Hunter-Reay fastest in bumpy Practice 1 for IndyCar at Barber

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Three red flags kept Verizon IndyCar Series competitors from getting into a rhythm with the winding Barber Motorsports Park circuit in this morning’s first practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

The disjointed session was topped by last year’s Barber winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, who logged a 1:08.8470 at 120.267 miles per hour in the No. 28 DHL/Andretti Autosport Honda.

At about 15 minutes into the 45-minute session, Graham Rahal went off near Turn 12 on the 2.37-mile course to bring out the first red flag. The delay was slightly extended because the series opted to install poles in Turn 1 and Turn 11 for drivers’ depth perception; according to the IMS Radio Network, the drivers had asked for this before the practice.

Shortly after the green returned, Sebastien Bourdais went into the gravel in the Turn 8-9 complex and needed a tow-in. Finally, with 10 minutes remaining, Scott Dixon – who has finished runner-up in each of the four IndyCar races at Barber – came to a stop on track near Turn 5 with an apparent electrical issue on the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

The Dixon incident caused INDYCAR to extend the session slightly so everyone could get one more timed lap in.

Josef Newgarden, coming off his trip yesterday to Space Camp, was second-fastest at 1:08.9336 (120.116 mph) in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

He was followed by Helio Castroneves (1:09.0094/119.984) in third, Marco Andretti in fourth (1:09.0930/119.838 mph), and Juan Pablo Montoya in fifth (1:09.1395/119.758).

Mike Conway, who won the most recent race at Long Beach, was 11th quickest in Practice 1 (1:09.4978/119.140).

The IndyCar contingent will look to have a smoother second practice session later this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT BARBER – FIRST PRACTICE TIMES

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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