Josef Newgarden was a non-starter at Sonoma for the first IndyCar practice session on Friday morning, but he made up for lost time by going fastest in P2 during the afternoon.
The reigning series champion, who comes into the weekend as one of four drivers in mathematical contention for the title, set the pace at 1m17.8156s, but points leader Scott Dixon was just 0.08s behind him in the No.9 Ganassi Honda. Newgarden — who suffered from food poisoning last night — missed the first practice after the team discovered a fueling issue.
Harding rookie Pato O’Ward shot to the top of the times as soon as he had his first taste of the softer red Firestones and was still camped in P3 when the session ended, leaving another of the mathematical championship protagonists, Will Power, fourth-fastest in his No.12 Penske Chevrolet. James Hinchcliffe rebounded from a quiet morning session to go fifth-fastest, while Andretti’s Alexander Rossi ensured that all four of the title contenders ended the day in the top six.
A few of the frontrunners had brief off-track moments during the afternoon, including Newgarden and Dixon, but the only incident of any consequence came with 18 minutes to go when Ed Jones stopped on the track at Turn 7, prompting a red flag while the No.10 Ganassi car was retrieved.
Despite the mishap, Jones was still quick enough to finish up seventh-fastest ahead of early session leader Santino Ferrucci in the third Coyne entry, leaving Ferrucci’s DCR stablemate Pietro Fittipaldi and Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay to round out the top 10.