Pagenaud wins wild Baltimore IndyCar race (VIDEO)

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Simon Pagenaud has won the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT, where the 75-lap IZOD IndyCar Series race featured a clean first half and a second dominated by cautions and carnage.

Pagenaud won a similarly wild race in Detroit race 2, with a first half that was peppered with six cautions.  He should advance in the championship as well, as he entered the race fifth in points and three of those ahead of him finished poorly (Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti)

“Wild day wasn’t it,” Pagenaud told NBCSN in victory lane. “The car was fantastic, we struggled a bit with pickup. We didn’t get collected though, and I guess that’s good for the championship.”

The mayhem began on a restart at Lap 48, when Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon made contact while battling for second in Turn 1. Dixon was sent spinning while the field behind him created a jam-up at the right-hander.

With no action taken by INDYCAR on the matter, the field lined up for the next restart – which promptly ended in more disaster.

In an apparent attempt to pass Sebastien Bourdais on the inside down the front stretch, Will Power moved into Dixon and sent the championship contender into the inside wall.

“Rahal takes me out, doesn’t seem like there’s any penalty, and then the 12 [Power] just slams us into the wall,” a frustrated Dixon told NBCSN.

“Man, it’s been a rough couple of weeks…I don’t know what [Power] was thinking. I was clearly alongside and he went straight into me.”

Upon seeing a replay of the incident after the race, Power quickly turned somber.

“I was just looking at Bourdais’ back,” Power told NBCSN. “I got a good run on him, I was gonna get on his inside and Dixon obviously had the same run on me.

“I just feel bad about it. Had I looked in my mirror – I don’t know, I just didn’t even think to look in my mirror…I just feel bad for him. I know he’s in the championship hunt. Man, it was just a bad thing to have happen.”

Another restart with 19 to go ended with another track blockage in Turn 1, but shortly after the next restart at Lap 66, Pagenaud made it past an ailing Marco Andretti at Turn 1 (he had a damaged front wing), and Andretti fell through the order. Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais had contact at Turn 8, and Bourdais was affected.

“I passed TK on that (first) restart and then Marco on the second one, and then I pushed as hard as I could with a broken wing, but it actually made the car pretty good,” said Pagenaud.

In second was Josef Newgarden, with an overdue first career podium finish in the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing No. 67 Honda. Sebastien Bourdais finished third for his third podium of the year in the No. 7 TrueCar/McAfee/Bing Chevrolet for Dragon Racing.

Justin Wilson and Simona de Silvestro rounded out the top five, de Silvestro’s first top-five since St. Petersburg 2011 when she finished fourth. De Silvestro turns 25 today in her best finish of the season.

There will be much more to follow after a crazy race.

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.