Davison, Luhr debuts add some flavor to tail end of IndyCar season

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As the championship battle intensifies as the IZOD IndyCar Series season progresses, it sometimes becomes easy to look away from the back of the field. Still, there’s something cool about seeing fresh faces get an opportunity toward the tail end of the season.

There were only two one-off entries the second half of 2012, and neither was originally planned. Giorgio Pantano deputized for Charlie Kimball at Mid-Ohio, and Bruno Junqueira for Josef Newgarden at Baltimore. Kimball and Newgarden had injuries that cost them one weekend apiece.

Now, at Mid-Ohio, James Davison will make his debut for Dale Coyne Racing while Lucas Luhr will do likewise for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at Sonoma. Davison’s story is one of perseverance and persistence; Luhr is a sports car ace who should adapt fairly well to a car close in performance to his HPD prototype, and has the opportunity to race more than a handful of cars in the same class.

Said Davison of his opportunity, “It’s an incredible feeling to finally realize my dream of becoming an Indycar driver after 4 years of adversity on the sidelines. I’ve had to work overtime for this opportunity and can’t thank Dale Coyne and all my supporters enough for their continued faith in me.”

There may be two more. Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star has linked Luca Filippi, who was slated to run Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s second car in 2012 before budget failed to materialize, to potentially replace Alex Tagliani in the Barracuda Racing team run by Bryan Herta and Steve Newey.

Coyne, meanwhile, may have a second debutante if Stefan Wilson is able to match Davison in being able to turn a test into a race drive in one of the remaining races.

Either of Filippi or the younger Wilson would also be another welcome addition to the field. For now, we have at least two new first-timers who will be keen to make an impression.

My hope is their debuts go better than a trio who made their first starts in 2011. Ho-Pin Tung (Sonoma), Joao Paulo de Oliviera (Japan) and Dillon Battistini (Kentucky) all made their debuts in succession, and in each case, it’s been their only IndyCar start.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.