By David Morgan, Associate Editor
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Hello, Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion led the way in the second practice session of the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of Sunday’s running of the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix.
Palou jumped to the top of the board in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda with a lap of one minute, 6.278 seconds and that’s where he would remain for the remainder of the session.
“We’re looking strong,” Palou said. “I don’t know if the practice results are true with the traffic and stuff, but I’m happy with the car. The No. 10 Ridgeline car was really fast yesterday and also today, so it’s going to be a tight qualifying as always in IndyCar and here at Barber, but yeah, feeling pretty comfortable so far.”
The Team Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin finished practice second and third, followed by six-time series champion Scott Dixon in fourth, and Colton Herta in fifth.
Romain Grosjean was sixth-quickest in the session, along with Christian Lundgaard continuing his strongest run of the season in seventh, Arrow McLaren drivers Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward in eighth and ninth, and Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top-10
The session was mostly clean and green with the exception of two incidents, the first of which occurred with 17:40 remaining. Rookie Benjamin Pedersen overcooked it heading into Turn 2 and took a detour through the gravel trap. The A.J. Foyt Racing driver was able to keep the forward momentum going and got back on track in short order, allowing practice to stay under green flag conditions.
In the last minute of the session, Helio Castroneves lost control of his No. 06 Honda in Turn 9, harmlessly spinning around before his car came to rest at the exit of the turn and had to be re-fired by the AMR Safety Team.
Castroneves had a similar incident in practice last year, but this time around kept it off the wall.
Aside from those two incidents, a number of drivers had close calls, but were able to save their machines from an off-track excursion. Among those were Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay.
Teams will now get their cars turned around for qualifying at 3:00 pm ET to set the 27-car field for Sunday’s main event.