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James Hinchcliffe tops 1st IndyCar practice at St. Pete

Mar 28, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

Hinchcliffe Getty Images

James Hinchcliffe, the defending champion of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, was fastest in this morning’s Verizon IndyCar Series practice session on the 1.8-mile St. Pete street circuit – the first of two practice runs for the series today.

“There’s a little more attention with being a past winner, but the goal remains the same this time around,” Hinchcliffe told assembled media at St. Pete.

Hinchcliffe logged a time of 62.9326 seconds at 102.967 mph in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data/Andretti Autosport Honda. He led a Honda sweep of the Top 3 times in Practice 1, with Dale Coyne Racing’s Justin Wilson (62.9385 seconds/102.958 mph) and A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato (63.0603 seconds/102.759 mph) in P2 and P3, respectively.

Team Penske’s Will Power led the Chevrolet contingent with the fourth-fastest time in the session (63.1932 seconds/102.543 mph), followed by St. Pete resident and KV Racing Technology driver Sebastien Bourdais in fifth (63.1948 seconds/102.540 mph).

Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan completed the Top 10 in the session.

Other notables included Helio Castroneves in 11th, defending series champion Scott Dixon in 13th, and Penske newcomer Juan Pablo Montoya in 14th. Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz was the fastest of the four rookies in 15th.

The top 18 drivers in the session, from leader Hinchcliffe all the way back to Ganassi driver Charlie Kimball, were separated by less than one second.

A second IndyCar practice will take place this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. Live timing/scoring and audio will be available on IndyCar.com.

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