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Coyne’s pair advances to Q2 for first time in two years at Toronto

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TORONTO – When you’re an admitted stat nerd and have once been called “a warehouse of useless information” by a PR colleague – I think it’s a compliment, or at least I’m telling myself it is – you live for moments like what Dale Coyne Racing’s pair of drivers delivered Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (2:30 p.m. ET, CNBC).

After Conor Daly and Luca Filippi were third and fifth in their group (Q1, Group 1), and thus both of them had advanced into Q2, I figured it’d had been a while since both Coyne Hondas had done so.

Thanks to my trusty Excel spreadsheet database, my suspicions were proven correct – the last time this happened was in the pre-aero kit era in the Verizon IndyCar Series when the late, great Justin Wilson and then-teammate Carlos Huertas, better known as “Grumpy Cat,” qualified eighth and 10th at Mid-Ohio… in 2014.

In fact, last year the Coyne team only made it out of Q1 once all season – when Tristan Vautier qualified 11th at Detroit, race one.

This year it’s become a somewhat more regular occurrence with Filippi starting 12th twice, then Daly adding the team’s to-date best qualifying run of ninth at Road America.

Daly in Q2 then ended seventh in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, thus proving the team had made significant strides since Friday’s practice, while Filippi was 11th in the No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda. The Italian was not happy with himself for his performance and Daly, the American who’s punched above his weight more often than not this year, was perhaps happy to be in a position where he’d only just come up short of his first Firestone Fast Six appearance.

“It’s great to start seventh tomorrow! It’s our best starting position of the year. It feels great to be fighting for that top six and fighting right at the front of the Honda pack,” Daly said.

“It’s a little painful, and it a bit of shame, to be knocked out of the Firestone Fast Six by Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) but because it’s him it’s fine, he’s the hometown hero. I’m just happy with the progress that we’ve made. We keep improving from race to race and that’s what we have to keep doing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Filippi added, “It’s a good team result but I’m not happy for myself because I could have done much better and possibly been more or less where Conor (Daly) is but we caught a train of traffic that came out in front of me and with these tires you can’t afford too many laps on those. That said, the potential is good so we can do well and better in the race. We just have to watch out for the start tomorrow and from there we can work our way up and have a strong race.”

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”