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Ericsson Leads Thermal Club Day Two, Next Pop Season Opening Grand Prix St. Pete Florida

(Marcus Ericsson kisses the Borg-Warner Trophy as the 2022 Indianapolis 500 champion during the Day After photograph session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Photo Credit: Chris Owens}

(Marcus Ericsson - Photo Credit: Chris Jones)

Ericsson Leads Final Day of Open Test at Thermal

THERMAL, Calif. (Friday, Feb. 3, 2023) – Marcus Ericsson was the quickest of four Chip Ganassi Racing drivers in the top 10 Friday as the two-day NTT INDYCAR SERIES open test at The Thermal Club took the checkered flag. Reigning Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Ericsson produced a best lap of 1 minute, 38.4223 seconds in the No. 8 Honda, nearly a second quicker than the top Thursday time of 1:39.3721 turned by Colton Herta in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

According to things went well for track owners and for drivers, so expect to see Indy back at the exclusive resort at some point.

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing capped an impressive performance on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout by ending up second at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda. 2022 series Rookie of the Year Lundgaard also was second quickest Thursday and the only driver to finish in the top five on both days of the test at the private, world-class facility located just outside Palm Springs, California.

Kyle Kirkwood was third at 1:38.7885 in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. 2021 INDY NXT by Firestone champion Kirkwood joined Andretti after driving for AJ Foyt Racing as a rookie in 2022.

Ending up third on the time sheets continued an impressive, yet deceiving, performance for Kirkwood at this test. He ended up 15th on the time sheets Thursday, but he missed the afternoon session due to a clutch change after recording the second-quickest lap in the morning.

“It's a new team for me, new group of guys, kind of jelling with them to see how everyone operates,” Kirkwood said. “I wouldn't say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right? This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.”

“Honestly, it felt pretty easy to get to the top in this car. It's not really needed to try and overextend anything.” Another second-year driver, Callum Ilott, was fourth overall at 1:38.8404 in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Ilott was the quickest Chevrolet-powered driver and led the afternoon session with his best lap. Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong rounded out the top five at 1:38.8409 in the No. 11 Honda. 2021 series champion Alex Palou was the third-quickest Ganassi driver, seventh at 1:38.8718 in the No. 10 Honda. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon was the other Ganassi driver in the top 10, 10th at 1:38.9762 in the No. 9 Honda.

It was defiantly good to see and hear the cars running again, at the very lest.

Thursday leader Herta dropped to 15th Friday, with a best lap of 1:39.1047.

Up next for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday, March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. NBC and Peacock will provide live coverage starting at noon ET.

2022 winner of St. Pete showed what a show-stopper the season opener is, check it out:

Scott McLaughlin delivered on the promise he showed to Team Penske when it signed him straight from touring cars to race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, earning his first career victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. NTT P1 Award winner McLaughlin drove his No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet from the pole to victory by .5095 of a second over reigning series champion Alex Palou, who applied heavy pressure to McLaughlin over the closing laps in his No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda as they raced among and through slower traffic. SEE:Race Results | Driver Video Quotes | Race Highlights New Zealand native McLaughlin made his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut at this event in 2020 after winning three straight Australian V8 Supercars championships and then raced in his first full season of open-wheel competition in 2021.

He finished 14th in the standings, with a best finish of second, and earned series Rookie of the Year honors despite the strain of not seeing his family since 2020 due to pandemic-related global travel restrictions.

2022 Scott McLaughlin - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - By: James Black

It is almost time to go racing, race fans... check back here for more stories!

Scott McLaughlin - Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg - By: James Black

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