Newgarden Clear of Competitors in First Road America Practice

Josef Newgarden brakes for Road America turn in IndyCar practice
Josef Newgarden came out on top in the 45-minute practice session that kicked off the 2018 KOHLER Grand Prix weekend. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

As the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, Josef Newgarden proved his speed to begin the third edition of the series’ return to Road America with a lap nearly half a second quicker than his competition.

Takuma Sato was the second-fastest driver in the 45-minute session but was 0.4252 seconds slower than Newgarden on their respective fastest laps of the 4.014-mile circuit. At 1:43.0477, Newgarden’s chart-topping lap was about two seconds slower than last year’s pole time.

Alexander Rossi, Robert Wickens and Marco Andretti filled the remainder of the top five with three more Hondas, combining with Sato to make Newgarden the only driver representing the American brand in the group.

Placing sixth in Practice 1, Tony Kanaan was the second-quickest Chevrolet pilot and the final driver to lap within a second of Newgarden’s time. Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach, Scott Dixon and Matheus Leist comprised the remainder of the top 10, which stretched 1.2486 seconds back from Newgarden’s pace.

Behind Rossi in third and Dixon in ninth, the other driver ranked in the top three in the championship, Will Power, was 14th fastest in the Friday morning outing.

Alfonso Celis Jr., making his IndyCar debut in a one-off run with Juncos Racing, was 22nd out of 23 drivers, 1.8687 seconds slower than Newgarden. Gabby Chaves, meanwhile, was last in his Harding Racing Chevrolet at more than three seconds off the pace.

Leist as well as fellow rookies Jordan King and Zachary Claman De Melo turned the most laps in Practice 1, each completing 15 revolutions of the long circuit. Comparatively, Santino Ferrucci, driving the No. 19 Honda occupied by Claman De Melo this weekend, turned 21 laps in the first practice session at the much shorter Raceway at Belle Isle Park, site of the most recent non-oval event.

One more practice session, beginning at 3:15 p.m. CDT and lasting an hour, is on IndyCar’s schedule for Friday.

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