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Castroneves tops Toronto opening practice

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Not even a week after his win Sunday at Iowa Speedway, Helio Castroneves carried the early momentum in to lead opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy Toronto (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CNBC).

The driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet tackled the 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street circuit at 1:01.1211.

It was nearly four tenths clear of teammate Josef Newgarden in second and over four tenths clear of a third Penske driver, defending series champion Simon Pagenaud, in third.

Scott Dixon was top Honda in fourth ahead of Graham Rahal to complete the top five.

In his first street course session in IndyCar since this race in June two years ago, Sebastian Saavedra took over the No. 7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and was 2.8 seconds off Castroneves, and 2.1 off teammate James Hinchcliffe in seventh. Hinchcliffe was just behind Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot, a solid sixth.

A couple drivers ran into the runoffs but there were no major incidents in the session. The only red flag came for debris from a banner in Turn 1 coming loose and onto the race surface.

Elsewhere, Jake Query tracked down a couple interesting interviews for the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team manager Taylor Kiel didn’t comment on the details of the change from Mikhail Aleshin to Saavedra this weekend and said the car’s driver status for the rest of the year is still to be determined.

Meanwhile Marco Andretti, who was sidelined in the session early with an oil pump issues, addressed Query’s question about sports car rumors for him thusly: “That’s just the journalists doing as bad of a job as I’m doing this year. I’m not going anywhere.”

The second 45-minute practice of the day runs from 2:15 to 3 p.m. ET. Times are below.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”