ELKHART LAKE, Wis – The Verizon IndyCar Series took to the scenic 4.014-mile Road America track on Friday for not one but two practice sessions on the day. The first session was 45 minutes in length and saw Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden top the speed charts with a time of 1:43.047-seconds in his No. 1 Chevrolet. Newgarden is the defending series champion and finished runner-up on the Elkhart Lake track last season. So, the speed isn’t surprising. Plus, at another track on the schedule like Road America in Barber, Newgarden was second, first and sixth respectively in the three practice sessions, won the pole and led 73 of the 82 laps en route to a victory that race weekend.
That makes him a driver to watch for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
While he was quick, his Penske teammates were no where to be found in the first session. Simon Pagenaud is coming off of a runner-up finish in the last race at Texas but he was only 11th fastest (1:44.318-seconds) in session No. 1. Will Power has started on the front row in both races since the series’ return to Elkhart Lake in 2016 but he was 14th fastest in his No. 12 Chevrolet (1:44.458-seconds).
Takuma Sato was P2 with a lap of 1:43.472-seconds in his No. 30 Honda while three more Honda’s were right behind with Alexander Rossi (1:43.560-seconds), Robert Wickens (1:43.577-seconds) and Marco Andretti (1:43.882-seconds) being third through fifth respectively.
The session went incident free.
In the second practice, it was once again a Newgarden dominated hour long session. The Tennessee native paced the field yet again for a perfect day. He turned a lap of 1:42.6279-seconds for another P1. This time though, he had company from his teammate.
All three Penske drivers resided in the top five in the second session with Will Power (1:43.0545-seconds) and Simon Pagenaud (1:43.1599-seconds) being fourth and fifth respectively. The meat of the Penske sandwich were two Honda’s in Robert Wickens (1:42.9025-seconds) and Sebastien Bourdais (1:43.0020-seconds). Wickens, was fourth quick in the first practice, so if anyone is going to give Newgarden a run for the pole it’s going to be him.
We also saw the first accident of the weekend when rookie Alfonso Celis Jr. got off course and took a wild ride through the grass and into the tire barriers. He’d would be okay.
The series will practice one more time on Saturday (12 p.m. ET) before qualifying to set the field for Sunday’s race at 4 p.m. ET.