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Felipe Nasr explores U.S. options in visit to IndyCar at Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Ex-Sauber Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr is making the rounds at this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen, as the 25-year-old Brazilian sorts out his next career move.

Nasr and Sauber parted ways late into last year’s offseason, and it’s left him looking for alternative options – one of which could be the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018.

His Brazilian countryman, Helio Castroneves, has invited him to check out the scenery this weekend ahead of a potential arrival in 2018. Castroneves himself faces an uncertain future in IndyCar as he may not continue with Team Penske into 2018, and with the Team Penske and Acura Motorsports DPi program set to come online next season.

But beyond Castroneves, Nasr has also caught up with a few team members from Carlin, a team he drove for in Europe in the past.

“It was Helio that invited me! But I know the people from Carlin for many years though. Drive for British F3 and GP2 as well. So we have a good relationship and it’s good to see them doing well in Indy Lights,” Nasr told NBC Sports.

“This is my first weekend here. It’s good to have a look around. It’s a series that always caught my attention. I wanted to stay closely by. Helio will show me around. It’s interesting.”

Nasr identified IndyCar as one of a number of potential series options for next season.

“The thing is, everything was really late last year. The deal with Sauber wasn’t going to continue. That was December time,” Nasr explained.

“It was late to get in any other series. I’ve still driven other cars, other series this year. So I definitely will be racing next year, but not sure where yet. So why not have a look here? There might be something in the near future to do.

“I would say when I look at series out there, in IMSA, IndyCar, Formula E, the WEC, there’s all these series with great visibility and levels of competition.”

Although Nasr didn’t call Castroneves his mentor, per se, Castroneves has been an integral part of Nasr’s family life and upbringing.

He’s 42 while Nasr, who turned 25 last month, has only a little bit of U.S. experience – he starred with Michael Shank Racing as a Sunoco Challenge winner en route to third overall in the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“Helio probably knows me since I’m young! He did South American F3 with my dad’s team. If not, he’s one of the most experienced guys in the field. It’s nice to be looking around and meet a few people,” he said.

“He was very involved in my dad’s team early on. When he moved to do IndyCar, he’s done some solid years here. He always kept a great relationship with my family. When he invited me to come along, I thought it’d be nice.

“He’s one of the guys I want to be around. Basically he knows how everything works here. It’s kind of different. It’s a very strong field with very strong teams.

“I’m just here as a nice spectator. So Helio will be showing me around, and hopefully I can get a few more details about this series.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.