Kanaan lands on fourth straight Iowa podium

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Despite early issues on his No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, Tony Kanaan stayed in the lead pack during today’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 and wound up netting his fourth consecutive podium finish at Iowa Speedway with a third-place result.

Elevated to a fifth-place start following grid penalties, Kanaan had to deal with a stuck weight-jacker and fell back to ninth after his first stop, in which the No. 11 team removed a blocker piece from the right-side inlet of his car to alleviate temperature issues. He stayed in the Top 10 until the team opted to bring him in for service under caution on Lap 142 in an attempt to work strategy.

“Track position was critical today, and after [the first stop], we tried to get off-sequence to have better tires,” Kanaan explained to ESPN after the race. “So we pitted under yellow because it was only three positions to lose from the back of the field. We put the new tires on, and that gave us a big advantage at the end.”

The decision paid off as Kanaan rose as high as second place, and the Lap 142 call allowed him to short-fill and grab fresh tires on his final stop at Lap 210. Emerging in sixth position, the Indianapolis 500 champion used the new Firestones to climb to his final result of third place with six laps to go, when he passed Graham Rahal for the spot after a nip-and-tuck battle.

“I gotta watch the tape again, but I definitely think [Rahal] was making [his car] wide, which is fair enough,” Kanaan said. “It was for the podium. But at times, it got really close. It’s racing. I’m not gonna complain, but we’ll see. What goes around comes around.”

Kanaan has been one of the series’ most reliably strong performers at Iowa in recent times, with a victory in 2010, a runner-up in 2011, and now, back-to-back third-place runs in 2012 and 2013.

He also moved into the Top 5 of the championship standings, and now sits 79 points behind fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves going into the next race in two weeks at Pocono Raceway.

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.