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Pastor Maldonado makes surprise IndyCar appearance in Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – The driver who was rumored to be in the frame for a Verizon IndyCar Series race seat at the start of the year is present at a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend now.

Pastor Maldonado, the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix winner who was left sidelined when Renault Sport took over what was the Lotus F1 team at the start of the year, is on site at this weekend’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway.

He was spotted in the KVSH Racing pits during first practice and was invited by the team co-owned by Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan for this weekend.

While there was a significant Venezuelan presence in the sport when E.J. Viso raced – and did so with KV for several years – the Venezuelan presence has been absent in recent years.

Maldonado says he is “taking in the race weekend” and was somewhat coy in terms of noting his interest in racing in IndyCar, but didn’t rule it out.

“I was very interested to see how the Indy works,” Maldonado told NBC Sports. “I got the invitation from the team and it’s very interesting. I have so many friends here from Europe, starting with Juan Pablo (Montoya), then so many other drivers. It’s quite interesting to see how the series is organized. And then maybe I didn’t choose the best track to come, but it’s nice even to see this old-fashioned American style.”

Asked whether he was close to racing here this year, Maldonado didn’t deny it, but didn’t admit it either.

“At the moment we are not looking to race here, but for sure I’m looking around to solve my situation,” he said. “First option is of course Formula 1, because I’ve been very involved in the past few years there. This year I’m fully involved in the tire development.”

Maldonado also confirmed he has been undertaking Pirelli tire testing this year, as outlined above.

We pondered whether Alexander Rossi’s success in North America this year was anything Maldonado took note of.

“I’ve been racing even two years ago, Rossi when he did a few races in Formula 1 I think,” he said. “He’s a good driver. He showed his consistency in GP2 as well which is a very tough category in Europe. He’s showing very good potential. It’s not easy. It’s kind of different concept of racing. But I think any good driver from Europe can adapt easily to a decent style. The same in the other way around, any good driver from here can adapt themselves to Europe style.”

Anyway, since Maldonado’s now been at an IndyCar race, watch this space to see what happens for him in the future.

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar practice and qualifying at Laguna Seca

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For the first time in 15 years, Indy cars will be racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and the stakes have never been higher.

Tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Monterey is the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and with four drivers mathematically eligible for the series championship, there will be plenty of story lines to follow.

Current series points leader Josef Newgarden enters this weekend with a 41-point lead over second-place Alexander Rossi.

A California native, Rossi attended his first IndyCar race with his father as child at Laguna Seca when he was three years old.

He now hopes to win his first IndyCar championship at the track where he fell in love with the sport, but after suffering a broken bolt in practice 1 yesterday, he will need to find speed in P3 and qualifying today in order to put himself in the best position to fight for the title.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are also in contention to win the championship this weekend, and another title would only add to their already illustrious IndyCar careers.

Leigh Diffey, Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell will call today’s on-track action from the booth, while Marty Snider, Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller will report from the pits.

Here is today’s schedule:

(All times are Eastern)

Saturday 9/21, 1 p.m. ET, IndyCar Practice 3, NBC Sports Gold 

Saturday 9/21, 4:30 p.m. ET, IndyCar Qualifying, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday 9/21, 6 p.m. ET, Indy Lights Race 1, NBC Sports Gold 

 

For sessions on NBC Sports Gold, be sure to have your username and password handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.