Does IndyCar need a juicy rivalry?

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We all love rivalries — Cowboys vs. Redskins, Celtics vs. Lakers, Yankees vs. Red Sox, etc. — and IZOD IndyCar Series fans would appreciate a legitimate one in their sport as well. But does such a thing exist for them right now?

As NASCAR can tell you, controversy sells. And while IndyCar maintains a loyal following for its action-packed races, it would appear to be lacking in the drama department.

Now, there have been incidents in recent years that have drawn attention. Perhaps the one that comes off the top of most race fans’ heads is Will Power’s double-bird salute to Race Control at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011, a gesture that made sure the series’ one-and-done return to New England would always be remembered.

But those incidents never really evolved into something bigger. They happened, then came the initial attention that eventually died off, and then everyone involved kind of moved on. So does IndyCar need more “black hats” to create feuds that can yield longer-lasting buzz?

Perhaps. But here’s the question: How many in the paddock would relish being the bad guy?

“That’s the thing, it doesn’t sit well on just anybody’s shoulders,” Dario Franchitti told the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer on Thursday. “[Paul Tracy] loved being the villain. I’ve been portrayed as the villain for some things I’ve done in races, but it’s not something I’m particularly comfortable with. Some guys love it, but it just doesn’t sit well with me.”

Graham Rahal, who got in a short feud with Marco Andretti after the two crashed last year at Long Beach, thinks that the sport’s management has an influence on why rivalries haven’t quite taken root within IndyCar — and that they could do their part to change that.

“Drama is part of it, but our sport in many ways tries to be too clean,” Rahal said to the AP. “Not from the driver side, but from [management and race control], because anytime you did anything, even if it was small, it was a penalty. We need to let some of that go.

“I don’t want it to get dangerous, but if we want to build drama for the sport, then they need to help.”

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”