Experience? Who needs experience?
Two rookies with no prior laps on the streets of Nashville landed in the top three of the opening practice for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Friday, with Christian Lundgaard leading the first timers and the session overall with a best lap of 1 minute, 15.9659 seconds in the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda.
It was the first time Danish driver Lundgaard has led a session in his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career and the first time atop the time charts for a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver since Graham Rahal led the morning warmup for this race last August.
SEE: Practice Results
Lundgaard, 21, scored his first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES podium finish by placing second last Saturday in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. He also finished eighth – then a season best – on the most recent street circuit race this season, the Honda Indy Toronto on July 17.
“I’m super happy being up here now,” Lundgaard said. “We were there last weekend. To start this weekend here is obviously great, but we have qualifying and the race coming up. We need to be as efficient as we’ve been the last couple of races, making sure everything is right, just executing the package now we know we have the package.
“Toronto was a good weekend. We came here with a similar car. It works, so I’m super-hyped to see if we can continue this path.”
Veteran Felix Rosenqvist continued his sizzling summer by ending up second at 1:16.2050 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Rookie David Malukas ended up third at 1:16.2366 in the No. 18 HMD Honda on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile temporary street circuit that includes two trips over the Cumberland River per lap via the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge. Maluka trails Lundgaard by 27 points in a compelling race for the series Rookie of the Year.
“All the changes we made went in the right direction, especially when we put the alternate tires on it,” Malukas said. “It ended up being very smooth.”
All 26 cars in the field this weekend are using Firestone’s new alternate tire that includes new, sustainable natural rubber in the sidewalls derived from guayule (why-yoo-lee), a drought-resistant shrub native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. The top 16 times in the 75-minute session were turned on the guayule tire.
Scott McLaughlin was fourth overall at 1:16.5755 in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet. His teammate and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden, a Nashville-area native, rounded out the top five at 1:16.6957 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
Series points leader Will Power was seventh at 1:16.8330 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Saturday action will start at 12:15 pm ET with a 45-minute practice, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 4:30 pm Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network will broadcast both sessions live.
Live coverage of the 80-lap race will start at 3 pm ET Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.