Josef Newgarden paces IndyCar practice for Grand Prix of St. Pete after Barber crash


It hardly erased the pain of his Lap 1 crash in the NTT IndyCar Series season opener at Barber Motorsports Park, but Josef Newgarden at least got off on the right foot Friday in the opening practice of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

With a 1:00.8029-second lap in his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street course, the Team Penske driver paced the session ahead of teammate Will Power (1:00.8102), Colton Herta (1:00.8348), Alexander Rossi (1:00.8653) and Simon Pagenaud (1:00.8992). Another practice will be held Saturday at 9:45 a.m. ET ahead of qualifying at 1:45 p.m. for the 100-lap race (Sunday, noon ET, NBC).

Newgarden has won the past two NTT IndyCar Series races at St. Petersburg, which should offer a chance to rebound from an uncharacteristic spin at that collected five other cars. Newgarden said it took two days instead of the usual one to get over the wreck, and Friday’s result didn’t alter the sting.

FRIDAY SPEEDS: Click here to see how the timing chart from practice at St. Pete

WEEKEND SCHEDULE: When cars are on track at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

“Going quick again this weekend right away, it doesn’t really do much for that,” Newgarden said. “At the end of the day, the race is what is going to matter this weekend. That’s what we missed out on last week, which was the hardest pill to swallow. It was a gorgeous day to go racing. I was so excited. That’s my favorite part of the weekend, is the race itself.

“It was just a big gut punch, to be honest with you, just to be out so quick. Wasn’t something I was really expecting. Didn’t think it was something I was asking for. Sometimes I get myself into trouble because I’m aggressive. Normally when I do, I know I was asking for it. I say, ‘Why did I do that?’ That was silly. This one I couldn’t categorize as that. It was one of those things, a bad combination of a couple different factors. Next thing you know you’re in trouble. When it affects you, it’s not fun. When it affects you plus some others, it’s really not fun.”

One of those was Herta, who finished 22nd of 24 cars. Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Dallara-Honda also was involved in the crash and placed last.

Andretti’s highest-finishing car at Barber was Rossi, who finished ninth after starting second, but Herta said there was no concern despite the lack of data and results.

Simon Pagenaud was fifth fastest in practice in his No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet (Chris Jones/IndyCar).

“That’s probably one of the better places to crash if there are any,” Herta said. “I think Andretti does a really good job on the road course car, permanent road course car. It’s really fantastic pretty much anywhere we go. I think we lack a little bit more on the ovals, short ovals, even some of the street courses.

“The permanent road course car is amazing to drive. I don’t think we really lacked that much there. Yeah, I mean, it sucked what happened. But it’s racing. Kind of have to move forward from it, try to build our momentum into this week.”

Most drivers seemed to be pushing Friday as the top 20 was separated by less than a second in a “hypercompetitive” field, Herta said.

A week after his first IndyCar victory, Alex Palou was 20th fastest Friday. Jimmie Johnson, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, was last on the speed chart with a 1:03.1317 that was his best among 26 laps (tied with fellow rookie Romain Grosjean for a session high).

“Wow, it’s really close,” Herta told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider. “As plenty of people have said, I think it’s one of the most competitive IndyCar fields that we’ve had ever. So it’s going to be an interesting weekend. You can’t make any mistakes at all.”

Certainly not Newgarden, who said he isn’t thinking about the championship deficit but is confident after falling into a 46-point hole after one race.

“I’m ready to get going,” Newgarden said. “We haven’t started our season yet. I want to get a race underneath us. I’m ready for Sunday.”

Click here for speeds Friday in the opening practice of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Josef Newgarden is aiming for his third consecutive victory at St. Petersburg (Chris Owens/IndyCar).

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
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It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway