Newgarden stymied by lost steering wheel, lost power, lost laps

Team Penske-Chevrolet’s two-time champion Josef Newgarden was left frustrated in second practice at Barber Motorsports Park by a run of problems that prevented him showing his true pace.

Newgarden stymied by lost steering wheel, lost power, lost laps

Newgarden, who has won three times on the 2.38-mile course in Leeds, Alabama, was left languishing in 14th having never had a strong shot at laying down a fast time on Firestone’s softer alternate compound tires.

The session started off badly for the 2017 and ’19 champ with his steering-wheel falling off on his out lap. He was able to reattach it and slowly return to the pits.

Later he had a wild moment exiting the final turn when an overboost suddenly cut his Chevrolet’s power, causing the #2 Penske-Chevy to veer from lock to lock before trickling down the pit straight as Newgarden tried to refire the engine, causing a brief red flag period.

Despite these issues – and two other red flags, caused by a crash for Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and a spin and stall by AJ Foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett – Newgarden completed 17 laps, his best effort coming on his final flyer.

“It was just messy,” Newgarden told Peacock afterward. “I didn’t start well – we had some steering wheel issues with the collar. It popped off on the backstretch. It worked loose, and I was trying to put it back on, and I couldn’t get the wheel on – and the reverse happened, and it actually popped off!

“Thankfully, everyone avoided me [as he veered on to the grass]. Not a fun situation.

“Then we got into the session, and it went great to start and it felt like it got better on the second run on the black tires [harder Firestone primary compound].

“Then we took another big swing and weren’t very good on the reds, but I think the car is really strong. I feel positive about the Hitachi car, but we just didn’t get it together.

“Messy session, one of those days, put that behind you, figure out the right combo and come back fresh in qualifying.

“I have an idea what we need, but we didn’t quite hit it there, so it’s quite frustrating to have a session like that. So just clean up all the issues and come back fresh.”

This year on road courses, IndyCars are on track for only two days, with Saturday’s action comprising just two 45min practice sessions followed by qualifying. Today’s qualifying session for the opening round of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, begins at 4.55pm local (Central) time.

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