Kasey Kahne gets fired up in New Hampshire appearance

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Because of their celebrity and popularity, NASCAR drivers get to do some really cool things when they’re away from the racetrack.

But NASCAR star Kasey Kahne got to do a really hot thing Wednesday when he took a crash course – no racing pun intended – in fire fighting and rescue techniques at the New Hampshire Fire Academy in Concord, N.H.

Our good friend, Boston Globe sportswriter Mike Vega, was on hand when Kahne took part in the event to help promote the July 13 Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which will be dedicated to first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, being killed while doing their job.

Those first responders include Brentwood, N.H. police officer Stephen Arkell, who was shot and killed last week while responding to a domestic dispute (and resulting house fire and explosion) that received national attention.

Also slated to be honored at the race will be Boston Fire Dept. Lt. Joe Walsh and firefighter Mike Kennedy, who were tragically killed in a blaze on March 26.

Kahne was presented with a custom-made fire helmet emblazoned with his name and title of honorary fire marshal. He then donned regulation fire fighter’s gear and went through a number of scenarios that may have been the first time for him, but are what regular firefighters go through routinely in the course of their jobs.

Click here to read Vega’s account of Kahne’s day.

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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.