IndyCar's newest winner is facing a question.
When will James Hinchcliffe get victory No. 2?
Hinchcliffe picked up his first career victory two weeks ago in the IndyCar season-opener at St. Petersburg, but it did little to quell the pressure on the Andretti Autosport driver. He says his internal expectations have gone up.
Hinchcliffe believes he can contend in Sunday's race in Birmingham, where he was second fastest in testing last month behind Will Power.
Allmendinger taking baby steps in debut
AJ Allmendinger walked to the dais after his first full day of practice and accidentally knocked over a chair.
He then quipped he was glad it wasn't his race car that he'd just wrecked.
Everything is a small victory for Allmendinger in this part-time return to open-wheel racing.
He's been given a second chance by Roger Penske after the team owner was forced last summer to fire Allmendinger from his NASCAR organization because of a failed random drug test.
But Penske's opportunity for Allmendinger is in the IndyCar Series, where Allmendinger will make his debut Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park.
It's a warm-up for next month's Indianapolis 500 for Allmendinger.
Castroneves tops opening day preps
Helio Castroneves continued Team Penske's ownership of Barber Motorsports Park.
The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner posted a best lap of 1 minute, 8.5540 seconds in the Chevrolet-powered No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske car as IZOD IndyCar Series teams began preparations for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
All 26 drivers in the afternoon session April 5 at Barber Motorsports Park recorded laps that bested Castroneves' 2012 pole time of 1:10.4768 on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course. Twenty-three were below Will Power's course record of 1:09.8529 set in the first round of qualifying last April.
Alex Tagliani, who scored his 100th career top-10 finish in the season opener March 24 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., was second to lead the Honda brigade with a best lap of 1:08.6288 in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing car for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.
Tristan Vautier, who in the first practice was the first rookie to pace a session since Simon Pagenaud at Baltimore last September, was third-quick (1:08.6720) in the No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry. Pagenaud, the fifth-place finisher last year at Barber, was just behind (1:08.7627) in the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP entry.
Two-time defending race winner Will Power was fifth overall (1:08.8066) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, while teammate AJ Allmendinger was eighth (1:08.9119). Allmendinger, who participated in the Open Test at Barber in mid-March, is making his IZOD IndyCar Series debut.
Also on April 5, Carlos Munoz was quickest in both practice sessions for the Legacy Indy Lights 100.
The 21-year-old Colombian recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 14.3433 seconds in the afternoon session in the No. 26 Dialy-Ser car for Andretti Autosport.
Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach was third quick (1:14.9433) in the No. 12 K12 car, just behind Sage Karam (1:14.7432) in the No. 8 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian entry.
Juan Pablo Garcia posted the fourth-best lap (1:15.3927) in the No. 2 TMR-International-Euclid Chemical car. Victor Carbone, making his 2012 debut this weekend, was fifth-quick on the day in the No. 22 TMR-Nevoni-Xtreme Drilling & Coil car.
(The Associated Press and IndyCar.com contributed to this report.)
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