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Gutierrez, Haas “break the barrier” to make first Q3 run at Monza

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Esteban Gutierrez has delivered Gene Haas’ team its maiden Q3 appearance, and will start 10th for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

The young Mexican has been first of the Haas F1 Team’s pair of drivers to crack into the top 10, which marks a remarkable achievement for the team in just its 14th Grand Prix as an outfit – and the last race of the European season before the remaining flyaway rounds.

Gutierrez ran a best time of 1:23.386 in Q1 to advance into Q2 and supplanted that then, running at 1:22.856, which was seventh in Q2. Both of those times were set on Pirelli’s supersoft tires.

Despite a ragged lap from Gutierrez in Q3 – he ran wide at the second Lesmo – he’ll still start 10th for tomorrow’s race.

Post-qualifying, Gutierrez reflected on the accomplishment primarily for the entirety of the Haas team.

“It was fantastic. A great effort from the whole team,” Gutierrez told NBCSN’s Will Buxton.

“Being very consistent in last few months has helped us to focus on the details that make the difference.

“Today, we broke that barrier into the top 10. We want to establish it and make it solid for tomorrow.”

Gutierrez should be locked in a midfield scrap for the lower regions of the points. But the driver who’s come 11th on multiple occasions this season has a great chance of securing his first points finish this season, and first overall in his career since his first and thus far only F1 points score – seventh at the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix then driving for Sauber.

“It looks solid. I pushed the limit. We might be a bit off position to the front,” Gutierrez explained. “It was great to do good laps in qualifying. Tomorrow we have to optimize all we have to make it work.

“We’ll do our best. I will push. It’s the best position ever for us.”

While the day was stellar for Gutierrez, teammate Romain Grosjean had a tougher go of it with an off in FP3 this morning and a five-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change. Grosjean qualified 12th, but will roll off 17th on Sunday.

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”