Michigan Update: Kasey Kahne crashes out of the lead

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Leading by 3.6 seconds, Kasey Kahne has slammed into the Turn 2 wall, bringing out the yellow at Lap 104 of today’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway and triggering a wave of pit stops under caution.

The race off pit road was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., followed by Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.

Kahne had taken the lead from Earnhardt on Lap 90 and was pulling away until his accident. He had started third on the most recent Lap 81 restart, which was led by Earnhardt and another HMS teammate, Jimmie Johnson. Both cars appeared to have wheel spin on the restart, but while Earnhardt recovered, Johnson fell back after being hit in the rear by Martin Truex Jr. as the field stacked up behind them.

“Hope you’re happy NASCAR, I did what you’d wanted me to do. And I got wrecked,” Johnson said afterwards over his radio according to TNT – presumably, a reference to NASCAR’s restart penalty against him two weeks ago at Dover International Speedway.

Johnson had clawed his way back to third place as of Lap 100 of 200, showing a stout pace himself. The Sprint Cup championship leader, who has never won at Michigan, had held the lead from Lap 64 to a debris yellow at Lap 76. He then lost the race off pit road to teammate Earnhardt one lap later.

Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick were having solid days, crossing halfway in fourth and fifth respectively.

Earlier, Kurt Busch quickly took the lead from pole sitter Carl Edwards after the green flag dropped, and led the opening 21 laps of the race. But on Lap 29, he lost control of a loose car while running fourth and hit the wall in Turn 2. He has now fallen multiple laps down as a result.

The first yellow of the day came out at Lap 7, when Bobby Labonte got loose in Turn 2 and collected Jeff Gordon before they both went into the wall. A competition caution also came out on Lap 20.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.