Will Power tops morning practice at Sao Paulo

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On a quest to return to Victory Lane, Will Power led the opening practice session this morning for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.

Power, who is the three-time defending champion at Sao Paulo, posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 21.8517 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He was one of two drivers to break the 1:22 mark in the session, with the other being Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden (1 minute, 21.8976 seconds) in his No. 67 Honda.

The session ended with Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud slamming the wall near Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile street circuit, causing  damage to the left side of his No. 77 Honda.  NBC Sports Network’s Kevin Lee has tweeted from Brazil that the Frenchman is OK after the incident.

Sebastien Bourdais was third-fastest for Dragon Racing (1 minute, 22.0495 seconds), followed by Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti in fourth (1 minute, 22.0543 seconds) and Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand in fifth (1 minute, 22.1400 seconds). Tony Kanaan led the Brazilian contingent with the sixth-fastest time this morning for KV Racing Technology (1 minute, 22.1496 seconds).

Kanaan has torn ligaments in his right hand thanks to an incident two weeks ago at Long Beach, but has been cleared to race by IndyCar medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and is ready to make his 200th career start in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend in front of his countrymen.

Pagenaud, Long Beach winner Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and points leader Helio Castroneves — a native of Sao Paulo — completed the Top 10.

The IndyCars will have another practice later this morning at 11:05 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 1:35 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network will broadcast that session Sunday morning at 1 a.m. ET).

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t go quite as planned, but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”