Team Penske opened the fourth Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend of the year with teammates Will Power and Josef Newgarden claiming the two fastest lap times in the first practice session at Barber Motorsports Park.
Cool temperatures greeted the 23-car field, limiting on-track activity to only 10 cars through the first 10 minutes of the 45-minute session.
Andretti Autosport rookie Zach Veach topped the timesheet at the 15-minute mark before all cars had turned laps, but soon gave way to Ed Jones who’s preparing for his first race at a permanent road course with Chip Ganassi Racing.
At the checkered flag, Power’s 1:07.5987 represented the fastest lap at more than three-tenths of a second quicker than Newgarden’s best trip around the 2.3-mile road course. The quick time for Power’s No. 12 Chevrolet was laid down on the sixth of the Australian’s 12 total laps.
Scott Dixon slotted in behind the two Penske drivers as the fastest Honda driver. Dixon’s No. 9 machine traversed the rolling hills of Birmingham 0.6640 seconds slower than Power.
Carlin driver Max Chilton, who topped the timesheet shortly after the session went green, was fourth fastest in his No. 59 Chevrolet while Jones put a second Ganassi Honda in the top five with the fifth-fastest lap. Chevrolet held a 3-2 advantage over rival — and event sponsor — Honda in the group.
Simon Pagenaud, Jordan King, Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and Veach completed the top 10, with top rookie honors going to King and his No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.
Two red flags paused the session. After 19 minutes of green flag running, Alexander Rossi spun off course at Turn 15, leading to a three-minute break while his No. 27 Honda was retrieved. Having turned only 10 laps, Rossi, who won five days ago at Long Beach, ended the session in 20th.
Eight minutes after Rossi’s spin, Newgarden locked up his rear brakes and spun through the grass and gravel at Turn 5, necessitating a six-minute red flag.
Next up for the series is Practice 2 on Friday at 2:50 p.m. CDT with live streaming available on INDYCAR Race Control.