Vautier: Plenty more still to come

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Say this about Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier: he already has developed veteran-like tendencies in managing expectations and just taking his learning in IndyCar one step at a time.

Asked Thursday in Long Beach whether he was either surprised or excited with his fast start to the season, with back-to-back Firestone Fast Six appearances at St. Petersburg and Barber, Vautier said neither, because either answer would paint him into a corner.

“If you’re surprised, you don’t think you trust yourself. And if you say you’re excited, it’s pretentious!” Vautier said, candidly. “I didn’t set any expectations going in, so I’m not going to say I’m surprised or not surprised.”

What he did help do, though, was push the team to get back out when told he would be in the Fast Six at Barber, following a blocking penalty issued to A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato.

“Yeah basically, I was pissed, and the team had to take the car off pit lane,” Vautier explained. “We were told by IndyCar in the briefings to get the cars off as quick as possible if we didn’t make it to the next segment. I was very frustrated with a big mistake.

“Then I saw myself on the top six when they switched, so I called the team and they didn’t believe me. It was funny. Then the guys made the car ready so fast.”

Vautier and Schmidt Hamilton teammate Simon Pagenaud have gelled, both on and off track. The two starred in a trip to Bass Pro Shops in Alabama, for some off-color humor beyond the series’ last race at Barber Motorsports Park.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.