NEWTON, Iowa – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden signaled Friday that he is an NTT IndyCar Series driver to beat in the Iowa 300 this weekend at Iowa Speedway.
The race winner here in 2016 – he led 282 of the 300 laps while nursing a broken clavicle – delivered the fastest lap of Friday’s first practice session, a lap of 179.838 mph. Teammate Simon Pagenaud, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner, was second at 178.533 mph. Third was Roger Penske’s other driver, Will Power, who circled the short oval at 178.400 mph.
"We learned all sorts of stuff," said Newgarden, who led 229 laps last year before settling for a fourth-place finish. "You try to cram in as much as you can in a quick practice like that, especially with yellows. There's debris on the track because it hasn't been run on, so there's some cut tires. But that's normal.
"We got through a big list, probably five or six items. … Now we need this evening to figure out the race car."
The event’s final practice is set for 7 p.m. today. It can be viewed on NBS Sports Gold.
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, who trails Newgarden by four points in the series points race, was fourth in the first practice at 177.595 mph. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing rounded out the top five at 177.445 mph.
NTT P1 Award qualifying is up next at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Team Penske’s Will Power won the pole last year at 182.391 mph. Penske drivers have won the pole for this race each of the past four years but only scored one race win.
Three-time Iowa Speedway race winner Ryan Hunter-Rey of Andretti Autosport was sixth, a good sign for the team as Rossi bids to take the points lead. Michael Andretti’s cars have had plenty of success here in the past, winning seven of the first nine races with five different drivers.
The Iowa 300 is Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on the same platforms. James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, is the reigning champion. He was eighth in Friday’s first practice.