ARCA: Justin Allison continues family tradition, wins at Pocono

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The next generation of stock car racing’s fabled Alabama Gang has now officially arrived.

Justin Allison, grandson of 10-time Sprint Cup race winner Donnie Allison, captured his first checkered flag in the ARCA Racing Series today in the ModSpace 125 at Pocono Raceway.

With the victory, Allison is now the third member of his prestigious family to win in the ARCA series. The late Davey Allison won eight times in the series, while 1983 Sprint Cup champion Bobby Allison earned a single win.

“I don’t even have words, man,” a stunned Justin told Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “I think we had a good car – we were struggling a little bit with being tight. But I can’t thank these guys enough. Without them, it wouldn’t be possible…This is awesome.”

Allison inherited the lead late in the 50-lap event, but still had to fend off the pursuit of Will Kimmel on the final lap.

Kimmel was on the same fuel strategy as Allison, rising up to second after leaders Brendan Poole and Justin Boston pitted under green before Lap 40 (ARCA rules require all cars to pit at least once before the race reaches 10 laps to go).

Tom Hessert also benefited from the strategy and moved up to third, which is where he’d finish ahead of Poole and Boston in fourth and fifth.

The call was made to bring Allison to the pits after a couple of cautions marred the early going. Allison may have been surprised by it, but he wasn’t about to argue with the result.

“That was definitely the right call,” Allison said. “We didn’t talk about it or plan to pit early, but all of a sudden, when the caution came out, they were like ‘Pit now, pit now.’

“I’m happy with the way things worked out.”

The victory drew congratulations from many in the stock car community, including Davey’s widow, Liz Allison, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who worked for the Allisons while growing up.

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.