IndyCar: A salute to cleanliness the last 3 races

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I may be in the minority here, but I’d like to give a round of applause to the entire IZOD IndyCar Series field for putting together three straight races without a single major accident.

Earlier this month, the first half of Detroit race two was frankly awful with six cautions for 22 laps occurring in the first 36 laps in the 70-lap race.

But since that low point, the men and women in the field have driven 228 laps at Texas Motor Speedway, many fighting ill-handling race cars that went south as soon as their tires began falling off, 250 laps at the challenging Milwaukee Mile and 250 laps at the Iowa Speedway without tearing up a single race car.

The only incidents in this stretch? Oriol Servia had a wicked spin but saved it without hitting anything at Texas (pictured). Alex Tagliani has had a pair of spins: one at Milwaukee and one at Iowa, without contacting the wall. Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz each made slight contact at Turn 4 in Milwaukee, but both made it back to the pits.

The only accident that’s tore up a car in the last three weekends was when James Jakes lost control in Turn 2 in his heat race at Iowa, which forced the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team to prepare his backup car.

This stretch of six races in five weekends, with two additional weeks at Indianapolis for practice and qualifying before that after returning from Brazil, has been nothing short of a nightmare for crews. It’s a case of mass travel, mass changeover in setups, and extended hours with limited sleep.

Kudos, then, to the drivers who have made sure their crews haven’t needed to do more repair work as a result.

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.