Successful surgery for Kimi, anger for Valsecchi at Lotus

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Two Lotus F1 Team bits of news this morning as Free Practice 1 in Austin has been delayed and interrupted due to fog and the medical helicopter being unable to land.

Lotus’ now former driver, Kimi Raikkonen, has had successful back surgery. Here is the official statement from the team:

“As planned, Kimi Räikkönen underwent back surgery yesterday at The University Hospital of Strasbourg. Lotus F1 Team is happy to report that the operation was totally successful, according to Professor Afshin Gangi. Kimi will now rest for a few days & he will start his recovery process as early as next week. Everyone at the track and at Enstone wishes him a quick recovery.”

Lotus has placed the #GetWellSoonKimi hashtag on its pair of chassis this weekend.

Meanwhile, Lotus’ reserve driver, Davide Valsecchi, minced no words about his being passed over for Heikki Kovalainen in the last two races of the season.

Speaking with Italian media, in a blog post via English broadcaster James Allen, the 2012 GP2 champion had this to offer:

“It’s a huge blow to me,” he said. “From the sporting point of view it’s a tragedy. It makes me angry to have lost the battle with Kovalainen who is not a great champion, not even an active driver; his last results were five years ago.  If they had taken Hulkenberg I could have understood, even Maldonado, but this…”

Not only has Valsecchi been glossed over from a reserve driver standpoint, but also from an Italian driver standpoint. The sport hasn’t had one since Jarno Trulli’s hasty departure from Caterham a fortnight before the 2012 season, and along with other GP2 stars Giorgio Pantano and Luca Filippi, there has not been a new Italian driver to make his debut since Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2005 with Red Bull.

Sato steals Pocono pole; more heavy accidents pepper qualifying (VIDEO)

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Takuma Sato has won the pole for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 after a chaotic qualifying session for Round 14 of 17 in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, snatching the pole in the final opportunity.

Sato won the pole as the 22nd and final qualifier and knocked Simon Pagenaud off the top spot, in a session that also saw both Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay sustain heavy accidents.

Charlie Kimball (219.369 mph) held the pole for most of the afternoon in his No. 83 Tresiba Honda, as the American was looking for his second pole of the year after winning the Verizon P1 Award at Texas Motor Speedway.

But Pagenaud (219.395 mph) eclipsed Kimball with just five cars to go, in the No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, to take over the top spot.

Pagenaud then had to hold off a trio of Andretti Autosport cars – Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato – to ensure he solidified his second pole of the year (Toronto). But it didn’t happen.

Andretti fell off the map on his second lap and fell to 15th.

Hunter-Reay, who led this morning’s lone practice session, had an even worse ending with a heavy accident in Turn 3. He lost the back end through Turn 3 in his No. 28 DHL Honda and needed help from the Holmatro Safety Team to get into the medical car, as he exited his car gingerly. Further updates on his status will follow later today, although as of 3:10 p.m. ET, INDYCAR issued he was being transported to a nearby hospital.

Then Sato dropped the fastest two lap average of the day in the No. 26 Expedite Home Loans Honda for Andretti Autosport, with the fastest single lap at 220.045 and an average at 219.639 mph.

Two other big names will start from the back of the grid. Helio Castroneves had an accident in qualifying in Turn 1, and was unable to finish his run, while Ed Carpenter didn’t get to make a qualifying attempt as his car was a few minutes too late into technical inspection following an accident in practice earlier in the morning.

Beyond the top three, Tony Kanaan and Will Power completed the top five, Gabby Chaves impressed mightily in eighth for Harding Racing and both Dale Coyne Racing cars outqualified championship leader Josef Newgarden, who fought understeer and only lines up 14th.

Results are below.

Castroneves OK after heavy crash in Pocono qualifying (VIDEO)

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Helio Castroneves lost the back end of his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet rolling into Turn 1 during qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN), in a big accident that will hurt his weekend hopes and force the Team Penske crew to make significant repairs.

Castroneves looped around and hit the Turn 1 wall with his nose and left side of the car, with the car then tilting up on its side before coming back down to the ground.

The Brazilian got out of the car under his own power without assistance from the Holmatro Safety Team before heading to the infield medical center. He has been checked, cleared and released.

Castroneves told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis: “Good news the hair is still good. Unfortunate for the car. We didn’t have a chance to do qualifying (in practice). I was a bit slow, so the car pushed a bit, it might have been a bit too aggressive. It caught me in Turn 1, and came around, unfortunately spun out on me. Hopefully it’s not a snowball. Now that practice is tonight before the race.”

Castroneves enters Sunday’s race second in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship standings, seven points behind teammate and points leader Josef Newgarden (423-416).

Porsche: Formula E more than a marketing tool, ‘no passing fad’

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Porsche executive board member Michael Steiner is confident that Formula E will be more than just a “passing fad” or a tool for good marketing as the German marque begins to prepare for its entry to the series in 2019.

Porsche rocked the racing world last month by announcing it would be closing its LMP1 program at the end of this year, shifting its focus to Formula E where it will race from season six onwards.

The move sees Porsche follow in the footsteps of many more manufacturers, with Audi, Jaguar, Mercedes, Renault and BMW among those who will also be racing in season six.

Porsche had previously dismissed Formula E as not being of enough technical interest in its current state, but Steiner is confident of its future direction.

“The series is developing in an interesting direction,” Steiner said. Think, for example, of the rear axle with the electric motor, which manufacturers are able to design themselves within the regulations.

“Or take the inverter and the battery management, where there will also be more freedom. In the relatively short term, it is expected that a better battery will be used in Formula E, which will eliminate vehicle changes during the race.

“There are also planned increases in drive performance. And brake-by-wire is coming, along with other things. We have seen the roadmap on the technical side. The regulations will start to open up and the planned developments are very interesting.”

Steiner said Porsche is expecting Formula E to become a strong technical formula, adding: “We would not make such a wide-ranging strategic change for an event that only had marketing potential.

“If Formula E were just a short-term trend or a passing fad, we would certainly not become involved.”

Leah Pritchett has quickest run in NHRA history at 3.640 seconds

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BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) Leah Pritchett had the quickest run in NHRA history with 3.640-second pass at 330.63 mph Friday night at Brainerd International Speedway in Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying.

She broke her own Top Fuel record of 3.658 set in Arizona in February.

“We’ve looked forward to this night session for a long time,” Pritchett said. “Knowing that Brainerd, this track, this surface, the conditions and what NHRA is able to do to it, lays down the ground work for us to pull out the most power possible. That’s what this team did. They have been working tirelessly at finding small amounts of power here, there and everywhere and to be able to put it on the track tonight was incredible.”

Robert Hight broke the Funny Car time record with a 3.793 at 338.00 in a Chevrolet Camaro SS, the first run in the 3.7s in Funny Car history. He set the speed record of 339.87 last month at Sonoma Raceway.

“I could tell it was running fast and I saw the 3.79 on the scoreboard,” Hight said. “It’s just something you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it all to come together. It’s not that easy. This is a big milestone. To be part of a milestone as a driver, this was big for me.”

Tanner Gray topped the Pro Stock field, and Hector Arana Jr. was the fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gray had a 6.607 at 208.617 in a Chevrolet Camaro, and Arana had a 6.879 at 194.24 on a Buell.