Looking back on IndyCar’s 2014 street races before 2 in Toronto

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It’s barely mid-July, but the condensed nature of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule means we’re now starting to get into the first “lasts” of the year.

Next weekend, that’s the Honda Indy 2 in Toronto from the streets of Exhibition Place. The doubleheader wraps the eight-race street race schedule for the year.

Here’s a recap of the year on the streets thus far:

ST. PETERSBURG: Will Power opens the year on top after a pass of polesitter Takuma Sato, but causes minor stir with restart pace.

  • Podium: Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves
  • Firestone Fast Six: Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti
  • Other details: 1.9475-second margin of victory, 2 cautions/10 laps, 20 finishers (18 on lead lap), 93.572 average speed

LONG BEACH: Mike Conway comes from 17th to score surprise win for Ed Carpenter Racing, aided in part by a multiple-car pileup triggered when Ryan Hunter-Reay contacts Josef Newgarden going for the lead at Turn 4.

  • Podium: Mike Conway, Power, Carlos Munoz
  • Firestone Fast Six: Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, Josef Newgarden, Jack Hawksworth, Simon Pagenaud
  • Other details: 0.9005 MOV, 4 FCY/18L, 16 finishers (12 lead lap), 82.363 avg. speed

DETROIT 1: Some slight contact between rivals Will Power and Simon Pagenaud early knocks the Frenchman out; the Australian puts on an otherwise clinical drive and holds off late pressure from Graham Rahal.

  • Podium: Power, Graham Rahal, Kanaan
  • Firestone Fast Six: Castroneves, Hinchcliffe, Hawksworth, Conway, Ryan Briscoe, Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Other details: 0.3308 MOV, 4 FCY/17L, 19 finishers (15 lead lap), 90.138 avg. speed

DETROIT 2: Simpler race sees Helio Castroneves’ weekend pace rewarded in a Penske 1-2 on the boss’ – and Chevrolet’s – home turf.

  • Podium: Castroneves, Power, Charlie Kimball
  • Top six qualifiers: Sato, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Conway, Briscoe, Munoz
  • Other details: 1.6836 MOV, 4 FCY/13L, 18 finishers (16 lead lap), 93.211 avg. speed

HOUSTON 1: Bizarre race starts wet, triggers penalty for Marco Andretti failing to heed race control call to pit, features contact between Mikhail Aleshin and Sato which leads to a cursing A.J. Foyt, yields varying strategies, sees Graham Rahal punt Tony Kanaan before the last restart was due to happen and Carlos Huertas score the win. Huertas’ fuel tank later found to be 0.1 of a gallon too big, but only minor fine issued.

  • Podium: Carlos Huertas, Montoya, Munoz
  • Firestone Fast Six: Pagenaud, Castroneves, Dixon, Luca Filippi, Hinchcliffe, Sato
  • Other details: Race ended under caution (no MOV), 6 FCY/24L, 16 finishers (13 lead lap), 70.389 avg. speed

HOUSTON 2: Hotter day sees a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 1-2 led by Simon Pagenaud, with Jack Hawksworth scoring his first podium after holding off Juan Pablo Montoya and passing an ailing Will Power, who’d come from 18th to third, late in the race.

  • Podium: Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin, Hawksworth
  • Top six qualifiers: Castroneves, Aleshin, Pagenaud, Rahal, Bourdais, Justin Wilson
  • Other details: 7.2622 MOV, 5 FCY/21L, 18 finishers (11 lead lap), 78.981 avg. speed

So in six races, here’s what we’ve had from the streets:

  • Five different winners (Power 2, Castroneves, Huertas, Pagenaud 1 win apiece)
  • Four different Verizon P1 Award winners, none named Will Power (Sato 2, Castroneves 2, Hunter-Reay 1, Pagenaud 1)
  • 13 different podium finishers of 18 possible podium positions (Power 4, Castroneves 2, Munoz 2, Hunter-Reay, Conway, Rahal, Kanaan, Kimball, Huertas, Montoya, Pagenaud, Aleshin, Hawksworth all 1)
  • 20 different drivers who’ve qualified in the top six (Hinchcliffe 4, Castroneves 4, Sato 3, Pagenaud 3, Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Bourdais, Hawksworth, Conway, Briscoe all 2, Kanaan, Power, Andretti, Newgarden, Montoya, Munoz, Filippi, Aleshin, Rahal, Wilson all 1). Not all those 20 have made a Firestone Fast Six, as some have made the top six in the second qualifying session of a doubleheader weekend, set by groups.
  • 2.02 average margin of victory, average 4 cautions/17 laps
  • A still respectable 16 to 20 finishers of 22 or 23 starters in every race

All told, through six races, it’s fair to say the Verizon IndyCar Series on street courses, 2014, is completely unpredictable. You’re good picking a few random numbers out of a hat heading into a weekend.

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.