Barber Motorsports Park is known for its tight and twisty turns. That was on display this afternoon, as many drivers spent quite a bit of time sliding off into the grass. The first practice session was filled with cars finding trouble, but things did improve by the afternoon session. When the dust settled, it was James Hinchcliffe who had the fastest lap on Friday.
Colton Herta, the most recent race winner in the NTT IndyCar Series, finished the day 2nd fastest in his Harding Steinbrenner Honda. Fellow Rookie Santino Ferrucci turned heads as he had the 3rd fastest time on Friday, with Dale Coyne Racing teammate Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi rounding out the top five overall.
Friday Combined Practice Results
Spencer Pigot was the fastest Chevrolet on Friday, finishing 7th on the final combined speed chart. The only other Chevy in the top ten was Rookie Patricio O’Ward in 9th position. Team Penske didn’t seem to flex their muscle on Friday, as they ended up 12th, 16th, and 18th respectively. Newgarden was slowest of Roger’s trio, but has won three of the last four races here, and has four consecutive podium finishes at Barber.
As for his teammate Will Power, his last two finishes at Barber are 14th and 21st respectively. The defending Indianapolis 500 champion has started on the front row in eight of the nine races here, and has two wins to his name. Both Power and Newgarden have combined to lead 341 laps at Barber. No other driver has led more than 93 laps.
Andretti Autosport driver Zach Veach was one of many drivers to slide off the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course on Friday. “It’s definitely slick out there,” he said. “We’re seeing things we haven’t seen at Barber before, especially with the reds.” The red tires were a big story on Friday, as they didn’t seem to have as much grip as years past.
Veach’s teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay has won here twice, and understands how difficult it is to find the right setup for this race. “We’ve been going here for nine years, and it seems like each year there’s something different to work on to be fast,” he told Motorsport.com on Friday. “We’ve had success there, got a couple of wins, but you’ve got to keep pushing and evolving your setup because it’s never the same year in, year out, and never the same from session to session.”
Reigning series champion Scott Dixon just missed the top ten on Friday, but has an interesting history with Barber Motorsports Park. In the nine races here, he has finished on the podium seven times. Still, he has never won this race, or even qualified on the front row. Still, Dixon is just one of two drivers to complete every lap in the nine races.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 11:45 AM ET, followed by qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, which begins at 4 PM on NBC Sports Network.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “Not a great day, to be honest. We seem to be missing something at the moment. It seems like all of us are searching for something. That means we really need to put our heads together tonight and really look at things closely as a team and come up with some good solutions for tomorrow. I feel confident we’ll figure something out for the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevy. We’re just off today and we weren’t very quick. I’m always confident with this group and I think we’ll find something. We just need to work really hard tonight.”
MATHEUS LEIST: “Not really the day we wanted here at the track. I made a mistake coming out of the pits in the first practice, and unfortunately, I crashed the car. It’s not a big crash, but we couldn’t continue – we had to change the wings and check everything. The second session was OK, but we still need to improve for tomorrow. I felt that the car had a lot of oversteer, mainly with the red (Firestone alternate) tires, which I thought we would pick up a lot of understeer. It was a balance change we were not expecting as a team, so we just have to regroup, watch the videos, analyze the data and see what to do to improve for tomorrow.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Everything on the No. 5 Arrow car has been working well so far. It’s crazy – we’ve seen it all year, the amount of red flags we’re having in sessions; I think it’s just a function of everyone trying to push for those last few hundredths and thousandths (of a second) because it’s so competitive right now. Honda did a great job – I think they locked out the top six there, which is great. For us, it’s always interesting in Practice 2 with the reds (Firestone alternate tires). I don’t think a lot of people got out of the reds what they were expecting, ourselves included. I don’t think we’ve ever been P1 in a session and been so unhappy with the balance if I’m totally honest.”
MARCUS ERICSSON: “It’s a really cool track. First time here for me, obviously, but really enjoying it; it’s a lot of fun to drive. I think for us, we’ve done a good job with the Arrow car. (My teammate) James (Hinchcliffe) showed in both sessions that we can be really fast around here, so that’s really positive. For my side, I’m still building up to it, getting a hang of the track – it’s a difficult one; I’m sure by tomorrow we’ll be there. We have a bit of homework to do tonight to catch up, but then we should be right up there tomorrow.”
SCOTT DIXON: “In Practice 1, there was a lot of traffic and we didn’t really get a clear run in the PNC Bank car. In second practice, I don’t know what happened. We just couldn’t get the front tires to work for some reason. We had a lot of understeer on the black (Firestone primary) tires, so we made adjustments to correct that for the reds (Firestone alternate tires). For whatever reason, the car just went way out of balance. It felt like something was broken or disconnected on the car. Tenth isn’t terrible given those circumstances, but that’s obviously not where we want to be today.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST: “Practice 1 went very good and the car felt OK. No big drama there. Second practice, we may have gone the wrong way in terms of the direction of the changes. Nothing to worry about, though. We’ll revert to our baseline and we should be all right. Good lessons to learn for tomorrow. It’s good to learn and I’m looking forward to improving the NTT DATA car for qualifying.”
WILL POWER: “We definitely have some work to do to make the car better for tomorrow. We have a really strong team and we’re going to go over the data tonight to see what we can come up with. I think we found some good stuff in that session that we will implement for tomorrow for the No. 12 Verizon Chevy and see if we can improve the time sheets.”
TONY KANAAN: “It was a learning day for us. This was a track that we had a lot of difficulty at last year, so I think we’re closer – although the position that we finished (21st) doesn’t look like that – but we’re only seven-tenths (of a second) behind first place, which if we improve by three-tenths we’re in the top 10. We’ve got to keep working. If we’re able to improve for tomorrow, I think we’ll be OK.”
GRAHAM RAHAL: “No one went quicker on the red (Firestone alternate) tires other than maybe Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), which was unusual. They are going to be a major challenge; the balance shift is massive. For us, really, we were close. The first run was solid, which was when we went our quickest. I lifted, because of traffic, to start what could have potentially been the optimal lap, timing wise, right when the tires were sweet because I thought I had an extra lap of fuel afterward, and I didn’t, so I wasted the blacks (Firestone primary tires) at the start. We’re not quickest, but we’re only half of a second out. It’s so close. It looks like there is only one sector where we are losing most of our time. We will work hard to resolve that.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: “It was a good day for the No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. I am pretty happy with the car on blacks (Firestone primary tires). I didn’t get my fast lap during the first run on blacks, then went faster on the second run. So, we have left some on the table, which is why I am fairly confident and happy with the way things went. We got a weird read, but weren’t the only ones, with the Firestone reds (alternate tires). As soon as the sun came out, the track got about a full second slower on the alternates. That’s never been seen before. We tried a couple of things, but I can’t say we did a whole lot. The baseline setup was strong, so hopefully, we can make some little tweaks to it and make it better for tomorrow. Overall, a satisfying day.”
SANTINO FERRUCCI: “It was a good first day here at Barber Motorsports Park. In Practice 1 this morning, we didn’t run too much because of the conditions. In Practice 2, we went out on the primary Firestone tire and we were instantly competitive. The David Yurman car felt really good and I was pretty confident. But then we put the red (Firestone alternate) tires on, and we still have a lot to learn. So, there’s still a little bit of work to do before going into qualifying tomorrow, but I have confidence in the team. It’s nice to end the day near the top of the time sheets, even if it’s just the first day of practice.”
ED JONES: “It was a frustrating day. We were compromised again in Practice 1 with a few issues; unfortunately, we didn’t get much better in Practice 2. We tried different things with the setup, but nothing is really correlating to the No. 21 car. We are going to look at it and see what’s going on so we can get a handle on it before qualifying tomorrow.”
SPENCER PIGOT: “We had a pretty decent day today. The car was very good in the second session on the black (Firestone primary) tires. We made some good improvements over the start of the day. It is a little difficult on reds (Firestone alternate tires) right now, they seem to be throwing a little bit of a curveball at us as we try and get the most of them. We’ll see where we can improve on those tonight. Overall, I’m fairly happy with what we have so far and am looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”
SIMON PAGENAUD: “We were trying a few different things on the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet today. We understand what we need to get ready for qualifying tomorrow and that’s why these practices are so important. I think we do have some good pace in the car. We didn’t show everything we have today, so tomorrow will be very interesting. I think it’s going to be very tight in qualifying, but hopefully that bright Menards Chevy will be at the front of the grid for Sunday’s race here at Barber.”
ZACH VEACH: “Things have been up and down, but I think that’s because we are really close to a breakthrough. We’re so close to being able to run up front consistently – it’s just every now and then we keep going over it. Once it finally clicks, it will be good for all of us. It’s definitely slick out there, we’re seeing things that we haven’t really found at Barber before, especially with the reds (Firestone alternate tires). I don’t think anyone went faster with reds on. We had a big save at the top of the hill that definitely woke me up, but it worked out OK.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI: “This morning was difficult because there were a lot of red flags and we started out with a damp track, so we didn’t really get a proper run. The second session was more indicative of our general pace and how the NAPA car is feeling. The big mystery to take away from today is the Firestone reds (alternate tires) were a lot worse for me and it’s unusual for the reds to be slower. We’ll have to understand why that is and work through it, but it was the same for the whole field. With that being said, we’re a tenth out of being P1, so we’ll keep chipping away at it to hopefully get to our third Firestone Fast Six tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: “The car was a handful – it was tough out there today. I don’t know why; I think everybody is kind of dealing with that. Overall, lap times just aren’t where they were last year for the whole field. We’ll just have to look into it and see what’s going on, but I think everybody has their hands full. I’d like to get a win here this weekend for DHL and get Honda back to victory lane in Alabama. It’s been a couple races since our last win, so we’re looking to get back there.”
TAKUMA SATO: “It was a tough day with mixed feelings. Initially, I felt the car was quite positioned while the track was still green. The session was cut short by red flags, but we felt good under those conditions. As the track started getting more rubber down and faster, we started losing the balance and grip. In the end, we struggled to find the speed. I was in traffic when I was on the red (Firestone alternate) tire and never got a clear lap, but I didn’t really feel we could gain any time. Hopefully, we can develop the car tonight and have a productive day because today was tough.”
PATRICIO O’WARD: “It’s really exciting to be back at Barber Motorsports Park – it’s been a good track for me. Our day has been interesting. Our first session was pretty scrappy, but we were right on pace. For the second session, everyone got to put on red (Firestone alternate) tires, but for some reason, it really altered the balance and made a huge difference between the blacks (Firestone primary tires) and the reds. We’ll need to definitely work on that for tomorrow and see exactly what the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet needs for those Firestone reds for qualifying. We weren’t the only ones struggling – I feel like a lot of cars did as well. Regardless, we’ll get it worked out tonight and be ready for qualifying tomorrow.”
MAX CHILTON: “I think we’re just a little bit puzzled right now with where we ended the day here at Barber. The No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet showed some pace in the first session, but we really struggled in the second session trying to get it right with the tires. We have some work to do tonight to make sure we’re prepared for qualifying tomorrow, but I know the team will work it out before tomorrow morning.”
COLTON HERTA: “I’m happy with how today went. I think we’re all a little puzzled with how the reds (Firestone alternate tires) reacted because almost everyone went slower on the reds, so we’re not sure what happened there. But we got a lot of data to look through and we were quick, so I’m looking forward to see how that goes when we add the rain in tomorrow’s forecast.”
MARCO ANDRETTI: “The reds (Firestone alternate tires) seemed like blacks (Firestone primary tires) and the blacks seemed like reds, so I’m in a mentality of being prepared to qualify on the blacks. We’re a little on the loose side of town, because we got caught out. What we had expected to happen, didn’t happen, so we need to adapt.”