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.

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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