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Hildebrand sets unofficial fastest lap at Phoenix on Saturday afternoon

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – JR Hildebrand dropped the hammer in both tow and no-tow speed components during the third of four three-hour test sessions at Phoenix International Raceway, for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Prix View test.

The driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet has set an unofficial track record at the 1.022-mile oval with a lap of 19.0401 seconds, or 193.234 mph. While that speed was set with a tow, Hildebrand also posted the fastest no-tow speed of 192.844 mph.

Both speeds are quicker than the official track record, last year’s pole run from Helio Castroneves at 192.631 mph and 19.0997 seconds.

Hildebrand’s laps today are unofficial track records because they are set in testing; official track records only come in qualifying and race conditions.

But the 29-year-old who lives in Boulder had a feeling his Ed Carpenter Racing team, which was very fast at Phoenix last year, would be on pace almost from the off.

“We’ve got two whole days here. Honestly for us I think it’s great because it gives us that little bit of extra time to kind of make sure that we’re just hitting our marks along the way,” Hildebrand said Friday. “I had every confidence getting in the car first session that we were going to start in the window. It’s just about I think all of us together being smart about how we approach it, and for me it’s an awesome sort of little change of pace to be back at it full-time.”

Lest Hildebrand have all the fun at the top of the timesheets, his team boss and teammate Carpenter was second in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet with a best speed of 192.404 mph. His best non-tow speed was 191.298 mph.

Team Penske was next up with Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Will Power respectively before the first of the Hondas, Mikhail Aleshin for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in sixth.

All of the top 11 runners in this session, held under overcast skies with ambient temperatures starting at 77 degrees and track temperatures of 94, were over the 190-mph threshold.

The first incident of the weekend occurred merely a few minutes into the session, as Alexander Rossi got low through Turns 1 and 2 in his No. 98 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport and backed hard into the Turn 2 wall. Rossi was checked and cleared to drive. However, this marked the first accident for Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion, in an IndyCar.

Rossi only did one lap with his second lap seeing the accident occur on a planned qualifying simulation. Other low runners this session – Ed Jones, the rookie, only did eight laps, Marco Andretti did just 14 and Carpenter just 16.

Prior to the session, Helio Castroneves joined PIR officials for a groundbreaking session for the new construction and improvements for the “New Phoenix Raceway.” We’ll have a separate post on that to come.

Times and speeds are below. The final session of the weekend occurs from 6 to 9 p.m. MT and local time tonight.

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IndyCar will eliminate double points from the 2020 season finale

Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Though the NTT IndyCar Series hasn’t confirmed the date of its 2020 season finale, it has determined that double points won’t be in play.

An IndyCar official confirmed Monday to NBCSports.com that whether the season ends at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, or on the streets of St. Petersburg, neither race will feature double points. Team owners were informed of the change during a conference call last week.

The news was first reported by RACER.com.

With the original 17-race schedule having been shortened by the cancellation of at least three races (Circuit of The Americas, Barber Motorsports Park, the Long Beach Grand Prix), using double points in the finale would have carried even greater weight (and perhaps more so if more races are unable to be run because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has been using double points at select races since the 2015 season. The 104th Indianapolis 500 will remain a double-points event.

In rescheduling the Indy 500 to Aug. 23 last week, IndyCar unveiled a revised schedule that listed Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as TBD for its season finale. The race originally had been scheduled to open the season before being called off because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told reporters last week that St. Pete probably would be slotted into the first two weeks October after the Sept. 20 race at Laguna Seca that had been slated to be the season finale for the second consecutive year.