By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Friday practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama has concluded for the Verizon IndyCar Series and there’s a lot of interesting storylines following the hour and 45 minutes of practice that the competitors were granted.
First of all, the reduction of downforce with the new Universal Aero Kits is felt almost immediately with many drivers losing control of their cars heading to Turn 5. Sebastien Bourdais, Zach Veach, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Gabby Chaves among others had issues with the tricky hairpin turn with the first four drivers bringing out red flags.
It was honestly refreshing to see drivers trying to figure out where the limit was on track. The only contact came with Rene Binder hitting the tires in Turn 16.
Team Penske was quickest in both sessions with Australian Will Power leading the morning session and Newgarden leading the afternoon but the Tennessee native was second in the morning session. However, behind Team Penske were some interesting characters.
Carlin’s Max Chilton was fourth quickest in the morning session while Spencer Pigot was second quickest in the afternoon session. What’s amazing about Chilton’s performance is that Carlin were struggling in their opening set of races. Charlie Kimball did get Carlin’s first top 10 finish last weekend in Long Beach so the team might be on an upswing.
There were 14 drivers that set their fastest time in the second session while the other nine drivers were faster in the morning.
Rookies were all over the place in the morning session. Jordan King was the quickest among them in seventh place while Veach was 10th. In the afternoon, Zachary Claman De Melo was 14th while King and Veach were 15th and 16th.
Several teams had struggles in practice. A. J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist’s highest position on the time sheet in any session was 19th with Leist in the first session. Chaves for Harding Racing 22nd in the morning and 23rd in the afternoon.
IndyCar has one practice session Saturday before qualifying in the afternoon and the race Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET.