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Red Bull GRC: Post-summer break stretch kicks off in Atlantic City

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After a little more than a month break since its last race in Indianapolis, Red Bull Global Rallycross is back in action this weekend with a doubleheader at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J.

There’s just five races remaining this season, with Atlantic City and Seattle hosting doubleheader weekends before the season finale in Los Angeles in October. The two Atlantic City Supercars finals air Saturday at 5 p.m. ET and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, both on NBC, while GRC Lites coverage airs Wednesday, August 23, at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

In Supercars, the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross pair of Tanner Foust and Scott Speed continue their duel for the title in the pair of Volkswagen Beetle GRCs. Foust leads Speed, 488-462, heading into the doubleheader weekend. Foust last won race two in Ottawa while Speed took the series’ most recent win in Indianapolis, at the Andretti team’s home base. Speed also won in Atlantic City last year.

Steve Arpin in his Loenbro Motorsports Ford Fiesta ST remains the only other driver in really close title contention, in third place with 455 points. Arpin was on the podium in Atlantic City last year, ending third, and has won twice this weekend.

The Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE contingent fell back in Indianapolis; Mitchell DeJong’s impressive recent string ended with a 10th place classification there and he’s now fourth in points, some 103 points back of Foust.

Similarly, the pair of Subaru Rally Team USA drivers Chris Atkinson and Patrik Sandell look for any sort of result, while RLL Racing’s Austin Dyne has been fifth or sixth in five of the last six races, and will seek to continue his decent run. Bryan Herta Rallysport rookie Cabot Bigham remains in search of his maiden top-five finish in Supercars.

In GRC Lites, Olsbergs MSE X Forces rookie Cyril Raymond enters with a sizable points lead, 475-399, over DirtFish’s Conner Martell with two of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s trio of drivers, Christian Brooks and Travis PeCoy, third and fourth.

Of note here, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun resume for CORE autosport with IMSA off this weekend – they missed Indianapolis as they were on IMSA duty – and 2016 CORE driver Scott Anderson makes his series return in another OMSE X Forces entry.

The 0.902 circuit is one of Red Bull GRC’s longer circuits. You can see a course layout 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.