Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

James Hinchcliffe fastest in second practice at Barber

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James Hinchcliffe was the fastest driver in the second practice session for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama with a time of 1 minute, 8.9994 seconds, making Hinchcliffe the fastest driver so far this weekend.

The Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver led COTA winner Colton Herta by 0.0090 seconds, with Santino Ferrucci (1 minute, 9.0461 seconds) finishing third.

After a relatively eventful first practice earlier in the day, Friday afternoon’s second practice session was more tame, but still saw drivers veer off-course.

The caution flag came out with 17 minutes to go when Ferrucci went off-course and into a tire barrier in turn 16, and both Zach Veach and Colton Herta found themselves off-course as well.

Sebastien Bourdais (1 minute, 9.0968 seconds), Alexander Rossi (1 minute, 9.1140 seconds) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (1 minute, 9.1545 seconds) rounded out the top six, all in Hondas. Spencer Pigot’s No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing machine was the fastest Chevrolet, finishing the session seventh fastest (1 minute, 9.2055 seconds).

Jack Harvey and Ben Hanley both posted 18 laps, which was the most of all 24 competitors.

With the second practice complete, the stars and cars of the NTT IndyCar Series will return to action tomorrow, with the third and final practice session starting at 11:45 am E.T. and qualifications at 4:00 pm E.T. Both can be viewed on NBC Sports Gold, and qualifying will air live on NBCSN.

Full Practice 2 results

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Penske won’t discuss if Castroneves returns to Indy in 2020

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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INDIANAPOLIS – NBC Sports.com asked Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske if three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves would return to the team in 2020?

Penske immediately brushed off the question.

“We’re not going to talk about that right now,” Penske told NBC Sports.com. “I’m just not going to talk about it. We’re going to have a meeting about it before we decide, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

“Simon won the race and that is what I’m focused on right now.”

Simon Pagenaud, gave Penske a record-extending 18thIndy 500 win on Sunday. Penske confirmed that Pagenaud will be back with the team in 2020 after he scored his first win in Sunday’s 103rdIndianapolis 500.

Castroneves was an NTT IndyCar Series regular at Team Penske from 2000 until the 2017 season. After that, Castroneves was shifted over to the team’s Acura IMSA Sports Car program, but the three-time Indy 500 winner was given a ride at both races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the past two years.

The popular driver from Brazil is trying to join AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners.

But the whispers in Gasoline Alley indicate his future with Team Penske at Indy remain uncertain.

“I’ve heard the rumors, too,” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com on pit lane after his disappointing finish in the Indy 500. “I will definitely give it a good, hard think about coming back in 2020. I want to be the rest of the season, here.”

But, will Castroneves run the Indy 500 again?

“Who knows?” Castroneves told NBC Sports.com. “Let’s see what happens.”

Castroneves’s bid for a fourth Indianapolis 500 was derailed in a pit road incident after his first pit stop when he ran into James Davison’s Chevrolet on the team’s first pit stop on Lap 30.

The front wing of Castroneves’s Chevrolet was damaged and INDYCAR officials gave him a “Drive Through” penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Castroneves would ultimate drop three laps down but finished one lap down in 18thplace.

Castroneves explained what happened to him earlier in the race and how it affected the rest of his Indy 500.

“The accident that happened in the pits hurt us for sure,” Castroneves explained. “We had a problem with the fuel mapping, and I couldn’t go over 200 miles an hour for four or five laps. We lost 35 seconds. There was a bug in the system.

“Then, we went back out and that was it. I wasn’t able to recoup after that. I was excited. The car was very, very good entering the race.”

Castroneves spoke with second-place finisher Alexander Rossi, who was furious with the driver from Brazil earlier in the race for not moving out of the way, even though he was three laps down at the time.

The two drivers hugged, and Castroneves walked back up pit lane.

“I did what the team told me to do, and they told me to go as fast as I could,” Castroneves explained after talking to Rossi. “It’s racing and everybody is upset they didn’t win.”

Castroneves hopes his walk up pit lane is not the final time as an Indy 500 competitor.

But it could be.

“I hope I can come back next year,” Castroneves said. “I’m really upset as a competitor, but extremely happy for Team Penske and for Simon Pagenaud for winning the race.

“The good news is I go back to the Acura sports car, but I will be dreaming about coming back here again.”