LAT Grady DGPPrac 0616 122

LAT Grady DGPPrac 0616 122Verizon IndyCar Series CEO Mark Miles met with a group of reporters at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday during the United States Grand Prix and was asked where the championship stands on introducing the custom aeroscreen it has in development.

"We think greater head protection is important," he said. "We're working on it. It won't be a Halo, it will be some form of windscreen that I guess we haven't put out for you to see yet but we're making good progress on something that I think won't really alter the look of our car. Drivers will be able to see through it, over it, so I think it's different approaches to try and address the same important issues."

Where Formula 1 has made a hard commitment to outfitting all of its entries with halo devices starting in 2018, IndyCar has gone from making hard statements regarding the implementation of its aeroscreen to softer, less committal language. Based on his answers at COTA, it would appear aeroscreens will indeed be coming to the spec Dallara DW12 chassis used by the entire IndyCar field.

"As soon as it's ready – it could be next year," he said of its introduction. "It isn't going to be in March, but it could be during the season. We've been working on it for a long time."

 31I2431Lewis Hamilton completed a clean sweep of practice for the United States Grand Prix by topping FP3 as Sebastian Vettel recovered from a poor Friday.

Having been quickest on both of Friday's practice sessions, Hamilton remained on top at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday morning and set a new lap record with a 1m34.478s.

While it has been a smooth weekend so far for the championship leader, Vettel had suffered handling problems during FP2 and Ferrari changed his chassis overnight in an attempt to rectify the issue. With the car having passed being re-scrutineered on Saturday, Vettel had a productive final hour of practice and ended up second fastest, just 0.092s adrift of Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas was third quickest – 0.2s off his teammate – ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as Mercedes and Ferrari pulled clear of the rest of the field in FP3. Raikkonen was less than 0.3s off Hamilton's time as he posted a 1m34.755s, with Max Verstappen in fifth some three-tenths of a second further back. Verstappen was more focused on race pace, however, with confirmation of a 15-place grid penalty for the Dutchman coming before the session.

 ONZ6933Felipe Massa was a somewhat surprising sixth for Williams as he ended the session less than a quarter of a second off Verstappen, with Renault pair Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz separated by just 0.042s in seventh and eighth, respectively.

Daniel Ricciardo was only ninth fastest after a tricky end to the session, running wide on his qualifying simulation when close behind Fernando Alonso.

Ricciardo's teammate Verstappen had run wide at Turn 7 early in the session as a strong wind made conditions challenging for the drivers, and that excursion was immediately followed by Romain Grosjean spinning off at the same corner. Grosjean reached the gravel trap and was unable to return to the track, with the Virtual Safety Car needed to recover the Haas.

While Grosjean's running was ended early by that mistake, Daniil Kvyat suffered misfortune when he had to limp back to the pits at the request of Toro Rosso and was unable to run again after only six laps. Kvyat had already missed FP1 as Sean Gelael drove his car, and will be on the back foot heading into qualifying.

On the other side of the Toro Rosso garage, Brendon Hartley enjoyed a strong session as he completed 26 laps – comfortably the highest mileage – and ended up 15th quickest, just behind the McLaren pair.

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 J6I7105Max Verstappen will take a 15-place grid penalty at the United States Grand Prix for a power unit change on Saturday morning.

With Renault bringing an updated power unit to Austin – designed to improve performance in qualifying – Red Bull opted to switch Verstappen's engine ahead of FP3. The change sees the 20-year-old take a new internal combustion engine (ICE) and MGU-H, both of which are the sixth of each component, resulting in a drop of 15 places.

The Dutchman has been in fine form of late, winning the Malaysia Grand Prix and then finishing a close second behind Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka two weeks ago, but he will now start from far down the order at Circuit of the Americas.

Verstappen is not alone in taking power unit penalties this weekend, with new Renault engines also going in Nico Hulkenberg's car and the Toro Rosso being driven by Brendon Hartley. Hulkenberg's total is 20 places, while debutant Hartley will take a drop of 25 places on the grid.

Stoffel Vandoorne also has a five-place grid penalty as a result of a new ICE being introduced by Honda, being described as spec 3.8 compared to the 3.7 version being used by Fernando Alonso.

FFF Heat2 JonathanKotyk 0412 640x360Constantly variable weather conditions provided an additional challenge for Team USA Scholarship drivers Jonathan Kotyk and Aaron Jeansonne during today's qualifying Heat races for the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch.

The high-quality field of 76 cars was split into three groups, each of which was granted a 20-minute qualifying session during the morning and a 15-lap race later in the day to determine the starting positions for a pair of Semi-Final races set for Sunday morning.

Kotyk, from Atlantic Beach, Fla., encountered a dry track during qualifying for the second of three Heat races and lined up 10th on the starting grid. He made up a couple of positions during the early stages, hunting for grip on a damp and gradually drying circuit, then lost one of those places before regaining it again on the final lap after Michael Eastwell spun out of the leading group.

"It was definitely pretty challenging, especially with the weather," said Kotyk. "There was sunshine in the morning and then, as soon as qualifying came, a little rain. When we went out for qualifying we had the wet setup on the car and we were planning on coming in and putting a dry setup on but unfortunately when I did come in, it rained, so I missed getting a (good) lap in. That cost us a little bit so for the race I just wanted to make sure we brought the car home and tried to push and get used to the tires, that was the biggest thing for me today."

FFF Heat3 AaronJeansonne 0497 640x427Conditions were almost diametrically opposed for Jeansonne. The track was wet for the entirety of his qualifying session for Heat Three, and his task was made all the more difficult by a pair of red-flag interruptions. Undaunted, Jeansonne, 19, from Sulphur, La., stepped up during the final couple of minutes, despite the onset of more rain, posting the fourth-fastest time among the 25 competitors and ensuring himself a position on row two ahead of many vastly more experienced campaigners.

Jeansonne lost a couple of positions at the standing start before settling into an entertaining scrap with Joshua Smith, who recently won both final rounds of the BRSCC Avon Tires British Formula Ford 1600 Championship, and regular Scottish FF1600 front-runner Sebastian Melrose. He was forced to cede a place to Melrose after five laps but seemed set for at least a sixth-place finish until being forced off the road at Graham Hill Bend while passing a lapped car. He recovered to finish 11th.

"I'd say it was a pretty up and down day," summarized Jeansonne. "The qualifying went really well and I like the wet a lot but unfortunately it dried out for the race and I figured I'd take as much of the track as I could get each lap. Then I had an unfortunate incident with a lapped car that threw me back a few positions and I just held onto the highest spot that I could and finished there.

"It was about as competitive as I pictured it," he continued. "It was very tough, definitely, and there are a lot of guys who have been running here for a long time but it's nice to see all the competition and try to stack up against them. Qualifying was a lot of fun. That's the thing about qualifying. You're forced to come up clutch sometimes and you just have to do it. I felt really happy about it; it was really pleasing."

Kotyk and Jeansonne are slated to line up 12th and 16th, respectively, for Semi Final 1 at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow morning local time. The Formula Ford Festival Final will start at 5:00 p.m., although the schedule is subject to change.

Results, including live timing, can be found at http://tsl-timing.com/event/174233.

17KAN2bc0653As Jimmie Johnson & Company continue to find the answer to their qualifying woes, the defending series champion has begun exploring a new area: Himself. Or more specifically, his rhythm.

"It seems that the more effort we put into it, in some respects I think we're overthinking it – or I'm overthinking it and causing more problems," Johnson told RACER. "I could say that when we went to a five-hour break between the end of practice and qualifying, it's impacted me more than others; I'm much more of a rhythm guy and I'm trying to identify with something in that that's hurt me.

"Last year we had the super long break and before it was two hours, which is still a lot, but now it's five and that five-hour break ... I've tried everything else and nothing's helped. That's where I'm looking now to try to see if there's something in that."

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Qualifying has been the arch nemesis of the No. 48 team this year, which has led to an extensive effort to improve. A small victory was had Friday at Kansas Speedway when Johnson improved in each of the first two rounds and outran his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. But that was still only good enough for 13th on the grid (he will start 12th after Ryan Blaney's time was disallowed).

Johnson will take whatever momentum he can find when it comes to the playoffs. Like last weekend at Talladega when Johnson was eighth fastest. Something he cracked was a result of him being taken out of the equation and just letting the car do the work.

In his last 10 qualifying sessions, Johnson has started in the top 10 only twice. The emphasis on starting up front has magnified this season because of the implementation of stages and added points to score during a race. That's where Johnson admits the possible overthinking of things comes in.

17DOV2nk10414What Johnson does know for sure is that his qualifying saga is hindering his playoff efforts. Mediocre Friday results are leading to the same on Sundays, or at least a much tougher battle than needed. The inability to earn stage points and playoff points also has Johnson near the bottom of the playoff grid.

Going into this weekend's elimination race, it is Johnson the drivers on the outside looking in are trying to overcome. He holds just a seven-point advantage over Kyle Busch.

That much is clear, but what's going wrong in qualifying is still not clear to Johnson and his crew, and could end up being the ultimate downfall of a team that has always seemed to find the answers.

"Where [qualifying] could hurt us the most is going to Homestead. Being eligible for the Round of 8 or the Round of 4," Johnson said. "I look at Dover – it took me 350 miles to get to the front because I qualified so bad.

"I think it's definitely hurt the bottom line with race results and without a doubt, it can really hurt us looking to transfer into the final four."

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Ryan Blaney will start last on Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway after his No. 21 Ford failed post-qualifying inspection.

Having posted the third-quickest time in qualifying, Blaney's car failed inspection when NASCAR official deemed that the package tray did not maintain its original shape. His qualifying time was disallowed, and Blaney will start 40th.

The package tray is located at the rear of a NASCAR vehicle. As described in the NASCAR Rule Book, it must fill the area between the rear quarter panels/C-posts, above the rear wheel wells, the rear window and the rear firewall between the rear wheel tubs.

Per the rule book, the package tray must remain flat and straight from front to back.

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car," said team co-owner Eddie Wood. "We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.
 
“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

The Hollywood Casino 400 is the second elimination race in the playoffs and Blaney seventh in the playoff standings with only a nine-point advantage on the cutline. Furthermore, the No. 21 team will now have the last pit stall pick next weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

17DOV2nk01291Clint Bowyer says the spat between he and his No. 14 team, particularly with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, feels like it was a month ago. But it was less than a week ago when he and Bugarewicz bickered back and forth over the radio at Talladega Superspeedway before Bowyer climbed from his car, the two exchanged more words and Bowyer stormed away.

Friday, the Kansas native said it was nothing more than his frustrations getting the best of him after being involved in an accident.

"It's just a frustrating race. It's extremely nerve-wracking," Bowyer said. "To be dead honest with you, when I'm at home there are only two tracks that I'm scared of. There's only two tracks that in the back of my mind where I think I could lose my life. Those are the only two [Daytona and Talladega].

"When things get out of control, you've got to remember that. We're still out there risking our lives. There's a lot at stake. [But] That's behind us."

He later added, "When you get down to the end of those things there's a point you can feel it as a fan, you can feel it in the car. There's a point in those races where you have to be in position, you have to be in the hunt. The one common denominator there is that I knew and felt strongly going into that race that a Ford was going to win.

17TAL2nk05922"In the back of my mind, there's a handful of tracks that we can competitively win at and beat these Toyotas right now and that was one of them. Just a lot of things going on and confusion was definitely one of them, that's for damn sure."

Bowyer finished 35th and dropped to 18th in points.

Nearing the conclusion of his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing, Bowyer is still looking to break a winless streak dating back to the fall of 2012. There is an admitted hunger in Bowyer to get back in victory lane and he said that has been one of the frustrating things about the season as a whole. The needed consistency to contend at the front of the field each weekend hasn't been there. A solid run is usually followed by taking a step back.

When prodded about whether he would like a crew chief change next season to help turn things around, Bowyer didn't commit to a yes or no answer.

"I don't know. It's not time ... to start thinking about that," he said. "At the end of the day, it's about depth in our organization and building and organization. ... Who knows? There could be a lot of different things that happen in the off season for Stewart-Haas. You don't know that. I don't know that or anybody else. Time will tell and paint a lot clearer picture."

DJ5R2792Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull showed the best race pace during Friday's practice sessions for the United States Grand Prix despite setting the fastest times himself.

With FP1 taking place in damp conditions before a much drier and warmer FP2, Hamilton topped both sessions and enjoyed an advantage of 0.4s over Max Verstappen on Friday afternoon. Despite his single-lap pace being impressive, Hamilton believes Red Bull looks like the team to beat at this stage of the weekend.

"It's difficult to say [where Ferrari is] because Sebastian [Vettel] hasn't really finished – he didn't really get much running I don't think, but the Red Bulls do look quick," Hamilton said. "I've really not thought about [Ferrari's strengths], but I think the Red Bulls at the moment are the ones who look quickest.

"We didn't really do a huge long run, to be honest. We had a problem, so that's why we had to stop halfway through. But the little bit that we did, it looked like we were relatively close to the Red Bulls."

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However, with Hamilton having set the fastest times in qualifying simulations and been on pole on 10 occasions so far this weekend, the championship leader highlights his Saturday performances as crucial to many of his are wins.

"I think they've definitely been key. When you go from race to race, there's always a calculated delta of pace you have to have to overtake the car in front. That shifts all over the place. Here, it's around eight-tenths of a second you need to be quicker than the car in front. That's quite low compared to the other circuits. Lots of other circuits you need to be 1.8 seconds faster than the car in front to be able to pass. It's quite often over the one-second mark.

"Positioning is everything, and naturally starting from first and getting to the first corner first, the chess game is completely different from there with a perfect first move. So qualifying's definitely been good, but it's the Fridays that have really made that Saturday possible – starting on the right foot, making the right setup changes and not getting lost on the Friday often bodes well for the Saturday."

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