Marco Andretti leads morning practice at Pocono

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Marco Andretti, who topped Thursday’s open test session for the IZOD IndyCar Series at Pocono Raceway, went P1 in this morning’s practice session at the “Tricky Triangle” with a lap at 221.883 miles per hour in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet. The one-hour run will be the only practice session before Pocono IndyCar 400 qualifying takes place later this afternoon at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Following him in second was Tony Kanaan, who is looking to continue his drive toward a potential Triple Crown with a victory this weekend in Pennsylvania. He topped out at 220.819 miles per hour in the No. 11 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball, who led the Honda camp with a lap at 220.683 mph in the No. 83 machine.

Current championship leader Helio Castroneves, who goes into Pocono with a nine-point advantage over reigning series champ Ryan Hunter-Reay, was fourth-fastest this morning at 220.219 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Rounding out the Top 5 was Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and his lap at 220.217 mph; Dixon will be forced to take a 10-spot grid penalty for Sunday’s race due to changing his Honda motor before the 2,000-mile threshold.

Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Will Power, Iowa winner James Hinchcliffe, and Alex Tagliani completed the Top 10. The session only went yellow once for Power, who suffered an apparent electrical issue on his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet and needed to be towed back to the pits.

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.