Franchitti, Honda take the top spot in Wednesday’s Indy practice

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Wednesday’s Indianapolis 500 practice was the closest yet to simulated race day conditions, particularly the last hour of the day when the track was at its busiest. Ambient temperatures more than 90 degrees, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track more than 120, should be close to the last Sunday in May.

Dario Franchitti had his first day at the top of the timesheets, another driver who posted the day’s fastest lap thanks to a tow. Franchitti clocked in at 224.236 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“We’re still in the preparation stage (for the race),” said Franchitti. “Running in groups, if you get the car close enough, it’s definitely something that prepares you for the race. If you have that luxury it’s good.”

Townsend Bell had his best day of the week in second, in the Sunoco/Turbo entry for Panther Racing. Helio Castroneves and a pair of Ryans – Hunter-Reay and Briscoe – completed the top five.

A number of teams swapped out engines and/or changed over to their primary cars. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s search for speed continued with James Jakes, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Graham Rahal all languishing in the 218-19 mph range until Jakes put in a late flier to end at 221.241, in 16th.

A total of 2,165 incident-free laps were run on the day – rookie Conor Daly recorded the most laps (126) and Sebastien Bourdais and Simona de Silvestro the fewest (18).

Bourdais’ Dragon Racing teammate Sebastian Saavedra had an odd day when the chrome graphic wrap on his No. 6 car became dislodged and littered the track. Saavedra ended the day in a blank white entry once the team took the remaining wrap off the car.

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.