Boris Said looking for return to success at Sonoma

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Always the fan favorite, bushy-haired Boris Said looks to rebound from some recent disappointing performances in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m looking forward to having a great weekend back on the track,” Said said in a Go Fas Racing team media release. “I’ve always enjoyed Sonoma and have had some solid top-10 finishes there. I’m looking forward to adding to that number on Sunday.”

Although he’s known for being a road course ace, the 51-year-old Said has run hot and cold at Sonoma. In 14 prior Cup starts there, he has one pole (2003) and five top-10s, including a career-best finish of sixth in both 2003 and 2004.

His last top-10 showing was eighth in 2010. Since then, however, he’s finished 28th in 2011, 29th in 2012 and 18th in last year’s race there.

Sunday will mark his 48th career overall Sprint Cup start. To date he has two top-five finishes (including a career-best third at Watkins Glen in 2005 and a pole and fourth-place finish in the summer 2006 race at Daytona), eight top-10 finishes and two poles.

Said will have 7-Eleven and Amerigas on the Frank Stoddard-owned Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford Fusion in Sunday’s race.

“Ever since Boris and I started together in 2006, we have had a shot to win in Sonoma,” Stoddard said. “I know with Boris in the car this weekend we will have another opportunity to compete for a win.

“We’re all looking forward to the race weekend and hopefully some great results for 7-Eleven and AmeriGas.”

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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.