Jamie McMurray tops Sprint Cup speed charts in Happy Hour at Las Vegas

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Jamie McMurray was the fastest driver in Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

McMurray’s best lap was his first of the final session, covering the progressively-banked 1.5-mile surface at 186.942 mph.

A close second was Daytona 500 pole sitter Austin Dillon at 186.896 mph.

Third through fifth were Clint Bowyer (186.851), Kasey Kahne (186.793) and Kevin Harvick (186.458).

Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ninth-fastest at 185.893 mph.

Sunday’s pole sitter, Joey Logano, was 15th-fastest at 185.918 mph.

Danica Patrick, who was sixth-fastest in the morning practice session, fell off the pace in the one-hour afternoon stanza at 32nd-fastest.

With less than four minutes to go, the motor in Parker Kligerman’s let go, spilling oil and fluid on the track, almost causing Greg Biffle to wreck. It was yet a continuation of the frustration that Kligerman has experienced in his first full Sprint Cup season. Kligerman is the only driver in the series who has recorded DNF’s in the first two races at Daytona and Phoenix.

Here’s the speeds of Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice:

1 Jamie McMurray 186.942

2 Austin Dillon 186.896

3 Clint Bowyer 186.851

4 Kasey Kahne 186.793

5 Kevin Harvick 186.458

 

6 Kyle Larson 186.419

7 Jimmie Johnson 186.233

8 Brian Vickers 186.047

9 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 185.893

10 Casey Mears 185.810

 

11 Ryan Newman 185.567

12 Brad Keselowski 185.484

13 Aric Almirola 185.440

14 Trevor Bayne 185.312

15 Joey Logano 185.918

 

16 Denny Hamlin 185.147

17 Martin Truex Jr. 185.122

18 Kurt Busch 185.077

19 Matt Kenseth 184.919

20 Carl Edwards 184.735

 

21 Tony Stewart 184.559

22 Marcos Ambrose 184.521

23 Jeff Gordon 184.451

24 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25 Kyle Busch 184.168

 

26 Paul Menard 184.162

27 Alex Bowman 183.580

28 AJ Allmendinger 182.814

29 Jeff Burton 182.580

30 David Gilliland 182.377

 

31 Greg Biffle 182.359

32 Danica Patrick 181.830

33 Reed Sorenson 181.257

34 Michael McDowell 181.208

35 David Ragan 181.099

 

36 Justin Allgaier 181.080

37 Josh Wise 180.717

38 Parker Kligerman 179.557

39 Ryan Truex 179.97

40 Michael Annett 179.390

 

41 Travis Kvapil 179.146

42 Timmy Hill 178.968

43 Cole Whitt 175.718

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.