Takuma Sato helped Honda to a strong start Friday in IndyCar practice at Barber Motorsports Park.
In the afternoon session, Sato turned the fastest lap of the day around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn road course with a time of 1:07.2157 in the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Honda. Honda drivers had the three best times, including No. 2 Jack Hawksworth (1:07.2197) and James Hinchcliffe (1:07.2455).
Then came two Chevrolet drivers, Sebastien Bourdais (1:07.3399) and Team Penske's Will Power (1:07.3434), a two-time winner in Alabama.
Honda teams are hoping to carry over some of that success into qualifying Saturday for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
Honda cars have only led 18 laps compared to Chevrolet drivers' 422 through the first three races. Chevy drivers have won all three.
Juan Pablo Montoya was forced to sit out the final two minutes of the morning practice session for unsportsmanlike conduct after bumping Bourdais on Turn 2.
"I heard he was coming so I stayed out left and then he kind of gave me a wheel," Bourdais, who had the quickest lap of the first session, told NBC Sports. "So I was like, 'OK, I guess I was on your line. Sorry.' I'm staying right on the white line so I didn't think he was using it, but maybe he was. I don't know."
Defending champion Josef Newgarden called the morning practice "a little weird first session."
"Tires and the way the track sort of trended through the session," he said after clocking the seventh-best lap. "I think that's why you saw everyone so scattered. You saw Helio (Castroneves) at the back. Will kind of back from midfield. We were midfield. Scott was midfield. It just was a little more scattered, I think, than people would normally see. That's just a strange session from tire usage and track temp in my opinion."
The afternoon session was delayed about 20 minutes due to lightning in the area.