By Steve Wittich
A 50-minute practice for the Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix got the green flag a few minutes late at 2:04 pm. It’s the series’ first visit to the 11-turn, 2.1-mile Nashville street circuit, so the dozen entries quickly got to work, exploring the tight walls, bridge, and bumps of the challenging track.
The ambient temperature was a steamy 86F when the session started, but with significant cloud cover, the track temperature was 112.6F.
Early in practice, we rode along with Hunter McElrea, the winner of the last two races, as he methodically explored the circuit.
Sting Ray Robb, in the Sekady sponsored No. 2, was the first driver to make contact, lightly nosing into the tires on the other side of the bridge at Turn 4. However, he could back out and continue, coming to the attention of his Andretti Autosport crew and quickly getting back to work after a once over to ensure there was no damage.
The early leader in the session was Matthew Brabham, one of only two drivers to have laps here. The American/Australian pilot of the No. 83 Andretti Autosport machine made light right rear contact with the concrete barriers but kept getting quicker and quicker. Soon after, he did come to pit road so that his crew could check over his car.
Brabham, along with Jacob Abel, made a pair of starts in the Stadium Super Trucks Series, sharing the podium in the weekend’s second race.
While he was on pit road, with just over 30-minutes remaining, points leader Lundqvist lowered the top lap time to 83.1718 seconds (90.986mph), over four-tenths ahead of Brabham, who was back on track.
With a half-hour remaining, Lundqvist, Brabham, Benjamin Pedersen, Robb, and Kyffin Simpson were the top five.
Not long after, the HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing driver became the first driver to break the 83-second barrier.
With 26 minutes remaining in the session, Brabham and Ernie Francis, Jr. were the only drivers on track, as the rest were on pit road for adjustments and a fresh set of Cooper Tire slicks.
With 22 minutes remaining, Brabham went purple as the second driver to go under 83 seconds, lowering the top time on his 14th and 15th lap of practice.
Brabham and Lundqvist were in a different league, but behind them, the drivers from third to tenth were separated by only one second.
With 15-minutes remaining, Brabham’s top lap of 82.3457 seconds was over a half second ahead of Global Racing Group’s Pederson. The Dane was followed by Lundqvist, Abel, and Robb in the top five.
The camera followed the black and orange Dirtfish sponsored No. 24 of Pedersen as he went second quick, only three-hundredths slower than Brabham, as the field tightened up.
With ten minutes remaining, the top five were within three-tenths. In the last seven minutes, Pedersen and Lundqvist traded the top time numerous times.
With five minutes remaining in practice, Abel made contact, damaging the front wing of the No. 51 Abel Speedwagon. The Butler University student was able to make it back to pit road.
Pederson continued to go quicker, turning the only sub-82 second lap on his final lap of the session. His blazing lap was over four-tenths of a second quicker than Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports).
“Overall, this was a great way to start Practice 1, with being fastest,” Pedersen said. “We accomplished exactly what we had in our test plan, and this place is just awesome to drive. It really rewards being on the absolute ragged edge, and it’s just such a big commitment place. Really looking forward to tomorrow and continuing to push ourselves.”
Indy Lights Music City Grand Prix Practice Results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||FAST LAP||DIFFERENCE||LAPS|
|1||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group||81.8473||—||29|
|2||68||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||82.2616||-0.4143||18|
|3||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||82.3069||-0.4596||27|
|4||26||Linus Lundqvist||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||82.3188||-0.4715||29|
|5||83||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||82.3457||-0.4984||27|
|6||2||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||82.5222||-0.6749||24|
|7||28||Christian Rasmussen||Andretti Autosport||82.5489||-0.7016||26|
|8||11||James Roe, Jr.||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||83.0465||-1.1992||29|
|9||51||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||83.1164||-1.2691||22|
|10||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||83.2822||-1.4349||24|
|11||21||Kyffin Simpson||HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing||83.3644||-1.5171||25|
|12||99||Ernie Francis, Jr.||Force Indy||86.0251||-4.1778||23|
Street circuit dominance
One-third of Lundqvist’s championship lead was forged in the first three street course races of the season. The 23-year-old won twice in Detroit and finished third in St. Petersburg, Fla., outscoring Brabham, the winner in the season opener, by 25 points.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires street course points after three races (St. Petersburg and Detroit twice)
|1||Linus Lundqvist||HMD Motorsports||143|
|2||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||118|
|3||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group w/HMD||108|
|4||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||86|
|5||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||80|
|6||Hunter McElrea – R||Andretti Autosport||76|
|7||Antonio Serravalle||Abel Motorsports/HMD Motorsports||76|
|8||Kyffin Simpson – R||TJ Speed Motorsports||75|
|9||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||70|
|10||Ernie Francis, Jr. – R||Force Indy||68|
|11||James Roe, Jr. – R||TJ Speed Motorsports||65|
|12||Christian Rasmussen – R||Andretti Autosport||55|
|13||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||54|
|14||Ryan Phinny||Abel Motorsports||43|
|15||Manuel Sulaiman||HMD Motorsports||28|
After winning four of the first six races, championship leader Lundqvist has ‘cooled’ down, or maybe, the better way to put it is that he is managing his championship lead.
When the series left the Motor City, the driver of the No. 26 HMD Motorsports w/Dale Coyne Racing machine, who won both races in Detroit, had a 92-point lead over Sting Ray Robb. Over the next three races, the Swede scored the fifth most points, but his lead, this time over Robb’s Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter McElrea was still a substantial 77 points, with Robb 90 points back.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires points scored in the last three races.
|RANK||DRIVER||TEAM||LAST 3 RACES|
|1||Hunter McElrea – R||Andretti Autosport||143|
|2||Christian Rasmussen – R||Andretti Autosport||125|
|3||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||103|
|4||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||102|
|5||Linus Lundqvist||HMD Motorsports||100|
|6||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||77|
|7||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group w/HMD||69|
|8||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||67|
|9||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||64|
|10||Ernie Francis, Jr. – R||Force Indy||64|
|11||Kyffin Simpson – R||TJ Speed Motorsports||63|
|12||James Roe, Jr. – R||TJ Speed Motorsports||61|
|13||Antonio Serravalle||Abel Motorsports/HMD Motorsports||59|
|14||Ryan Phinny||Abel Motorsports||0|
|15||Manuel Sulaiman||HMD Motorsports||0|
A pair of former Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires rivals, Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach, are back in the Indy Lights paddock. Pigot has been working with Abel for much of the season, while Veach recently came on board to help rookie Francis, Jr.
The series is back for their second practice at 10:15 am.