Some Servia is better than no Servia for 2014

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It’s the line that best sums up Oriol Servia’s IndyCar career – often times interrupted, but never defeated: “Where will the wind blow next?”

The Catalan has had perhaps the most circuitous route to navigate over the last 15 years, dating to his rookie year in the then-CART championship in 2000.

In order, the team breakdown is: PPI Motorsports (2000), Sigma Autosport (2001), PWR Championship Racing (early 2002, the former PacWest, and forerunner to KV), Patrick Racing (2002-03), Dale Coyne Racing (2004-05), Newman/Haas Racing (2005, part 1), PKV Racing (2006, initially PK and before KV), Forsythe Championship Racing (2007), PKV again (2007, part 2), KV (2008), Rahal Letterman Racing (2009), Newman/Haas/Lanigan (2009, part 2), an off year, Newman/Haas/Lanigan (2011, part 3), Lotus DRR (2012), Panther DRR (2012-13), Panther Racing (2013), and now Rahal Letterman Lanigan (2014, part 2).

It says something about the quality of person and driver Servia is that through this maze of different teams, through three different series (CART, Champ Car, now IndyCar), his presence on the IndyCar grid continues to endure in some capacity.

Servia’s stats are not otherworldly. In 191 career starts, his only win came in 2005 in Montreal, then filling in for the injured Bruno Junqueira for Newman/Haas in Champ Car. There have been 18 other podium finishes.

But he’s dependable and always extracts the maximum from his machinery, if not overachieving altogether. In his full seasons dating to 2003, Servia has finished in the top-10 in points on six of a possible eight occasions (11th in 2006 and 13th in 2012 were the only exceptions, and he missed most of 2009 and 2010).

Think of all the various teammates, crews, setups, chassis, engines and seat fittings that Servia has gone through over the course of his career, and that’s in part why he’s as well respected and liked as he is.

In any instance, Servia could be frustrated about the situation presented to him, but he tends to laugh it off, roll his r’s, and move onto the next opportunity.

When you think of any open ride on the grid, the first name that comes to mind is Servia’s. When you think of a fill-in driver needed, Servia’s name emerges. When at the end of a season, a team closes, or a manufacturer pulls out, Servia’s often been the one left on the sidelines… yet he’ll likely re-enter the frame at the next available opportunity.

There’s a likeable underdog story about Servia in that for all of those 14 years, he’s really only had one shot at the best level machinery – when he was plucked from Coyne to replace Junqueira at Newman/Haas in Champ Car. And that year, he finished second in the points only behind teammate Sebastien Bourdais.

In nearly every other instance, he’s been a part-time role, fill-in role, or a last-minute change of team or equipment either at the start of or during a season.

Some of the standout races he’s put together in those roles in recent years include finishing second at Long Beach 2007 subbing for Paul Tracy at Forsythe, finishing on the podium for KV later that year at Mexico City, ending fourth for N/H/L at Motegi in 2009, or achieving any of the “ghost” top-fives he did in 2012 once DRR dumped its Lotus for a Chevrolet. It proves he still has what it takes to get the job done well at this level.

In 2011, his last proper full season, he was fourth in points with an NHL team operating on a comparative fraction of a budget compared to Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.

Just this past year he was ninth in points after the Indianapolis 500 driving for DRR, before that team too shuttered operations. And when he filled in down the line at Panther, he was seventh on two occasions in a car that had little business finishing that high.

He’s worked with big-name teammates such as James Hinchcliffe, the 2011 rookie-of-the-year, Graham Rahal, Will Power (who Servia beat in points over the course of the full 2008 season), Tracy and Bourdais, among others.

It’s rare to find someone like “the people’s champion” with such a high approval and popularity rating in the paddock, and it was interesting to watch the congratulatory messages flow in this morning.

And so, fittingly, Servia’s deal thus far for 2014 is part-time, four races and part two of his journey with RLL, and Graham Rahal as a teammate.

Servia will probably overachieve, score at least one top-five finish, maybe contend for a podium, and still there will be no guarantee of further races after the month of May despite the desire many will want to want to see him continue.

For Servia, it couldn’t happen any other way.

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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