Sonoma Raceway gives fans a chance to attend NASCAR drivers’ meeting

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Even though it’s nothing more than a procedural meeting to go over rules, boundaries, etc., driver meetings have long been magnets for fans wanting to learn about what goes on in them.

Well, if you buy a ticket to the upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 22, “for the first time ever in Sonoma … select fans will granted access to the NASCAR drivers’ meeting” (that’s how the track is putting it).

It’s a rare opportunity for fans – the track isn’t saying how many fans will take part in the meeting – to get up close and personal with drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and NASCAR officials as they spell out the lay of the land, so to speak, for that day’s race on the twisting Sonoma road course.

The only caveat is tickets must be purchased prior to May 31 for fans to gain eligibility.

To accommodate the number of fans who will attend the meeting, it’s usual venue within the Sprint Cup garage area will be shifted to the track’s infield – inside the hairpin at Turn 11.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our guests to go behind the curtain on race day and be part of the action,” said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “We are grateful to NASCAR for arranging this special access to Sonoma’s race fans.”

More information will be posted to the track’s website in the coming days and weeks leading up to the race.

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Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.