Alex Palou the early pacesetter at Barber.

Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Alex Palou got off to a good start in his NTT IndyCar Series debut for Chip Ganassi Racing debut by pacing the opening practice for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

The 24-year-old Spaniard lapped the freshly repaved 2.3-mile natural terrain road course outside of Birmingham, Alabama in 1 minute .06.4721 seconds.  Palou unofficially broke the track record of 1:06.6001 set in 2016 by Sebastien Bourdais.

The former Super Formula driver led a tightly paced top four with Colton Herta just a hair slower at 1:06.4897s in his Andretti Autosport Honda. The margin was an even closer .006s back to third place Barber winner Josef Newgarden. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon nearly outpaced his CGR teammate but had his fastest lap deleted when Felix Rosenqvist crashed while pitting his Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet with around six minutes left.

Rosenqvist’s teammate Pato O’Ward completed the top five while Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi ended up with 1:06.6307 to slot in sixth place.

The fastest rookie honors went to Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin who slotted in eighth behind his 2-time Barber winning teammate Will Power while Swedes Marcus Ericsson and Rosenqvist completed the top ten.

The remaining IndyCar rookies of former Formula 1 driver Romain Grojean and NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson found themselves outside the top 20. Grojean slotted in 21st in his Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda as Johnson ended up last in 24th.

Johnson’s lap of 1:07.9509 was only .1855 slower than the 23rd place driver of Max Chilton despite being 1.5 seconds in arrears to Palou’s hot lap.

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