2013 winners Pagenaud, Conway 1-2 in Detroit second practice

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They switched liveries (Simon Pagenaud, first) and teams/manufacturers (Mike Conway, second), but the two winners of the 2013 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans were back at the top for Friday’s second practice for Round 6 of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series.

Pagenaud, now in the orange Oculus colors instead of the blue-and-white Charter scheme for the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, clocked in at 1:17.6502 around the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park.

Both Pagenaud and Conway, who set his best time of 1:17.7149, liked having a loose car throughout the circuit as the bumpy track plays to the advantage of those who like a tail-happy car.

“Going from tarmac to concrete, the car just slides,” Pagenaud said. “If you don’t let it slide, if you don’t trust it, you can’t produce lap times.

“I think that’s what he does really well,” he added, joking about Conway. “He seems really good at running the car really, really loose on entry. That’s what I heard, actually.”

Conway, who won race one last year in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and is now in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, described what you need to do to handle this circuit.

“You’ve got to keep your wits about you,” he said. “It’s all part and parcel of the circuit, the way the bumps are. You can get your car set afterwards. That’s the biggest thing with the dampers, getting the thing to catch afterwards. A lot of corners, you’re going in, the car is very neutral on entry, then you catch the bumps. You got to make sure you’re going to make the corner, then get out.

“Even on a quick lap around here, you seem to have quite a few slides,” he added. “Most circuits don’t seem to get as much as that. But it’s fun though.”

Rest of the top five was Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR led practice one but stopped on track to end session two.

Qualifying takes place at 8:35 a.m. Saturday morning, in standard Firestone Fast Six format.

Here’s your times.

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(Updated) NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations immediately, cancels NHRA Summernationals

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

UPDATE: Hatcher reached out again to NBC Sports later Wednesday afternoon with an addendum that could be promising for race fans in other markets: “Upon hearing the news about the Englishtown track, we’ve received a significant level of interest from other track operators about hosting a national event in 2018.  We’re not sure if this is possible for 2018, but we’re definitely looking into it, if not for 2018, then perhaps for 2019.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”