Franchitti leads final practice before Sonoma IndyCar qualifying

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Dario Franchitti laid down a flier, 1:18.0988, on his first timed lap of the third IZOD IndyCar Series practice session at Sonoma Raceway. That lap was fastest in the final practice before qualifying for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (5:30 p.m. EST local time, on NBCSN at 9 p.m. EST).

The challenge for Franchitti – for that matter, most of the IndyCar Series field – is to bank their fastest lap on their first or perhaps second lap. The Firestone rubber here this weekend is the same as at Barber, but the low-grip Sonoma track surface makes it difficult to generate enough performance out of the tire for longer than one lap before a drop-off in pace.

The other variable going into qualifying will be the difference in the softer, alternate Firestone reds and their grip levels. Teams can’t run any of their three weekend sets of reds until qualifying.

Behind Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:18.3542), Sebastien Bourdais (1:18.5513), Scott Dixon (1:18.5643), and Justin Wilson (1:18.5695) rounded out the top five.

Points leader Helio Castroneves (1:18.6593) was sixth; Bourdais’ lap was noteworthy as it was set on his 16th and final timed lap, likely on a fresh set of tires. Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and Simona de Silvestro rounded out the top 10.

Right at the end of the session, Will Power made contact with E.J. Viso. The Australian contacted the rear wheel guard of Viso’s Team Venezuela-Andretti Autosport-HVM Chevrolet, damaging his front wing. Power ended the session 15th, Viso 19th.  Series debutante Lucas Luhr improved to 23rd ahead of James Davison and Ed Carpenter.

Qualifying groups for later today are linked below.

Group 1               Group 2
#3 Helio Castroneves     #9 Scott Dixon
#12 Will Power           #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay
#19 Justin Wilson        #10 Dario Franchitti
#15 Graham Rahal         #25 Marco Andretti
#77 Simon Pagenaud       #4 Ryan Briscoe
#5 E.J. Viso             #7 Sebastien Bourdais
#27 James Hinchcliffe    #98 JR Hildebrand
#67 Josef Newgarden      #55 Tristan Vautier
#14 Takuma Sato          #83 Charlie Kimball
#16 James Jakes          #6 Sebastian Saavedra
#78 Simona De Silvestro  #11 Tony Kanaan
#18 James Davison        #20 Ed Carpenter
                         #97 Lucas Luhr

IndyCar race weekend doubleheader schedule at IMS road course

IndyCar weekend schedule Indianapolis
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third time this season but with a weekend schedule that will put the action in front of fans for the first time in 2020.

The track’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course will play host to IndyCar and sports cars series over four days. The action will begin Thursday with practice and concluding with an eight-hour race Sunday featuring the Intercontinental GT Challenge and GT World Challenge America.

The NTT IndyCar Series will hold a Friday-Saturday race doubleheader called the Harvest GP presented by GMR.

ENTRY LISTS: Who’s racing IndyCar at IMS this weekend

The name is a nod to the Harvest Classic, which was held Sept. 9, 1916 to help the track stay solvent during World War I. The event had three races of 20, 50 and 100 miles (all won by Johnny Aitken) that was the only racing held outside May at IMS from 1911-93.

A limited crowd of 10,000 will be allowed each day this weekend, and those fans will be the first to experience new video boards, concession stands, restrooms and 5G wireless connectivity.

Here’s the IndyCar weekend schedule for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Harvest GP:

(All times are Eastern)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Thursday, Oct. 1

Noon — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America test session
2:25 p.m. — IndyCar practice (NBC Sports Gold)
6:20 p.m. — IndyCar qualifying for Harvest GP, Race 1 (NBC Sports Gold)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Friday, Oct. 2

10:20 a.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America practice
1:40 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America practice
3:30 p.m. — IndyCar Harvest GP, Race 1 (USA Network, NBC Sports Gold)

IndyCar weekend schedule: Saturday, Oct. 3

10:20 a.m. — IndyCar qualifying for Harvest GP, Race 2 (NBC Sports Gold)
12:10 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America qualifying
2:30 p.m. — IndyCar Harvest GP, Race 2 (NBC, NBC Sports Gold)
5:30 p.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America pole shootout

IndyCar weekend schedule: Sunday, Oct. 4

10 a.m. — Indianapolis 8 Hour/GT World Challenge America race