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Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Long Beach Saturday

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – A few extra news and notes beyond qualifying and the no Ganassi/Penske Firestone Fast Six from Saturday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series (here’s Friday’s):

  • Career-best qualifying for Newgarden: Here’s a weird one: Josef Newgarden has his best career qualifying effort, but not his best career start, with fourth in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda on Saturday. He started second in 2012 after the rash of engine changes for Chevrolet-powered teams; that year, he qualified seventh on merit. As it was, the Tennessee native said there wasn’t a huge difference between Firestone’s primary blacks and alternate red tires. “Oh, man, it was so close. It was just so close between everyone. You know what was weird was that there wasn’t a big jump from Blacks to Reds today. We saw a similar thing in St. Pete. Just wasn’t a big jump. We ran a 78.1 this morning, and feeling really good about it. I think we’ve had an incredibly fast car from the git go here. We just didn’t go quicker in qualifying, and no one really did,” he said.
  • More Hawk awesomeness: Jack Hawksworth qualified fifth for his second start in the No. 98 Charter/Castrol Edge Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport. And the Bradford, UK native still said he left more on the table. “(We) had a couple of really clean, clean laps in session 1 and session 2. Then session 3 the car was really good again, which is good. I probably didn’t get quite as much out of it as I did coming off of turn 1 on the final lap, but I mean, the car was really good,” said the continuously impressive rookie.
  • Servia P12, Rahal P23: The quotes from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing pair tell the story: Servia first: “Not that you should be happy starting 12th but considering where we were before qualifying and the gains I think we can still make on the car, I’m happy. With as competitive as the field is, going from one round to the second round is a very big achievement.” Then Rahal: “It was a struggle today. We tried to make more changes to get the balance in the car better and then tried some bigger ones for qualifying. We are just struggling with overall grip. Oriol had a big grip gain on alternate tires and I didn’t feel it.”
  • An all-star Row 8: The most recent Long Beach winner, Takuma Sato, starts next to the oldest active Long Beach winner (1999) Juan Pablo Montoya on the eighth row of the grid. Watch this space for the standing start on Sunday as two of the most exciting drivers work through the field.
  • Another big crowd: Like Friday, I’ll attest the on-the-ground perspective is that this place feels jam packed. This is an impressive turnout given the event’s future being part of the news in recent weeks. Long Beach is the preeminent IndyCar street course race weekend, and it is fully living up to its stature thus far.

You can see Sunday’s race at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

Here’s the full qualifying results.

Haas confirms F1 pre-season testing running order

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Haas F1 Team logos during the press conference for their driver announcement on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
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Haas Formula 1 Team has confirmed its running order for the upcoming pre-season test sessions in Barcelona, Spain.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ new F1 team will grace the grid in 2016 after two years of preparation, with the covers being taken off its car on the morning of the first test on February 22 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Romain Grosjean will be the first driver to head out on-track in a Haas F1 car, completing all of the running on February 22.

Teammate Esteban Gutierrez will then get his first taste of the car the following day, with the two drivers then alternating duties for the final two days of the opening test.

Gutierrez will enjoy both of the first two days of running at the second test (March 1-2) before handing back over to Grosjean for days three and four in Barcelona.

“The first thing for the test is to get the car to run and to work well from there. Hopefully, we can get a lot of mileage,” Grosjean said.

“This is a new team, so we need to get everyone to work together, all the engineers, mechanics and the drivers. We need to get as much data and knowledge as we can.

“It’s important to get the reliability sorted as early as possible because we don’t get much testing and we’re going straight to Melbourne.”

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for first Barcelona test (February 22-25)

Monday February 22: Grosjean
Tuesday February 23: Gutiérrez
Wednesday February 24: Grosjean
Thursday February 25: Gutiérrez

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for second Barcelona test (March 1-4)

Tuesday March 1: Gutiérrez
Wednesday March 2: Gutiérrez
Thursday March 3: Grosjean
Friday March 4: Grosjean

Romain Grosjean pleased with initial Haas simulator feedback

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Romain Grosjean of France speaks during a press conference as Haas F1 Team announces Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean felt pleased with his first simulator run in the new Haas Formula 1 car ahead of its on-track debut in Barcelona on February 22.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas will take his F1 operation onto the grid this season after two years of preparation, with Grosjean joining ex-Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez at the team for its maiden campaign.

Ahead of the car’s first on-track run at the beginning of pre-season testing in Spain later this month, Grosjean has completed some laps in it using a simulator, and reported that the initial feedback was positive.

“The impressions were quite good, even if in the beginning it was necessary to resolve a lot of small technical problems such as turbo lag, the energy recovered under braking, etc,” Grosjean told L’Equipe.

“The morning was spent doing this. But once everything was settled we had the opportunity to run extensively in the afternoon.

“I think the car’s baseline appears to be good. We now know the simulator corresponds to the windtunnel, but the differences with what we find in reality are sometimes huge – at Lotus for example, the car changed dramatically between track and simulator.”

Haas will lift the covers off its first F1 car on Monday 22 February ahead of the initial on-track running later that day.

Valentino Rossi may extend Yamaha MotoGP contract until 2018

VALENCIA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 07:  Valentino Rossi of Italy and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rounds the bend during the qualifying practice during the MotoGP of Valencia - Qualifying at Ricardo Tormo Circuit on November 7, 2015 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Valentino Rossi may extend his contract with Yamaha in MotoGP until the end of 2018 depending on how he fares in the opening stint of the coming season.

Rossi has won a motorcycle world championship on nine occasions, and came within just four points of a 10th title in 2015 when he narrowly lost out to teammate Jorge Lorenzo at the final race of the year.

Rossi, 36, heads into the final year of his Yamaha contract in 2016, and confirmed to Sky Sports Italia that he would be seeking an extension until the end of 2018 depending on how the beginning of this season goes.

“At the end of 2016 my contract will expire, so I will have to decide whether to continue for another two seasons or not,” Rossi said.

“If I continue, it will be for two seasons as all the contracts are for two years.

“It will be like 2014 when I said I will look at it after the first few races. You have to look at the first five or six races then start thinking.”

Rossi had considered walking away from MotoGP at the end of 2014 after a quiet return to Yamaha the previous year, only for his early-season form to convince him to sign a two-year extension.

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”