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Wind interrupts play Wednesday at Indy, plus other notes

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INDIANAPOLIS – Some days during the month of May, Mother Nature is the leading driver on the charts.

Sure, there were 400 laps turned by 21 drivers (only 14 of whom posted representative speeds) in Wednesday’s practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

But it was a day where very little running overall occurred, as high and consistent winds were in the 15 to 25 mph range, with gusts more than that north of 30.

Scott Dixon led for most of the day with a best tow speed of 222.599 mph and no-tow of 220.794. That was before in the final hour Ed Carpenter edged ahead at 222.894 mph, done without a tow, in cooler conditions and an empty track.

Carpenter and teammate JR Hildebrand each posted more than 50 laps on the day.

Other notes from Wednesday:

Following complaints that their cars are too fast in practice for the Indy 500, Honda engineers take delivery of a fresh round of sandbags Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo: Honda/LAT
  • So there was a bit of gamesmanship on Tuesday about whether Honda teams were “sandbagging” – not deploying their full speed and potential. Honda’s PR rep quickly arranged this photo then (see above as well), to humorously stir the pot.
  • Indianapolis Colts rookies were out to the Speedway today. Defending race champion Alexander Rossi promptly took a selfie with them.
  • Sage Karam and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing made a quick pit stop into the press conference room. Karam and DRR both want to be back full-time in the series, although Karam is thankful to have the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 program keeping him busy full-time this year versus last year.
  • Had further interviews with Harding Racing team principal Mike Harding and team manager Larry Curry today, as they run with Gabby Chaves. More on that team’s solid start to come either later this week or early next week.
  • Several teams didn’t run at all on Wednesday. The Team Penske quintet didn’t and neither did the Dale Coyne Racing trio.
  • This was the first round of pit stop practice for Michael Shank Racing’s team on an IndyCar, and Shank said he was pleased with their progress.
  • Shank’s longtime friend AJ Allmendinger has been in attendance the last two days as well, supporting the team’s efforts. Allmendinger’s longtime friend, and Shank Acura NSX GT3 driver Katherine Legge then joined the supporting cast today as well. Both drivers last raced the ‘500 in 2013.
  • Others of note making the rounds in the paddock: Stefan Wilson, James Davison and Tristan Vautier.
  • Prep continues for the Buddy Lazier entry, as the team’s engine was now assembled with the chassis today. On a short program, Thursday or Friday will now be the day when we’d expect to see that car on track.
  • Couple sponsor notes. Made in Space has been formally confirmed as an associate sponsor with Pippa Mann’s No. 63 Honda. Per a release: “As part of the company’s partnership with Mann, Made In Space plans to print the Susan G. Komen® running ribbon logo on its 3D printer aboard the ISS during National Breast Cancer Awareness month in October 2017. The ribbon will then be auctioned off to raise funds on behalf of Komen’s national research and community outreach programs.”
  • Juncos Racing has formally confirmed Temple Fork Outfitters, Ricoh USA and Ray Morgan Company as associate sponsors and primary sponsors Oceanfront Recovery through Rising Star Racing and P1 Management of Spencer Pigot’s Chevrolet powered car.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.