IndyCar: James Hinchcliffe paces Practice 3 at Barber

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Defending Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner Ryan Hunter-Reay may have led Friday’s Verizon IndyCar Series practices, but this morning, it was his teammate’s turn to top the time charts.

James Hinchcliffe was fastest in the the third and final practice before qualifying later this afternoon on the 2.37-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course.

In the last few minutes of the session, the Andretti Autosport driver logged a time of 1:07.9206 in his No. 27 United Fiber and Data Honda to take P1 from Sebastien Bourdais.

Bourdais’ time of 1:08.0290 in his No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet would be good enough for second, while Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon was third-fastest in the No. 9 Target Chevrolet at 1:08.0916.

Helio Castroneves was fourth-fastest in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet (1:08.1611) despite bringing out the lone red flag of the session when he stopped on course.

Teammate and championship leader Will Power was fifth-fastest in the No. 12 Chevrolet (1:08.1670). As for Hunter-Reay, he was sixth in the session (1:08.1956).

Altogether, times took a considerable jump from yesterday’s practices, which were marred by multiple red flags in Practice 1 and higher than expected track temperatures in Practice 2. This morning, 17 drivers turned in quicker laps than Hunter-Reay’s time of 1:08.7836 that paced Practice 2.

Qualifying for Sunday’s main event will take place later this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET; NBCSN will broadcast the proceedings in late night at 12:30 a.m. ET.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT BARBER – PRACTICE 3 RESULTS

COMBINED PRACTICE RESULTS

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”