James Hinchcliffe set the pace in opening Indy 500 practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the Canadian laying down a 40.0844s (224.526mph, 361.340km/h) lap in his #29 Dallara-Honda.
As cars hit the track at the famed venue ahead of an event unlike any other in the Indy 500’s 109-year history, with this year’s race to be the first ever 500 held behind closed doors, it was part-timer Hinchcliffe who landed the early blow with his red-hot time.
The 33-year-old was one of three Andretti Autosport drivers in the top five, with Marco Andretti (224.345mph, 361.048km/h) second, and Ryan Hunter-Reay fourth (223.341mph, 359.433mk/h).
Championship leader Scott Dixon was third (224.047mph, 360.569km/h), with Fernando Alonso, who is chasing his triple crown ambition, fifth (223.238mph, 359.267km/h).
Two-time Formula One champion Alonso is returning following last year’s disaster with McLaren, when the Spaniard failed to make the field.
Josef Newgarden was sixth (223.188mph, 359.186km/h), with Jack Harvey (223.178mph, 359.170km/h), Alex Palou (223.128mph, 359.090km/h), Conor Daly (223.020mph, 358.916km/h) and Helio Castroneves (222.929mph, 358.770km/h) rounding out the top 10.
Will Power, the 2018 winner, was down in 23rd (221.634mph, 356.685km/h), two spots below Australian countryman James Davison (221.709mph, 356.806km/h).
It was a Team Penske one-two-three in the best 30-lap average speed, with Power (220.31mph, 354.555km/h) ahead of Newgarden (219.428mph, 353.135km/h) and Castroneves (221.532mph, 356.521km/h).
The six-and-a-half-hour session, which included the Rookie Orientation Program, ran without incident, but it was Hinchcliffe who will head towards qualifying buoyed by his pace despite running part-time schedule in 2020.
“It’s always nice rolling off the truck here with a car that’s got good pace,” Hinchcliffe told the broadcast.
“There’s nothing worse than being, ‘okay, we’ve got a day to find a mile and a half’.
“It’s a huge credit to everyone at Andretti Autosport. They’ve got a bunch of quick cars.
“We just need to work on it a little bit, get the balance better working in a big group, but can’t ask much more for the first day.”
Practice continues in Indianapolis at 01:00 AEST on Friday (11:00 Thursday, local time) with another session followed by the Qualifications Order Draw to determine the order for the four-lap qualifying runs on Saturday.
CLICK HERE for the results.