The 45min opening session saw Hunter-Reay and Newgarden finish up second and third behind rookie Romain Grosjean, and expecting cooler conditions to yield more grip on Saturday.
“I think the car felt pretty good,” said Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Newgarden. “We didn’t do the best job on my lap. I messed up in a couple corners, but felt like the speed was pretty good for the run we did. The car felt pretty decent.
“It was trickier than last year – I thought the grip level of the track was lower. Definitely put a premium on getting it right the first run because the dropoff seems pretty big, at least close to a second, I would say, first to second run on tires.
Hunter-Reay concurred, adding: “I’m sure it will change tomorrow with cooler conditions… I expected it to be low grip [today] just with the track temp, the overall ambient temp being close to 90degF. Usually here we have cooler conditions. It is an older surface, so I expect it to be light, but not that light. But it’s the same for everybody.
“Like I said, I think it’s going to grip up more tomorrow with cooler conditions and more rubber going down despite it raining tonight.
“The tire degradation was huge. I haven’t experienced that here before. It was third or fourth lap. It just wasn’t there. Took advantage of that early, tried to make some changes. But every time you went out, it felt worse, so…”
Newgarden, who has taken a win and two poles at this track, said: “On my second run I was already blowing the rear tires off the car. Probably going backwards, unless everyone else was doing the same as me, which I would hope.
“Yeah, it feels really low grip. I think you need to see tomorrow how we progress, just like Ryan said. Some things can change. Temperature has a big effect. A little bit more rubber maybe will help us…
“I think it will be super exciting if it’s this grip level all weekend, yeah, just because you’re going to see guys struggle. Some are going to do well, some are not.
“Big tire deg, you see big battles, especially in the mid pack, so it will be fun.”