Newgarden Paces Milwaukee Practice

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Josef Newgarden became the second driver to flip his race car in as many days on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was thankfully unhurt. (IndyCar Photo)
Josef Newgarden became the second driver to flip his race car in as many days on Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was thankfully unhurt. (IndyCar Photo)
Josef Newgarden paced practice on Saturday. (IndyCar Photo)

WEST ALLIS, Wis. – Back in the days of the second IndyCar Series race each season at Milwaukee – the Tony Bettenhausen 200 – it was a one-day show with practice, qualifications and the race all on the same day during the Wisconsin State Fair in August.

The Verizon IndyCar Series has created a similar schedule for Sunday’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at the Milwaukee Mile with Sunday morning practice, early afternoon qualifications and the 250-lap race in the late afternoon.

Although the Wisconsin State Fair is still in August, the revamped schedule should give race fans a lot of action for their money.

It’s not a true one-day show, however. There was a 75-minute practice late Saturday afternoon and two-time Verizon IndyCar Series winner Josef Newgarden was the fastest driver in practice with a lap at 169.626 miles per hour in a Chevrolet.

“The Direct Supply car has been fast,” Newgarden said afterwards. “It was fast here last year, so I expected us to be on our game. I think we have a great spot to start. We just need to keep it up. It always helps when you roll off the truck good. I don’t know how many guys did (qualifying) sims, but we did one at the end. It’s pretty representative of a speed we can do. Hopefully that’s going to be enough to stay ahead of everyone else.”

Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske was second quick at 169.408 mph in another Chevrolet.

“It was just a new set of tires at the end to check the balance to see how it will be during the race when we put new tires on,” Pagenaud said. “It was interesting. The car is actually very good. It’s a strong baseline. I’m happy. We just need to keep working the details to get the pole. With the new aero kit, you want to be in clean air as much as you can.”

Takuma Sato was the fastest Honda driver and was third at 168.777 mph followed by another Honda driver and most recent Verizon IndyCar Series race winner Graham Rahal at 168.094 mph.

“Right away the balance of the car was really good, I was definitely pleased with it,” Rahal said. “It was pretty comfortable, so we were able to push forward and try some things with the setup. I think we made the car a lot better. It’s definitely going to be interesting to follow a bunch of cars [in the race]. Based on what some guys were saying, they seemed to struggle pretty bad. That’s going to make it an interesting race. I didn’t really get a run there at the end of the session to get the most out of the car, but it’s definitely good.”

Tony Kanaan’s Chevrolet rounded out the top five at 167.702 mph.

The IndyCar Series drivers will be back on track Sunday at 10:15 a.m. EST for a 45-minute practice. Qualifications are set at 1:30 p.m. – single-car format, two lap average. The NBC Sports Network broadcast is at 5 p.m. EST and the green flag is set for 5:35 p.m.

“To see how the fans react to it, there might be a lot more people,” Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Juan Pablo Montoya said of the schedule. “If something goes wrong, it’s bad. If you have a smooth day, it will be fine.

“Honestly, it’s unique. First time I’ve been in these kind of conditions.”