Josef Newgarden needs a bounce-back race, and the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion got off to a good start Friday morning here at Road America.
After finishing 11-8-9-15-13 in his past five starts following a pair of victories in the season’s first four races, Newgarden was back on top in the opening practice period for Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix.
He covered Elkhart Lake’s 4-mile road course in 1m43.0477s in his Verizon Chevrolet — nearly half a second faster than any of his 22 competitors.
Takuma Sato, still searching for his initial podium of 2018, clocked the second-best time of 1m43.4729s in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan MiJack Honda and Alexander Rossi was timed at 1m43.5603s in the Andretti Autosport NAPA Honda.
Rookie Robert Wickens — who made his IndyCar debut as a substitute in the Friday sessions at Road America a year ago when Mikhail Aleshin experienced visa issues — was fourth fastest at 1m43.5774s in the Lucas Oil Honda and Marco Andretti was close behind at 1m43.8825s in the US Concrete Honda.
Current point leader and last year’s race winner, Scott Dixon, was ninth overall at 1m44.1643s in the PNC Honda.
Alfonso Celis Jr. is moving up from Juncos Racing’s Indy Lights program to make his IndyCar debut in the No.32 car. He was 22nd fastest.
There is another practice session Friday afternoon at 3:15 p.m Central Time (4:15 ET).