Newgarden Leads Opening Day

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden posted the quickest lap of 220.250 mph on Saturday. (Photo: Shawn Payne)

Rookie Josef Newgarden topped the timesheets as preparations began for the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 12 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Newgarden, who won the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race at Indianapolis in 2011, posted the quickest lap on the 2.5-mile oval of 220.250 mph in the No. 67 Dollar General car for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

"The team has done it all year,” Newgarden said “People have seen before that they can produce a good road/street car, and there's no issues oval-wise. They've built really good, reliable, comfortable race cars for me, and they're doing the same for Bryan now. That's all it is, really. They make our job really easy, and I think that's what you guys are seeing. It bodes well, if anything, it's not really a big deal to be quick on this day, but it speaks well for the team. I think the team deserves that credit. I'm really happy for them that they get the credit because they do deserve it. They do a good job, and I'm proud to be with them."

The top three cars of the session were driven by American graduates of Firestone Indy Lights.

JR Hildebrand, the 2011 race runner-up and Chase Rookie of the Year, was second quick (219.693 mph) in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet and Newgarden's teammate, Bryan Clauson (219.632) was third in the No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing/RW Honda.

Another rookie, James Jakes (2198.286), was fourth in the Boy Scouts of America Honda while Tony Kanaan (217.741) completed the top five in the No. 11T GEICO/Mouser Electronics KV Racing Technology Chevrolet.

In all, 26 drivers recorded 693 incident-free laps in the six-hour session.

Drivers will get 36 more hours of track time, weather permitting (and the forecast is favorable), through "Fast Friday" before Pole Day qualifications May 19 in testing the new engine/aero kit package. Gates open at 10 a.m. May 13 for the Mother's Day special of noon-6 p.m. practice.

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