Photo courtesy of IMSA

Ganassi completes Road America IndyCar, IMSA sweep

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Chip Ganassi Racing has managed success across most of its teams in the 2017 season, regardless of which series it competes in.

Today the team now completed a sweep of the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races at Road America, following its win in the GT Le Mans class in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.

Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller converted Mueller’s pole position into the No. 66 Ford GT’s second win of the season (Rolex 24 at Daytona). And after Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race here a little over a month ago, it means Ganassi has now conquered the track with both its teams this year.

They’ll have a chance to go for a three-peat later this month in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, when Justin Marks drives the No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet here. Marks won last year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Xfinity and will race for the team there next week.

Additionally, Ford is the sixth different manufacturer in GTLM to win in as many years at Road America. Ford follows Corvette who won last year, then Porsche in 2015, Risi Ferrari in 2014, the SRT Viper in 2013 and BMW in 2012.

Hand had the opportunity to finish today’s race, with Mueller having started from pole. That left Mueller in a position of watching Hand bring the car home, unlike where Hand was at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona this year.

Hand reflected on the final hour, needing to hold off Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, for the victory.

“I love racing. That’s what I show up for. If people on TV and here didn’t enjoy that race, they probably don’t like racing,” Hand said.

“This team is historically good here. Dirk threw down in the Kink – we’ll call it ‘#SoFlat’ – so it was a big lap and that started it all off. Managing this race from the front is what you need to do. There were a bunch of good teams and cars. You don’t want to get caught out.

“After a few bad races, coming to the championship, this is what we needed.”

Neither the No. 3 Corvette C7.R nor No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM had a banner day – the top two cars in points finished fourth and sixth – so it gives the Ganassi No. 66 car a great points day.

The sister No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe finished third, for its fourth podium of the season – all of which have been achieved in the last six races. This also marks the team’s first double podium finish of the season, coming after a front row lockout in qualifying.

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.