Marco Andretti’s 225.1 leads Monday practice at Indy

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Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves led Monday’s practice session for the Indianapolis 500. The two were the only drivers in the field to eclipse the 225mph mark for the day, each tow-assisted.

Andretti again noted how race simulation produced the day’s fastest lap of 225.100mph.

“It helps us now to simulate a mini race,” he said. “I think that’s how the Ganassi team beat us last year. I got too fascinated with how fast can the car go. The car was a handful in the race and it bit me in the end. We knew we needed to make some gains.”

Following the lead two, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power and JR Hildebrand completed the top five.

Chevrolets took eight of the top 10 spots with only Takuma Sato (sixth) and Josef Newgarden (tenth) interloping in their Hondas. AJ Allmendinger, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan filled spots 7-9 on the day.

Thirty-two drivers took laps, James Jakes completing the most on the day (114 with a best of 218.351, 30th quickest) and Townsend Bell the fewest (12, 221.137, 21st).

Also of note, Conor Daly completed his rookie orientation program and Pippa Mann ran her first laps of the month, while Tristan Vautier’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team premiered a plain white car with Lucas Oil sponsorship.

SPM has a second car entered under that umbrella, third as a whole in the Schmidt team, but is unlikely to run it before the weekend. Buddy Lazier is now the only confirmed driver yet to make laps; he’s expected to roll out the No. 91 Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet on Wednesday, weather pending.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.