Ky. Speedway GM: I could see IndyCar coming back

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Kentucky Speedway has been off the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule for a couple of years now, but it appears that the track’s general manager, Mark Simendinger, is open to seeing the series return to his 1.5-mile oval outside Cincinnati.

According to Kevin Kelly of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Simendinger touched on the subject in a “town hall” session with fans during the track’s “Fan Day” this past weekend.

“I would see them coming back at some point in time,” said Simendinger. “I’m not sure when that point in time would be, because that’s a series that’s kind of working on its mix of ovals versus road courses and they’ve got a management change there.

“They’re dealing with kind of the economic model of what their races are going to be and how much money they’re going to charge tracks and all that kind of stuff. So I think that stuff has to get worked out, but I could see the IndyCar Series coming back here.”

Following a 12-year run, IndyCar departed from Kentucky Speedway after the 2011 race, which saw Ed Carpenter claim his first career victory over Dario Franchitti by .0098 of a second — the sixth-closest finish in series history. The track currently hosts all three of NASCAR’s national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck) as well as the ARCA stock car series.

Considering that IndyCar only carries six ovals on the docket, it could use another speedway or two for more of a balance with the road and street circuits. However, one would assume that a title sponsor would be critical, if not essential, in bringing the series back to Kentucky; the 2010 and 2011 events there did not have one. In addition, attendance issues that plagued the race’s final years would have to be addressed as well.

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.”