Newgarden playing ‘catch-up’ in Barber IndyCar practice

Josef Newgarden

IndyCar series leader Josef Newgarden admits he was “play[ing] a little catch-up” in opening practice for the Grand Prix of Alabama.

After winning the last two races and then topping the Open Test for the Indianapolis 500, the Team Penske driver was only 18th-fastest in the first, 45-minute session of the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park.

Despite finishing a full second off the pace of Colton Herta, Newgarden was not particularly fazed, even if an unspecified issue cut his running short.

He and team-mate Will Power had suggested they could face a tough weekend given they have not tested at Barber this year, unlike some, and there is the added complication of it being the year’s first road course event on the revised primary tyre compound.

“A lot of people tested here a week or two ago, so we’re trying to play a little catch-up,” explained Newgarden on Peacock.

“But yeah, it was alright.

“We got cut short; we had a small issue there at the end, so we had to stop with about 10 minutes to go.

“But we got enough information – which is good – to hit the ground running tomorrow, so hopefully we can build a good programme with PPG and Team Chevy and be fast tomorrow.”

If Newgarden were to win this weekend, it would be all the more significant considering the two most recent races were held on the oval that is Texas Motor Speedway and then the streets of Long Beach.

He therefore already has ‘match point’ in terms of the $1 million PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge, for the driver who is the first to win on all three types of tracks in 2022.

Of that million dollars, half will go to the team/driver and the other half to their chosen charity.

“I don’t remember it until people tell me,” said Newgarden of the bounty on offer.

“I mean, I want to win the race.

“If they give me a million bucks for winning the race, that’s awesome, but for me, the priority is the win.”

Penske’s best in Practice 1 was Scott McLaughlin in fifth, first of the Chevrolet-powered drivers, while Power ended up 16th.

Practice 2 starts on Sunday morning at 00:00 AEST, followed by Qualifying at 03:00 AEST, with both of those sessions live and ad-free on Stan Sport.

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