TCGR scores twin Top-10s for first time in 2013

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Another sign of how parity has taken hold of the IZOD IndyCar Series this season: Today’s first race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit marked the first time this year that both Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers have collected Top-10 results in the same race.

Scott Dixon had to overcome an early incident with A.J. Allmendinger in order to grab a fourth-place finish, while Dario Franchitti was steady in a sixth-place effort.

Dixon, who led wire-to-wire in last year’s shortened race on Belle Isle, found trouble on the opening lap when Allmendinger climbed over the side of his No. 9 Honda en route to hitting the Turn 4 tire barriers. Dixon was forced to come to pit road for a new rear wing, and he returned to the pits again just two laps later for a fuel-only stop.

It helped make for a long day for Dixon, but he was still able to come away with his third Top-5 of the season after hounding third-place finisher Justin Wilson for the last spot on the podium all the way to the finish.

“I got to the back of the field there twice and had to drive through it,” said Dixon, who goes off ninth in tomorrow’s second Dual race. “…The pace of the race was very high. It felt like it was qualifying all over again almost every lap.

“Earlier on, it was a bit funky in the middle there with people trying to set a pace, but the front runners were definitely going. I’ll definitely be getting plenty of rest tonight.”

Franchitti had a good first stint, jumping three positions on the first lap of the race and moving up to fourth by the time he made his first stop on Lap 25. But on a restart at Lap 39, Franchitti fell from third to sixth in one lap and was unable to move any farther for the rest of the afternoon.

“Helio [Castroneves] got down the inside of us and locked up his tires and I had to go wide to avoid him,” Franchitti said about that particular restart. “From there, it was just a case of coming back through the field. The team did a bit of strategy and I was trying to make some passes there.

“I have to say the car was very fast. It was just a matter of getting some clear track to make things happen. It was a good team effort today. We need to make a few changes for tomorrow to see if we can improve things.”

Franchitti’s sixth-place effort is his best since finishing fourth in April at Long Beach.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.