Brad Keselowski once again comes up short at Michigan

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BROOKLYN, Michigan – Tourists are supposed to “Say Yes to Michigan,” but when it comes to winning a Sprint Cup race at his home track of Michigan International Speedway, Brad Keselowski keeps saying “No.”

For the 10th time in his Cup career, the Rochester Hills native – about an hour northeast of MIS – came up short in his own backyard, finishing third in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.

“We didn’t run as well as we wanted to, but we certainly didn’t run poorly,” Keselowski said. “It was a good day, not a great day. Third is nothing to hang your hat on. We have consistency, which is good.

“Unfortunately it doesn’t mean much right now at this time of the year in the sense of points. But it does mean a lot to us in the sense of overall morale and our ability to really make a push as the fall comes for the Chase.”

Keselowski now has three top-five finishes among his 10 starts at MIS: a runner-up and, with Sunday’s showing, two third-place efforts.

“We just didn’t have the speed really all weekend to be a front runner in the sense of contending to win based on speed,” Keselowski said. “But the guys did a great job with execution. I thought we executed really well. We had a lot of good restarts, pretty decent on pit road today, solid strategy.

“(Team Penske teammate) Joey Logano told us, we were talking before the race started, we needed a good blue collar (finish) today, and that’s what today was for us (Logano finished ninth).

“We kind of trudged through it and came away with another top three effort, which is good but not great. We want the wins, especially here at Michigan. That would mean a lot. And we just need a little bit more speed to be able to get there.”

Keselowski will get another chance to break through on his home track – just like Jimmie Johnson did Sunday, finally winning there in his 25th start – on August 17 in the series’ mid-summer return visit to MIS.

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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.