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Vautier quickly back up to speed with Coyne

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Tristan Vautier last competed in a Verizon IndyCar Series event in 2015 at the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway. Coincidentally, that start came with Dale Coyne Racing, with whom he competed in the 2015 season from the Indianapolis 500 onwards.

Fast forward to 2017, and Coyne again drafted him in, this time as a replacement for Esteban Gutierrez, who had not been cleared to race on ovals prior to this weekend’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Despite the lack of IndyCar seat time since 2015, Vautier, who has two previous starts at Texas (2015 with Coyne, and 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) did not miss a beat. The 27-year-old quickly reacclimated himself and qualified the No. 18 Honda an impressive fifth, by far his best grid position at Texas. Prior to Friday, his best qualifying result at the 1.5-mile oval was 16th in 2015.

Vautier admitted afterward that, while the results say it didn’t take him long to get up to speed, he was apprehensive about his return. “I was a bit nervous, to be honest, just to know how it was going to feel, that first lap out. On a road course maybe not, but here on an oval, it’s a difficult place. I was just kind of anxious to get in the car and see how it would be, but after three or four laps, it was OK,” he said of his return to IndyCar machinery on an oval track.

Vautier then quickly acknowledged the team’s preparation and explained that their strong pace made the process go much more smoothly. “The team made it easy because the car was so good from the start,” he asserted. “It’s really cool to work with these guys, Craig (Hampson, engineer), Olivier (Boisson, engineer) and obviously the rest of the team. The car has felt really nice from the start and it’s really helped me out.”

Tomorrow’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 rolls off at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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F1: Lewis Hamilton roars back from starting 14th to win German GP, regain points lead

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Heading into Sunday’s German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton wasn’t given much of a chance after qualifying so poorly (14th) one day earlier.

But in one of the most significant rallies of the 2018 Formula One season, Hamilton roared back to not only win at Hockenheim, but also regain the lead in the F1 drivers championship standings at the halfway point of the season.

Ditto for Mercedes in the Constructors Championship.

“It was so tough out there,” Hamilton told Sky Sports/ESPN. “Conditions were perfect for business time. When it rained, I knew I’d have a good position, but you never know what’s going to happen behind the safety car.”

Despite rainy conditions for part of the race, not to mention wet overall conditions that caused a number of drivers to spin, Hamilton won the 66th race of his F1 career (44th with Mercedes AMG Petronas) in a time of 1:32.29.845 and took home 25 points for his fourth win of 2018.

It’s the furthest back a driver has come from back in the pack to win since Fernando Alonso started 15th and won the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

The win comes just a couple days after Hamilton re-signed with Mercedes AMG through the 2020 season, leading him to pay an immediate return on investment, so to speak.

“It’s obviously very, very difficult (to win) from that position and highly unlikely, but you’ve always got to believe,” Hamilton said. “I said a long, long prayer before the race started.

“When we did the parade lap, I could see how much support we had and I just wanted to stay collected and stay calm. The team did such a great job today, the car was fantastic, I’m so grateful.

“I would never have thought you could do something like that today, but I kept pushing and kept believing and it happened, so I really manifested my dreams today. Thanks to God.”

It was also the 125th F1 podium finish of Hamilton’s career.

To make the win even sweeter, Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, finished second, the first time in German GP history that homeland team Mercedes has finished 1-2.

It’s Bottas’ fifth podium of the season, all being runner-up finishes.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third, 6.5 seconds behind Hamilton, followed my Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg. For Raikkonen, it was his 28th podium since his last win.

Sixth through 10th were Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Marcus Ericsson and Brendon Hartley.

Kevin Magnussen finished 11th, followed by Carlos Sainz, Stoffel Vandoorne, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso was the last running car, finishing 16th.

Failing to finish (17th through 20th) were Lance Stroll, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (who made a mistake and crashed), Sergey Sirotkin and Daniel Ricciardo.

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