IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay fastest in first Sonoma practice

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Ryan Hunter-Reay, seeking to somehow recover from a devastating setback at Milwaukee, topped the opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma with a 1 minute, 17.7150 lap around the Sonoma Raceway road course.

Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion, remains mathematically alive in this year’s title fight but dropped to 108 points behind Milwaukee race winner Will Power after he was knocked out early one week ago with a suspension failure on his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Four of the six drivers that can still win the championship made up the Top 5 drivers in this first, 45-minute session. Behind RHR was Scott Dixon (sixth in the standings, -130 points), who took his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to second with a time of 1:17.8990.

Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, was third-quickest (1:18.1895), followed by Helio Castroneves (1:18.2732), Power’s teammate and closest rival in the championship at 39 points back. Rounding out the Top 5 was Power himself (1:18.4046).

This particular group of drivers largely kept their runs on the low-grip Sonoma circuit to a minimum. In fact, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, and Power didn’t make their way on to the course until around the midway part of the session, when Kanaan was leading the way with his 1:18.1895 lap that was ultimately eclipsed.

The two other title contenders, Simon Pagenaud (third, -92 points) and Juan Pablo Montoya (fifth, -114 points), ended up mid-pack on the speed charts. Pagenaud had an off-course excursion during practice due to a reported braking issue and had the 16th-fastest time (1:18.9928). Montoya was a bit better with the 12th-fastest time (1:18.7962).

Another practice session is coming up later today at 4:15 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices).

Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma – First Practice Times

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‘No desire’ for Lewis Hamilton to race in Indianapolis 500

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Lewis Hamilton has ruled out a future appearance in the Indianapolis 500, saying he has “no real plans” to do any serious racing once his time in Formula 1 is over.

Former teammate and current McLaren driver Fernando Alonso took part in the 101st running of the Indy 500 in May, qualifying fifth and running high up the order before retiring late on with an engine issue.

The F1-to-IndyCar crossover proved to be one of the biggest motorsport stories of the year, and has stirred the imagination of other drivers to make a similar step into other events in the future, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans which is known to be on Alonso’s radar as well as that of Haas racer Romain Grosjean.

Three-time F1 world champion Hamilton admired 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato’s victory ring when on the podium at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month, trying it on and joking it may spur him to enter the race to try and win the jewelry.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, Hamilton stressed he made the comment in jest, saying he holds not interest in entering the ‘500.

“Honestly it hasn’t inspired me to do the Indy 500,” Hamilton said.

“I’ve always respected it and appreciated it. I got to watch part of it when Fernando did it which I thought was super exciting. I love the idea of drivers being able to do more than one series.

“Just the other day I got to drive an F1 car on an oval circuit which was interesting. I have a huge amount of respect for those drivers as it is quite scary approaching those banks at the speeds that they do.

“I personally don’t have a desire to drive it. Maybe one day I will go out and have some fun.

“I have a lot of opportunities to do those kinds of things, but no real plans to do anything serious.”

Hamilton has previously said he would like to try a NASCAR race for fun one day, but has made clear his plan after his F1 career is over is to distance himself from racing in order to pursue other interests.