While the saga of Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 18 car played itself out both on Friday and then again on Saturday morning at Long Beach, there was one driver heading into the weekend that was making his first start of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, and was set from the outset: Sebastian Saavedra at Chip Ganassi Racing for the first time.
The Colombian, a veteran of 56 past starts in the series over the last five years, was named to CGR’s No. 8 Chevrolet earlier in the week, in an AFS-backed entry and as part of a ride-share agreement with CGR development driver Sage Karam.
Saavedra qualified 11th, ran consistently in the top 12 most of the race, and made it up to a respectable 10th place at the finish.
It’s only the fourth top-10 of his career, but his second straight at Long Beach after coming in ninth last year.
“A top-10 finish was an exciting way to start my relationship with the team,” Saavedra said post-race. “It helps to have a great car right out of the box and great teammates to support me after being out of the car for so long.
“This whole weekend was about getting the rust off and adapting to fuel-saving strategies and learning how to get the best out of the red and black tires. Overall I’m going home pleased with the finish.”
Race winner Scott Dixon praised Saavedra’s effort post-race.
“Even with Saavedra this weekend, it’s another guy, and he does something different, and it’s kind of cool to see,” Dixon said.
“Dario (Franchitti) was a big help this weekend. It was a track that he’s always been very strong at. He was able to give me a few little tips and tricks here and there in troublesome areas, but also with Charlie and some corners in like Turn 6 and TK in Turn 1 and Saavedra was exceptionally fast in 5, so all that data sitting there, so it’s kind of fun to go through and work out how they’re doing it and get the most out of it.”
Saavedra will next be in the No. 8 car for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9, a race where he is the defending polesitter, while he’ll shift to a fifth Ganassi-operated car for the remainder of the month of May on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.