What to watch for: IndyCar at Long Beach

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Can Dario Franchitti turn it around?

The four-time IndyCar champion and three-time Indy 500 winner (pictured) has had a rocky start to his season, but nobody’s going to count him out. He secured a much-needed positive moment yesterday by taking the pole on his final lap of qualifying, but now he has to convert it into a solid result that can start his long climb back up the standings. There’s still time for him to play a role in the championship, but his margin for error is slim at best.

Where’s “Winning Will”?

As competitive as Will Power has remained, it still bears noting that he hasn’t won in the IZOD IndyCar Series since his victory last season in Sao Paulo, Brazil. That’s a stretch of 13 races and considering how tough the overall field is in the series, he’ll have to find a way to get back to Victory Lane soon in order to put himself back into the title hunt (he sits eighth in points). Luckily for Power, he’s the defending champion at the Beach and starts third this afternoon.

Conway rides again

Mike Conway, who stopped his full-time IndyCar career prior to last year’s season finale due to being uncomfortable racing on ovals, has returned to the series this weekend and has been fast in a third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car. He was second-quickest in Friday’s combined practice sessions and then cracked the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday, winding up fifth on the grid. The Englishman is a prior winner at Long Beach (2011, Andretti Autosport) and he’ll want to prove that he’s still got what it takes to win in North America’s top open-wheel series.

Turns 1 and 9

These are the two main passing zones on the legendary street circuit. Starts and restarts will be especially exciting as the drivers mimic an Oklahoma land rush down Shoreline Drive before going into the left-hand Turn 1. But T1 is also well-known as a trouble spot — just ask Josef Newgarden, whose attempt to pass Franchitti there on the opening lap of last year’s race ended in the tire barriers. Turn 9 is a righty that emerges after another long straight on the course and begins a tricky sector of corners that culminates with the famous Turn 11 hairpin.

Watch today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach online or on your mobile device.

Hartley to make F1 debut from back of grid after penalty

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Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.

Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.

Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.

The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.

Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.

A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.