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Josef Newgarden shakes stress, leads Monday practice at Indy

May 19, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

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After going through the nerve-wracking exercise of Indianapolis 500 qualifying over the weekend, Josef Newgarden said he found it “really weird” to return to the cockpit this afternoon for practice.

However, the Tennessee native was nonetheless able to top today’s session with a lap of 227.105 mph in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

In April, this extra practice session was added to the ’500′ schedule so teams could focus on race set-ups after going all-in on qualifying.

But Newgarden, who qualified 8th on Sunday, still found the situation a bit strange to him.

“I was about done after this qualifying format that we had this weekend,” he said. “It was so stressful and tiring, so mentally fatiguing. I think everyone felt that way. Everyone I talked to, including guys like Simon Pagenaud, were so stressed to the max from these [past] two days. But that’s a good thing.

“I think you should have that at Indy. You should have that stress factor that you have to get through.”

And Newgarden was also grateful to have the extra track time as the usual Month of May rains impacted several practice sessions last week leading up to qualifying.

“It was helpful to have a day to work on the car before Friday on Carb Day, because you’re quite limited, you only have an hour on Carb Day,” he said. “So whatever you’re doing pretty much needs to be done.

“You don’t have time to really work on it on Carb Day. It’s more about preparing yourself for the race environment. Everyone’s going to be running like it’s the race and you kind of get yourself set up for that.

“You’re not really working on the car, whereas today, we were able to work on the car and refine what we needed to…For us, it was very helpful and I’m sure it was the same for everyone up and down the field.”

Juan Pablo Montoya was second-quickest in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet behind Newgarden with a lap of 226.532 mph. Scott Dixon was third at 226.433, followed by rookie Mikhail Aleshin in fourth (226.371) and defending ’500′ champion Tony Kanaan in fifth (226.336).

An interesting note from today’s session is that Honda teams opted to stay off the track late in the running. Former NBCSN IndyCar announcer Bob Jenkins reported over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s PA system that it was due to Honda looking into a fuel leak that developed on Marco Andretti’s car.

The next time the IndyCars will see the track will be on Carb Day this Friday at IMS. NBCSN will have coverage of the festivities starting at 11 a.m. ET.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 – PRACTICE NO. 9 TIMES

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