Felix Rosenqvist

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – A disjointed opening practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst saw NTT IndyCar Series newcomer Felix Rosenqvist atop the leaderboard following the 45-minute session Friday at Barber Motorsports Park.


The No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing driver took advantage of the extra set of Firestone tires available to rookie drivers for the first practice of the race weekend. The 27-year-old Swede turned a best lap of 1 minute, 9.2296 seconds (119.602 mph) on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course. Three red-flag stoppages for single-car incidents limited track time for all 24 entered drivers.

“Not really much of a clean run with all the reds in that session,” Rosenqvist said. “But I think the baseline (car setup) felt good, better than when I tested here a couple months ago. I struggled a little here on this track, so this is one of the tracks where I’ve really tried to work hard on my driving to get better. It felt good.”

With the extra set of tires, rookies racked up the most laps in the practice, led by Patricio O’Ward’s 16 in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. Rosenqvist, Colton Herta (No. 88 Gess International Honda) and Marcus Ericsson (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) each turned 14 laps.

Honda made the race entitlement sponsor proud by owning the top six spots in the opening practice. Sebastien Bourdais was second in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda (1:09.2750), James Hinchcliffe third in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda (1:09.3276), reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon fourth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (1:09.4373), Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (1:09.4452) and Herta – fresh off his first win two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas – sixth (1:09.4987).

O’Ward was the top Chevrolet representative on the speed chart, seventh overall at 1:09.5007.

AJ Foyt Racing drivers Matheus Leist and Tony Kanaan didn’t fare as well, each causing a red flag with a spin. Leist went off course on his first flying lap in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet near Turn 8, making front-end contact with the barrier. Kanaan later spun exiting Turn 17, coming to a stop on the frontstretch in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevy.

The final red flag waved when Spencer Pigot slid off track exiting Turn 17 in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and into the gravel trap. None of the drivers were injured in their incidents.

Hinchcliffe briefly lost control of his car in Turn 17 just after the red waved for Kanaan’s incident, but gathered it up and safely made it to the pit entry lane.

“Just figuring where the track grip was,” Hinchcliffe explained of the numerous off-track excursions by drivers that also included Takuma Sato. “Obviously with the rain overnight and this morning, track grip was a little bit of an exploratory thing. We get so few runs and so few laps, you have to maximize every lap. We had two good ones and I was just looking for a little more.”

The second practice begins at 3:50 p.m. ET Friday and streams live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Live timing and scoring with Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network commentary is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

NTT P1 Award qualifying is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, airing live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass. The 10th annual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama race takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday and airs live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.