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IndyCar: Championship leader Dixon tops Sonoma Practice 3; Rossi ends session in fourth

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Points leader Scott Dixon topped final practice ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Dixon’s best lap of the session came in at 1:17.9697, actually just over a tenth of a second slower than Josef Newgarden’s fast lap (1:17.8156) from Practice 2, and four tenths of a second off Ryan Hunter-Reay’s quick lap from opening practice, which came in at 1:17.5742.

Nonetheless, Dixon, who was second fastest in each of Friday’s practices, appears to be one of the drivers to beat ahead of Saturday qualifying.

Will Power, who trails Dixon by 87 points, was second in Practice 3 with a time of 1:17.9793 – Dixon and Power were also the only two drivers below the 1:18 mark in the session.

Ryan Hunter-Reay ended practice in third, while Dixon’s main title rival Alexander Rossi, 29 points behind Dixon entering the weekend, was fourth.

Josef Newgarden, who like Power is still mathematically in the title picture at 87 points off the lead, was fifth. Of note: Newgarden was forced to sit out the final ten minutes of Practice 3 after hitting personnel during pit stop practice on Friday.

Simon Pagenaud, Zach Veach, Takuma Sato, Santino Ferrucci, and Marco Andretti rounded out the top 10. Other notables include Patricio O’Ward (21st), Colton Herta (22nd), and Tony Kanaan (23rd).

The lone stoppage of the session came with less than two minutes remaining after Carlos Munoz spun in Turns 9 and 9a, which comprise the chicane before the final hairpin.

However, Munoz was able to continue, and IndyCar officials allowed teams and drivers one extra lap of practice before displaying the checkered flag. Munoz ended up 19th.

Results are below. Qualifying begins at 6:00 p.m. ET (3:00 p.m. local time), and will air on NBCSN at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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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.