Yellow numbers, other elements coming to NASCAR’s Chase grid this year

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Drivers in the 2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup will have a new set of identifiers during the Chase. See the release put out by NASCAR below:

Celebrating the accomplishments of those drivers who will contend for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, NASCAR has released several new elements to the paint schemes of race cars making the 16-driver Chase Grid.

Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup-eligible cars will have the roof number, the front splitter / front fascia and the windshield header colored yellow, as well as have a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup logo affixed to the front-quarter panel of their race car.

As part of NASCAR’s emphasis on winning races all season long, this celebratory paint scheme will be placed on a driver’s car to begin the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 14. Once a driver is eliminated after one of the Chase’s first three rounds, the paint scheme will be removed from the car. Please refer to the graphic below for a visual representation of these changes.

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These changes serve as a visible symbol of the new Chase format. In addition, the paint scheme elements will ensure that fans are able to easily identify each championship contender as NASCAR’s playoffs progress.

Announced by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France in January, the new championship format expands the Chase field to 16 drivers, up from 12 in previous years, and implements a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.

A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Chase. The number of championship drivers in contention for the championship decreases after every three Chase races,culminating with four drivers racing for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, scheduled for November 16.

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.