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.