Colton Herta Leads Tight Pack at Top of First Day of Thermal Open Test

Colton Herta
Colton Herta

Colton Herta paced a tight bunch of drivers at the top of the time sheets after the first day of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES open test Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club.

Herta was the quickest overall among 27 drivers running for 5.5 hours, split into morning and afternoon sessions on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout being used for this test. His top time of 1 minute, 39.3721 seconds was set during the afternoon session in the No. 26 Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. Herta also led the morning session at 1:39.9303, the only driver under 1:40 in that session.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” Herta said. “It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again and just get everybody back into the flow. It’s nice to be back in a car. It’s a fun track to drive.”

SEE: Day 1 Test Results

Christian Lundgaard, the 2022 series Rookie of the Year, started his second full season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing by ending up second in the No. 45 Honda at 1:39.3767, just .0046 of a second behind Herta.

2021 series champion Alex Palou was third at 1:39.3970 in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, .0249 of a second behind Herta. Romain Grosjean continued the traffic jam near the top, ending up fourth at 1:39.4826 in the No. 28 Honda, putting two Andretti Autosport cars in the top four as the team looks to rebound from a challenging 2022 season.

Reigning and two-time series champion Will Power rounded out the top five at 1:39.5690 in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet, the leading Chevy-powered driver.

Less than one second separated the top 18 drivers today overall.

Testing will continue Friday from noon-2:30 p.m. ET and 4-7:30 p.m. ET. Live timing is available at racecontrol.indycar.com, with more content at indycar.com and INDYCAR’s digital channels on all major social platforms.

This is the series’ first preseason open test since the 2020 test at Circuit of the Americas and INDYCAR’s first appearance at The Thermal Club, a private, world-class facility located just outside Palm Springs, California. The 470-acre property opened in 2012 and is known as a premier circuit for club racers and sports car enthusiasts.

“It’s a cool track,” said Callum Ilott, who ended up seventh overall in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. “A good place to get us started. It’s got a lot of different corners. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and a lot of fun.”

Marcus Armstrong was the quickest among the four rookies testing in preparation for their first NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Armstrong, from New Zealand, was 10th overall with a top lap of 1:39.9077 in the No. 11 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“It’s only my second day in an INDYCAR SERIES car, but this Ganassi car certainly gives me a lot of confidence,” Armstrong said. “It moves very natural, if that makes sense.”

Kyle Kirkwood was second quickest in the morning session at 1:40.0236 as he made an impressive debut in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda after driving for AJ Foyt Racing as a rookie in 2022. But Kirkwood turned no laps in the afternoon session due to a clutch change by the Andretti Autosport crew.

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