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Marco Andretti fastest on Friday at Barber

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Marco Andretti put Andretti Autosport and Honda back on top in the second 45-minute free practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Round 3 of the 2017 season.

The driver of the No. 27 Honda, running in a plain red-and-white livery this weekend with United Fiber & Data only in an associate sponsor role this weekend, put down a best time of 1:07.7134, after installing a set of Firestone’s red alternate tires.

Team Penske’s pair of Simon Pagenaud and Will Power also got into the 1:07 bracket, as did initial Barber winner Helio Castroneves and six-time Barber podium finisher Scott Dixon.

Six of the top 10 were Hondas in this session after Penske and Chevrolet completed a 1-4 sweep in the morning session.

Two red flags interrupted running, a pair of lazy spins for both Max Chilton at Turn 15 and Ed Jones at Turn 5, with neither Brit (yes, Jones is Dubai-based) incurring any damage to their cars.

Meanwhile Ryan Hunter-Reay had a moment as he ran wide at Turn 2 and made light contact with the outside ARMCO barrier to his left front tire, but again sustained no visible damage. Charlie Kimball had a quick off-and-on at the end of the session but escaped unharmed.

Third practice runs tomorrow morning with qualifying coming Saturday afternoon at 3:15 p.m. CT and local time, then on air on NBCSN and online at 3:30 p.m. CT.

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Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.