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Castroneves leads second practice in Detroit

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DETROIT – Helio Castroneves topped the second of two 45-minute practice sessions on Friday for this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Presented by Lear doubleheader.

The driver of the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet posted a best time of 1:15.1511 around the 2.35-mile Raceway on Belle Isle to lead the standings.

Castroneves leads the points standings after finishing second in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but is looking to snap a now three-year winless drought that dates to race two here in 2014.

Graham Rahal carried over his morning pace in the afternoon in the No. 15 SoldierStrong/TurnsForTroops.com Honda for RLL Racing at 1:15.3519 with Alexander Rossi third in the No. 98 ShopAndretti.com Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport at 1:15.4323.

Rossi had an incident at Turns 8 and 9 that ended his session early, as he lost the back end. It’ll require slight rear end repairs but he should be good to go for tomorrow’s qualifying.

Max Chilton also had a brake fire on his No. 8 Gallagher Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing but made it back out later afterwards.

Drivers ran between three and 19 laps in the session, and teams tapped into their first sets of Firestone red alternate tires.

Notes from Thursday and Friday are linked here. More on Esteban Gutierrez’s first session and IndyCar arrival is linked here.

Times are below.

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.