Josef Newgarden picked up where he left off at St. Petersburg two weeks ago by pacing opening practice for the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas.

The driver of the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet for Team Penske threw down a lap of 1 minute 48.657 seconds midway through the 40-minute session. He dispatched Harding-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta, who set the pace early with a lap of 1:48.793 seconds. Herta suffered a turn of the fates as a mechanical problem with his No. 88 Honda forced him to spin in Turn 8 with around 20 minutes remaining, which brought out a 15-minute red flag.

The 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion noted while it was good to have pace in the opening session, the afternoon session is going to be a true indicator how much speed they can maintain.

“I think session is going to be more telling, but it’s always good to start with speed in session one,” said Newgarden. “We had a long red flag so no one got to run very long so it’s probably not the best indicator.

“A little bit of speed initially in the car is always a good sign. Whether its going to be enough for the whole weekend is what we need to find in the next session.”

The stoppage severely limited track of the 45-minute session. That forced IndyCar officials elected to give the drivers to extend the session slightly to let drivers take a hot lap.

Honda-powered cars claimed the next four spots led by the Andretti Autosport duo of Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay taking third and fourth while Graham Rahal completed the top five.

Felix Rosenqvist was the fastest rookie in sixth while Team Penske teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power were seventh and eighth and completing the top ten were Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

Patricio O’Ward had an uneventful first practice session with Carlin Racing and placed quietly in 16th place.

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