Detroit winners Conway, Pagenaud look to climb tomorrow in Toronto

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The IZOD IndyCar Series’ most recent street-course winners, Mike Conway and Simon Pagenaud, may have to show some patience if they want to contend in tomorrow’s first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader (3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Both of them were victorious during the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit weekend at Belle Isle back in early June, but for tomorrows’ race, Pagenaud and Conway will be starting unofficially from 12th and 20th respectively.

Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports’ Pagenaud, who came from sixth starting position to win the second Detroit Dual, said that brake issues on his No. 77 HP Honda kept him from a potential pole run.

“We’ve got a really fast car, and I’m honestly very happy with it,” the Frenchman said. “I’m very frustrated, though, because I couldn’t extract the full potential of what the HP car has in it because we’re having brake problems.

“We’ve had the issue since this morning’s practice. When I hit the brake, I can’t stop the car properly, which obviously makes it very difficult to drive. It’s a shame because we had a pole position car today.”

Also expecting to be quick tomorrow is Conway, who is back with Dale Coyne Racing this weekend after finishing first and third with them in the Detroit weekend.

“We have some work ahead of us in tomorrow’s race, but I am confident that we can get the No. 18 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Honda up to the front of the field,” said Conway. “This is a long race and anything can happen, especially with this standing start. I know the team is going to give me the best car possible for the race.”

Pagenaud finished 12th in his Toronto debut last season, while Conway netted a third-place finish for A.J. Foyt Racing after crashing out in 2009 and 2011 (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing).

Watch this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto online and on your mobile device.

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.