Newgarden resets by topping opening IndyCar practice at Barber

Josef Newgarden’s desire to put the events of the past few days behind him didn’t take long to bear fruit at Barber Motorsports Park on Friday when he put the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet atop the timing charts for the NTT IndyCar Series’ opening practice session.

Newgarden first went to the top with 18 of 75 the available minutes left on the clock, and improved his time in the final 10 minutes to settle on a 1m06.7045s.

“That’s the best medicine in the world for someone like me,” he told NBC Sports. “It was great to be out here and just getting to turn laps. I was a little bit off my game in the beginning for sure, I dropped a wheel and made a mistake and threw away a set of tires, which was unfortunate.

“But we just kept going, came up with a new plan, and I think the positive thing is the car was really fast right away. This team has done a good job; I love being here with the No. 2 group… I feel good about things.”

Newgarden’s time remained unbeaten, but only barely – Pato O’Ward fell just 0.0830s short in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, and Penske’s Will Power was only a further 0.0039s behind in the No.12 to complete a Chevy sweep of the top three spots. Colton Herta was fourth fastest and best of the Honda’s with a 1m08.8002s in the No. 26 Andretti Global car, leaving Christian Lundgaard to round out the top five for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Barber’s undulating layout lived up to its challenging reputation within the first 15 minutes when Newgarden spun into the grass at Turn 13, bringing out the first red flag of the session. The field was back on track with minimal delay, only for a second red flag to fly 10 minutes later when Agustin Canapino lost the rear of the No. 78 JHR Chevrolet at Turn 1 and went off.

O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist all had minor trips through the gravel later in the session, but Rossi also found himself in the middle of a potentially more consequential incident in the final minutes. That one started before he was even on the scene – Romain Grosjean had come across Jack Harvey while the latter was still getting up to speed after leaving the pits, and while Harvey appeared to have left enough room, Grosjean was seemingly displeased. He made this clear a few corners later by squeezing Harvey off the road, leaving Rossi, who was trailing the pair, to thread his way between them.

Elsewhere, Luca Ghiotto turned his first-ever IndyCar laps in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 51 Honda, completing 39 laps with a best of 1m08.8638s as he worked to get his bearings in his new surrounds.

UP NEXT: Practice 2, Saturday, 12:15pm ET


Story originally appeared on Racer