Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

Conor Daly joins Ed Carpenter Racing for partial 2020 season

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After racing on a part-time basis for five different teams in the last two years, Conor Daly has finally found a new home at Ed Carpenter Racing.

Daly will compete for ECR in 13 of the 17 NTT IndyCar Series events next season, driving the No. 20 Chevrolet on the road and street courses, as well as completing the team’s three-car Indianapolis 500 effort.

“As an Indiana kid, it just feels right to be getting a chance with Ed Carpenter Racing,” Daly said. “This team has done such an incredible job over the years and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ed and this group. I look forward to entering a season feeling fully prepared with simulator time and testing for the first time in several years.”

Daly, who has been out of a full-time IndyCar ride since being released from A.J. Foyt Racing following the 2017 season, will once again bring sponsorship from the U.S. Air Force in 2020. The military branch first sponsored Daly in the 2018 Indy 500, and returned again this season to sponsor Daly at both Indy and Laguna Seca.

“I am so thankful for the loyalty the U.S. Air Force has demonstrated along with the faith in me to get the job done,” Daly said. “This has been an incredible relationship to see grow and get stronger as we continue to add races to our program. I couldn’t be happier to be getting one more step closer to full time Indy car competition.”

With Daly running on the road and street courses, team owner Ed Carpenter will once again pilot the No. 20 entry on the ovals. The duo will be joined by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay, who will compete full-time in the No. 21 Chevy.

“I am extremely proud and excited to welcome Conor Daly and the U.S. Air Force to Ed Carpenter Racing!” Carpenter said. “I have seen Conor grow and mature over the course of his career and am confident that his best years are yet to come.

“It is a huge honor to represent the men and women who serve in the U.S. Air Force and we hope to make them proud this season.”

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.