NTT INDYCAR Series
‘CRAZY’ BARBER PRACTICE ENDS WITH HINCHCLIFFE ATOP SPEED CHART
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – NTT IndyCar Series drivers spent practice day for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst testing the limits of their cars and then some.
Numerous drivers in the 24-car field took off-track excursions into the grass or gravel around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course, which hosts its 10th annual NTT IndyCar Series event this weekend.
James Hinchcliffe backed up a third-place run in the opening practice by posting the fastest lap of the day in the afternoon session. The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, who finished third in last year’s Barber race, clocked a lap Friday of 1 minute, 8.9994 seconds (120.001 mph) to take the day’s honors.
“Everything on the No. 5 Arrow car has been working well so far,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s crazy – we’ve seen it all year, the amount of red flags we’re having in sessions. I think it’s just a function of everyone trying to push for those last few hundredths and thousandths (of a second) because it’s so competitive right now.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been P1 in a session and been so unhappy with the (car’s) balance, if I’m totally honest.”
Rookie sensation Colton Herta, who became the youngest winner in Indy car history when he won March 24 at Circuit of The Americas, continued his hot streak by logging the second-fastest lap of the day – also in the second session. Herta, who turned 19 on March 30, toured the circuit in 1:09.0084 (119.985 mph) in the No. 88 Gess International Honda for Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
“I’m happy with how today went,” Herta said. “I think we’re all a little puzzled with how the reds (Firestone alternate tires) reacted because almost everyone went slower on the reds, so we’re not sure what happened there. But we got a lot of data to look through and we were quick, so I’m looking forward to see how that goes when we add the rain in tomorrow’s forecast.”
Neither Hinchcliffe nor Herta, however, avoided the rash of drivers who ran off course during the day. Among the others were Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist, Takuma Sato, Spencer Pigot, Santino Ferrucci and Zach Veach. Only Leist and Ferrucci made contact with a wall, but neither driver nor car sustained serious injury and Ferrucci still wound up third on the combined-session speed chart with a lap of 1:09.0461 (119.920 mph) in the No. 18 David Yurman Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.
“In Practice 2, we went out on the primary Firestone tire and we were instantly competitive,” Ferrucci said. “The David Yurman car felt really good and I was pretty confident. But then we put the red tires on, and we still have a lot to learn.
“It’s nice to end the day near the top of the time sheets, even if it’s just the first day of practice.”
As in the first practice, Honda owned the top six spots in the second session. Pigot, in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, was quickest among the bowtie brigade, seventh in the afternoon practice and seventh overall for the day at 1:09.2055 (119.644 mph).
Conspicuously absent from the top of the timesheets were Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. None placed better than 10th in either session, with Power the best on the combined-session results at 12th. Newgarden, the current points leader and winner of the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, ranked 18th on the combined listing.
Coverage of Sunday’s race commences at 4 p.m. on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Select in-car cameras are available for the 90-lap race on the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA.