James Hinchcliffe tops 1st IndyCar practice at St. Pete

1 Comment

James Hinchcliffe, the defending champion of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, was fastest in this morning’s Verizon IndyCar Series practice session on the 1.8-mile St. Pete street circuit – the first of two practice runs for the series today.

“There’s a little more attention with being a past winner, but the goal remains the same this time around,” Hinchcliffe told assembled media at St. Pete.

Hinchcliffe logged a time of 62.9326 seconds at 102.967 mph in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Andretti Autosport Honda. He led a Honda sweep of the Top 3 times in Practice 1, with Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson (62.9385 seconds/102.958 mph) and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato (63.0603 seconds/102.759 mph) in P2 and P3, respectively.

Team Penske’s Will Power led the Chevrolet contingent with the fourth-fastest time in the session (63.1932 seconds/102.543 mph), followed by St. Pete resident and KV Racing Technology driver Sebastien Bourdais in fifth (63.1948 seconds/102.540 mph).

Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan completed the Top 10 in the session.

Other notables included Helio Castroneves in 11th, defending series champion Scott Dixon in 13th, and Penske newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya in 14th. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz was the fastest of the four rookies in 15th.

The top 18 drivers in the session, from leader Hinchcliffe all the way back to Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball, were separated by less than one second.

A second IndyCar practice will take place this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Live timing/scoring and audio will be available on IndyCar.com.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

1 Comment

With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.