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Pagenaud fastest in IndyCar first practice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Simon Pagenaud is back at a track he knows well from not only his early North American open-wheel days but where he’s had a lot of success in sports cars, and subsequently topped the charts in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Road America for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN).

Pagenaud led the 75-minute first practice in the bright fluorescent yellow No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet with a best time of 1:43.4804.

Times weren’t entirely representative of potential pace yet this weekend with longer runs happening and on Firestone’s black primary tires; the compound used this weekend is the same as at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this year and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course last year.

Two Honda runners were next in track rookie Carlos Munoz, the Texas polesitter, in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda ahead of Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda. Hawksworth has raced at Road America in an RSR Racing-entered Prototype Challenge car in the past.

Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan were next in a pair of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolets to complete the top five.

Dixon, in the newly yellow Clorox-supported No. 9 car this week, continues his week of racing after Le Mans and Watkins Glen by heading to Road America with Kanaan third in the usual No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Both drivers last raced at Road America in IndyCar in the 2002 CART race.

Of note, Graham Rahal in another yellow car, the No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda, resumed after missing most of the session owing to early electronic issues. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew fixed the car to get him back on track.

Additionally, in his first session back after his Texas accident, Josef Newgarden resumed on track in the No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing with his injured collarbone and hand. Per NBCSN’s Marty Snider and team owner Carpenter, it was the hand more than the collarbone that hurt, but he completed 15 laps in the session (60 miles) and was 10th overall.

Temperatures started at 75 degrees ambient and 96 on track before climbing to 76 and 104 later in the session, both per Firestone.

There were a number of spins in the session with Kanaan spinning at Turn 6, Mikhail Aleshin and Juan Pablo Montoya at Turn 12 and James Hinchcliffe at Turn 14, but all resumed without incident.

Second practice is another 75-minute session from 3 to 4:15 p.m. CT and local time.

Times are below:

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).