Coyne confirms Conway for Toronto, Houston, and Mann for Fontana

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The biggest star of the Detroit doubleheader weekend will resume his part-time assault on the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend in Toronto.

Mike Conway, who had been all but officially confirmed after his win and third-place finish in Detroit, will return to Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for the Toronto and Houston doubleheader weekends.

Conway finished third in Toronto last year, his only podium finish for A.J. Foyt Racing, and looks to go two spots better in either – or perhaps both – races of the Honda Indy.

“Hopefully we will pick up from where we left off in Detroit,” Conway said in a release. “Toronto is one of my favorite circuits so there is no reason why we can’t do well there. Houston will be new to a lot of people, however Dale Coyne and my teammate Justin (Wilson) raced there in Champ Car so I am hoping to get some good feedback from them!  They should both be really good weekends and I want to thank Dale for giving me another chance to be a part of it.”

Conway will be unable to race at Baltimore on Sept. 1 per his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments. Since Detroit, Pippa Mann (Texas and Pocono) and Ana Beatriz (Milwaukee and Iowa) have raced Coyne’s second car.

Mann was confirmed Monday to race the No. 18 Cyclops Gear Honda at Fontana. She finished a career-best 15th on Sunday in Pocono.

“Being a part of Dale Coyne Racing this year, and bringing Cyclops Gear to IndyCar has been such an amazing opportunity, and a great experience,” she said in a release. “I’ve had fun at every track I’ve had the opportunity to drive at, and I was pleased to bring home a top 15 for the team this time out in Pocono, and help them keep the No. 18 car up in the Leaders Circle points for 2014.”

Other candidates the rest of the year to fill the remaining races in the No. 18 car are James Davison and Stefan Wilson, who have each tested for Coyne this year but have not yet made their IndyCar race debuts.

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.