Darlington, Kansas to swap 2014 NASCAR dates; Kansas also adds sports car date

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NASCAR races at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway will swap dates for 2014 as part of a revised full season Sprint Cup schedule.

Darlington shifts from its Mother’s Day Saturday night race in May to Saturday, April 12 for the Bojangles Southern 500, with the Nationwide Series on the Friday, April 11.

Kansas will now run the first of its two Cup races on Saturday night, May 10, with the Camping World Trucks Friday night, May 9. The race’s second Cup date will still be in October, on Oct. 5.

NASCAR has yet to release its full 2014 Sprint Cup schedule, but it should be out within the next couple weeks.

Kansas also dropped a nugget as it pertains to support and developmental series running with the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2014, per an MRN Radio release.

The track’s infield road course hosted a round of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series this year, won by Jordan Taylor over Scott Pruett in a knockdown, drag-out fight. But Kansas did not make the 2014 TUDOR Championship schedule for United SportsCar.

The track announced that the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, IMSA Prototype Lites and IMSA Porsche GT3 Challenge will race on the road course on June 7. They are three of the series set to run with the TUDOR Championship on its schedule, or independently on some weekends.

Expect this as the first of several announcements where these or other series could be racing at tracks that did not secure a date on the 2014 TUDOR Championship calendar.

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.