AUSTIN, TX – School is in session and 25 NTT IndyCar Series teams are eager to learn. Tuesday marked the opening day of the Circuit of the Americas two day test around the 3.41-mile Texas road course.
The new kid on campus led the charge on Tuesday with rookie Colton Herta being fastest in not one, but both sessions around the 20 turn circuit.
That’s good news for his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team as they dealt with a rough day on Monday. The second car, the one in which they announced would run a full season for 2019, was shelved when defending Indy Lights Series champion Patricio O’Ward announced that they was let out of his contract with the organization five months after the announcing the deal.
The team drew stark criticism of the process. It all came downhill on Monday.
Tuesday was started off with an announcement that Harding has come to an agreement on a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport. The day ended with them reigning king on preseason testing.
See, people were bashing Herta in this deal on Monday saying that O’Ward was more deserving of a full season ride than Herta. They pointed out that Herta finished second to O’Ward in the season championship but failed to mention that if Herta doesn’t get injured at Toronto then he likes is the champion instead. They also pointed out that O’Ward was so much stronger than Herta when Harding fielded two cars, one for each of them in the 2018 season finale at Sonoma.
But, what they failed to mention is that O’Ward’s car was prepared and aligned with Andretti while Herta’s wasn’t. O’Ward made the Fast Six that weekend and finished ninth.
The car and new deal announced on Tuesday for Herta is what O’Ward had in Sonoma. Herta, was P1 in both sessions.
The second generation driver turned a lap of 1:48.7443-seconds in his No. 88 Honda on session No. 1 and was two seconds faster in the second and final one of the day. Herta, circled the track with a time of 1:46.6258-seconds in the afternoon portion.
No one could touch the rookie.
Fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson was P2 in the first test session. The Sweden native turned in a lap of 1:48.8392-seconds in his No. 7 Honda. He was 11th in the second session.
Josef Newgarden was third in his No. 2 Chevrolet in the first test with a lap of 1:49.3531-seconds. He was 13th in the second test.
RC Enerson (1:49.5431-seconds) and Zach Veach (1:49.8118-seconds) rounded out the top five in an incident free opening session. The only problems we saw was when Kyle Kaiser stalled on his installation lap and never got a chance to get back on track. He’d turn 34 laps in session No. 2.
Speaking on the second session, Will Power sped his way to P2 on the speed charts with a lap of 1:47.1044-seconds in his No. 12 Chevrolet. His teammate Helio Castroneves was third in his No. 3 Chevrolet with a time of 1:47.6949-seconds.
Rookie Felix Rosenqvist (1:48.0451-seconds) and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate and defending series champion of Scott Dixon (1:48.0474-seconds) rounded out the top five.