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Vautier quickly back up to speed with Coyne

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Tristan Vautier last competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series event in 2015 at the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway. Coincidentally, that start came with Dale Coyne Racing, with whom he competed in the 2015 season from the Indianapolis 500 onwards.

Fast forward to 2017, and Coyne again drafted him in, this time as a replacement for Esteban Gutierrez, who had not been cleared to race on ovals prior to this weekend’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite the lack of IndyCar seat time since 2015, Vautier, who has two previous starts at Texas (2015 with Coyne, and 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) did not miss a beat. The 27-year-old quickly reacclimated himself and qualified the No. 18 Honda an impressive fifth, by far his best grid position at Texas. Prior to Friday, his best qualifying result at the 1.5-mile oval was 16th in 2015.

Vautier admitted afterward that, while the results say it didn’t take him long to get up to speed, he was apprehensive about his return. “I was a bit nervous, to be honest, just to know how it was going to feel, that first lap out. On a road course maybe not, but here on an oval, it’s a difficult place. I was just kind of anxious to get in the car and see how it would be, but after three or four laps, it was OK,” he said of his return to IndyCar machinery on an oval track.

Vautier then quickly acknowledged the team’s preparation and explained that their strong pace made the process go much more smoothly. “The team made it easy because the car was so good from the start,” he asserted. “It’s really cool to work with these guys, Craig (Hampson, engineer), Olivier (Boisson, engineer) and obviously the rest of the team. The car has felt really nice from the start and it’s really helped me out.”

Tomorrow’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 rolls off at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”