Vickers, Bowyer top Saturday morning Sprint Cup practice speed charts, Danica Patrick 6th-fastest

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Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer were fastest in Saturday morning’s first of two Sprint Cup practice sessions for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Toyota-powered Vickers and Bowyer were the only drivers to eclipse 188 mph.

Vickers topped the speed charts with a very stout 188.950 mph effort, followed by Bowyer at 188.350 mph.

Brad Keselowski, who starts on the outside pole for Sunday’s race alongside pole sitter and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano (who was 18th fastest), was third fastest at 187.976 mph, followed by Jimmie Johnson (187.656) and Jamie McMurray (186.656).

One of the biggest surprises was Danica Patrick, who was sixth-fastest at 187.630 mph. Patrick was the fastest of the four Stewart-Haas drivers, with Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick the next fastest in the SHR stable, in 15th at 186.213 mph.

Right behind Patrick with the seventh-fastest speed was rookie Kyle Larson at 187.559 mph.

Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 12th fastest at 186.767 mph.

The final Happy Hour practice takes place at 2:30 to 3:30 pm ET this afternoon.

Here’s Saturday morning’s speed chart:

1. Brian Vickers, 188.950

2. Clint Bowyer, 188.350

3. Brad Keselowski, 187.976

4. Jimmie Johnson, 187.741

5. Jamie McMurray, 187.656

6. Danica Patrick, 187.630

7. Kyle Larson, 187.559

8. Kasey Kahne, 187.448

9. Kyle Busch, 186.981

10. Carl Edwards, 186.981

11. Ryan Newman, 186.858

12. Dale Earnahrdt Jr., 186.767

13. Martin Truex Jr., 186.767

14. Paul Menard, 186.625

15. Kevin Harvick, 186.213

16. Austin Dillon, 186.213

17. Aric Almirola, 186.162

18. Joey Logano, 185.963

19. Greg Biffle, 185.906

20. David Ragan, 185.771

21. Kurt Busch, 185.765

22. AJ Allmendinger, 185.714

23. Jeff Gordon, 185.440

24. Marcos Ambrose, 185.280

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 185.147

26. Matt Kenseth, 185.128

27. Denny Hamlin, 185.071

28. Casey Mears, 184.748

29. Jeff Burton, 184.704

30. Michael McDowell, 184.584

31. Tony Stewart, 184.540

32. Cole Whitt, 184.231

33. David Gilliland, 184.156

34. Justin Allgaier, 184.024

35. Trevor Bayne, 183.730

36. Parker Kligerman, 183.299

37. Josh Wise, 183.243

38. Ryan Truex, 183.156

39. Alex Bowman, 182.840

40. Travis Kvapil, 182.667

41. Reed Sorenson, 182.377

42. Michael Annett, 182.322

43. Timmy Hill, 180.886

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.