Chris Jones / IndyCar

Hunter-Reay fastest in Laguna Seca P2; title contenders run off-course

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MONTEREY, Calif – Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest driver in the second practice session for IndyCar’s championship-deciding race Friday afternoon at Laguna Seca Raceway, posting a best time of 1 minute, 9.9105 seconds around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.

Hunter-Reay led Rookie of the Year candidate Felix Rosenqvist by 0.02 seconds.

Fellow rookie Colton Herta, who was fastest both during testing on Thursday and in Friday morning’s first practice session, was third fastest in the second practice with Simon Pagenaud the fastest of the four championship contenders in fourth.

Pagenaud and fellow title contender Scott Dixon (seventh fastest) turned heads when they simultaneously went off course and brought out the lone red flag of the session with roughly 20 minutes remaining in the session in Turns 1 and 10, respectfully. Neither car was damaged

Points leader Josef Newgarden was sixth fastest in the practice.

After finishing dead last in the morning session, Alexander Rossi, who trails Newgarden by 41 points, didn’t fare much better in P2, finishing 23rd of 24 drivers.

Santino Ferrucci finished the session fifth fastest.

Live coverage of Practice 3 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, qualifying is at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold and race coverage begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC and NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full practice results

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Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.