Newgarden Tops Shortened First Day Of Indy 500 Testing


Josef Newgarden in action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Walt Kuhn/Penske Entertainment photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Josef Newgarden likes the view from the top at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and defending Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner was fastest Wednesday in the rain-shortened first day of open testing for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Newgarden turned the fastest lap during the morning session on the 2.5-mile oval, at 228.811 mph, in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. He also led the Indy 500 Open Test in 2022 and last year, when he returned in May to earn his first Indy 500 victory after a last-lap duel with 2022 winner Marcus Ericsson.

“We’re not trying to do it because I had no idea,” Newgarden said of leading the Open Test for a third straight year. “I didn’t know it was three years in a row. We want to check off things on our list. Obviously, it’s been right at the front, which is a good sign.”

The first day of testing, which featured separate sessions for veterans, Rookie Orientation Programs, and refresher tests, was halted numerous times by passing raindrops, including one midday delay of 67 minutes. Heavier showers arrived shortly after 2 p.m. ET that ended on-track activity.

While it was little surprise to see oval master Newgarden atop the speed chart, the second-fastest driver raised eyebrows and anticipation in equal measure.

Past NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson clocked in second at 226.384 mph in the No. 17 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, as he prepares for his first Indianapolis 500 start in May as part of the "Hendrick 1100" double between IMS and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Getting in some traffic and feeling the turbulent air,” Larson said of his challenges. “The first time I got in traffic, I thought my tires still had good grip, so I was surprised. It didn’t feel that different in traffic. Then the last time, I was building understeer, and Newgarden got by me and I was super tight behind him.

“I’m just trying to learn all that and process all that and knowing what I can do in the car to cope with that. I’m just trying to figure out any bit of racecraft today, which I know is tough. [It’s just about] getting notes in my head and all that.”

Six-time series champion and 2008 Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon was third at 226.346 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, followed by reigning series champion and teammate Alex Palou at 226.201 in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Colton Herta rounded out the top five at 225.907 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Herta was the only driver among the top five to turn his best lap in the brief afternoon session before testing was washed out.

All three veterans requiring refresher tests – Marco Andretti, Pietro Fittipaldi, and Katherine Legge – completed that program. Christian Rasmussen, Kyffin Simpson and Nolan Siegel each finished the three-phase Rookie Orientation Program.

The 108th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 26. Practice opens Tuesday, May 14, with PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19.

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