Carl Edwards tops Friday PM practice at Vegas

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In yesterday’s test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing drivers were 27th, 29th, and 34th on the time charts.

That made the slowest of those three, Greg Biffle, a little pessimistic about his team’s chances this weekend on the 1.5-mile Vegas oval. But he also noted the difficulties of finding the Gen-6 car’s sweet spot.

“These cars are really, really finicky,” he said yesterday. “We know that, so that speed could just come up somewhere and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

And what do you know – it did. At least for this afternoon’s Sprint Cup practice session, in which all three Roush Fenway drivers cracked the Top 10 in speeds.

Carl Edwards (27th-fastest yesterday) topped the session with a lap of 191.980 miles per hour in his No. 99 Ford Fusion, ahead of Team Penske’s Joey Logano (191.320 mph) and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (191.137).

RFR’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (29th-fastest yesterday) was fourth-fastest at 190.873 mph, and Biffle himself was 10th-fastest (189.887 mph).

So perhaps the RFR camp indeed will have something for the field in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 at LVMS, a track where they’ve won seven times (tops among all teams). That said, the team is coming off a down year on the intermediate tracks such as Vegas, which have traditionally been RFR’s strongest suit.

Other notables on this afternoon’s time sheets included defending Las Vegas race champion Matt Kenseth in 8th (189.947 mph), Danica Patrick in 13th (189.760 mph), current Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 19th (189.076 mph), and last week’s winner Kevin Harvick in 20th (189.056).

The first three-round run of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format will begin later today at 6:40 p.m. ET.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.