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James Hinchcliffe was once again the fastest man on track at the Milwaukee Mile in the hour-long Saturday afternoon practice for this weekend's ABC Supply Wisconsin 250, but his session didn't end as well as he'd hoped.

Hinchcliffe set the best time of the weekend so far, improving on his earlier timesheet-topping pace to record a new benchmark of 165.677mph (22.0549s) on the one-mile oval, putting him just 0.0951s seconds ahead of Ed Carpenter.

Ganassi's Tony Kanaan also continued to look on-form with the third fastest time of the session, just ahead of Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin who was showing impressive form in his first visit to Milwaukee and outpacing title contenders Ryan Hunter-Reay (sixth), Helio Castroneves (ninth), Simon Pagenaud (11th) and Will Power (13th).

Josef Newgarden put in the fifth fastest time despite triggering a brief interruption to the on-track proceedings early in the session when the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing #67 stalled and needed retrieval.

That had looked set to be the only noteworthy incident of practice, until Hinchcliffe spun in the final quarter while following Castroneves through turn 2 which put the #27 into the wall rear-first. The impact did significant damage to the back of the Andretti Autosport car, but Hinchcliffe himself was uninjured.

"I just went in there behind Helio and we'd just made a change and the car was actually feeling pretty good," explained the Canadian. "It hadn't really made any sort of signals that we were loose mid-corner. If anything you're battling understeer at that point.

"It just kind of went around," he shrugged. "It was a pretty slow rotation, it wasn't a quick snap. There's no reason to think anything broke. I feel bad for the boys - obviously the car's quick, so hopefully we'll get it sorted for qualifying."

The team has its work cut out to effect repairs in time for qualifying, which is scheduled for 5pm (11pm BST), and will consist of the familiar single-car two-lap time trials for oval events. The ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 itself gets underway on Sunday afternoon at 2.45pm (8.45pm BST) and the race will be shown live in the UK on ESPN.

Away from the track activity, the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock was buzzing with news that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing are in the final stages of planning a merger between the two single-car teams to make a two-car operation for 2015. Team officials confirmed to the media that the merger was happening but added that the formal announcement wouldn't take place until Sunday.

Carpenter took his first series win at Kentucky Speedway in his final race with Sarah Fisher Racing in 2011 before leaving to set up his own race team, so a merger would be a homecoming of sorts for all concerned. While Carpenter would likely continue to be the driver of one of the cars for oval events (with Mike Conway potentially continuing to be the driver for road/street course races), it's unclear who would take the other seat as Josef Newgarden is out of contract with the team at the end of this season.

Elsewhere, it was also being reported by Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star that a deal to extend Ryan Hunter-Reay's stay at Andretti Autoport has just been signed.

See full practice 2 times from Milwaukee See full Saturday combined practice times from Milwaukee


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