Josef Newgarden set the pace in NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. (IndyCar Photo)
Josef Newgarden set the pace in NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. (IndyCar Photo)

Newgarden Sets Practice Pace In Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. – Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden needs to make up a 34-point deficit with two races remaining in the battle for the series championship.
The Team Penske driver was the fastest driver in Friday’s first 45-minute practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Newgarden, aboard the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, had a fast time of 1:11.7125 around the 11-turn, 2.258-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca road course located in the picturesque hills of the Central California Coast.
“I love Herta-ville,” Newgarden said, referring to Colton Herta, the most recent IndyCar winner at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey in 2019. “I do think it’s important to start up front there. It’s harder to pass here than at other places. If you don’t qualify well here, but have a good car on tire life, it could play to your advantage because tire degradation will play here.
“The aeroscreen will be different than what we are aware with. It’s always good start up front, but in Indy car racing, it can play against you depending on how the tires fall.”
Newgarden was a tick faster than the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti/Curb-Agajanian driver Herta. Herta’s fast time was 1:11.7927.
“This track is a lot of fun and has all sorts of challenges, especially when the rear tires go off, it’s amazing,” Herta said. “The car felt a little different for me. Great start to be P2 and just a tenth off.
“It’s nice to have these two races back,” he said, referring to next week’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. “We really missed them last year’s schedule.”
NTT IndyCar Series points leader Alex Palou, who holds a 25-point lead over Pato O’Ward with two races left, was third at 1:11.9750 in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ed Jones of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan was fourth at 1:12.0166, followed by Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda at 1:12.0625.
Earlier in the day, NTT IndyCar Series rookie driver Romain Grosjean crashed one of the Honda Civic Type R pace cars while doing a video shoot for NBC Sports. Grosjean hit the tire barrier at the entrance to pit road and it was a strong enough impact that the airbags deployed.
Neither Grosjean or his passenger were injured. Grosjean finished practice as the ninth fastest of the day at 1:12.3210.
Twenty minutes into the session, Helio Castroneves was on top at 1:12.4757. With 18:14 to go, Castroneves beached his No. 06 Honda into the turn two gravel, bringing out the red flag and stopping the session.

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