Kimball, Newgarden, Carpenter three possible spoilers in Milwaukee

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With the “Big Three” teams dominating victory lane since the IZOD IndyCar Series first raced at Milwaukee in 2004, we take a look at three relative underdogs who could upset the apple cart this weekend at the Milwaukee IndyFest (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter are three Americans who have made strides this season, and are in search of their first wins at the historic Mile.

Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, had a solid test last October and seeks to put together a complete weekend.

It’s been an OK year,” he said Friday in the media center. “This year we’ve had some not great races, good results. Last year, June was a blur. This year I got sick before the 500, not after. We’re not trying to stay afloat.

“We had a great test in fall,” he told me in advance of the weekend. “We had great weather til 5, and it rained right as we finished. In a race weekend it’s so tight with so little track time. Tough to get it exactly how you want it. We could get it where the feel was like. And now when we come back for the race, I will have a better understanding of the car and what we have to do to compensate for the weather.”

Newgarden has alternated top-10s with struggles this year so he seeks to break that trend this weekend after a solid drive to eighth at Texas, his fourth top-10 result this year in the No. 67 Direct Supply Honda for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

“Yeah – we’ll be flat in qualifying, flat out,” he said in a phone interview last week. “It’s still tough with all that downforce and being close. The air is aggressive and dirty. It’s a super fun place. It’s one of the most fun places to drive. You gotta man up, and make sure you go flat.”

Carpenter has been among the busiest in pre-advances in Milwaukee this week. He participated as one of three celebrity bartenders at the Miller Time Pub in downtown Milwaukee on Wednesday and on Thursday, was in a media friendly go-kart race at Light Speed in Greenfield.

That race was one this author participated in but with a slight bit of controversy, as was described in a blog by The Business Journal serving Greater Milwaukee.

“I have always liked the Milwaukee Mile,” said Carpenter, who placed fourth last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway in the Firestone 550K.  “What is funny is that I never raced in USAC there, even with my USAC midget, sprint car and Silver Crown experience.  The schedule never went to Milwaukee.  We raced sprint cars at Angel Park in Sun Prairie near Madison.  That was the closest.”

“The Mile is so legendary with all of the great drivers battling there for over 100 years,” he added. “That track is older than Indy.  Like IMS, it has tradition and the racing is usually good there.  Coming off a fourth last Saturday night at Texas, I think we have a good opportunity to challenge for a win at Milwaukee.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.