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.
Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.
Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.
After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.
“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.
“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.
“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”
Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.
“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.
“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.
Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.
Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.
Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.
Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.
However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.
Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.
You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.