Star turn by James Davison in his second start for Coyne

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Late-season one-off opportunities provide a chance for new talent to emerge, and Australian James Davison did everything he could to maximize his chance in his second straight IZOD IndyCar Series start for Dale Coyne Racing.

Davison had an engine change prior to the race which dropped the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda from 21st to 25th and last on the grid.

But from there, by a mix of avoiding the carnage in front of him, some great passes and solid pit stops from the crew, Davison made it into the top 10 for most of the second half of the race, running as high as sixth or seventh.

Contact with old Indy Lights sparring partners Charlie Kimball, and later, Sebastian Saavedra, halted Davison’s chances of securing his first top-10 finish. He was classified an unrepresentative 18th by the checkered flag.

“Absolutely shattered. Drove my (expletive) off & pulled some mega lunges to come from 25th to 10th and got chopped with 2 laps to go. Way it goes..” Davison tweeted. “Thank you everyone for your messages, mean a lot. Not sure when my next race is but I’ll be back. @IndyCar is my home.”

It’s easy to forget but Davison finished second in the Indy Lights standings in 2009, behind only JR Hildebrand and ahead of more than half a dozen drivers who went onto make their IndyCar debuts before Davison did.

After a four-year layoff from open-wheel racing, these have been two highly impressive drives from “Davo” that should turn heads and make team owners aware of his ability level. Stefan Wilson takes over the No. 18 at Baltimore for his IndyCar debut, in what will be a newly liveried car with sponsorship from Nirvana Tea.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.