Joey Logano leads Champ. 4 in Sprint Cup final practice; Johnson fastest overall

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All that’s left is to crown a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Jimmie Johnson paced the last final practice of the 2014 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a top lap of 175.200 mph, while Joey Logano led the Championship 4 that will race for the title Sunday with the seventh-fastest lap overall (173.127).

Logano may say or may have already said a quick prayer after this session, but it appears he avoided a potential disaster on one of his runs. Team Penske tweeted the following:

When asked where he stood going into Sunday’s Ford Ecoboost 400, Logano felt he was in pretty good shape but did not have as much speed on short runs as he would like.

“It doesn’t quite have the take-off speed that we need, so we just have to find a little bit there,” Logano told Fox Sports. “I feel like the long run is where the Shell-Pennzoil Ford is really fast. To be able to just maintain speed for a long time, I think that’s key here at Homestead.

“…There’s a lot of room to race here, so you have a lot of green flag runs. Just because I tell myself that doesn’t make me feel good, but you have seen that in the past quite a bit, so I feel pretty good about it.”

Logano also talked about needing to find a way to make the middle and bottom groove work for him, even though he acknowledges that the top groove is the preferred way around the 1.5-mile oval.

“You’ve gotta be able to move around a little bit, and I feel like our car can do that too,” he added.

Following him on the time sheets was Practice 2 leader and fellow title contender Kevin Harvick in P8 overall with a lap of 173.099 mph. A little farther back were Ryan Newman in 12th (172.806) and Denny Hamlin (172.756) in 13th.

In regards to 10-lap averages, Johnson’s first 10 circuits in “Happy Hour” netted the fastest average of 171.446 mph. But among the Championship 4, Hamlin was tops at 170.095 mph, which also came during his first 10 laps; Harvick was seventh (Laps 18-27, 169.380), Newman was eighth (Laps 1-10, 169.222), and Logano was 12th (Laps 26-35, 169.043).

Green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled to fall at 3:17 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.