The first full-field session of the NTT IndyCar Series’ return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca ended with Scott Dixon atop the running order with four other Honda drivers.
The quickest of Dixon’s eight laps turned in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda during the two-hour morning session, at 1:11.0996, was 0.2885 seconds clear of the second-best time, which was turned by rookie Colton Herta.
Herta lapped the scenic permanent road course 11 more times than Dixon after the racetrack stayed mostly silent while teams saved tires for preferable conditions. Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist was busier than Herta with 23 laps turned, the quickest of which came within 0.3683 seconds of the top lap and placed him third.
Jack Harvey showed well for Meyer Shank Racing with the fourth-fastest time, leading championship contender Alexander Rossi in completing the top five. These drivers were the final two within half a second of Dixon.
The No. 22 DXC Technology-branded car of Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud was the morning session’s quickest Chevrolet in sixth, 0.5319 seconds off Dixon after 17 laps. Will Power was seventh after 18 laps, one of which was interrupted when he took out a braking point reference sign during an off-track excursion exiting Turn 3.
Separated by 0.0279, 0.0237 and 0.0078 seconds, James Hinchcliffe, Santino Ferrucci and Spencer Pigot filled the final three top-10 spots. The quickest 10 cars of the 24 on hand lapped within seven-tenths of a second while points leader Josef Newgarden was 0.9377 seconds slower than Dixon, causing him to begin the championship-deciding weekend as the 16th-quickest driver.
Returning to Andretti Autosport in an extension of his Indy 500 drive, Conor Daly turned 18 laps and was 1.7338 seconds off the pace in 24th. Two drivers were slower than Daly: Ed Jones in his Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay when he tried out Rossi’s NAPA Auto Parts Honda for seven laps.
At that time, Rossi took to the track in Hunter-Reay’s ride, adding a 26th row to the results table to sort out the field of 24.
Though Dixon was nearly 3.4 seconds off Helio Castroneves’ qualifying lap record from 2000, the pre-race weekend test had a competitive start as the entire field was covered by less than two seconds.
Twice as long as the first session, Session 2 is scheduled to run from 1:30–5:30 p.m. PDT Thursday.