Josef Newgarden

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Apparently, Josef Newgarden feels right at home in his new home.

The newest driver for Team Penske ran the fastest lap this afternoon in the opening session of a two-day Verizon IndyCar Series open test at Phoenix Raceway. Driving the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet, Newgarden’s top lap of 190.129 mph (19.3511 seconds) set the pace as the 21 drivers turned 910 laps in the first of four three-hour practices on the 1-mile oval.

RESULTS: Phoenix open test Practice 1

Newgarden, who joined the 14-time Indy car champion Penske outfit this year after finishing fourth in the 2016 championship with Ed Carpenter Racing, said the plan was to use this weekend’s test as another opportunity to get better acquainted with his team.

“For us on the 2 car, we’ve got to really work to just understand our Verizon group with everyone that I’m going to be working with,” said Newgarden. “There’s going to be a lot of changes for me, just moving from a different team to a new group.

“We’ve had a couple days on track already and I think this will be a continuation of what we did back in October. We’ve just got to keep trying to gel with each other, figuring out what I need from the car, figuring out how I communicate and how they communicate. That will just get better the more time we have.”

Newgarden’s former boss, Ed Carpenter, was second fastest in the session with a lap of 189.990 mph (19.3652 seconds) in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet. Will Power was third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (188.637 mph) ahead of JR Hildebrand (188.543), who replaced Newgarden this year in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevy for ECR.

Alexander Rossi, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, was the fastest Honda driver and fifth overall in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts entry for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian (187.611).

The open test resumes with a three-hour evening session from 8-11 p.m. ET today, with two more sessions scheduled for Saturday. All the practices are available on a live video stream on

Got milk? Hinchcliffe needed some

There’s always a back story, right? Here’s the one behind the recently distributed social media video starring Verizon IndyCar Series drivers James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi.

A few years ago, Hinchcliffe had the idea to end a video skit by dumping a glass of milk on his head as Indianapolis 500 winners have begun doing in Victory Lane in recent years. Sounded fun, he thought, but he figured the racing gods wouldn’t approve.

“It’s bad luck to do it if you haven’t (won) it,” the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver said.

The solution, Hinchcliffe reasoned, was to enlist an Indianapolis 500 winner in the gag. Rossi, who won last year’s celebrated 100th running, was game.

In the skit that debuted last week, Hinchcliffe needs milk for his bowl of cereal, but girlfriend Becky Dalton can’t find it. Rossi, summoned to ask what happened to the milk in the fridge, claims to not know what happened to it, but there’s a flashback to him pouring an entire gallon on his head while sitting on Hinchcliffe’s back porch.

“Actually, I (poured it) two times because we had to get a different (camera) angle,” Rossi said during this week’s trip to Phoenix Raceway for INDYCAR’s first open test of 2017. “It was my idea for one (pour); when they told me I was doing a second (pour), I was (not pleased).”

Hinchcliffe said using full gallons of milk – thus, lengthy pours – heightened the comedic effect.

“It starts out as funny, then it’s no longer funny, the you keep doing it until it’s funny again,” he said. “The ‘Family Guy’ perfected that (style of comedy).”

Hinchcliffe said the video, produced by California-based videographer Tim Durham, “took like 38 seconds to shoot,” and he was proud of how it turned out. Of course, the “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up wasn’t the one with two gallons of milk poured on his head.

Said Rossi: “I’m glad it turned out OK.”

Watch the video here:

No enjoyment for Daly with this smoke

Conor Daly’s public debut with AJ Foyt Racing got off to an auspicious start. The driver of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet turned just seven laps before a plume of smoke erupted from the rear of the car, less than 30 minutes into the three-hour session and after completing only seven laps.

See what the 25-year-old had to say about the incident:

Spring is in the air, and so is racing

It’s opening day of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, which has blossoming star drivers Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi raring to go.

As seen in the pit-lane video captured before the first practice of the Phoenix Raceway open test, Newgarden is excited to show off his new firesuit colors for his new team, the venerable Team Penske, and to drive the No. 2 Chevrolet. Rossi, driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, admits to being “much less terrified” coming to Phoenix Raceway than a year ago when it was his first-ever oval race.