Maldonado charges to best F1 qualifying result of 2014

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Pastor Maldonado has his best chance of the year to score some points in tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix after qualifying in 11th place on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.

The Lotus driver produced an impressive pace in the first session to ease through to Q2, and fell less than one-tenth of a second shy of making it into the top ten.

He will however start the race from 10th place due to Jenson Button’s five-place grid penalty.

“It wasn’t too bad, much better than usual,” Maldonado said when asked about his qualifying performance by MotorSportsTalk. “We did our best. It seems like the car is much better here. This is positive, especially looking forward to the next season.

“Maybe it’s a step forwards, maybe we are learning more about the car, maybe the track is better for our car. I think we worked quite well. The car as you know is not the most competitive one in the paddock. I tried to pull that altogether. Today in FP3 we were quite competitive, so not too bad. I’m quite happy.”

However, Maldonado refused to say with certainty that he will be in the race for points tomorrow given that he has failed to score any points so far this year, but he feels that he is in a strong position to break this duck in Austin.

“Let’s do our best,” he said. “Races are never down to one side. We need to value what is going on around with other people, the other teams’ strategies are very important now. It seems like it’s going to be more than one stop not as usual. We’ll see tomorrow.

“The track is getting better and better, which is better strategy-wise. We are in a good position for tires, which is quite positive, so we’ll see.”

Maldonado’s teammate, Romain Grosjean, will start the race from P16 after failing to make it out of Q1 in Austin.

NBC/NBCSN SCHEDULE FROM UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?