Dave Blaney-driven No. 77 Ford to take break from Sprint Cup for ‘retooling,’ hopes to return by Indy

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The first-year Ford-powered Sprint Cup team owned by Randy Humphrey will be doing some “retooling” and taking a temporary break from the series, according to a report Wednesday by NASCAR.com.

Saturday night’s race at Kentucky will be the second event the fledgling team has missed, also skipping this past Sunday’s race at Sonoma.

However, Humphrey was adamant in a phone interview with NASCAR.com that he is not shutting down his team.

“We’re retooling things,” Humphrey told NASCAR.com. “We’re just trying to find the right people. … We have not shut down.”

Veteran driver Dave Blaney has been behind the wheel of the Roush-Yates powered No. 77 Ford for the entire season, with veteran Peter Sospenzo as the team’s crew chief.

Humphrey also told NASCAR.com that he’s not scaling back due to funding, but rather because the team simply hasn’t been as competitive as he hoped in its first year of operation.

When will the team return to the racetrack?

Most likely the Crown Royal Presents the John Walding 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27.

“You will not see us at Daytona (next weekend), but I do suspect you will be seeing us at Indy (going) forward, hopefully,” Humphrey said. “That’s our plan.

“We have some meetings that are going on, and we’re just interviewing some people. We had to retool some people and that kind of thing to get ourselves in order here.”

Of the season’s first 15 races (not including this past Sunday’s event at Sonoma), the team has qualified for just four races, finishing 41st at Texas, 43rd at Darlington, 33rd and Dover and 43rd at Pocono.

As a result, the team’s average start has been 39th and its average finish 40th.

In addition, it has failed to qualify at Phoenix, Las Vegas, Bristol, Fontana, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega, Kansas and Charlotte.

It has also withdrawn from the season-opening Daytona 500 and its last appearance, two weeks ago at Michigan.

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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.