Times have changed at Indy, and so has Tony Stewart

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When NASCAR first announced that it was going to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which had, up to that point, only been open for the Indy 500 – it didn’t sit well with everyone. One of those people upset with the idea of stock cars speeding around open-wheel racing’s cathedral was a young Tony Stewart.

But as the Brickyard 400 prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary running next weekend, Stewart – who has since gone from IndyCar young gun to three-time Sprint Cup Series champion – has noted a change in his views. He still has a deep respect for the ‘500,’ a race he ran five times. But now, he believes that Indy shouldn’t just hold one race, even if that race is pretty big.

“Now with Formula One [having] come in, Moto GP, the Grand-Am Series, Nationwide cars running here, I think the mind-set has changed that it’s too historic of a speedway to run one race a year on it,” Stewart told the Boston Globe. “To be able to bring so many great different series and divisions here, it’s pretty neat that a lot of people get the honor to race at Indy now.”

Three of those series will be in the spotlight next weekend, which has been dubbed the “Super Weekend” by IMS. This coming Friday, the GRAND-AM contingent will race on the IMS road course, with its top-tier Rolex Series staging the three-hour Brickyard Grand Prix. Then on Saturday, the Nationwide Series competes on the legendary Indy oval for 250 miles.

Finally, on Sunday, Stewart and the Sprint Cup Series will go for 400 miles. Stewart has thrilled his fellow Hoosiers with two past victories in the race (2005, 2007), and he’s very much looking to kiss the bricks for a third time.

“This is an event that I definitely circle on the schedule,” he said according to the Sporting News. “To us, it’s definitely not just another stop that’s on the calendar and on the schedule. You don’t just pull in and say, ‘We’re going to go in and try to win the race,’ then pull out of here.

“When you’re here, you’re amped up because you’re at Indianapolis.”

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.