Lundegaard leads opening of IndyCar training in Nashville

Christian Lundgaard built on the first podium of his NTT IndyCar Series career last week in Indianapolis by setting the pace in the opening practice session of the second Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

Working on replacement tires – green instead of sidewall this week, to denote the new, well-sourced Firestone tires – Dane set a fast lap of 1m15.9659s in his #30 Honda which was a relatively comfortable 0.2391s free of field. The first session of the season was led by Rahal’s driver Letterman Lanigan.

“I am obviously very happy to be here again. We were there last weekend and starting the weekend here is definitely great,” Lundgaard told NBC Sports. “But we have qualifying and the race is coming and we need to be as efficient as we have been in the last races, make sure everything is OK, just execute when we have the package – and now we know we have the package.

“I wasn’t expecting to be the fastest car out there. The course was good, but I think the green tires don’t last very long so it will be interesting to see how they adapt to the Q1, Fast 12 and Fast Six. If you have to save one for Fast Six, I think that would be the preferred method.”

Last week’s skater Felix Rosenqvist was strong again with the Arrow McLaren SP, finishing second by 1m 16.2050sec in his #07 Chevy, while David Malukas impressed once again with Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports, posting a third best time in 1m16. 2366s at No. 18 Honda.

While the organizers’ reconfiguration work appeared to have smoothed out some dreaded bumps on the 2.17-mile street course, bottoming and wheeled navigation remained an issue, while the session was halted by five red flags. However, most of these stalls were relatively harmless resulting from closures in runoff areas.

The 75-minute afternoon session began under mostly cloudy skies with 88 degrees Fahrenheit heat and sweltering humidity, but the session started slow as most drivers chose to limit their early runs in order to save their tires on the grueling circuit. The slow start was somewhat more problematic for last week’s winner Alexander Rossi, who spent most of the session bleeding from the brakes, but managed to accelerate relatively easily late in the session.

After the rookies dominated in the opening 15 minutes, headed by Mallukas at 1min 18.1595sec, Joseph Newgarden of Tennessee hit the track and immediately rushed to the top with a 1m lap 18.078secs, which the Penske team driver quickly lowered to 1m 17.3855secs. But as the court’s balance got faster, Dalton Kellett put out a short red flag by breaking out into the runoff and stalling area.

When the session resumed a few minutes later, Romain Grosjean’s No. 28 Andretti Autosports Honda and No. 3 Chevy Pennick Scott McLaughlin joined Newgarden in the 1 and 17 minutes. McLaughlin then pushed his teammate off the lead with a 1m 16.8441. Alex Ballou all offsets it a few minutes later in a No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Starting to run on alternate tires about 15 minutes ago, Rosenqvist showed the green’s power first, but Lundgaard improved those moments later at 1m15.9659s in his first run on the same pool.

It was a tough start to the weekend for Helio Castroneves, who had minor suspension damage after running just nine laps, having been delayed on track by a mistake in Mayer Shank’s #06 Honda. IndyCar announced earlier Friday that Castroneves will have to cut the grid by six positions on Sunday due to an unscheduled engine change.

UP NEXT: Workout 2, 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday