Story By: ZACH HORRALL / INDYCAR – BIRMINGHAM, AL – Andretti Autosport was on the pace Friday at Barber Motorsports Park as Colton Herta led opening practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst with a best lap of 1 minute, 6.5149 seconds in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
Defending race winner and reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Alex Palou followed closely behind in second at 1:06.5657 in the No. 10 The American Legion Honda, just .05 of a second behind Herta’s quick lap.
“I was really happy with how the car was,” Herta said. “We were one of the lucky ones that got to test here (recently), so we did a lot of stuff on that day to help us prepare for this weekend, and it showed. We came in here and rolled off the truck, and the car was really nice right away.”
Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammates followed closely behind as Alexander Rossi placed his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda third at 1:06.6657 and Romain Grosjean put the No. 28 Enevate/DHL Honda fourth with a best lap of 1:06.7046.
The Andretti Autosport trio’s rookie teammate also proved strong on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course. Devlin DeFrancesco spent time fastest in the practice session before ending the session in a solid 14th at 1:07.3817 in the No. 29 PowerTap Honda.
Scott McLaughlin, who won the season opener at St. Petersburg, rounded out the top five as the fastest Chevrolet driver in the No. 3 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet with a best lap of 1:06.8705. Callum Ilott was the fastest rookie of the day, putting down a best lap of 1:07.0861 in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet early in the session, good for eighth overall.
Less than a second separated the top 17 drivers in the 26-competitor field.
Missing from the top half of the practice sheets were former Barber Motorsports Park winners Josef Newgarden (2015, ’17, ’18), Simon Pagenaud (2016) and Takuma Sato (2019). Newgarden was 18th quickest at 1:07.5505 in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, while Pagenaud was 21st at 1:07.6916 in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda and Sato was 22nd at 1:07.7473 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES is back in action Saturday with practice at 10 a.m. (ET), followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 1 p.m. and final practice at 5:20 p.m. All sessions will be live on Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.