Josef Newgarden around Canada Corner during Road America IndyCar practice session
Josef Newgarden positioned himself as the driver to beat entering qualifying day at the 2018 KOHLER Grand Prix. | Photo: Aaron Durant / The Apex

Josef Newgarden left little doubt that his Verizon IndyCar Series title defense is back on track during day one of the KOHLER Grand prix weekend, sweeping both Friday practices to begin the visit to Road America.

Newgarden’s 1:42.6279 placed him and the No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet nearly three-tenths of a second clear of Robert Wickens and four-tenths of a second quicker than his chart-topping Practice 1 time.

Wickens ended the 60-minute session as the fastest Honda driver, lapping the 4.014-mile road course just 0.0995 seconds faster than Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais who slotted into the third position.

The Chevrolets of Will Power and Simon Pagenaud completed the top five, placing all three Team Penske drivers in the group — an improvement over their Practice 1 performance.

Honda-powered cars made up the remainder of the top 10, giving the Japanese manufacturer a 7-3 advantage over Chevrolet. Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti filled positions six through 10 at the session’s conclusion.

Marco Andretti through Canada corner during Road America IndyCar practice
Marco Andretti went from fifth in Practice 1 to 10th in Practice 2 despite improving his lap time by more than two-tenths of a second. | Photo: Aaron Durant / The Apex

Green-flag running was interrupted only once: when Alonso Celis Jr. went off at Turn 13 early in the hourlong outing and made subsequent rear-end contact with the nearby tire wall. The impact ripped the rear wing off the No. 32 Juncos Racing machine, necessitating a six-minute red flag.

With Celis having turned only three laps, he occupied the bottom of the timesheet. Carlin’s Charlie Kimball was the next slowest with his best lap 2.5 seconds slower than Newgarden.

The series will be back on track Saturday for Practice 3 at 11 a.m. CDT. Knockout qualifying will follow at 3 p.m. Both sessions will be streamed live on INDYCAR’s YouTube channel while television coverage of qualifying will air on NBSCN at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

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