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Power fastest in opening practice for Indy GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power did the usual business with a final lap flier putting him top of the timesheets after the opening 75-minute practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Round 5 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

A 1:09.8943 lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, around the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, was enough to do the job and bump Graham Rahal.

Rahal was second in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Theodore Racing Honda at 1:10.0699, ahead of Power’s three Team Penske teammates – Juan Pablo Montoya, series points leader Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves.

Late bumps dropped the Andretti Autosport pair of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi out of the top 10, but until the final two or three minutes, Andretti’s full quartet was all in the top-10. Marco Andretti ended best of the bunch in eighth with Carlos Munoz in 10th, Hunter-Reay 11th and Rossi 13th in what was a much improved session for the team.

Castroneves caused one of two red flags when he stopped on course at Turn 2; the other driver to stop was Matthew Brabham in his opening Verizon IndyCar Series practice session in the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet. He lost a rear wheel and stopped at pit in. Brabham only completed three laps.

Others of note in their first session: Spencer Pigot was 12th for RLL Racing; Gabby Chaves was 16th in his first running for Dale Coyne Racing, two tenths clear of teammate Conor Daly in 20th. Brabham was 24th, behind fellow one-off entrants JR Hildebrand and Alex Tagliani.

Per the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, James Hinchcliffe had a small fire and was unable to run during the session in his No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

With potentially hazardous and/or rainy weather expected later today, the first session was a busy one set under calm and clear skies with ambient temperatures of 73 degrees and track temperatures of 89, per Firestone.

Times are below with second practice set from 3 to 4:15 p.m. ET and local time.

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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.