Iowa Speedway continued to be the Track of Dreams for Josef Newgarden, as he led the opening practice for the Hy-Vee INDYCAR Race Weekend on Friday.
Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden was fastest with a top lap of 176.428 mph in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. The result came as no surprise considering Newgarden’s track record at the .894-mile oval. He has four career victories at Iowa, including one of the doubleheader races last July.
SEE: Practice Results
Newgarden also has dominated oval racing recently in North America’s premier open-wheel racing series. He has won four of the last five races on circle tracks in the last 12 months, including the 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge in May. Newgarden’s only slip during that time was the second race last July at Iowa, when he was eliminated in a crash caused by a mechanical failure while leading.
“As you can see, we’ve got a pretty good package,” Newgarden said. “We ran a good couple of first laps, and it was just OK in race trim. I think we need to be a little bit better. This place is tricky. I feel like everyone is going to be really good this weekend. No one stands still here in the INDYCAR SERIES.”
This event is the only doubleheader of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Live coverage of the Hy-Vee Homefront 250 presented by Instacart starts at 3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network, with the Hy-Vee One Step 250 presented by Gatorade at 2 p.m. ET Sunday on the same outlets.
Up next is NTT P1 Award qualifying at 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday (live on Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). Each driver will turn two flying laps, with Lap 1 setting the grid for Saturday’s race and Lap 2 determining the starting lineup for Sunday’s race.
Scott McLaughlin helped Team Penske take the top two spots on the practice speed chart Friday, as he was second overall at 175.968 in the No. 3 XPEL Team Penske Chevrolet. Marcus Ericsson was third – and the fastest Honda-powered driver – at 175.877 in the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
Colton Herta was fourth at 175.521 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport, with Pato O’Ward rounding out the top five at 175.470 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
2021 series champion Alex Palou, who leads the championship by an impressive 117 points, was 15th at 173.007 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
This is a big weekend for Palou, as he will claim a $1 million PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge with a victory in either race. The bonus, split between the team and a charity, is awarded to the first driver who wins on all three types of track in the championship – street circuits, road courses and ovals – in a season. Palou already has a victory this season on a street circuit and a road course.
The 28-driver field wasted no time getting busy in the 90-minute session, combining to turn 2,766 laps (2,472 miles). Ericsson was the busiest driver, completing slightly over a half-race distance with 126 laps.