IndyCar

IndyCar: Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Power top first Sonoma practice

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SONOMA, California — Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest in the first of two practices for the Verizon IndyCar Series Friday morning.

The Andretti Autosport driver covered the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course with a best lap speed of 1:17.5742 at a speed of 110.681.

Second- fastest and quickest was current series points leader Scott Dixon (1:17.8268 at 110.322 mph). Dixon comes into this weekend with a 29-point lead over Alexander Rossi and a large 87-point edge over Team Penske teammates Will Power and defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden.

Speaking of Power, he was third-fastest (1:17.8818/110.244), followed by teammate Simon Pagenaud (1:17.9586/110.135) and another Andretti Autosport driver, Marco Andretti (1:18.0878/109.953).

Sixth through 10th were Ed Jones (1:18.1385/109.882), Graham Rahal (1:18.1665/109.842), championship contender Alexander Rossi (1:18.2738/109.692 ), Zach Veach (1:18.3541/109.579) and Sebastien Bourdais (1:18.3709/109.556).

Of note, Newgarden did not even take to the track during the entire practice as the team worked on what reportedly was a possible fuel pressure issue in his race car.

On top of that, Newgarden is battling what he called food poisoning, but hopes to be much better by Saturday.

There were three incidents of note during the 45-minute session:

* About 15 minutes in, championship contender Alexander Rossi spun in Turn 5, but was able to continue on.

* With about 20 minutes left in the session, James Hinchcliffe spun in Turn 2, winding up in the tire wall. Damage was minimal, he brought his car into the pits, repairs were made and he was back on-track for the final 8 minutes.

* Hinchcliffe spun again in Turn 7 (the hairpin) as time expired in the session.

There was almost an incident when Dixon almost ran into Spencer Pigot of Ed Carpenter Racing late in the session, as well.

Here’s the full practice grid:

Friday’s second practice is slated to start at 3 pm PT/6 pm ET.

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Ryan Norman returns to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport in 2019

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Ryan Norman will return to Andretti Autosport for their third season together in 2019 after scoring his first win and first pole with that organization in 2018.

I’m really excited to finally make it official that I’ll be returning to Andretti Autosport for my third season competing in Indy Lights,” said Norman in a press release. “We’ve built a solid foundation over the past two years and I’m ready to fight for wins, podiums and ultimately the championship, with such a great group of people who have become like a family to me.”

Norman finished 2018 fourth in the championship, earning his first career win in race 15 of the 17-race schedule at Gateway Motorsports Park in August.

Norman’s first pole came in the finale at Portland International Raceway in September, but he crashed on the first lap and finished last (8th).

“We’re very happy that Ryan is rejoining us for his third season of Indy Lights,” said Andretti Autosport President, JF Thormann. “We were pleased with his performance this past season, and his potential as a driver began to really shine after his win at Gateway. He’s right on track with his progression plan put together by his engineering team, and we feel strongly that he has what it takes to be a contender for the 2019 championship.”

Norman will essentially replace teammates Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who will race for Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar next season.Β  O’Ward finished first in the Indy Lights standings last year; Herta finished second.

Norman’s 2019 campaign will begin on the streets of St. Petersburgh, Florida March 9, 2019. That will be the first of a double-header with Race 2 running the following day.