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Newgarden leads, Hildebrand spins in Iowa first practice

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Both Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter Racing will look to follow up Newgarden’s dominant performance at the Iowa Corn 300 (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at this year’s stop on the calendar.

For most of the first Verizon IndyCar Series practice Saturday at the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway, it was Carpenter on top – until the final five minutes when Newgarden supplanted his old boss and old teammate.

Newgarden took his No. 2 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske Chevrolet to a best speed of 185.609 mph (17.3397 seconds) near the end of the session, leading a Team Penske top-three sweep in the session.

Teammate Will Power and Simon Pagenaud were next at 185.260 and 184.401 mph, respectively, in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Carpenter took the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet to a best speed of 184.137 mph. Carpenter makes his fourth start of the season, all on ovals, with Spencer Pigot back in his usual spectator role for the oval races.

The session was initially only meant to be 75 minutes, but was extended five minutes following Carpenter’s teammate JR Hildebrand crashing in Turn 2 in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet with just under 15 minutes remaining. Hildebrand got his left side wheels below the white line and spun backwards into the Turn 2 wall.

While Hildebrand got his hands off the steering wheel, it was fortunate he did so. The steering wheel popped off the car on impact and flew into the air, which also happened last year when Charlie Kimball had an accident in practice at Pocono Raceway and it popped off.

Marco Andretti was fifth and top Honda. Andretti’s most recent IndyCar win came in 2011 at Iowa Speedway, part of Andretti Autosport’s run of six consecutive victories at the track from 2010 through 2015.

Scott Dixon had a shortened session with penalties assessed following the Road America weekend, forced to sit out the final 20 minutes for three violations: entering the course after a checkered flag in the warmup, entering the pit lane from the paddock under power and failing to observe INDYCAR direction.

Speeds are below. Qualifying comes up at 2 p.m. CT, 3 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN.

Tony Kanaan says his message of IndyCar-NASCAR unity aimed at fans

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Over a 22-year IndyCar career featuring its share of adversity, Tony Kanaan has learned to embrace trying to find the positives in a negative situation.

He believes NASCAR and IndyCar will find a tiny silver lining from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The series will race together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in a July 4 doubleheader, which he believes sends a message of unity he’d like to see from the world during this dark period.

“It’s time to send that message (of unity),” Kanaan told “Happy Hours” hosts Kevin Harvick and Matt Yocum in a Wednesday afternoon interview on SiriusXM’s NASCAR Channel. “If we don’t come out of this situation as better people, globally, in every way, shape or form … it’s just being kind to people. Hopefully, we’ll be sending the right messages, doing radio shows together, doing live on Instagram together, doing races together.

ON NBCSN: IndyCar at virtual Barber Motorsports Park, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson wants to run IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader

“I was bugging Jimmie Johnson to say, ‘Can I be a guest in NASCAR on iRacing?’ I think the misperception, and probably a little our fault as well, is that people don’t know how (IndyCar and NASCAR drivers) respect each and how we think each other’s jobs are so cool.”

It was Kanaan’s comment last week that “it’s not us and them. It is the motorsports world’ that prompted Harvick to ask the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner about his views on past IndyCar and NASCAR divisions.

Harvick noted that “over the years, IndyCar and NASCAR have that separate stigma as far as the fans, but the racers in the middle, we talk with each other. We’re just racers. I think it’s absolutely great” the doubleheader will happen.

Kanaan said he felt it was the right message to send because of the fans. “For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way,” he said. “We always respected each other and thought each other’s jobs were cool. That tweet was for our fans who say, ‘Those cars are too fast. Those cars are too slow.’ It’s time for us to stop. It’s a racing family.

“For people who don’t understand about racing, any race car is cool. Doesn’t matter if it’s a go kart, a sprint car, a  Cup car, it doesn’t matter. … The situation, we’re in, we’re all equal. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. We’re all in the same boat now. We can’t do what we love. It just clicked. I said it’s time to send that message. Hopefully this will be the end for ‘you guys and us’ for the fans. For drivers, I don’t think we ever thought of it that way.”

The GMR IndyCar Grand Prix is scheduled to be run July 4 on the IMS road course ahead of the Xfinity race, which will mean that the NTT Series’ Firestone rubber will be on the asphalt before the Goodyears of NASCAR hit the track.

Recalling a NASCAR test many years ago at Nazareth Speedway when he turned laps a second faster because there’d been an IndyCar race the previous day, Harvick asked Kanaan whether the varying tire compounds might present a challenge.

“I don’t there is a solution for that,” Kanaan said. “It’s part of the job, and we need to realize that you guys run different tires. We run softer tires. It’s no different than (IndyCar) racing with the trucks at Texas. It’s probably harder on an oval than a road course.

“But I like it. It’s part of the challenge and makes the race weekend more interesting, the people who can manage that as well.”

Even though he is sidelined, Kanaan still will stay busy this weekend, racing in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. IndyCar iRacing Challenge event at virtual Barber Motorsports Park on NBCSN. He will be tuning in Sunday at 1 p.m. on Fox and FS1 as NASCAR hits Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Last Sunday I had my alarm set for 12:40 p.m., because at 1 o’clock (NASCAR was) on,” Kanaan said with a laugh. “I told (wife) Lauren, ‘Let’s turn the TV on and watch the NASCAR race!’ I was excited, and it wasn’t even real. She’s like, ‘Man, look at you … I said, ‘That’s what we got.’ It’s been a weird year.”

Harvick also will be racing Sunday, having recently joined Kanaan in installing a new racing simulator at home.

“Let’s do this Kevin: Come do an IndyCar race on iRacing,” Kanaan said. “I’ll do NASCAR. Now that you have a sim. What do you think?”

“Well, I’ll have to go to my 7-year-old to figure out how to drive it fast,” Harvick said.

“He’s been practicing. I’m really good at crashing.”