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Joe Garone joins Pikes Peak International Raceway as COO

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Former Furniture Row Racing president and general manager Joe Garone has been hired as the chief operating officer at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colorado.

Garone worked for Barney Visser’s NASCAR Cup team for more than a decade until the Denver-based No. 78 shut down after the 2018 season. Last year, Garone was the president of Spire Motorsports’s No. 77 team, which won a rain-shortened race at Daytona International Speedway with Justin Haley.

According to a release from the track, Garone “will continue his relationship with Spire Sports & Entertainment to obtain sponsorship for both Spire and PPIR events and programs.” The Denver native will be focused on expanding PPIR’s business “with music and motorsports-style festivals.”

Garone also will bring the Falci Adaptive Motorsports to a new year-round home at the track. The program, which helps paraplegic, quadriplegic and disabled individuals drive Cup cars without hands and feet, had received race cars from Visser and Furniture Row Racing.

“I’m beyond excited to return to Colorado and play a key role in enhancing the unique events already taking place at Pikes Peak International Raceway,” Garone said in a release. “Our goal is to build a strong foundation that will allow us to entice even larger talent to provide world-class entertainment for our audiences.”

Garone is the second key member of Furniture Row Racing’s 2017 championship team to make a recent move. In December, Cole Pearn, the crew chief for Martin Truex Jr., announced he was leaving NASCAR and his job at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Pikes Peak International Raceway, which includes a 1-mile oval, a 1.3-mile road course, a one-eighth of a mile drag strip and meeting space, once was the site of NASCAR and IndyCar races. The facility currently plays host to festivals, concerts and performance driving programs.

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.