The important insights: Schmidt’s French drivers on Sonoma’s wines

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By this point in the IndyCar season, teams need to get creative when it comes to thinking of new story angles or leads for advance press releases. Sam Schmidt’s team – the Schmidt Hamilton HP entry for Simon Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson entry for rookie Tristan Vautier – took full advantage of the fact they employ two Frenchmen and inquired about their wine preferences.

This is Sonoma, American Wine Country, after all.

For Pagenaud, Napa Valley wines compare favorably to French wines, even if they represent a night-and-day difference.

“I always have good wine, no matter where I am,” Pagenaud said. “France is famous for wine, but I don’t think it’s better one place or another. Because of the temperature, sun and rain here in Sonoma the wine is very colorful and rich in terms of taste. It’s much fruitier than what we have in France. They’re actually very different but both good.”

Vautier, who’s only 24, is at least of age but said the task at hand over the weekend trumps wine tasting.

“Driving on a race weekend and wine tasting don’t really fit together, and we’re flying home right after the race Sunday night,” Vautier said. “I can’t offer much wine insight but I hope all of our fans and sponsors get to enjoy themselves!”

Both are a big fan of the Sonoma circuit, with its elevation changes and fast rhythm. Pagenaud finished second last time out at Mid-Ohio and enters the race fifth in points, while Vautier, the lone full-time rookie in the championship, sits 20th with his last top-10 finish at Barber in April. Vautier made the Firestone Fast Six in his first two starts of the year.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup