Canandaigua Motorsports Park gets back to racing, remembers Kevin Ward Jr.

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One week after the fatal sprint car crash that involved Tony Stewart and left Kevin Ward Jr. dead, Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park resumed racing on Saturday night.

Many in attendance Saturday at CMP wore orange, one of the primary colors of Ward’s No. 13 sprint car. Persistent showers cut the racing schedule short, but several tributes to Ward were still made.

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s report, drivers and crew members bearing orange glow-sticks formed a horseshoe. Additionally, a No. 13 sign was unveiled near CMP’s Turn 2.

After cancelling Wednesday’s schedule, CMP announced that they would go back racing on Saturday after track promoter Jeremie Corcoran consulted with Ward’s family.

That gesture won the respect of Webster, New York resident Brandon Lewis, who told the D&C that while he didn’t know Ward personally, he wanted to go to CMP and pay his respects.

“Not a lot of promoters and owners get a hold of the (victim’s) family, talk to the staff about re-opening,” Lewis said to the paper. “The guy in charge talked to his own family (for guidance).

“That tells you that they respect the situation and not all about the money. That’s big for me.”

Last Saturday at CMP, Ward was struck by Stewart’s car after Ward walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the latter driver following an on-track incident. Ward was later pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

The local community said goodbye to Ward on Thursday in a funeral service that took place at the same high school he graduated from just a couple of years ago.

As for the investigation into the crash, it remains ongoing as the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department continues to gather all information regarding the tragedy.

Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is not competing in today’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

For this race, Cup veteran and NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton will drive Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

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.