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Newgarden doubles up in Sonoma practice

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SONOMA, Calif. – Josef Newgarden led his second straight practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, as the points leader looks for his first series championship.

Newgarden posted an important best lap of 1:16.2485 while running on Firestone’s red alternate tires during the second 45-minute session of the day. He also led this morning’s session at 1:16.3950 in cooler conditions.

Driving the No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, this time was under the official track record mark of 1:16.2530 set by teammate Simon Pagenaud last year, for pole.

“We learned a little about the tire. Definitely different from last year,” Newgarden told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “The red compound is similar to what the black was last year. We have a different black this year. Understand what you need on each of them. The track still seems pretty fast. We’ll see what we got. It’s easy to mess up in Sonoma.

“The big thing about the track is there’s a lot of wind around this place. A lot of dust and sand. There’s so much dirt and debris. One guy drops the wheel and it’s a full corner. We have the best in the business with Team Penske.”

The Team Penske quartet was 1-4, with Newgarden ahead of Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was top Honda in this session at 1:16.4829.

There was one red flag for a rather abnormal circumstance, as two fans made it out onto a grassy area beyond a fence. Despite the brief session interruption there were no other incidents of note.

Third practice runs tomorrow with live qualifying coming up at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Times from this session are below.

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.