LEEDS, Ala. – Alexander Rossi saved his fastest lap for the final lap of the second NTT IndyCar Series practice session Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park ahead of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Rossi’s final lap was the fastest of any driver in the extremely frantic session. The Andretti Autosport driver turned a fast lap timed at 1:06.797 in the No. 27 NAPA Honda around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course.
“Every new tire run here is difficult,” Rossi said. “It’s all good right now, we just have to see how the track evolves for qualifying.”
Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing was second in the No. 8 Honda at 1:06.2190 followed by two of his teammates, Scott Dixon at 1:06.3018 and second-year driver Alex Palou at 1:06.3204. Both drivers are in Honda-power cars.
The fourth Chip Ganassi Racing driver, rookie Jimmie Johnson, was last in the 24-car field at 1:07.8821 in the No. 48 Honda for Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing.
A former CGR driver, Felix Rosenqvist, was fifth in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet at 1:06.3848.
Earlier in the session, another rookie driver held the fastest speed early in the session. It was Romain Grosjean and the rookie driver from Formula One.
He was able to get up to speed as just 10 minutes into the practice, his No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware laid down a lap at 1:06.7551. About five minutes later, however, third-year driver Colton Herta’s No. 26 Honda topped the timing monitor at 1:06.7551.
Herta’s time at the top in the session was halted when he lost control of his Honda in turn two on his first lap on the faster Firestone Red tires.
As he was braking uphill on the cold tires, he locked up the brakes, skidded across the gravel and hit the wall to bring out the red flag and stop the session, 20 minutes into the practice.
At the time of the stoppage, Herta was the fastest at 1:06.7551 followed by Grosjean’s 1:06.9421. McLaughlin was third in the No. e PPG Chevrolet with a lap clocked at 1:06.9512.
Andretti Autosport drivers James Hinchcliffe (1:06.9776) and Alexander Rossi (1:07.0205) rounded out the top five.
The green flag opened the track with nine minutes left. O’Ward quickly took away the top position from Herta was a lap at 1:06.7548 in the No. 5 Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren SP.
That started a rapid, fast-paced group of timed laps where the top 10 positions shuffled and scrambled as nearly every driver of the 24 on track were on Firestone Red tires.
But Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden brought out a momentary red flag for having a “tank slapper” which shut off his No. 2 Chevrolet. The engine experienced an “overboost” situation, which shuts the power to the engine to keep it from breaking.
When the green flag returned, there was just one minute, 20 seconds left in the session. That created a sense of urgency for drivers attempting to get one final fast lap in the last practice session before qualifications.
IndyCar Series qualifying is scheduled for Saturday at 5:55 p.m. ET.