Newgarden Finds Peace by Setting Pace in Barber Practice

After a tumultuous week for himself and Team Penske, Josef Newgarden said Friday morning he couldn’t wait to strap back into his race car at Barber Motorsports Park.

It showed.

SEE: Practice Results

Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden led practice Friday for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst with a top lap of 1 minute, 6.7045 seconds in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet. The strong performance came just hours after Newgarden participated in an emotional press conference in which he offered his first public comments after he and teammate Scott McLaughlin were disqualified from the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding for illegal use of the series’ Push to Pass system.

The quick lap on Firestone Firehawk alternate tires at Barber came despite Newgarden spinning off track in Turn 15 early in the 75-minute session after running wide, triggering a red flag. The car didn’t make any contact and continued.

“It’s definitely the best medicine in the world for someone like me,” Newgarden said. “It’s great to be out here, just getting to turn laps. I was a little bit off my game in the beginning, for sure. I dropped a wheel and made a mistake and threw away a set of tires, which was unfortunate.

“We just kept going. We came up with a new plan, and I think the positive thing is the car was really fast, even when I made the mistake.”

Pato O’Ward, who inherited the St. Petersburg victory Wednesday after Newgarden was disqualified, ended up second today at 1:06.7875 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Like Newgarden, O’Ward went off track during the session while exploring the limits of grip but also made no contact.

Two-time series champion Will Power, who didn’t use Push to Pass illegally at St. Petersburg but was docked 10 points as part of the penalty for having override programing code on the car, was third at 1:06.7914 in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet.

Colton Herta was fourth at 1:06.8002 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global, while Christian Lundgaard rounded out the top five at 1:06.8972 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Defending Barber race winner McLaughlin, who expressed a similar desire today to find peace in his car like Newgarden, ended up ninth at 1:07.0935 in the No. 3 Good Ranchers Team Penske Chevrolet.

Christian Rasmussen was the quickest of the six rookies in the field this weekend, 13th overall at 1:07.4418 in the No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing.

Up next is practice at 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile natural road course, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 3:30 p.m. Competition should be taut for the pole, as less than one second separated the top 19 drivers in the 27-car field in practice Friday.

Live coverage of the 90-lap race starts at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

IndyCar Series PR