Josef Newgarden suspects that strong winds were the main culprit in Friday’s incident-laden Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions at Barber.
The afternoon session in particular was interrupted by crash-induced red flags, while several other drivers also slid off the track but managed to continue without hitting anything.
“Today was very difficult with the wind conditions,” said the Team Penske driver, who was fastest in the afternoon, but spun harmlessly at Turn 5 in the morning [main image]. “If you looked at the wind, it was kind of behind us today going into Turn 5, it was behind of going into Turn 12, and that’s the most difficult wind direction you’re going to drive around here. I think it’s going to flip 180 [degrees] tomorrow.
“We had some other issues going on that we sorted out on the No.1 car, but with the wind added in, it just contributed to the problem, and it made it tough for everybody. It wasn’t easy regardless because of the wind, but then you have some other issues that contribute to it, it can make it really nasty. So T5 was tough today. Anywhere the wind was behind you, it was just tough.
“I think everyone will actually have a little easier time driving tomorrow. Hopefully that means less reds and yellow flags, but like you said, you’ve just got to prepare for that, so we’ll try and stay on top of it.”
The prospect of more favorable conditions for qualifying tomorrow could prove to be significant, with Sunday’s forecast of rain putting even more of a premium on securing a good grid spot than usual.
“We’ll need more changes with this [aero package] for the rain because it’s got a lot less downforce,” Newgarden said.
“You’ve got a lot less blanket on top of you pushing you to the ground. I think traction will be a problem with the rain. You’ve really got to prioritize braking and acceleration. I think those are the types of things we’ll be looking for for the rain, and starting up front is critical, so we’ve got to try and be as close to the pole position, if not right on it. That’ll be our priority. That’s what we were doing today, is just trying to work on the qualifying car because it looks like rain on Sunday.”