Allmendinger: No hacks in IndyCar

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The last time AJ Allmendinger raced in open-wheel racing, Champ Car in 2006, it and the IndyCar Series were two fragmented factions.

Allmendinger won five races but admitted although some competitors from that year are still in the 2013 IndyCar field, it’s a much tougher mountain to climb this time around.

“It’s been tough, and especially in the IZOD IndyCar Series, there’s no hacks out there,” Allmendinger said Tuesday in a conference call. “The two series were split, so you had some of the best drivers split amongst two series, and now that it’s one series and everybody in the series is so fast, it’s competitive.”

By his own goals and standards, Allmendinger isn’t yet satisfied with his performance, but embraces the learning and the challenge.

“I enjoy the challenge. I’m having fun with it,” he said. “I went to Barber and felt pretty good. I was kind of inside the top 10 all weekend in speed, through practices and in the race. I’m getting closer but still have a ways to go.”

He’s been a valuable addition to the Team Penske IndyCar fold. Teammate Will Power, who raced against Allmendinger in Champ Car, appreciates his presence.

“It was fun, man,” Power told MotorSports Talk in an interview. “He’s got a great attitude, honestly. He’s blindingly quick. He did the fastest lap of the Penske guys all weekend in qualifying I think. He’s on it still, battling with (Justin) Wilson. He definitely enjoys it. His attitude and energy is there, and he’s quick at the same time. He’s dedicated, loves to be competitive, and he’s been good.

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.