Oriol Servia in for Panther at Mid-Ohio

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With Ryan Briscoe still on the mend after suffering a fractured wrist during the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader, Panther Racing has called in Oriol Servia to drive their No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet for this weekend’s Honda 200 (Sun., 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

It will be the Spaniard’s third start of the season for Panther; his most recent came at Iowa Speedway, where he finished seventh.

“We didn’t want to rush Briscoe back from surgery and obviously Oriol is a great IndyCar driver and does a phenomenal job working with our crew,” team co-owner John Barnes said in a statement. “The test day on Wednesday will be a big help and we’re looking forward to a great weekend with our friends from the Ohio National Guard.”

Servia has been relatively consistent at Mid-Ohio over the course of his career, with six Top-10 results in eight career races there. His best finish at M-O was fifth in 2008 for KV Racing Technology. Last year, he finished 10th for Panther DRR.

“Iowa was my last race, and while I love ovals, I’m really looking forward to getting back on a road course,” Servia said in a team statement. “…We have a test day before the race that will be a big help for us fine-tuning the car, and especially for me to knock off a little rust. I’m looking forward to being competitive this weekend and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.”

Meanwhile, Briscoe will focus on making his return at the Aug. 11 American Le Mans Series event at Road America. He competes in the ALMS full-time for Level 5 Motorsports in addition to his part-time duties in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“As long as I can turn the wheel at Road America, I’ll be OK,” he said according to RACER Magazine. “It will be tough, but I’m confident I’ll be all right. [ALMS cars] have power steering, which will make things easier.

“Realistically, my next time in an IndyCar will be testing with Panther at Sonoma, but Sonoma is one of the heaviest places [IndyCar goes] to for steering. I’ll have some more time to recover before that race, so I hope I won’t have any limitations for the rest of the season.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”