Tony Stewart Foundation’s Team One Cure to support Indy 500 entry

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There’s always been the lingering question that once Tony Stewart retired from full-time NASCAR driving wondering whether he’d be back at the Indianapolis 500, as he raced it five times from 1996 through 2001.

Indeed he is for 2017, although not as a driver.

Stewart’s newly launched Team One Cure, part of The Tony Stewart Foundation, will have an entry in this year’s 101st running of the race, in what will be Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ No. 77 entry. SPM will have Honda aero kits and engines this season.

This confirms SPM’s third car in the race for a fifth year running; previous third drivers have been Katherine Legge (2013), Jacques Villeneuve (2014), Conor Daly (2015) and Oriol Servia (2016). This year’s driver will be revealed soon.

Team One Cure follows on from Stewart’s philanthropic work, which has been known within some racing circles but not a widespread audience.

Stewart has always been an advocate for children and animals, especially those facing serious illness. When introduced to the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center (FACC) and how it is developing cutting edge cancer treatments for people and pets, Tony was moved to action. To create awareness, enthusiasm and understanding of the FACC and their partners in comparative oncology, Team One Cure was launched.

“We learned that with the One Cure program, cancer treatment breakthroughs are happening through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with both people and pets,” Stewart said in a release. “It perfectly fits with my foundation’s missions to help children and animals. Sam Schmidt represents the very best in an injured racer overcoming adversity, plus we share the passion to win at IMS.”

Schmidt, team co-owner, added, “Very pleased to be participating in the 101st Running of the Indy 500 with such a fantastic program as Team One Cure. Tony is the most generous guy I know in motorsports, and his charitable efforts on behalf of children and animals in need is unbelievable, so this is a perfect fit. With the team at Colorado State University making such huge strides in cancer research, this will truly be a cause we can get behind. That, combined with both of our extreme desires to win this race, should make for a really competitive entry.”

No mention was made of 2016 SPM partner Will Marotti within this release, via his Marotti Racing entry which was part of SPM’s No. 77 Honda last year. The Connecticut pastor recently released a video announcing his plans to return to the 2017 Indianapolis 500, which reveals a rendering of a “God Bless America” adorned No. 77 Honda, and asking viewers to go to his website for further information.

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.