A.J. Foyt to miss Iowa this weekend

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It’s a case of good news, bad news for A.J. Foyt Racing heading into the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Iowa Corn Indy 250 this weekend.

The bad news first: for another race, the eponymous and legendary team owner will be absent. Foyt told USA Today via phone on Thursday that he may need further work done after back surgery in April. Doctors will determine whether the 78-year-old will need hip replacement or further back surgery.

If there is a bright side, the three races Foyt has missed this year have been three where his new driver, Takuma Sato, has starred in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Dallara-Honda.

Sato won his first race overall and the team’s first since 2002 at Long Beach in April and nearly followed it with an encore in Brazil two weeks later (finished second). Last weekend, he led a race-high 109 laps in Milwaukee only to fade to seventh at the finish thanks to an ill-timed last yellow flag. He currently sits fourth in the championship standings.

Larry Foyt, A.J.’s son who has taken over the day-to-day operations of the team and done a great job to turn around the team’s fortunes, admitted if the tough-as-nails “Super Tex” isn’t at a race, it’s not by choice.

“He’s about as tough as they come,” he told USA Today. “When he’s not coming to races, you know something is wrong.”

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.