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

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)