Indianapolis 500 - Practice

Will third full-time chance be the charm for Sebastian Saavedra?

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It’s take two for “Seb squared,” with Sebastian Saavedra rejoining Sebastien Bourdais for a second straight year in the IndyCar Series. The difference is, this year it’s at KV Racing, compared to Dragon Racing in 2013.

On a conference call Wednesday, Saavedra spoke highly of the chance to work with Bourdais again, as did KV team co-owner Jimmy Vasser.

“Keeping the Sebastians together is important,” Vasser said. “I know how they work, because the first season is awkward with new teammates. How they’ve worked together good or bad. It will be beneficial.”

“I have a four-time champ as a teammate, it’s more of a benefit than anything,” Saavedra said. “I want to build my own career, forge my own path, but for sure I will use his expertise. Driving with him last year, we know each other, know where he came from. We build it throughout the season and he didn’t need to teach me that much. We’re going to be an interesting pair.”

Vasser also said that Saavedra surprised him at times with his pace early in 2013.

“At times with Conquest and last year early on, he was really being very competitive to outpacing Bourdais, that was very impressive,” Vasser said. “The speed is there. It takes a few years to get comfortable in this series, and then start to have your legs underneath you.”

Saavedra tests today at Sonoma, and will have further tests in Sebring and Texas before the official preseason test at Barber in March.

To this point, Saavedra’s had an uneven IndyCar career. He’s only 23, and 2014 will mark his third full season with his third different team, after spending the 2011 season with Conquest Racing and last year with Dragon. He stepped down to Indy Lights in 2012, and raced with Andretti Autosport in an AFS-backed entry with a handful of IndyCar starts.

Purely on results, Saavedra has done little to merit a seat. In 38 career starts, Saavedra only has two top-10 finishes – eighth at Baltimore and 10th at Detroit Race 2 last year. He did outqualify Bourdais five times in 2013, but due to an engineering tailspin and other crew changes in the second half of the year, his qualifying fell off dramatically. He did not start better than 18th in any of the last 10 races.

He hasn’t had a truly “wow” moment in IndyCar. When you think of the things that stand out, it was a last-minute qualifying effort on the first day of qualifying at Indy 2012, so he wouldn’t need to qualify on Bump Day, or his Dragon car’s blue chrome paint glitter-bombing the track in last year’s practice, or his double-bird outburst against Marco Andretti in Detroit that cost him $30,000 and put him on probation.

Still, you get the sense that, like a Simona de Silvestro before she advanced to KV last year, Saavedra’s still not had a great opportunity with better equipment.

He occasionally overachieved with Conquest, showed flashes of speed in his Andretti cameos, and had a pair of ninth place starts to open 2013 with Dragon, so he has his moments.

In Indy Lights in 2012, he regularly beat teammate Carlos Munoz, who’s now racing with Andretti. In that 2009 rookie season, he won twice and finished third in the points, ahead of future IndyCar race winners James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball. He only trailed JR Hildebrand and James Davison.

There are occasional flashes of brilliance. He just needs to deliver with greater consistency in 2014.

It’s a dog’s life: While ‘dad’ Simon is away, Norman Pagenaud will play

simon pagenaud and norman
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Current Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud — who comes into Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 riding a three-race winning streak — has a new addition to the family: Norman Pagenaud.

The newest Pagenaud already has his own Twitter account and while ‘dad’ was in Detroit Tuesday during the annual NASCAR cross-country media tour day, Norman REALLY got to know his new home away from home: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Check out some of Norman’s best tweets of the day, as well as a few from Simon.

Oh, and did we mention that Norman is a puppy? He’s sooooooo cute!

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Cross-country IndyCar media tour pumps up excitement for Indy 500

indycar media tour nyc 2016
(Photo courtesy Mike Kitchel, IndyCar)
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To further pump up the excitement of Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 – which is officially sold-out – all 33 drivers in the race field spent Tuesday flying to various cities for a number of media opportunities.

Some went to baseball games, others to the zoo, and all had countless media interviews as a prelude for Sunday’s milestone event.

The media tour, which began in 2011, scattered the drivers to a variety of markets, from New York City and Chicago to Miami, Phoenix, Toronto, Buffalo, St. Louis and even Bethlehem, Pa.

Pole-sitter James Hinchcliffe kicked off things by taking a bite out of the Big Apple (New York City), along with 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 Verizon IndyCarSeries champion Will Power and two-time series race winner Marco Andretti.

Here’s where the contingent of drivers visited, followed by a number of social media posts related to their visits:

Bethlehem, Pa.: Jack Hawksworth, Bristol, Conn. (ESPN): Tony Kanaan, Buffalo: Josef Newgarden, Charlotte, N.C.: Juan Pablo Montoya, Chicago: Helio Castroneves, Cincinnati: Sage Karam, Mikhail Aleshin, Cleveland: Pippa Mann, Columbus, Ohio: Charlie Kimball, Dallas: Graham Rahal, Dayton, Ohio: Stefan Wilson, Detroit: Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Fort Wayne, Ind.: Bryan Clauson, Buddy Lazier, Louisville: Matt Brabham, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, Spencer Pigot, Miami: Oriol Servia, Carlos Munoz, Gabby Chaves, Milwaukee: Conor Daly, New York: Will Power, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Townsend Bell, Phoenix: Scott Dixon, St. Louis: JR Hildebrand, Toronto: Takuma Sato, Alex Tagliani

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Form and history against struggling Hamilton at Monaco GP

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 15:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP before the drivers parade ahead of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 15, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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MONACO (AP) Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix with form and recent history against him as he bids to close the gap on championship leader Nico Rosberg.

Five races into the season, the defending Formula One champion trails Robserg by 43 points and needs to start pressuring his Mercedes teammate.

But Rosberg has won the past three races here, while things have been more problematic for Hamilton – whose only win in Monaco was driving for McLaren in 2008.

“I’m approaching this weekend with only one result in mind,” Hamilton said. “I’ve not had the best run of results in Monaco in recent years, but last year showed I have the pace to do the job.”

Hamilton has clearly not forgotten what happened in 2015. His team’s panicky decision to call him back to the pits after the safety car came out crushed his momentum, handing victory to Rosberg, with Hamilton placing third behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.

The previous year, Rosberg was the source of Hamilton’s irritation as the German driver appeared to deliberately go off track near the end of qualifying – thus prematurely ending the session and denying Hamilton pole position.

Tensions escalated between Hamilton and Rosberg in 2014, so much so that team management intervened, and the friction was still apparent at times last year as Hamilton raced to his second straight title and third overall. He won the title with three races to spare, but has not won since.

Relations between Hamilton and Rosberg had mellowed until two weeks ago, when an extraordinary start to the Spanish GP saw them crash into each other.

“I was gutted after what happened in Spain,” Rosberg said. “I know how hard everybody works to make these amazing cars, so for us to leave them both in the gravel is the worst possible scenario.”

That both drivers failed to finish meant neither directly gained any advantage from the other’s misfortune, which probably prevented another bout of finger-pointing between the fiercely competitive pair who raced karts against each other as teenage friends.

But it has caused serious commotion within Mercedes, with non-executive chairman Nikki Lauda blaming Hamilton for the incident, while head of motorsport Toto Wolff scolded both drivers.

“The team is responsible for giving them the best possible cars and they are responsible for getting the best out of them,” Wolff said. “When we let them down, we apologize and the same goes the other way.”

The lost points in Barcelona played to Red Bull’s advantage as 18-year-old Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to win an F1 race, while veteran Kimi Raikkonen grabbed another podium to sneak past Hamilton and into second place overall behind Rosberg.

“It’s clear that we are under attack from more than one angle,” Wolff said. “We must remain united, remain strong and hit back hard this weekend.”

Pole position is crucial in Monaco, almost as much as it is Spain and Hungary, with overtaking extremely difficult on the tight and twisting street track that weaves around millionaires reclining on their yachts and climbs up past the famed casino.

“I have memories from every corner going right back to my school days,” said Rosberg, who grew up in Monaco. “I’m feeling confident, so bring on the battle.”

Vettel tasted victory in Monaco only once – driving for Red Bull in 2011 – and celebrated by somersaulting into the team swimming pool. Ferrari’s drought stretches way back to Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2001.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Verstappen – whose late crash undid Hamilton last year in Monaco – after his winning drive two weeks ago in his debut for Red Bull.

Verstappen’s win is a wake-up call to teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who won three races in his first season with Red Bull in 2014, but has not finished on the podium in 11 races.

“It’s definitely a good motivation,” Ricciardo said.

Castroneves ‘IndyCar-aoke’ challenge backfires when Brabham, Chilton nail it

Max Chilton (rear) and Matthew Brabham took Helio Castroneves up on his 'IndyCar-aoke challenge' Tuesday.
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Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves shocked the world when he and partner Julianne Hough won Dancing With The Stars in 2007 (see video below – we never get tired of watching it).

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner decided to take things to the next level during Tuesday’s IndyCar Media Day across the country when he came up with “IndyCar-aoke” – as in karaoke.

In somewhat of a takeoff on late night TV show host James Corden’s amazingly popular “Carpool Karaoke” series, Castroneves issued a IndyCar-aoke challenge to other drivers in Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 to put their singing uh, err, talent to the test.

Being naive Indy 500 rookies who maybe didn’t know any better, Matthew Brabham and Max Chilton took the challenge.

But you know what? This time, youth ruled and Helio drooled.

While Helio did his best (it would have helped if he knew all the lyrics) with The Pointer Sisters “I’m So Excited,” Brabham and Chilton absolutely killed it with their version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – a potential ode to their hopes in Sunday’s race.

As for Helio, a bit of advice: Good try, but don’t give up your day job anytime soon. That, or you may want to play to your REAL musical strength: dancing!

And, Helio, if you want to see how it’s really done – and sung – check out the following video and then take a walk down memory lane of your win in DWTS:

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