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Scott Dixon leads IndyCar practice; VeeKay, Carpenter, Hunter-Reay spin

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Scott Dixon paced the first practice of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, turning a 215.995 mph lap at Texas Motor Speedway.

Colton Herta was second (214.491), followed by Pato O’Ward (214.326), Zach Veach (214.298) and Marco Andretti (214.264).

The two-hour session was interrupted by three yellow flags.

Just 15 minutes into the session, Rinus VeeKay spun into the outside wall after putting his Dallara-Chevrolet below the white line in Turn 3.

RESULTS: Click here for speeds from IndyCar practice at Texas Motor Speedway

The rookie was OK but needed a backup car after sustaining heavy rear and left-side damage.

“I have to call it a rookie mistake,” VeeKay told NBC Sports Gold’s Kelli Stavast. “Got too low. But I definitely will learn from this. It’s just quite hard getting into a car without doing any sim work. Just trying to get there as quick as possible. If you make a mistake, it’s done.”

“I’ll look on the data. I’ll reset for qualifying and hopefully, it’s going to be OK.”

The Ed Carpenter Racing rookie arrived in the United States several days ago after waiting out a quarantine period in Mexico while awaiting approval for entry.

Teammate Ed Carpenter escaped without significant damage to his car after a spin through the grass off Turn 4.

About midway through the practice, Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Dallara-Honda made right-front contact with the outside SAFER barrier after he wiggled exiting the remnants of the traction compound, which was applied for last November’s NASCAR weekend.

Several drivers seemed to struggle with grip exiting the compound. Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage told IndyCar on NBC broadcast team said the track had recently had scraped the surface where the compound had been applied last year.

Qualifying for tonight’s Genesys 300 will be at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The race will be on NBC at 8 p.m. ET with prerace beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”