Vautier: Plenty more still to come

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Say this about Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier: he already has developed veteran-like tendencies in managing expectations and just taking his learning in IndyCar one step at a time.

Asked Thursday in Long Beach whether he was either surprised or excited with his fast start to the season, with back-to-back Firestone Fast Six appearances at St. Petersburg and Barber, Vautier said neither, because either answer would paint him into a corner.

“If you’re surprised, you don’t think you trust yourself. And if you say you’re excited, it’s pretentious!” Vautier said, candidly. “I didn’t set any expectations going in, so I’m not going to say I’m surprised or not surprised.”

What he did help do, though, was push the team to get back out when told he would be in the Fast Six at Barber, following a blocking penalty issued to A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato.

“Yeah basically, I was pissed, and the team had to take the car off pit lane,” Vautier explained. “We were told by IndyCar in the briefings to get the cars off as quick as possible if we didn’t make it to the next segment. I was very frustrated with a big mistake.

“Then I saw myself on the top six when they switched, so I called the team and they didn’t believe me. It was funny. Then the guys made the car ready so fast.”

Vautier and Schmidt Hamilton teammate Simon Pagenaud have gelled, both on and off track. The two starred in a trip to Bass Pro Shops in Alabama, for some off-color humor beyond the series’ last race at Barber Motorsports Park.

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.