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Dixon drops the hammer in Watkins Glen second practice

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Four-time Watkins Glen winner Scott Dixon took a strong step towards a fifth by dominating the second practice session for this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.

Dixon, driving the No. 9 NTT Data Honda, laid down a best time of 1:22.6187 early on in the one-hour session, which held up for the rest of the way, and was set on Firestone’s black primary tire.

As Dixon’s pole time was 1:22.5259 last year, it was a highly impressive time considering both Firestone’s blacks and also red alternate tires can be used in the session. Cool conditions played into the great times, with ambient temperatures only in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range all session.

It was the second straight session a Honda led, after Graham Rahal flew to the top of the charts near the end of the morning session.

Rahal was third this session, behind top Chevrolet runner Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Power was close at 1:22.7129, with Rahal third in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at 1:22.9716.

Those three drivers were the only three in the 1:22 bracket this session.

Points leader Josef Newgarden was only 10th; Jack Harvey improved to 18th, actually ahead of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate James Hinchcliffe, by just 0.004 of a second.

The session had five extra minutes added on following a red flag for an incident for Max Chilton. The Englishman lost control of his No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda exiting the Bus Stop and tattooed the wall at Turn 5 with the right side of his car.

Helio Castroneves had a minor off exiting the Boot and brushed the guardrail, but returned without any significant damage to his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Third practice runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. ET tomorrow morning. Times are below.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.