Milwaukee notes: Beatriz in at Coyne, other news from paddock

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Although it has yet to be confirmed directly by the team, Ana Beatriz will return to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda for this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Milwaukee.

The eponymous team owner is not yet on the premises here at The Milwaukee Mile, but Beatriz’s name is on the driver cockpit, helmet on site and her hero flag banner out but not yet unfurled in the paddock.

Beatriz raced the first five events of the 2013 season, with a best finish of 14th at Long Beach and the most spots gained at the Indianapolis 500 (29th to 15th). The car is back in the yellow, red and blue colors last piloted by Mike Conway at Detroit, after the red and white Cyclops Gear car came out at Texas last week for Pippa Mann.

Here are some other news and notes from the paddock:

  • The Firestone Indy Lights Series’ remaining TBA for this race, the second Team Moore Racing entry (No. 22), is unlikely to be filled for Milwaukee. It has had four different drivers in as many races to start the year (Ethan Ringel, Victor Carbone, Mikael Grenier, Jimmy Simpson). If it does not run, that would leave the field at a year-low of just eight cars for the 100-lap race.
  • The infield at the Milwaukee Mile is packed. A mix of festival events, carnival rides, vendors, and the IndyCar Fan Village should offer a bevy of options for fans and families when they arrive at the track.
  • The backstraight signage, which had been adorned with GoDaddy sponsorship last year, is now dark blue to feature RC Cola, sponsor of Marco Andretti’s No. 25 Andretti Autosport entry.

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.”