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Dalton Kellett heads to Road America hoping to build off first podium

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As one of six Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers with past race experience at Road America, Dalton Kellett has a slight leg up on some of his competitors entering this weekend’s pair of races.

He also has a little bit of momentum. Kellett had a front row seat to the Dean Stoneman/Ed Jones photo finish in the Freedom 100 from third place, where he took his No. 28 K-LINE Insulators USA, Inc. Dallara IL-15 Mazda for Andretti Autosport to his first series podium.

Kellett enters the weekend 12th in Indy Lights points but with a good opportunity to move up into the top 10, as he sits five points behind both Scott Hargrove and Andre Negrao. Hargrove isn’t racing this weekend; instead, Garett Grist makes his series debut.

Alas, Kellett raced at the track four years ago in USF2000 and posted a best finish of 10th in a 20-plus car field in three races.

He’ll be hoping for an encore of his passing performance at the Freedom 100, when he started 14th but gained 11 positions to end in third.

“It was really nice because one sort of line that was back there was in the process of making it through the field. When it came down to the final laps I had already made a bunch of passes so I knew how to set everyone up and get my runs coming out of the corners,” Kellett explained post-race after Indianapolis.

“When you’re in the car, you’re just focusing on what you’re doing. I don’t think I had anyone trying to get clean laps, make passes, but this is definitely one of the greatest races I’ve ever driven in and the fans here are awesome. There are just tons of people here showing their support. We’re very grateful for that.”

Kellett has been training in Indianapolis in the interim, and was at Detroit driving pace cars there with a handful of others.

“I live here in Indianapolis so I’ve been training with the guys,” he said. “I credit them with my physical fitness, the training. Those guys do a great job. I don’t think we have any testing coming up, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the Cooper Tires road course compound and I’m really looking forward to Road America. It’s a fun track.”

Kellett’s part of a three-driver Andretti Autosport lineup, along with Shelby Blackstock who finished a season-best fourth in the Freedom 100 in his No. 51 Starstruck entry, and the team’s leading driver Stoneman, in the No. 27 Stellrecht car, who is on a roll having won both at the IMS road course and the Freedom 100. Stoneman ranks second in points, 29 back of Jones, with Blackstock in ninth.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.