Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon are fastest in both Nationwide Series practices at Richmond

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Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon were the fastest drivers in Thursday’s pair of Nationwide Series practice sessions at Richmond International Raceway in preparation for Friday’s Virginia529 College Savings 250.

In the first practice, which went for an hour, Buescher (pictured) wasted little time in pacing the field, recording the fastest lap of the session (120.110 mph) on just his second practice spin around the .750-mile track.

Dillon was second-fastest in the early session at 119.846 mph, followed by NNS points leader Chase Elliott (119.798), Jeff Green (119.506) and Landon Cassill (119.179).

Also of note, Kevin Harvick, who won the NNS race at Richmond in April, struggled to find speed, managing a top run of just 116.174 mph. Harvick ran just three laps before bringing his car back into the garage for adjustments.

In the second session of the afternoon, speeds slowed down somewhat while Richard Childress Racing dominated three of the top five spots in the 76-minute effort.

Dillon moved up to the top of the speed chart with a best effort of 118.603 mph, teammate Cale Conley was third-fastest (117.678) and fellow RCR teammate Brian Scott was fifth-fastest at 117.437 mph.

Kyle Busch was second-fastest at 117.714 mph, while Chase Elliott was fourth-fastest (117.632).

Ryan Blaney was sixth-fastest (117.396), followed by Chris Buescher (117.203), Harvick (117.121), Dylan Kwasniewski (117.066) and Dakoda Armstrong (117.040).

A total of 41 cars took to the track in the second session, with Josh Reaume having the slowest effort at 111.478 mph.

Qualifying for Friday’s race will take place earlier that same day at 3:45 pm ET.

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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.