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Servia “very grateful” for Penske opportunity to fill in for Power

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In the annals of Oriol Servia’s career, this one was an oddity.

Servia – who has unofficially now raced for his 13th different team in his 198-start IndyCar career with his first start for Team Penske on Sunday – went from trying to figure out an Indianapolis 500 deal to then making sure all his equipment was here, getting his seat placed in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and fitting into a Verizon firesuit.

And then doing the warmup session maybe an hour after the end of the morning driver’s meeting.

But while Servia had made miracles happen before in a similar type situation – he filled in for Paul Tracy at Long Beach in the 2007 Champ Car World Series race, qualifying 14th and then driving to second – no such encore occurred Sunday in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Servia started 22nd and last in taking over for Will Power, who was diagnosed with a mild concussion. It meant the polesitting car moved back to the rear of the field.

He’d already gained four spots by Lap 1 (up to 18th), and ran as high as 11th on Lap 56 before he was caught up in the Turn 8 “parking lot.”

He ended 18th, then, a lap down by the end of the day.

But all told, it wasn’t the result but the opportunity for Servia to embrace.

“It was crazy from the beginning to the middle to the end! I was pleased I had the pace in the warmup, although the last few tenths is what we just didn’t have time to find,” Servia said, via Chevrolet’s post-race quotes.

“In the race, I’d say I was the limit, my arms, not the car. I can tell you, I was very pleased to see that first yellow.

“But I’m very grateful to the team, it was a fantastic car, a fantastic opportunity, but I wish it didn’t happen because of Will. He is a good friend.”

Servia now lives in Los Angeles, but was in St. Petersburg instead of the FIA Formula E Championship race in Mexico City, which took place on Saturday. Servia serves as the managing director for Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing team and incidentally, Dragon Racing won on a disqualification with Jerome d’Ambrosio inheriting the win after Lucas di Grassi was bounced.

It’s the second straight race for Servia – spread over eight months with two different teams – in IndyCar. He got the emotional call-up to fill Justin Wilson’s seat in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda at the Sonoma finale last year.

Ideally, his next IndyCar start – and two more would take him to 200 in his career dating to 2000 – comes under more normal circumstances.

Here’s more on Servia’s day from USA Today Sports’ Brant James – Brant and I wound up playing the new “find the Servia” game – this morning.

NBCSN will present ‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ Monday

NBCSN
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With motor racing reckoning with its own issues of diversity and equality, “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” will tackle the topics of social justice with several athletes. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday, July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic channel and on regional sports networks.

The roundtable discussions will be hosted by Damon Hack and feature Charles Barkley, Steph Curry, Jimmy Rollins and Ozzie Smith in one segment. The other segment will include Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins and James Blake.

Race has been a major topic in motorsports this year.

NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its race after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series. In Formula One, six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton has joined Black Lives Matter marches in London and also formed a panel on diversity. The lone Black driver in F1 also led 14 of 20 drivers taking a knee before the season opener in Austria.