Team Penske dominated the opening free practice session at Barber Motorsports Park, locking out a 1-2-3-4 as defending series champion Simon Pagenaud led team-mates Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.
Pagenaud, winner at Barber twelve months ago, finished with a best time of 1:08.1104s, just 0.0718 seconds clear of Newgarden, who won his maiden Verizon IndyCar Series race at this track in 2015, while Power and Castroneves ensured Penske and Chevrolet locked out the top four places.
Alexander Rossi was the best of the rest for Andretti Herta Autosport, with the Honda-powered American fifth just ahead of team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Graham Rahal, runner-up in this race last season, was seventh for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
James Hinchcliffe, winner of the last round of the championship around the streets of Long Beach two weeks ago, was eighth fastest for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport ahead of championship leader Sebastien Bourdais, who suffered an off after hitting a rogue advertising hoarding that had landed on track ahead of the Dale Coyne Racing driver.
Scott Dixon, four times a runner-up at Barber without taking a victory, completed the top ten for Chip Ganassi Racing which, apart from the top four, was filled by Honda drivers. The best non-Penske entrant was Carlos Muñoz, who finished thirteenth for AJ Foyt Racing.
Aside from Bourdais’ brush with the advertising hoarding that caused a red flag, the only other incident of note was when Mikhail Aleshin spun into the gravel trap at turns 2/3, but the Russian was able to get out of the trap unaided and was able to continue, finishing the session eleventh for Schmidt.
Zach Veach, making his IndyCar debut this weekend in place of the injured JR Hildebrand, finished the session at the back of the field in twenty-first, but used the session wisely to get to grips with his #21 Ed Carpenter Racing machine.
Barber Motorsports Park Free Practice 1 Results
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