Ky. Speedway GM: I could see IndyCar coming back

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Kentucky Speedway has been off the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule for a couple of years now, but it appears that the track’s general manager, Mark Simendinger, is open to seeing the series return to his 1.5-mile oval outside Cincinnati.

According to Kevin Kelly of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Simendinger touched on the subject in a “town hall” session with fans during the track’s “Fan Day” this past weekend.

“I would see them coming back at some point in time,” said Simendinger. “I’m not sure when that point in time would be, because that’s a series that’s kind of working on its mix of ovals versus road courses and they’ve got a management change there.

“They’re dealing with kind of the economic model of what their races are going to be and how much money they’re going to charge tracks and all that kind of stuff. So I think that stuff has to get worked out, but I could see the IndyCar Series coming back here.”

Following a 12-year run, IndyCar departed from Kentucky Speedway after the 2011 race, which saw Ed Carpenter claim his first career victory over Dario Franchitti by .0098 of a second — the sixth-closest finish in series history. The track currently hosts all three of NASCAR’s national series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck) as well as the ARCA stock car series.

Considering that IndyCar only carries six ovals on the docket, it could use another speedway or two for more of a balance with the road and street circuits. However, one would assume that a title sponsor would be critical, if not essential, in bringing the series back to Kentucky; the 2010 and 2011 events there did not have one. In addition, attendance issues that plagued the race’s final years would have to be addressed as well.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.