Before any car had turned a competitive lap, Kirkwood’s teammate Dalton Kellett caused a red flag when his car ground to a halt in Turn 5 with a possible transmission problem. In fact, it was an electrical issue within his steering wheel that was causing the issue.

Kellett is already destined for a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change, since his Indy 500 race engine – which would normally be used in Detroit and beyond – was damaged in his shunt on Carb Day.

The early runners were inevitably the rookies, since they are granted an extra set of primaries to be used in opening practice. Helio Castroneves in the Meyer Shank Racing-Honda was also an early taker and he easily outpaced them all on the first runs.

Then with 25mins to go, a second red flew. Simon Pagenaud’s Meyer Shank car needed bumpstarting from Turn 7’s runoff, and had an engine issue. That was innocuous compared with Felix Rosenqvist’s shunt at Turn 1, in which the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy’s tail kicked out on turn in, snagged the outside tire wall with the left-rear and dragged the left-front in as well.

With 16mins to go, Pato O’Ward nailed a lap that finally displaced Castroneves from the top of the lap times – by just 0.0407sec – producing a 1min16.7823sec lap. Then he trimmed tenths off, landing a 1min16.1556.

At that point, his 2023 teammate Alexander Rossi slotted his Andretti Autosport-Honda into second, 0.36sec behind O’Ward, and just ahead of Pagenaud, whose MSR machine had recovered from its earlier issues and now sat just ahead of the sister car of Castroneves.

Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson then also pushed Castroneves down to fifth to become fastest Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda driver.

With just three minutes to go, however, Kyle Kirkwood – who last year won both Indy Lights races at Belle Isle – sent his AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy into top spot, with a 1min16.1345sec lap, an average speed of 111.119mph. Kirkwood is pulling double-duty this weekend, since he is also racing one of Vasser Sullivan Racing’s Lexus RC Fs in tomorrow’s IMSA race.

That was good enough to keep him top, 0.0211sec ahead of O’Ward, with Rossi, Pagenaud, Ericsson completing the top five.

Colton Herta eventually bumped his way into sixth but over half a second off Kirkwood’s pace-setting time, while Scott McLaughlin was fastest of the Penske-Chevrolet trio, claiming eighth ahead of Romain Grosjean (Andretti) and Scott Dixon (Ganassi).

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