Viso, Saavedra look to make most of new opportunities

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E.J. Viso (right) is heading for his biggest chance to date in the IZOD IndyCar Series – even if that means being a bit overshadowed to start.

Viso, entering his sixth year in IndyCar, will be running this season with Andretti Autosport, which boasts a driving stable that features the reigning series champion (Ryan Hunter-Reay), the series’ most popular driver (James Hinchcliffe), and a third generation of racing royalty (Marco Andretti).

But the Venezuelan is confident that, along with earning better results on the track, he can be a valuable teammate. The foursome tested last week at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

“I believe I’m just going to add a lot of things into that synergy that was already created in the last year,” Viso said earlier this month in an INDYCAR teleconference.

“I like the three drivers and I think each one of them have their own forte, and obviously, [with] Ryan winning the championship, that’s a great momentum that the team has, that hopefully we can continue.”

Another driver in new surroundings, Sebastian Saavedra, also hopes to do well in 2013. He is stepping back up to full-time IndyCar competition with Dragon Racing, teaming up with four-time Champ Car World Series champion and ex-Formula 1 racer Sebastien Bourdais.

Saavedra, who ran with Conquest Racing in 2011 and focused mostly on the developmental Firestone Indy Lights series last season, comes to Dragon in the midst of controversy after taking over the team’s second ride that used to belong to Katherine Legge – who has promised legal action over the matter.

As far as on-track matters go, however, Saavedra is focused on helping Dragon move up the grid.

“The team is so positive about how they were able to build up last season, so we come with so much energy coming into the first race of the season at St. Petersburg,” Saavedra said to IndyCar.com. “We’re looking very good and looking to make things happen with [Bourdais], and I believe we’re a good combination to push each other.”

Will Viso and Saavedra’s fresh starts translate to success? With less than a month before the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Mar. 24, Noon ET on NBC Sports Network), we’ll know the answer soon enough.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski