Colton Herta’s first weekend in an NTT IndyCar Series car at Portland International Raceway began with the fastest lap in the opening practice session Friday morning.
Honda dominated the 45-minute outing, only allowing a single Chevrolet to place in the top 10: the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet of championship leader Josef Newgarden, which ended the session fourth.
Clocking in at 57.4293 on his 13th of 18 total laps, Herta was just 0.0318 seconds slower than the time Sebastien Bourdais took to the top of the Practice 1 running order a year ago in IndyCar’s return to the venue after an 11-year absence. Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s rookie driver gained experience at Portland in Indy Lights last season, beginning with a best lap of 1:04.0193 in the first practice — more than six seconds slower than he’s lapping in an Indy car a year on.
After Herta, the Nos. 27 and 9 Hondas from Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing were second and third at 0.1245 and 0.3629 seconds off the rookie sensation’s chart-topping pace.
Andretti, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Ganassi and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing were each represented again in positions five through 10, claimed by Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Bommarito Automotive Group 500 winner Takuma Sato.
Rossi, Dixon and Newgarden were much closer in lap time to Herta on their respective quickest tours of the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course in Portland than Simon Pagenaud, the other primary championship contender. Nine-tenths of a second off Herta, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner was only quick enough for 12th in the field of 23.
Will Power also enters the Portland race mathematically eligible to win the 2019 title and was 0.0951 seconds quicker than Pagenaud to land one spot better in 11th.
Driving for Arrow SPM for his first time since the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto, Conor Daly placed 23rd and last in the No. 7 Honda usually piloted by Marcus Ericsson. Daly turned 22 laps and was 1.7535 seconds slower than Herta to begin his work with a third different team this season.
A second 45-minute practice will run from 5:40–6:25 p.m. EDT Friday and will lead into a half-hour “warm-up” session beginning at 6:40 p.m to conclude the weekend’s opening day.