By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Josef Newgarden pushed a little too hard at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and that aggression bit the NTT IndyCar Series points leader during Friday’s afternoon practice session.
The 2017 Mid-Ohio winner was trying to get a fast lap in the last few minutes of the session when he spun the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet through the Turn 9 gravel and hit the tire barrier with the rear of his car. Newgarden ended the session in 11th place.
“I just lost the car and backed it in,” said Newgarden. “I had been fighting it this whole session, I don’t know why. I feel disconnected. We’ll look at it tonight. These guys are great, so they’ll fix the PPG car and we’ll be good to go.”
Colton Herta was fastest in the session with a lap of 1 minute, 5.7292 seconds to average 123.671 mph around the 2.258 mile road course. The rookie was two tenths of a second clear of 2016 Mid-Ohio winner Simon Pagenaud in second.
“I was really confident in the car,” said Herta. “Even the guys that got full runs in, Will (Power), Simon (Pagenaud), (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, guys that were quick in first practice, usually quick around here, not as happy with it.
“I wouldn’t say this is one that heightens my skill set. But for sure this is my favorite track in North America. I always love coming here. It’s even more fun when they give you red tires,” Herta added.
Pagenaud is coming off of four consecutive top ten finishes including a race win at Toronto and pole positions in the last two races. The Frenchman has a fight ahead of him this weekend if he wants to be up front.
“It was a really good day,” said Pagenaud. “Really pleased with the Menards Chevy No. 22. It’s fast. It’s comfortable. I love it when we start the weekend like this. You can really work on little details when it comes to driving. Then you can explore a few items to see if you can make it better.”
Mid-Ohio in 2016 was a turning point for Pagenaud’s championship-winning season. The same could happen this year if the 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner can keep his pace up.
“It’s pretty exciting, I love this time of the year,” said Pagenaud. “It’s just so much fun. That’s what competition’s all about. You want to go out there and you want to feel like you’ve given it 100 percent. You don’t want to go home thinking you could have done better.
“Just making sure that I turn every stone, that at the end of the day, when it comes to the end of the season, we grabbed every point we could grab.”
Saturday practice starts at 10:30 in the morning with qualifying at 2:35 p.m. ET. The Honda Indy 200 is Sunday at 4:00 p.m. on NBC.