Rookie Rosenqvist leads first practice at St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – The new era of IndyCar Series competition got off to an appropriate start on Friday. In the first race weekend with NTT as entitlement sponsor for the series, the car sponsored by NTT DATA led the way in the opening practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG: Practice 1 results

Felix Rosenqvist, rookie driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, paced the 24-car field in the first official practice of the race season with a lap of 1 minute, 1.8215 seconds (104.818 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. The 27-year-old from Sweden was pleased with the result but knows it’s only the first session of a long weekend

“It started off pretty well. Being a rookie, we had the benefit of having (an extra set of) tires, so in a way we expected to be in the front,” Rosenqvist said. “It worked really good and the car feels, from a starting form, really good. The guys have done a brilliant job in the winter to start off with a good package here.”

Rosenqvist may be new to the NTT IndyCar Series but he boasts more than a decade of open-wheel racing experience. He won the 2015 FIA Formula 3 championship, has a pair of FIA Formula E victories and won three Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races in 2016. He tested Indy cars for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 and ’17, so has familiarity with his crew and teammate Scott Dixon, the reigning series champion.

“I feel quite at home already. I’ve had the benefit to know the Chip Ganassi boys for about three years, so it doesn’t feel too new. But still a lot of things to learn.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was second quick in the session, with a lap of 1:02.0636 (104.409 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda. Another Swedish rookie, Marcus Ericsson, ran third with a lap of 1:02.0811 (104.380 mph) around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street course in the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

A second practice is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. ET Friday. Live coverage is available on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.

NTT P1 Award qualifying begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and airs live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. The season-opening race is Sunday, with NBCSN (12:30 p.m.) and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network (1 p.m.) offering live coverage.

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