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City Council unanimously votes to keep IndyCar in Long Beach

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The Verizon IndyCar Series will continue in Long Beach for the foreseeable future, following a vote announced late Tuesday night by the Long Beach City Council to re-up with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach in a new long-term agreement.

The unanimous vote by the City Council brings to an end the speculation that Formula 1 could make a return, following efforts and media led by the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race founder Chris Pook.

Instead, the vote ensures IndyCar will continue on the streets for several years in a new agreement reached. Most IndyCar races’ current contracts were up in 2018 so for IndyCar to solidify its future at its second-longest tenured race on the calendar, and its marquee street course event of the year, is good news for all parties.

This vote follows the results of a $150,000 study done by a consulting firm, which called the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach the “most qualified” firm to run the race on the streets.

Jim Michaelian, President & CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, issued the following statement:

“We are delighted in the action of the Long Beach City Council this evening in voting unanimously to authorize City management to enter into a new long-term agreement with the Grand Prix Association starting in 2019. That means there will be a continuation of the Verizon IndyCar Series as well as all of the accompanying events that have become such an attractive part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend for many years to come. We also want to thank the City staff for the meticulous way in which they evaluated the various options that were submitted. The Grand Prix Association has been an integral part of the fabric of the Long Beach community for 43 years and we look forward to continuing that relationship in the future. The 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will take place on April 13-15, 2018.”

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.