IndyCar: Power paces first Auto Club practice

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FONTANA, Calif. – Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves led the opening 75-minute practice session for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. Both drivers did qualifying simulations north of 221mph to go 1-2 in the field at the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale.

Power’s best practice lap of 221.389 mph and Castroneves’ 221.354 both eclipsed the 2013 pole speed of 220.775 mph, set by Power.

Those two led a Chevrolet top-six in the session. Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball were next, with Mikhail Aleshin the best Honda, P7 in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda at 218.544 mph.

Just before the one-hour mark in the session, a yellow flag flew for a long track inspection (11 minutes, 15 seconds). The session went back to green with 15 minutes to go. Otherwise there were no incidents.

Simon Pagenaud only posted the 12th best overall speed (218.306 mph) but had the best five-lap average in the field at 214.88, ahead of Josef Newgarden, Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Saavedra and Justin Wilson. Bourdais also has the best 10-lap average at 213.71 mph.

Here’s your times:

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Brown: Dennis would have made same decision on McLaren-Honda split

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Zak Brown believes former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would have made the same decision to cut ties with struggling Formula 1 engine partner Honda had he still been in charge at the team in 2017.

McLaren executive director Brown helped engineer a deal for the team to split with Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three tough seasons that had seen the Japanese manufacturer offer little in the way of performance or reliability.

The decision split opinion, with McLaren spurning a significant annual financial injection from Honda in order to link up with Renault, believing its on-track fortunes had to be prioritized over its commercial interests.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Brown was asked if he believed Dennis – McLaren’s long-running team chief before stepping down at the end of 2016 – would have made the same decision to cut ties with Honda.

“I think he would have,” Brown said.

“He was here when those conversations were ongoing and I think Ron always has and always will have the best interests of McLaren in his heart.

“He is Mr. McLaren. It burns him inside as much as us not to see us winning races.”

Brown also elaborated on the decision to break off the much-lauded relationship with Honda, saying the first signs of trouble with the 2017 power unit were clear in pre-season.

After a number of attempts to try and rectify the situation, Brown and his fellow team bosses felt there was no alternative but to end the Honda deal for 2018.

“We knew we were in trouble in testing in Barcelona and we worked really hard for six months to try and find solutions that would give us confidence that we’d be much more competitive in 2018,” Brown said.

“Ultimately, after trying many different things and many different ways we felt we couldn’t get there.

“Three years is a long time in Formula 1 and so we needed to change the direction to get our team back at the top.”