Pagenaud fastest in IndyCar first practice at Road America

Photo: IndyCar
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Simon Pagenaud is back at a track he knows well from not only his early North American open-wheel days but where he’s had a lot of success in sports cars, and subsequently topped the charts in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Road America for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN).

Pagenaud led the 75-minute first practice in the bright fluorescent yellow No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet with a best time of 1:43.4804.

Times weren’t entirely representative of potential pace yet this weekend with longer runs happening and on Firestone’s black primary tires; the compound used this weekend is the same as at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this year and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last year.

Two Honda runners were next in track rookie Carlos Munoz, the Texas polesitter, in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda ahead of Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda. Hawksworth has raced at Road America in an RSR Racing-entered Prototype Challenge car in the past.

Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan were next in a pair of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolets to complete the top five.

Dixon, in the newly yellow Clorox-supported No. 9 car this week, continues his week of racing after Le Mans and Watkins Glen by heading to Road America with Kanaan third in the usual No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Both drivers last raced at Road America in IndyCar in the 2002 CART race.

Of note, Graham Rahal in another yellow car, the No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda, resumed after missing most of the session owing to early electronic issues. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew fixed the car to get him back on track.

Additionally, in his first session back after his Texas accident, Josef Newgarden resumed on track in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing with his injured collarbone and hand. Per NBCSN’s Marty Snider and team owner Carpenter, it was the hand more than the collarbone that hurt, but he completed 15 laps in the session (60 miles) and was 10th overall.

Temperatures started at 75 degrees ambient and 96 on track before climbing to 76 and 104 later in the session, both per Firestone.

There were a number of spins in the session with Kanaan spinning at Turn 6, Mikhail Aleshin and Juan Pablo Montoya at Turn 12 and James Hinchcliffe at Turn 14, but all resumed without incident.

Second practice is another 75-minute session from 3 to 4:15 p.m. CT and local time.

Times are below:

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Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”