Logano turns the page to tomorrow’s Chase opener at Chicagoland

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Despite finishing second to Kyle Busch in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, it sounds as if Joey Logano nonetheless had a productive day in regards to picking up ideas for tomorrow’s Chase for the Sprint Cup curtain-raiser.

Logano, one of the 13 drivers in this year’s Chase, will start from the pole position for the GEICO 400, a race that he and his Penske Racing crew have pin-pointed for some time.

“[The Cup car] was really good [in practice] and I think we have a shot at winning the race tomorrow,” Logano said today at Chicagoland. “I learned some things today that can help. I was talking to [Cup crew chief] Todd [Gordon] out there with Jeremy Bullins together. We were all debriefing today to figure out what will help for tomorrow.

“We are working as one team here to figure out what we have to do to win this championship. This is one of those tracks we circled as one we can really capitalize on and so far, we are doing that. We just have to try to win this thing tomorrow.”

As he embarks on his first Chase, Logano is trying to block out the controversy of the last week – some of which involved him and Penske Racing, whom along with Front Row Motorsports, were put on probation until the end of the year.

Today, NASCAR held a closed-door meeting for its personnel in the Chicagoland garages to define what’s expected of drivers and teams going forward. Logano felt that the meeting was a necessary one and allows everyone to “turn the page now.”

“It is clarifying what we can and cannot do,” Logano said of the meeting. “We are all competitors trying to find an advantage where we can. Anytime you can clarify rules, it helps our sport I feel like throughout each time and throughout all of NASCAR.

“…I am glad we can put it all behind us now and look ahead into the Chase. It is going to be an awesome championship, because we have 13 cars that can win this thing. I don’t know who the favorite is going into this. There are a lot of guys that can win it. Hopefully, we are one of the favorites – I think we are.”

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.