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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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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