Newgarden leads IndyCar Long Beach morning warm-up

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Josef Newgarden continues his Long Beach weekend prowess in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda, after setting the fastest time in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach morning warm-up.

The Tennessee native clocked a flier of 1:08.3447; he’ll roll off from fourth this afternoon (race Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Sebastien Bourdais, who starts third, was second (1:08.7762 in No. 11 Mistic Electronic Cigarettes KVSH Racing Chevrolet) with pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay third (1:08.9968 in No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda).

Hunter-Reay had a near disaster in the morning when rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun in front of him, exiting Turn 6, and RHR took evasive action to the outside of the left-handed, uphill corner to avoid the SMP Racing-backed driver.

Will Power and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five. Justin Wilson only completed one lap in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing entry as he reported he did not have full power.

One red flag interrupted the 30-minute session, when an orange cone was offline in-between Turns 9 and 10.

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 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.”