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astilRACER's Robin Miller reflects with Chip Ganassi after the announcement that 27-year team sponsor Target is leaving at the end of the season.

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Enerson Mid Ohio IMS photoAs first days go in IndyCar racing, RC Enerson scored an 11 – out of 10.

The 19-year-old rookie from Florida was about as impressive as a newcomer to the Verizon IndyCar series could be during Friday's opening rounds of practice for Sunday's Honda Indy 200.

With only one day of testing Dale Coyne's Honda early this month, Enerson made a dazzling debut with the big boys and posted the 10th-fastest lap around the twisty, testy 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio road course, jumping from 21st fastest in the first session to seventh quick in the second.

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"It was incredible," he exclaimed after a pair of 75-minute sessions. "Every time I come here I tend to do all right, and it's one of my favorite tracks. It just suits my driving style really well.

"To be honest, this is probably the best track to make my debut."

A winner here in Indy Lights last year, Enerson was halfway through this Lights season when he and father Neil decided to pull the plug and focus on graduating to the heavier, faster, gripier Indy cars.

"I'd say this car suits my driving style better than the Indy Lights car," he said. "This car is more of about momentum, kind of likes to be planted and never likes to be sliding around whereas the Lights car likes to slide.

"This is more of a proper car and I like it a lot."

His education escalates Saturday in qualifying when he runs the softer red tires and on Sunday when he faces pit stops for the first time.

"Since we've never driven on reds until qualifying, I think that's the biggest challenge for a rookie," Enerson continued. "It's a completely new situation for me and I'm coming into a race that's 90 laps long with pit stops and fuel saving and all these things that are new to me.

"And it's a whole new level of downforce than what I've driven before. It will all be a learning experience but I'm looking forward to it."

Coyne, who gave Paul Tracy his start back in 1990, has been getting some stellar drives from rookie Conor Daly this season, and he was pleasantly surprised with his latest find.

"RC is doing a great job," said Coyne, who is likely to run Enerson at Watkins Glen and Sonoma as well. "This is a tough place to get around and he's been very impressive. A good start."

16C 3321 1
Above (from left): John and Laurie Force, Graham Rahal, Courtney Force.


Graham Rahal has a standing invitation to sample his father-in-law's NHRA Funny Car, and as he revealed on Friday at Mid-Ohio, drag racing legend John Force has been rather persistent about making it happen.

"He's asks me to drive that thing a lot, though, all the time," Rahal said with a laugh. "I'd drive it someday. What makes me nervous about those things is just when they blow up and they explode. It's kind of out of the driver's hands. I like to have some certainty in life."

224 Courtney Force Saturday DenverRahal's wife, NHRA super star Courtney Force, makes a living inside the 300mph machines (pictured), and while her husband isn't quite ready to try her cockpit on for size, he would like to pull some of the drag racers over to his road racing discipline.

"I think it would be great for [John Force] to try it because he's one of those guys who probably hasn't really had a whole lot of experience outside of drag racing, frankly," he added. "It would be cool to get him out to do some road racing, have some fun, just to try it. Then if there's one thing I know about John, if there's a media story to be had, I know he'll never turn it down. Perhaps we can make that happen."

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Rahal isn't sure his wife will trade rides and give his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda a spin.

"I've asked Court if she would do it," he said. "No, not a whole lot of interest..."

Before a Force/Rahal family racing swap can happen, Graham says a few contractual conflicts would need to be resolved.

"Right now clearly the biggest issue of something like that is Honda and Chevy," he said. "I'm a Honda guy, they're Chevy. That becomes a bit of a problem. Right now, it's the sponsors and everything else we've got going, I wouldn't be allowed to. Heck, I'm not even allowed to go on a jet-ski.

"I'd probably try it at some point. For me, I'm always a pretty curious person. Truly, more than anything, I'd love to know when [his wife is] talking about whatever, to be able to relate and understand kind of what she's discussing. Around here we talk to other drivers, there's terminology and stuff, you know exactly what they mean, what they're kind of experiencing. It would be nice to be able to do the same. Maybe someday."

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062616 RdAm BC90321WC Vision, producers of the exciting Pirelli World Challenge, announced its provisional plans for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Championships on Friday at Mid-Ohio, with new series outlines and schedule for North America's biggest GT Production-based road racing campaign.

In 2016, the PWC trail featured over 20 auto manufacturers and 37 separate models through its eight racing divisions – GT, GTA, GT Cup, GTS, Touring Car, TCA, TCB and SprintX – in its 27th year of competition. In addition, the series worked closely with the SRO Blancpain Series in a variety of elements including Balance of Performance (BoP) parameters and other technical regulations.

For 2017, the PWC tour will provisionally host 11 weekends through North America, including a return visit to Virginia International Raceway, with the 3.27-mile, 17-turn permanent road circuit set to host all eight PWC classes on April 28-30. PWC's last VIR appearance was in 2010. In addition, the series season opener the past two years, Circuit of The Americas, will host all eight categories in a Labor Day weekend set for Sept. 1-3.

"We are extremely excited about our provisional 2017 Pirelli World Challenge schedule especially after the competition level in 2016," said Greg Gill, president and CEO of WC Vision. "We will give our racing fans the opportunity to witness the excitement and wheel-to-wheel action that makes the Pirelli World Challenge so special. We want to thank many of North America's most iconic road racing venues in bringing the best GT Production-based motorsports racing to their racing facilities in 2017. We hope to have the schedule finalized very soon."

In addition to the provisional look at the 2017 schedule, Pirelli World Challenge also announced a new format for the GT and GTS events include five single-driver sprint events at the five weekends with the Verizon IndyCar Series including St. Petersburg, Long Beach (April 7-9), Road America (June 23-25), Mid-Ohio (July 28-30) and one other weekend to be announced. All except Long Beach (GT single race) will be double-header weekend.

In the five PWC headliner races, all eight PWC classes will compete at VIR (April 28-30), Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (May 19-21), Lime Rock Park (May 26-27), COTA (Sept. 1-3) and another summer weekend event to be announced in the near future.

In the PWC headliner weekends, the GT and GTS classes will be competing in the SprintX two-driver format with a 60-minute limit for each of the double-header features. Each entry will have two drivers competing in either a GT or GTS car during those contests.

"The GT3 and GTS/GT4 customers now have increased opportunities to run for a single or two-driver championship or compete in all events for an overall title," said Marcus Haselgrove, Pirelli World Challenge competition director. "Plus, the addition of the Am (non-pro) class in GTS/GT4 is in response to our customer feedback."

The PWC finale again will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a unique weekend set for racers and fans on Oct. 13-15. Working in conjunction with the popular European-based SRO Blancpain GT Series, the SRO Motorsports Group Intercontinental GT Challenge will include a GT endurance contest with U.S.-based GT teams.

The Monterey event will be part of the global GT3 series which includes the Liqui-Moly Bathhurst 12 Hours, Total 24 Hours of Spa and the Sepang 12 Hours. The Intercontinental GT Challenge is aimed at manufacturers, who are encouraged to use local teams to represent them in the leading GT3 races, as it is more cost- and time-effective to fly engineers and drivers around the world rather than cars and equipment.

2016IndyMidO MarshallPruett 729 897Team Penske's Will Power topped the dry portion of Friday's final Verizon IndyCar Series practice session, but once the skies unleashed a torrent of rain on Mid-Ohio, all but two of the 22 drivers in attendance climbed out and ran for cover.

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Power's lap of 1m4.196s was produced during the opening 45 minutes under cool and cloudy conditions in his No. 12 Chevy, and was followed by Chip Ganassi Racing's Tony Kanaan (-0.270), teammate Simon Pagenaud (-0.339), Graham Rahal – fastest of the Honda drivers – in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry (-0.402), and Ed Carpenter Racing's Josef Newgarden (-0.443).

"It's just amazing how much speed we have in like Turn 11 and Turn 1 now," Power said of the track-record pace shown in the dry. "It's close to flat – it's not flat, but it's at that horrible limit where it's not flat. You know, you hold your breath kind of lifting. It probably looks spectacular from the outside. But yeah, it's definitely going to be a lap record broken."

The big surprises came from a pair of rookies. Indy Lights graduate RC Enerson, who is making his series debut with Dale Coyne Racing, was a stellar seventh (-0.532) and defending Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot was immediately behind in eighth (-0.588).

Once the rain turned from drizzle to a complete downpour, KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais was the first to bolt on Firestone rain tires and tip-toe his way around the 2.3-mile road course. Team Penske's Juan Pablo Montoya also took an exploratory lap just as conditions worsened, and made the wise choice to pit immediately.

UP NEXT: Practice, 9:45 a.m. ET Saturday, when more rain is in the forecast.

Practice 2 results:

Ohio Practice 2 export

 

Brad K ledeBrad Keselowski's tongue-in-cheek Twitter post on Tuesday revealed his significant testing crash at Watkins Glen, but on Friday, Keselowski presented a sobering warning that not every driver would be as lucky as he was.

Keselowski said Friday his crash at the Glen – on the first day of a two-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test at the newly repaved track –  was caused by an improperly installed brake line, which sent his pedal straight to the floor and his car hard into Turn 1. He suffered no injuries, but his car sustained heavy damage.

Keselowski took a much more serious tone Friday at Pocono Raceway. Adding to the danger of the crash was Watkins Glen's asphalt runoff area, and Keselowski wants tracks to rectify similar corners that could send a car at high speed into a tire barrier or wall.

"I’m not comfortable with tracks that have runoffs that lead to very harsh angles, and that’s certainly the situation that that track has, and always has had it,” Keselowski said. "Road courses remain the most dangerous tracks in motorsports for a good reason because of that, but we know that going in.

"There's only so many of those hits you're going to take before someone gets killed; it's just the way it is. I know that. It's not something I'm comfortable with but I think as a sport there's a lot of ways to look at it. At the end of the day I am still standing here.

"Odds are that if a hundred people take that hit, one or two are not going to be standing here anymore. I think that's pretty safe to say, so since a half a dozen have taken pretty similar hits in that same part of the racetrack I would say that it begs to reason that maybe a change should be made in that area.

"But I can't say that I have a specific idea at this time because more people are going to take that hit and eventually one of us ain't gonna come back. But that's something that the smart guys that work on that stuff are going to have to figure out some time."

Keselowski won at Pocono in 2011 just days after a hard crash during testing at Road Atlanta broke his right ankle. He credits changes to his car for preventing injury during this week’s crash.

"There’s been a lot of changes in our car since 2011 with regards to safety and I think we went through, at least with Team Penske, a complete safety overhaul, from the pedals being redesigned to hopefully not break my feet, which I didn’t, which was great," he said. "The floorboards redesigned with composite materials. All the pieces that we were able to redesign performed very well.”

After his crash, Keselowski tweeted a picture of his destroyed No. 2 Team Penske Ford (above), his mangled steering wheel and a GoPro video showing the moment of impact from inside the car:

I'm ok!

Posted by Brad Keselowski on Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"We signed up for a certain level of risk and that's right on the edge of what's acceptable risk," he said Friday. "I think every driver has their own line and if you're looking at it from that perspective, I think every driver is saying that that's the acceptable risk they've signed up for and it falls within those parameters."

Later in the day, he defended his statements, which came in response to a question during his media availability.

"It's easy for any professional athlete to skip media questions or controversial statements, but to do so is to cheat our fans and sport," he said on Twitter. "I accept the risk of being a professional NASCAR race car driver at all tracks and plan on returning to [Watkins Glen] undaunted by this week's wreck."

2016IndyMidO MarshallPruett 729 0596Scott Dixon broke his own track record during Friday morning's opening practice period for Sunday's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

A five-time winner at the 2.258-mile road course, Dixon ran a lap of 1m4.4491s in his Target Chevrolet, a fraction faster than his mark of 1m4.581 set in qualifying a year ago.

Will Power bounced back from a spin to post the second-fastest lap of 1m4.5679s in his Verizon Chevy – also under Dixon's record.

2016IndyMidO MarshallPruett 729 1429Team Penske teammate Juan Pabo Montoya was third best at 1m4.6034s, followed by Tony Kanaan at 1m4.6387s in the NTT Data Chevy and the Penske Chevy of Helio Castroneves at 1m4.7217s.

James Hinchcliffe, at 1m4.7559s, was the fastest Honda in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Arrow car, good for sixth overall as Chevrolet claimed eight of the top 10 spots.

The only incident during the 75-minute session belonged to Dale Coyne Racing's Conor Daly, who damaged the nose of his No. 19 Honda in a meeting with the tire barriers and triggered a red flag. The rookie posted the 15th-fastest lap prior to his off-track excursion.

Another practice session is set for 2 p.m. and is televised live on NBCSN.

Results from first practice:

Mid OhioPS

 ONZ5130Nico Rosberg set the pace in second free practice for the German Grand Prix, outpacing Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton by four-tenths of a second.

The home hero had topped the morning session, but initially lagged behind Hamilton on the first runs using the soft Pirelli rubber by four tenths. But when the duo then bolted on the super-soft Pirellis, reckoned to be around 1.2 seconds faster than the softs, Rosberg took the upper hand.

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First Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg and then Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen hit the top after doing their first super-soft laps, before the two Mercedes drivers. But Rosberg had his first flier just after the 30-minute mark, setting a time of 1m15.614s to take top spot. Hamilton then completed his lap, but was slower in all three sectors and ended up 0.394s slower after a slightly ragged effort.

Initially, Red Bull pairing Max Verstappen and Daniel Riccairdo were best of the rest after relegating Raikkonen. But then Sebastian Vettel, who had a longer break between his runs, finally set his super-soft time just before the 45-minute mark to take second place, six tenths off Rosberg.

Verstappen and Ricciardo ended up fifth and sixth, with the latter earning criticism from Hamilton late in the session for jinking into the pit exit while passing a slow Manor. That led to Hamilton moving to the left and complaining over the radio.

Hulkenberg was eventually shuffled down to seventh ahead of Jenson Button, who only completed 16 laps and missed the second half of the session.

Both Button and McLaren-Honda teammate Fernando Alonso looked to have the potential to go quicker, but ended up slotting into eighth and 10th, sandwiching Force India driver Sergio Perez.

The two Toro Rosso drivers, Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat, were separated by just 25 thousandths of a second in 11th and 12th, ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.

Romain Grosjean, who appeared to be battling the same problems under braking as he was in the morning session and had both an off and a spin at the Turn 6 hairpin, was 14th fastest for Haas, just ahead of Felipe Massa's Williams. But the Franco-Swiss driver only completed 13 laps during the session, spending much of it in the pits presumably chasing the cause of the vibration under braking he complained about over the radio.

During 90 minutes, multiple drivers, including Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Perez, were reported for running wide beyond track limits at Turn 1 – early in the session, race control issued a message to teams that this situation was being carefully monitored. This led to drivers being regularly warned by their teams, albeit with regular infringements continuing, particularly for Perez.

PRACTICE 2 RESULTS:

PosDriverCarTimeGapLaps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.614ss 1m15.614s 43
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m16.008ss 0.394s 36
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m16.208ss 0.594s 39
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m16.456ss 0.842s 40
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m16.490ss 0.876s 38
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m16.512ss 0.898s 45
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m16.781ss 1.167s 43
8 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1m17.087ss 1.473s 16
9 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m17.148ss 1.534s 44
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1m17.225ss 1.611s 21
11 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m17.342ss 1.728s 32
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m17.367ss 1.753s 38
13 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m17.425ss 1.811s 44
14 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m17.602ss 1.988s 13
15 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m17.686ss 2.072s 40
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1m18.005ss 2.391s 42
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1m18.056ss 2.442s 46
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m18.130ss 2.516s 28
19 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 1m18.193ss 2.579s 42
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m18.313ss 2.699s 47
21 Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes 1m18.591ss 2.977s 47
22 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1m19.295ss 3.681s 41

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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