IndyCar: Tristan Vautier showing increased performance, promise

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It’s not every day that a driver starts out racing for a new team at the Indianapolis 500.

But that’s what happened for French driver Tristan Vautier. After missing the first five races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series, Vautier made his debut with Dale Coyne Racing in this year’s 500 (started 32nd and finished 28th).

Now, nine races into his stint with the Illinois-based IndyCar team, Vautier is starting to pay dividends.

In Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, he not only led a race for the first time this season and for only the third time in his IndyCar career, he actually was in contention for much of the event, eventually finishing sixth.

Having started from the back of the 24-car field, Vautier quickly moved up through the pack, taking the lead on Lap 23 and holding on for the next 10 circuits around the 2.258-mile road course.

In so doing, Vautier showed he can not only wheel his way to the front, but can stay there for a prolonged period of time.

“Coming home sixth (Sunday) is great for me and for the team,” said the native of Corenc, France. “I had a blast out there.

“The car was good; we had a really fast car. I was able to put in some very good lap times while saving some fuel. It was great to be able to lead some laps with such a good race car.”

Sunday’s sixth-place showing was Vautier’s second-best finish of the season thus far. He finished fourth at Belle Isle 2.

While he suffered a setback after Belle Isle when he finished 20th at Texas due to a bad wheel bearing, Vautier has been back on a steady climb upward performance-wise.

Starting with Texas, he’s finished 20th, 17th, 17th, 16th, 12th and sixth in his last six starts.

Now, Vautier looks to build upon the momentum gained from Mid-Ohio in the series’ next race, the ABC Supply Co. Inc. 500, Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway.

And at the same time, potentially give himself a heck of a birthday present, as he turns 26 one day earlier on Aug. 22.

“I am really thankful to Dale (Coyne) for having me in the car,” Vautier said. “It is an awesome group of people. (The team) is a small group of great people and I am having a blast this year.”

Vautier ran the entire season in 2013 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, finishing 20th in the standings. After his contract was not renewed, he sat out 2014 (although made four appearances in the Tudor United Sports Car Championship) and the first five races of 2015 before Coyne called and offered him a ride.

Vautier is currently 21st in the standings with two races remaining on the schedule.

“It was a really good job by Honda to have such good fuel mileage and great performance,” he said of Mid-Ohio. “Overall, it was a great end to our race weekend.”

And potentially the start of an even better weekend in two weeks.

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Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
Barry Chin / Getty Images
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.