Abt loses win chance, but hangs on for first Formula E podium in Miami

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MIAMI – Daniel Abt’s day at the office in Miami was pretty close to perfect, except for the final two laps.

The driver of the No. 66 Audi Sport ABT entry was well positioned to win his first FIA Formula E Championship race, but the German was forced to back off and conserve enough energy for the finish despite leading Laps 23 to 37 in the 39-lap Miami ePrix.

If today was a case of losing the race but gaining the podium with third place, it was certainly a day where Abt capitalized on his yearlong pace and actually got the result to go with it.

“I’m extremely happy to be on the podium,” Abt said in the post-race press conference. “The first race I thought I had it and then it was pulled away. We’ve had many chances to get close to podium and never made it. Finally we put everything together.”

Abt started third in each of the first two races this year, but ended 10th in both.

The German sprung into the lead courtesy of a split strategy between he and teammate Lucas di Grassi during the race. Abt became net leader on the pit sequence halfway through the race, and took over the outright lead by Lap 23, after Nick Heidfeld pitted.

Abt had the lead but did not have enough energy life left to last the duration, and he also had a pack of challengers behind him threatening to pass. Eventual winner Nicolas Prost finally did on the second-to-last lap, with Scott Speed following shortly thereafter for second.

“It feels really bad, especially when you’re leading,” Abt admitted. “It was my first time leading and you know it’s going to get tougher, tougher. Every lap you see you’re not really on target, they had one lap less so they could go really fast.

“I tried to push and stay ahead, but I knew there was no way I’m gonna make it. Then it’s better to let them go ahead and make it safe instead of doing something crazy and that’s what I decided to do.”

The result could be a breakthrough run for the GP2 veteran, who also tested an IndyCar this offseason for Andretti Autosport. Abt will look to build on the result in Long Beach in three weeks time.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will race IndyCar stars in iRacing at Michigan

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The invite has been received, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has another iRacing event on his schedule.

The NASCAR on NBC analyst tweeted Wednesday that he will make his debut in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge with Saturday’s race at Michigan Speedway. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

The 2-mile oval was chosen by IndyCar drivers as the third track in the six-race series. Earnhardt heartily endorsed Michigan as a potential iRacing venue Monday along with Daytona and Talladega. Michigan nearly was selected by fans as the opener in the iRacing Challenge.

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Earnhardt, a longtime avid iRacing fan, had been lobbying since last Thursday that he was interested in racing with IndyCar drivers.

He has driven in the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Last year, he attended his first Indianapolis 500, working as an analyst as part of NBC Sports’ inaugural broadcast of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I’d love to do it,” Earnhardt said Monday about joining the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “I think I’d love to get to know those guys.

“I had such a great time at the Indy 500 last year, and the reception that I received from other drivers there really meant a lot to me. So I know they’re all a lot of great dudes in that series that I already know that I’d love to get to know some of them even better.”

It already has been quite the week for Earnhardt, who was announced Monday as one of 15 nominees for the 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The field for Saturday’s race at Michigan should include another  NASCAR driver in Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion has driven the first two races of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge (and has plans to race IndyCar part time in the future).