KV pair looks for results in Barber

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Through two races, KVSH Racing’s “bespectacled badass” Sebastien Bourdais has shown great pace but endured miserable luck, while KV/AFS’ Sebastian Saavedra has rebounded from midfield grid positions to get better results.

The goal for the pair of both them this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is to get the results off of two good qualifying efforts.

Bourdais, two years ago, turned in one of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ best underdog drives in recent memory – he dragged a down-on-power Lotus engine for Dragon Racing from 17th on the grid to ninth place in the race. That proved the engine manufacturer’s lone top-10 finish in 2012, and both figures are Bourdais’ best results at this circuit in three prior starts.

The Frenchman hasn’t won a North American open-wheel race on a road course since his last Champ Car win at Mexico City in 2007, but he’s still optimistic of finally getting the luck to turn around this week in the black and green No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet.

“This race is very important for KVSH Racing,” Bourdais said. “We had a fast car the first two races of the season, but for various reasons have not been able to get the results we were hoping for. The guys have done a great job setting up and preparing the car. We just need to put everything together and finish off a race weekend with the kind of performance we know we are capable of having.”

Saavedra, meanwhile, has been a quiet and stealthy surprise through two races. Currently 10th in points after finishes of 11th and ninth, Saavedra is a past Barber Motorsports Park winner in Indy Lights (2012) and qualified ninth for this race last year driving for Dragon.

“It’s been an aggressive start of the season and we’ve been able to survive it with good points in the bank,” said the young Colombian. “We need to keep with the top-10 drivers in the championship. Barber is a place I had a good qualifying last year and a bad strategy killed a good finish.”

You can see how well the KV pair does starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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