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Castroneves leads final practice ahead of Saturday Indy 500 qualifying

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Only 11 cars to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a final practice on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Of the 11 who ventured out on track, Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was the fastest with a lap of 229.505 mph – a lap that was also completed without a tow.

Teammate Will Power was second with a lap of 229.015 mph – his non-tow speed was all but identical at 229.014 mph.

The session was originally planned to be three parts with the field divided into two groups – Group 1 would go first for 30 minutes, followed by a 30-minute session for Group 2, with a 30-minute “all skate” session to finish up, with everyone allowed on track at that time.

However, overnight rains altered the schedule, and only the individual Group sessions took place.

Of note: Graham had a fastest lap of 225.293 mph, down slightly from his speed yesterday, which put him 34th on the non-tow chart.

Also, James Davison, the driver of the collaborative No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s Chevrolet – A.J. Foyt Racing, Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, and Belardi Auto Racing are all collaborating in that effort – returned to the track after Friday’s crash in a repaired car.

Davison’s fastest lap in the session came in at 226.596 mph, but his best non-tow lap was at 224.732 mph.

Times are below. Qualifying begins at 11:00 a.m.

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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. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR 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 would seem right for 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 — to spend 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).