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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.

Todd LeDuc advances two positions in Monster Jam Power Rankings

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Neil Elliott held onto the top spot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings, but he has a new driver sniffing his exhaust as Todd Leduc advanced two positions to second this week.

The Stadium Series Green continues to hold the advantage in the Power Rankings with Elliott topping the chart, Morgan Kane in fourth, and Ryan Anderson eighth, but there is an equitable distribution among the other series throughout the field.

Notably, Leduc and his Monster Energy truck in the Stadium Series Red closed the gap with a 38-point overall victory at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. Leduc achieved his win through consistency, pocketing the overall without winning a single individual event. Leduc’s best session was a second-place finish to Mike Vaters II in Overkill Evolution by .001 points.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, Elliott rambled on. Elliott won his sixth skills challenge in seven contests so far. That contributed to his 35 points for the event at PETCO Park in San Diego and allowed him to hold onto the No. 1 slot in the Monster Jam Power Rankings.

Colton Eichelberger also held station. Third last week, he entered the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on a mission in the Triple Threat Series Central. He topped the event points in all four events with timed race wins in each session, ATV race wins in three of the four, three wins in the speedster obstacle course, two freestyle wins and one win in the donut competitions.

MORE: Ryan Anderson and the anatomy of a Monster Jam freestyle run

Morgan Kane and Grave Digger had a rough night. He was ousted from the racing event in Round 2 by Max-D and Elliott. He failed to win either of the other two competitions of the night and ended with 29 points, which was a distant third to Ryan Anderson’s Son-Uva Digger (37) and Max-D (35).

Brandon Vinson moved up to the fifth position with three wins in the Triple Threat Series West. During the weekend he earned seven session wins, including a sweep of the speedster obstacle course and two victories in the two-wheel skills challenge.

Tom Meents debuted on the Monster Jam Power Rankings in 10th by winning the overall in back to back nights of the Stadium Series Yellow. The Saturday show can be seen Feb. 22 at 11:30 p.m. on NBCSN (click here for streaming). The highlight of Meents’ weekend were race wins on Saturday and Sunday, defeating Coty Saucier in a Monster Energy truck on Night 1 and Eric Swanson in Obsessed on Night 2.

Power Rankings

1. Neil Elliott–same
2. Todd LeDuc–up 2
3. Colton Eichelberger-same
4. Morgan Kane–down 2
5. Brandon Vinson–up 1
6. Tyler Menninga–up 1
7. Coty Saucier–down 2
8. Ryan Anderson–same
9. Linsey Read–up 1
10. Tom Meents-new for 2020

Upcoming TV Schedule (All showings on Eastern time on NBCSN)

Oakland: February 22 (Saturday); 11:30 p.m.
Miami: March 1 (Sunday); 12 a.m.
Jacksonville: March 9 (Monday); 6 p.m.
Detroit: March 21 (Saturday); 11 p.m.
Las Vegas: March 28 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Santa Clara: April 11 (Saturday); 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: April 17 (Friday); 2:30 p.m.
Denver: April 25 (Saturday); 6:30 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals Racing: May 9 (Saturday); 5 p.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: May 19 (Tuesday); 4 p.m.
Monster Jam World Freestyle: May 20 (Wednesday); 12 a.m.
Monster Jam World Finals: June 20 (Saturday); 2:30 p.m.