By Steve Wittich

Rookies set three of the top five lap times in the first Indy Lights practice session, but it was veteran David Malukas (HMD Motorsports) that turned the quickest lap at 66.266 seconds.

2019 Indy Pro 2000 champion Kyle Kirkwood was the quickest of the rookies, but not by much. Kirkwood’s USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 rival Rasmus Lindh and his Andretti Autosport teammate Danial Frost were both within two-tenths of a second adrift of Kirkwood. Rounding out the top five, and still within a half-second of Malukas was Andretti Autosport veteran Robert Megennis.

An obviously happy Malukas told Rob Howden from the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network, said he was “in love” with the grip and lack of bumps that the new paving has brought to the circuit. The 18-year-old from Chicago, Ill. was also effusive about the chemistry within the HMD Motorsports squad.

Right on time, at 10:15 am, the last rung on the Road To Indy, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series took to the track for their only session of the day and their lone practice session before qualifying.

The ten turbo-charged 2.0L AER powered Dallaras hit the track and immediately got to work.

With eight minutes elapsed in the 45-minute practice session, the red flag came out for the first time for newcomer Tristan Charpentier came to a stop between Turn 13 and Turn 14. There was damage to the right rear and right front and tire marks on the concrete barrier in Turn 12. The AMR INDYCAR Safety Team cleared the Andretti Autosport No. 48 from the track, and the track went back to green with just over 30 minutes remaining.

Charpentier was not able to get back on track and was only able to turn four laps at a track he has never visited before. Not an ideal start to his Indy Lights debut weekend.

The drivers had turned between three and six laps, and the quickest lap to that point was a lap timed at 67.276 seconds by Malukas in the HMD Trucking sponsored No. 79. The remainder of the top five were Santi Urrutia, Megennis, Frost, and Kirkwood.

It didn’t take long before Urrutia, who won the last time he was on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit in 2018, quickly took over the top spot on the timing screens.

With 24-minutes remaining, Malukas went back to the top of the timing screens with the first sub-67-second lap on his 11th lap of the session. At that point in the practice, eight of the ten drivers were all within one second of the top spot.

With 21-minutes left in the session, Kirkwood turned a lap that was a scant two-hundredths of a second better than Malukas.

At the two-thirds point of the practice, the top seven drivers were within a half-second of the top spot that was held by Kirkwood. Kirkwood’s gap to Malukas was a scant two-hundredths of a second.

With just over 10-minutes remaining, Urrutia and the Uruguay Natural/BSE/ANCAP sponsored No. 55 ended up in the Turn 4 run-off area. The veteran was able to keep the engine lit, and the session remained green. On his next lap, the Uruguayan missed Turn 10, and once again, he was able to back up and keep going.

With five minutes left, Malukas held the top spot, with Kirkwood, Lindh, Sowery, and Megennis all within a half-second of the HMD Motorsports driver.

The ten drivers completed a total of 252 laps. Malukas, Kirkwood, Frost, and Antonio Serravalle were the busiest drivers, each completing 30 laps of the 14-lap circuit.

Sowery told Rob Howden from the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network that the track is still slippery, but with some of the new pavement, it is going to be quick once it sufficient rubber has been put down. He also explained that his best lap was hampered by one of Urrutia’s offs.

Indy Lights Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Andersen Interior Contracting/Cooper Tires Practice results

1 79 David Malukas HMD Motorsports 1:06.266 –.—- 30
2 28 Kyle Kirkwood Andretti Autosport 1:06.393 0.1263 30
3 10 Rasmus Lindh Belardi Auto Racing 1:06.399 0.1325 28
4 68 Danial Frost Andretti Autosport 1:06.637 0.3709 30
5 27 Robert Megennis Andretti Autosport 1:06.743 0.4765 27
6 5 Toby Sowery Belardi Auto Racing 1:06.787 0.5205 21
7 55 Santi Urrutia HMD Motorsports 1:06.837 0.5708 26
8 11 Antonio Serravalle HMD Motorsports 1:06.935 0.6691 30
9 90 Nikita Lastochkin Exclusive Autosport 1:07.332 1.0659 26
10 48 Tristan Charpentier Andretti Autosport 1:09.825 3.5585 4