IndyCar: Bourdais on top in GP of Indy first practice

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The first 45-minute practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series kicked off, officially, the festivities as IndyCar christens the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis race weekend.

Sebastien Bourdais knocked off one of his two French countrymen in the race – Simon Pagenaud – with the first lap of the weekend in the 1:10 range at 1:10.9335, then lowered the mark even more with a 1:10.5150 on his 20th lap of the session in the No. 11 Mistic Electronic Cigarettes Chevrolet for KVSH Racing.

Old Long Beach sparring partners Pagenaud and Will Power were 1-2 for most of the session, with Pagenaud clocking in his best time of 1:11.0045 in the No. 77 Charter Communications/Oculus Honda for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

But while Pagenaud had the edge, with under two minutes to go, Bourdais went to the top of the time sheets. Barber winner Ryan Hunter-Reay joined him in the 1:10 range, at 1:10.9053.

Pagenaud ended third and late in the session Josef Newgarden (1:11.0188) and Scott Dixon (1:11.0454) jumped into the top five. Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth completed the top 10.

Before Bourdais’ late flier, the top 22 of 25 runners were within 0.8665 of a second, down to Graham Rahal in 22nd. But by the end of the session, only the top 16 were within a second, down to Carlos Huertas in P16 and 0.9075 of a second back.

First-time drivers this year Franck Montagny (21st) and Martin Plowman (22nd) were within 1.1470 and 1.1776 of Bourdais, respectively.

Newgarden lost control in Turn 4 early in the session, and was the first driver to have an unscheduled appointment with the gravel trap on corner exit. He was towed out and brought into the pit lane for the first red flag of the session.

A second red flag, much briefer, flew later in the session for a brief loss of power in race control. Can’t say as I’ve written that one before.

Not many drivers were able to turn laps early in the 45-minute session; within the first 20 minutes, only Bourdais (6 laps), Plowman (5) and Rahal (5) had completed 5 laps or more on the 2.439-mile road course. Bourdais’ 21 led all runners, with Rahal also posting 20 and the rest anywhere from 10 to 18 laps.

The second 45-minute practice runs from 2 to 2:45 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, here’s times from Practice 1, which ran under near perfect conditions of sunny, 75 degrees ambient with a track temperature of 88.

PDF HERE, VISUALS BELOW.

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IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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