Graham Rahal to receive sportsmanship award

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For successfully handling one of the tougher moments in his IZOD IndyCar Series career, Graham Rahal will receive the Texas Motor Speedway Sportsmanship Award on Apr. 11 at the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame Gala.

Rahal was running up front with two laps remaining in last June’s Firestone 550 at TMS when handling issues on his No. 38 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda finally caused him to brush the wall coming out of Turn 4. Justin Wilson eventually chased down Rahal on the backstretch and went on to win for the first time in his career on an oval.

Had Rahal won, it would have been his first victory since his 2008 triumph in St. Petersburg, which was his first start ever in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Afterwards, however, Rahal stayed professional.

“It always will be one that got away from me until I win my next one,” said Rahal, who now runs with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “Then I won’t think about it. There are a lot of cases where I look back and it’s frustrating that you didn’t get to see it through. This is certainly one of them.

“It would have been nice to win and get rid of all the questions of when I’ll win again, and all that sort of thing. But I think it adds fuel to the fire to come back here and do a good job this year.”

Rahal soldiered on to finish second at TMS, which was his best finish of the 2012 season. He left Ganassi to join RLL last November in a multi-year agreement.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.