difficult. Power qualified in the 12th position, one that will be demanding to win from as track position is key with few passing opportunities.
Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood
With his victory in Long Beach, California, I believe Kyle Kirkwood has the kind of confidence that he didn’t have last season in his difficult 2022 rookie campaign. Starting in the sixth position, Kirkwood is close enough to the front to be mixing it up at the end for his second victory of the season.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard
Second in both practice sessions and qualifying on the pole. It was quite the Friday for Lundgaard as Rahal Letterman Lanigan showed speed from each of their drivers. Lundgaard led the pack. Lundgaard placed ninth in last year’s GMR Grand Prix, but if he doesn’t get caught up in any wrecks, Saturday could be the day he claims his first career IndyCar victory.
My pick to win: Christian Lundgaard
The NTT IndyCar Series will take to the track Saturday for a 30-minute morning warmup that beings at 11:15 a.m. Following the warmup that will be televised on Peacock, the GMR Grand Prix will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST on NBC.