Pagenaud leads Team Penske sweep of first Barber practice

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama –Simon Pagenaud kicked off defense of his 2016 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First win by leading opening practice today at Barber Motorsports Park.

The reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion, driving the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet), led a Team Penske sweep of the top four positions in the session with a fast lap of 1 minute, 8.1104 seconds (121.567 mph). Teammates Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevrolet, 1:08.1822), Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, 1:08.2186) and Helio Castroneves (No. 3 AAA Insurance Chevrolet, 1:08.4112) followed the Pagenaud on the time sheet. Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda, 1:04.4560) rounded out the top five as a total of 313 laps were turned in the 45-minute session.

Scott Dixon“We’re happy,” said Pagenaud, who dueled to the checkered flag with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in last year’s race. “It’s really very good, very consistent and fast. This is a good track for us, always been a very good place for the team. A lot of the aero that they do, the research on the aero and the damper package, I think pays off pretty well here.”

HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA: Practice 1 results

True to the parity that the Verizon IndyCar Series has displayed this season, the top 19 cars ran within one second of each other as the 21-car field turned a total of 313 laps on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn permanent road course for the first time of the weekend.

The red flag briefly waved late in the session when points leader Sebastien Bourdais went off course and collected a sponsorship sign in the grass, but did not damage his No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Bourdais finished the session ninth quick (1:08.6737). Zach Veach, making his Verizon IndyCar Series debut substituting for the injured JR Hildebrand in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, was 21st on the chart with a best lap of 1:10.6346.

With track repairs in the morning delaying the on-track schedule by an hour, Practice 2 for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will get the green flag at 4:25 p.m. ET today. A live video stream is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Verizon P1 Award qualifying starts at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, with NBCSN coverage commencing at 4:30. Sunday’s 90-lap race, the third of 17 on this season’s Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, can be found on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 3 p.m. ET.

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