Championship leader Oliver Askew has set the early mark in his quest to capture the 2019 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship, with the best time in Friday morning practice. But with all eight cars within 0.6 of a second by the end of the 40-minute session, it’s still fairly close.

The eight cars competing in the second-to-last race weekend of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series took the green under cloudy skies just before 10 a.m. for their 40-minute practice session.

Even with the limited number of cars, Juncos Racing’s Rinus Van Kalmthout (VeeKay) was fairly busy in the opening minutes of the session passing several other cars.

Team principal Ricardo Juncos told the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network wasn’t thrilled VeeKay had to pass so many cars early on, but took the rest of the interview to hail his progress. The Dutch driver is re-acclimating back to the Dallara IL-15 at this circuit since his impressive first test earlier this month in an NTT IndyCar Series car with Ed Carpenter Racing.

Times were roughly a second off last year’s best FP1 time (1:03.9334) in the opening ten minutes with a pair of Andretti Autosport drivers, Oliver Askew and Ryan Norman, the first two to dip into the 1:04 bracket at the 1.964-mile circuit. But naturally the track was starting to rubber in with more Cooper rubber following the Indy Pro 2000 first practice that marked the first Road to Indy session of the day.

At the halfway point, Askew had 0.3402 of a second on both VeeKay and Robert Megennis, who matched their times down to the thousandth. Norman was fourth ahead of the two HMD Motorsports cars, Toby Sowery and David Malukas, with Dalton Kellett and Lucas Kohl next.

VeeKay got within a tenth of Askew with just over 12 minutes remaining, and then jumped ahead of him on his 19th lap of the session at 1:04.188. Askew retook the top spot at 1:04.116, just over seven-hundredths ahead of his title rival.

With many drivers opting to bolt on a fresh set of Cooper slicks, Malukas shot up to the top of the charts at 1:03.915. That put him ahead of the 2018 FP1 time here. All of Askew, Norman and VeeKay were just behind in the 1:04.1 bracket.

Askew ensured that Malukas’ time on top was short-lived. He got down to a 1:03.894 lap in his No. 28 Index Invest entry for Andretti Autosport.

The next Indy Lights session today is qualifying for race on, from 4:25 to 4:55 p.m. PDT and local time.

P No Name Team FTime Diff Laps
1 28 Oliver Askew Andretti Autosport 1:03.894 –.—- 25
2 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:03.915 0.0207 24
3 48 Ryan Norman Andretti Autosport 1:04.002 0.1086 26
4 21 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:04.171 0.2774 27
5 2 Toby Sowery HMD Motorsports/Team Pelfrey 1:04.199 0.3053 26
6 67 Dalton Kellett Juncos Racing 1:04.226 0.3320 25
7 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:04.396 0.5023 28
8 5 Lucas Kohl Belardi Auto Racing 1:04.502 0.6078 28