Newgarden tops opening COTA practice

Image by Marshall Pruett

Newgarden tops opening COTA practice

IndyCar

Newgarden tops opening COTA practice

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The opening session for IndyCar’s Classic at the Circuit of the Americas had a familiar feel as Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, fresh off a win to start the season at St. Petersburg, topped the field in his No. 2 Chevy.

“I think we made good progress [since testing],” Newgarden said. “We tried a lot of things here in Spring Training and weren’t exactly the quickest, so we’re definitely better. We’ve just got to stay on top of it. The thing is, it’s easy to do one quick lap; [what’s important] is how you carry it through the weekend. I think the second session will be very telling.”

Newgarden (1m48.65s) led Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta (1m48.79s), whose session ended prematurely when his Honda-powered entry slowed on track and completed a slow half-spin at Turn 7. With an excess of fluid coating his rear tires, and the corners leading up to his stopped car, a red flag was required to retrieve the No. 88 entry and dry the track.

“I went out of the pits, did half a lap, and then the engine blew up,” Herta told NBC. “There was no indication before it happened. No loss of power, nothing. It just blew up. Its unfortunate, Honda has been working hard during the off-season and this isn’t what they want to see.

“I’m sure there’s some concern and it’s probably one little thing that’s causing the problem, so once they find that they should be fine. It’s tougher to make an engine than it seems. Its going to happen, and it’s better that it happens now than later. We’re quick. No confidence loss. We’re still ready to push forward.”

Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi was a solid third (1m49.04s) in the No. 27 Honda, teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay almost matched his time (1m49.05s) in the no. 28 Honda, and Graham Rahal completed the top five in his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (1m49.50s), albeit a considerable margin back from Newgarden’s time.

Unlike last month’s IndyCar Sprint Training test at COTA, teams were greeted by warmth as temperatures in the low 70s. Similar weather is expected today, and despite the rising track temperatures, grip continues to prove elusive.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: FP2, 2:05-3:05 p.m.

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