Iowa flashback: IndyCar’s first grid run with Miller, Wheldon in 2011

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Two years ago, IndyCar tried something at the Iowa Speedway it hadn’t done before: a grid run with Robin Miller and that year’s Indianapolis 500 champion, the late Dan Wheldon.

Versus, the previous iteration of the NBC Sports Network, had brought in Wheldon at Texas and Iowa to provide expert analysis since his only drive to that point was at Indianapolis. Wheldon had starred in the booth at Texas and came down to pit road at Iowa to help cover the field with Miller.

It was a surprising but great moment that IndyCar fans cherished (watch this video courtesy of IndyCar’s Twitter “link master” Matt Archuleta, better known as @Indy44). Miller’s “Grid runs” have now become a regular part of the NBCSN IndyCar broadcasts – last week at Milwaukee, he and NBC Formula One pit reporter Will Buxton had the opportunity to do one together.

Defending series champion and Iowa race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay remembers this moment with Wheldon for another reason: it was the weekend he’d forgot his wallet at dinner.

“I didn’t realize I had no money until we were about to get up and leave,” Hunter-Reay told the Des Moines Register, reflecting on that evening at a Mexican restaurant. “(Wife) Beccy didn’t have anything, either. The only other people in the restaurant at the time were Dan, Susie and Mickey. I had to crawl over and ask for a loan.”

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.