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Gasly, Hartley retained by Toro Rosso for 2018

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From the “not a surprise” department, Scuderia Toro Rosso has confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley will stay on for a full season in the 2018 Formula 1 campaign.

Both the young Frenchman and New Zealander have enjoyed surprise Grand Prix call-ups this season in the wake of a rapid in-season driver movement, Carlos Sainz Jr. going on to Renault after strong performances and Daniil Kvyat getting dropped – twice – after poor performance.

The two were then front-runners for 2018 based on the roundabout series of events that brought them there and have shown decent form in their handful of starts this season.

“We’re really happy to have Pierre and Brendon confirmed so early by Red Bull as our drivers for 2018”, said Team Principal, Franz Tost. “During this last part of the year they’ve shown that they’re ready for Formula 1, getting to grips with the car quickly, showing good performances and always demonstrating to be prepared for the challenge. We have been truly impressed by both their steep learning curves.

“As we know, F1 is something that not all drivers can adapt to this fast! Therefore, we’re looking forward to having a full year with them; one where we can hopefully provide them with a good package which, combined with driver consistency, can surely put them in the best possible situation to deliver. I’m sure they will keep pushing hard and fight for strong results, together with the team.”

Gasly raced this year in Super Formula before his debut made in the Malaysian Grand Prix, but missed the United States Grand Prix to race for the Super Formula title in Suzuka. Owing to abysmal weather conditions, that never happened, and the abnormal circumstances opened the door for Hartley – who looked poised to head to IndyCar with Chip Ganassi Racing – to get extracted and brought back to the junior team Red Bull has run in F1 since 2006. Hartley helps sign off Porsche’s LMP1 program in Bahrain this weekend.

Both drivers have been blighted by recent unreliability with engine partner Renault in their quest to stay ahead of Renault for sixth in the Constructor’s Championship, neither having scored a point since making their debuts.

Alas, with a move to Honda and their first full F1 seasons ahead of them next year, hopes will be high for improved results and sustained strong performances in F1’s midfield.

“I’m super happy to race for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2018, for my first proper season in Formula 1. I would like to thank all the people involved, who helped me get here: Red Bull, Toro Rosso, my family and all the ones who have supported me in the lower series. I’m really excited and super motivated to give it my all in Abu Dhabi and the whole of next year! I just can’t wait!” Gasly said.

Hartley added, “Really amazing to be confirmed as a Formula 1 driver for next year with Toro Rosso – It’s very satisfying to have converted an opportunity that came as a surprise into a 2018 F1 drive, I couldn’t be happier! I’d like to thank Red Bull and Toro Rosso for believing in me and giving me this second chance – dreams can come true. I’m now going to carry on working harder than ever in order to finish this busy end of season on a high and start the new year as strong as possible… Bring it!”

The confirmations at Toro Rosso leave only Sauber, with both seats, and Williams’ second seat yet to be announced for 2018.

Todd LeDuc advances two positions in Monster Jam Power Rankings

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Neil Elliott held onto the top spot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings, but he has a new driver sniffing his exhaust as Todd Leduc advanced two positions to second this week.

The Stadium Series Green continues to hold the advantage in the Power Rankings with Elliott topping the chart, Morgan Kane in fourth, and Ryan Anderson eighth, but there is an equitable distribution among the other series throughout the field.

Notably, Leduc and his Monster Energy truck in the Stadium Series Red closed the gap with a 38-point overall victory at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Leduc achieved his win through consistency, pocketing the overall without winning a single individual event. Leduc’s best session was a second-place finish to Mike Vaters II in Overkill Evolution by .001 points.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Elliott rambled on. Elliott won his sixth skills challenge in seven contests so far. That contributed to his 35 points for the event at PETCO Park in San Diego and allowed him to hold onto the No. 1 slot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

Colton Eichelberger also held station. Third last week, he entered the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on a mission in the Triple Threat Series Central. He topped the event points in all four events with timed race wins in each session, ATV race wins in three of the four, three wins in the speedster obstacle course, two freestyle wins and one win in the donut competitions.

MORE: Ryan Anderson and the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle run

Morgan Kane and Grave Digger had a rough night. He was ousted from the racing event in Round 2 by Max-D and Elliott. He failed to win either of the other two competitions of the night and ended with 29 points, which was a distant third to Ryan Anderson’s Son-Uva Digger (37) and Max-D (35).

Brandon Vinson moved up to the fifth position with three wins in the Triple Threat Series West. During the weekend he earned seven session wins, including a sweep of the speedster obstacle course and two victories in the two-wheel skills challenge.

Tom Meents debuted on the Monster Jam Power Rankings in 10th by winning the overall in back to back nights of the Stadium Series Yellow. The Saturday show can be seen Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on NBCSN (click here for streaming). The highlight of Meents’ weekend were race wins on Saturday and Sunday, defeating Coty Saucier in a Monster Energy truck on Night 1 and Eric Swanson in Obsessed on Night 2.

Power Rankings

1. Neil Elliott–same
2. Todd LeDuc–up 2
3. Colton Eichelberger-same
4. Morgan Kane–down 2
5. Brandon Vinson–up 1
6. Tyler Menninga–up 1
7. Coty Saucier–down 2
8. Ryan Anderson–same
9. Linsey Read–up 1
10. Tom Meents-new for 2020

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on Eastern time on NBCSN)

Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Denver: April 25 (Saturday); 6:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.