IndyCar: Saavedra’s best run of year, possibly career, goes begging at Iowa

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The 50th start of Sebastian Saavedra’s Verizon IndyCar Series career nearly produced its best ever result. Unfortunately for the driver of the No. 17 KV/AFS Racing Chevrolet, a slight brush of the wall just before his third pit stop ended his charge in the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB.

Saavedra matched his car number in qualifying, but marched forward from P17 into the top five by half distance. He made it to third shortly thereafter, but then got in the marbles in Turn 2 and needed to bring the car in for repairs.

It was a hairy exit as Saavedra nearly collected Ryan Briscoe as he moved down the back straight into pit in. An accident there was averted and Saavedra made it into the pit lane, although he’d lose seven laps under caution. Mechanical issues ended his race for good on Lap 258 in the same place he started… 17th.

“Very hard to describe how disappointed I am,” Saavedra said post-race. “This was our day, we had a car that I connected very well with. We were very loose from the beginning but I loved it and I was driving where I needed to drive it. Unfortunately at the end of the third stint, everyone was struggling with grip and my rear tires were extremely worn and I just couldn’t save this ‘moment’ and it ended our day.”

The 24-year-old Colombian was introspective as well, and mature in taking responsibility for the mistake.

“Last night’s result doesn’t show how good a car we had,” he said. “I want to apologize to everyone who believed in me today, we had this race and I take full responsibility. We have shown that we can do and that we belong at the front, so we will keep digging and head to Toronto next weekend.”

Saavedra has been a weird driver to pinpoint this year. Two results of 11th and ninth out of the gate showed good promise and he ranked in the top-10 in points.

But since then, it’s been myriad struggles. Saavedra scored the Grand Prix of Indianapolis pole before his race there ended in disaster following his stall on the grid. In the last 10 races, Saavedra has yet to finish better than 14th, and ranks only ahead of the equally luckless Takuma Sato among full-time drivers in points (Saavedra is 20th, Sato 21st).

Again, as was the case in 2013, the flashes are there for the likable Colombian. But he’s been a bit overshadowed this year by his three countrymen; Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Huertas are race winners, and Carlos Munoz has made multiple podium visits.

Saavedra’s best chance yet to join that trio in earning his own round of good headlines – and praise – went begging Saturday night at Iowa Speedway.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.