De Silvestro ends fourth after strategy gamble pays dividends for Andretti

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AVONDALE, La. – Fourth place in her second straight one-off race made for a good result for Simona de Silvestro, driver of Andretti Autosport’s No. 25 Honda.

De Silvestro, who started 18th due to entrant points for Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana, was fourth among those on the alternate strategy call, thanks to a collaboration with her strategist Rob Edwards, the team’s director of race operations and engineering.

“In the the rain we were going pretty well, then we had a pretty good call there on the pits to come in and put the slicks on and the second stop was also a really good call,” she told NBCSN. “So I think that’s how we shuffled forward.

“From there on, I was able to pass TK (Tony Kanaan), so I feel really happy, for the team and myself, second race back to finish fourth and that’s not something we were expecting after the way the weekend started, but sometimes things fall your way and they did today and we’re really happy about it.”

She elaborated further on how she and Edwards could gamble on the strategy, as she last pitted on Lap 30.

“Because of where we were starting, we kind of knew we could gamble something,” she elaborated post-race. “We weren’t really strong the whole weekend, we didn’t have the pace to run up front and the conditions today really helped us.

“I really like these conditions when I have to figure out where things are going and it worked out really well.  On the one restart Filippi lost right in front of me and I got sent back a little bit and maybe that opened the window even more to come in the pits.”

This marked de Silvestro’s first rain race in more than two years.

“It’s hard to say, in the rain I thought it was OK,” she said of the conditions. “I think even for me getting back in a race car and driving in the rain.  I haven’t done that in over two years and I got more confident.  In the dry, the track wasn’t great, but it seemed OK and pretty quick.  It seemed like the tires were there right away on the restarts.”

Her fourth place was a needed tonic on a day when teammates Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti ended 12th and 13th, and Ryan Hunter-Reay ended with a wrecked car following his late-race contact with Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais.

As of now, her next scheduled race is the Indianapolis 500 in the TE Connectivity-backed No. 29 Honda. But ideally this serves as a springboard for one or more of the three remaining races between now and then.

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.