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.

F1 Mexican Grand Prix on NBC, NBCSN, App this week

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Lewis Hamilton is poised to wrap his fourth Formula 1 World Championship early at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, as NBC Sports covers the 18th of 20 rounds this season from the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Expanded TV coverage comes this weekend on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

All sessions will air live. Both Friday practice sessions are live on NBCSN at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET. Saturday third practice airs live via the NBC Sports App at 11 a.m. ET with a practice replay show at 12:30 p.m. before live qualifying at 2 p.m. ET, those two on NBCSN.

On Sunday, race day, F1 Countdown starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC leading to lights out and the race at 3 p.m. ET. Post-race coverage continues on NBC for one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m. ET.

Mercedes AMG Petronas has won both Mexican Grands Prix since the race was reinstated in 2015 after a 23-year hiatus. Nico Rosberg won in 2015 a race after Hamilton had clinched that year’s title, while Hamilton won last year in a 1-2 with Rosberg continuing to close on his first title.

Controversy reined about third place in Mexico last year with all of Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and ultimately Daniel Ricciardo ending in third, Ricciardo getting the podium after post-race penalties were assessed to the other two. Valtteri Bottas is the other active podium finisher in Mexico, having come third in 2015 with Williams.

Vettel enters Mexico 66 points behind Hamilton and can only keep the title alive to Brazil if he gets the gap under 50 points; any top-five finish for Hamilton will ensure the Englishman equals Vettel on four titles. So if Vettel doesn’t finish first or second, he can’t score enough points (either 25 or 18) to get that gap under 50 markers.

Last year’s race featured a bit of a “Noah’s Ark” finishing order with just the top five teams in the championship scoring points at this race, almost in descending order of just two-by-two. It was two Mercedes, then two Red Bulls, then two Ferraris, then Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India before the two Williams, and finally hometown hero Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

Perez is the lone home favorite this race with Esteban Gutierrez not on the grid this season.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 3 (Replay): Saturday, Oct. 28, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Oct. 28, 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-3 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Oct. 29, 5 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Oct. 29, 8:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

The next race is the Brazilian Grand Prix, on November 12.