Franchitti, Honda take the top spot in Wednesday’s Indy practice

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Wednesday’s Indianapolis 500 practice was the closest yet to simulated race day conditions, particularly the last hour of the day when the track was at its busiest. Ambient temperatures more than 90 degrees, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track more than 120, should be close to the last Sunday in May.

Dario Franchitti had his first day at the top of the timesheets, another driver who posted the day’s fastest lap thanks to a tow. Franchitti clocked in at 224.236 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“We’re still in the preparation stage (for the race),” said Franchitti. “Running in groups, if you get the car close enough, it’s definitely something that prepares you for the race. If you have that luxury it’s good.”

Townsend Bell had his best day of the week in second, in the Sunoco/Turbo entry for Panther Racing. Helio Castroneves and a pair of Ryans – Hunter-Reay and Briscoe – completed the top five.

A number of teams swapped out engines and/or changed over to their primary cars. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s search for speed continued with James Jakes, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Graham Rahal all languishing in the 218-19 mph range until Jakes put in a late flier to end at 221.241, in 16th.

A total of 2,165 incident-free laps were run on the day – rookie Conor Daly recorded the most laps (126) and Sebastien Bourdais and Simona de Silvestro the fewest (18).

Bourdais’ Dragon Racing teammate Sebastian Saavedra had an odd day when the chrome graphic wrap on his No. 6 car became dislodged and littered the track. Saavedra ended the day in a blank white entry once the team took the remaining wrap off the car.

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.