Ty Dillon tops final Nationwide practice at Fontana

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After running 11th-fastest earlier this afternoon in Nationwide Series practice, Ty Dillon has topped NNS final practice for tomorrow’s TreatMyClot.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

On the first of the 30 laps he logged in Nationwide “Happy Hour,” Dillon popped a lap of 176.462 miles per hour in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

That lap was nearly two miles per hour quicker than the second-fastest overall time in the session from JR Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, whose best lap was at 174.668 mph in the No. 9 Chevrolet. RAB Racing’s James Buescher took his No. 99 Toyota to P3 with a lap of 174.224 miles per hour.

Turner Scott Motorsports’ Dylan Kwasniewski (173.302 mph) and RCR’s Brian Scott (172.931 mph) rounded out the Top 5. Kyle Busch, who was the fastest in this afternoon’s first Nationwide practice, was sixth-quickest in the second practice (172.736 mph).

Nationwide qualifying will take place at 1:40 p.m. ET tomorrow afternoon before the 300-mile race at 5 p.m. ET.

NATIONWIDE SERIES AT FONTANA – FINAL PRACTICE SPEEDS

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.