IndyCar Driver Preview: Tristan Vautier

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#55 Tristan Vautier

  • Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
  • Engine: Honda
  • Sponsors: Florida Lottery (St. Petersburg only)
  • 2012: Firestone Indy Lights Champion, Four Wins, Five Poles, Seven Podiums

2012 WRAP: After winning the 2011 Pro Mazda title, Vautier advanced to Firestone Indy Lights with Sam Schmidt Motorsports and continued the team’s dominant legacy in the series by earning them their sixth overall Lights title (and third in a row). The young Frenchman triumphed at St. Petersburg, Milwaukee, Trois-Rivieres and Baltimore en route to winning the championship by eight points over Esteban Guerreri of Argentina.

2013 OUTLOOK: Vautier has definitely earned his drive in the big leagues after consecutive titles along the Road To Indy development ladder. He’ll have an obvious learning curve to contend with, but because he’s stayed with the Schmidt camp for his jump to IndyCar, that curve shouldn’t be as steep as it could’ve been had he gone somewhere else. He’s been solid in off-season testing, and while a win may be too much to ask, it would nonetheless not be surprising to see him have some very good moments in 2013.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.