“French Connection” earn Top 10 runs at Barber

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Simon Pagenaud and rookie Tristan Vautier (pictured) made up for a rough start to the IndyCar season at St. Petersburg with Top-10 efforts yesterday at Barber Motorsports Park.

Pagenaud qualified 13th and quietly worked his way up to sixth place at the finish after going on an alternate pit strategy (he first pitted early on Lap 18), while Vautier (who qualified third) ran as high as second in the race’s early stages before fading back to tenth. Both drivers were knocked out by exhaust issues in the season-opening race at St. Pete two weeks ago.

“Today was a good day, and sometimes a sixth place can feel like a win,” Pagenaud said. “We had a great race car that was consistent and fast. Coming from 13th to sixth was great and we were able to fight with the main guys. I’m pretty happy with the result today because it’s good points for the championship.”

Meanwhile, Vautier, who has shown impressive bursts of talent in his first few IndyCar races, was left slightly disappointed following Sunday’s run despite collecting his first Top-10 in the series.

“Today was a pretty tough race,” he said. “I learned a lot and that’s good, but really, I was struggling with space and I asked my engineer for a little too many changes and wasn’t quite there on the pure speed.

“I made a few mistakes, three big mistakes that cost us a lot. I think next time, I just need a better pace and to avoid those mistakes.”

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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