Josef Newgarden

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Josef Newgarden recovered from an off-track excursion in opening practice today for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama to lead a hectic second session at Barber Motorsports Park, when a number of Newgarden’s competitors had their own difficulties.

No fewer than eight Verizon IndyCar Series drivers exceeded the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course’s limits as they sought to find the balance between outright speed and less grip from reduced downforce produced by the new universal aero kit.

HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Practice 2 resultsCombined practice results

Newgarden, the defending race winner and reigning series champion, stayed on course throughout the 60-minute second practice and clocked the best lap of the day – 1 minute, 4.4345 seconds (122.786 mph) – in the No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Tony KanaanSpencer Pigot, a two-time winner at Barber in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder, was second quick at 1:04.5372 (122.599 mph) in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.

On the flip side, Zach Veach, Simon Pagenaud and Rene Binder each caused red-flag stoppages of the session when they slid off track. Veach and Pagenaud each wound up stuck in the gravel trap at the exit of the Turn 5-6 hairpin, while Binder slid into the tire barrier at Turn 16. Binder, driver of the No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet for Juncos Racing, was taken to the infield medical center for evaluation and released.

Other drivers to venture off track during the second session were James Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Matheus “Matt” Leist, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay. All were able to return onto the track and continue without necessitating a red flag.

Bourdais, winner of the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 11, still finished third in the second practice with a lap of 1:07.7971 (122.129 mph) in the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan.

Will Power was fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:07.8092 (122.107 mph). The two-time Barber winner and 2014 series champion led the first practice with a lap of 1:07.5987 (122.488 mph) that held up as third fastest for the day.

A final 45-minute practice begins at 11:50 a.m. ET Saturday and streams live on and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon P1 Award knockout qualifying airs live at 4 p.m. on CNBC with a same-day replay at 6:30 on NBCSN.

Sunday’s race will be the ninth for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park. Live coverage of the 90-lap event begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.