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What Drivers Are Saying about Saturday’s INDYCAR race at Texas

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Here’s What Drivers Are Saying about this Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway (courtesy INDYCAR Media Relations):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “We’ve had a few weeks that haven’t gone our way but we’re ready to change all that at Texas. The team learned a lot at Indianapolis and have some new things they plan on trying out on the No. 1 Verizon Chevrolet that I’m really excited about. They’ve been working hard in this long stretch, but we’re ready to do whatever we can to get back into victory lane. Texas fans are always really fun and I always really enjoy getting to meet the passionate INDYCAR fans out there.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “This will be my first time in Texas so I’m excited for my second superspeedway experience. We had a great car in Indy so hopefully, we’ll have a great car in Texas, too. I’m looking forward to more oval action. I’ll try to learn the track as quick as I can and try to maximize our tools and have a great weekend.” (How do you prepare for it?) “Most of the times I just watch videos to prepare myself for the races. It was like that in Indy, so I’ll take some time to watch some races from the past years. But it’s a new car so you don’t know how it’s going to be in traffic, we don’t even know how it’s going to be by ourselves so hopefully, we’ll have a good run there.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “We’ve had really strong cars at Texas the last couple years, so we’re really hoping that can translate into a good weekend for us. Obviously, Detroit wasn’t what we wanted, so we have to put that one behind us and focus on getting the Arrow Electronics car to the front on Saturday night.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “I had a test day at Texas Motor Speedway for a manufacturer test, so it’s actually going to be the first oval on the schedule that I’ve been to before the race weekend. Hopefully, we can hit the ground running a little easier without as many teething issues being new to oval racing. It wasn’t a great test for us since it was so windy that day, but summertime in Texas, I’m sure it’s going to be hot and completely different to how it was then. The tough INDYCAR schedule keeps on trucking, and I’m looking forward to getting back into another race weekend. We had a pretty good weekend in Detroit, so hopefully, we can keep this momentum going.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We’ve won twice at Texas and we were in contention for a third victory last year until we got taken out so hopefully, we’ll have a shot at it again this weekend. The whole PNC Bank team has been pushing hard and we had good pace last weekend in Detroit, which we hope to continue into this weekend. The last three races have been good points races for us and we’ll be trying hard to do that again Saturday night.”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda): “I’m very happy with the recent results. I had my best qualifying effort ever in Detroit of fourth, but we know there is more to be done to get us to the next level. It’s a big weekend for our sponsor NTT DATA in Texas and we want to put on a great show for them and give them something to cheer about.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I’m really looking forward to going back to Texas. The team has really been on a roll with a lot of success in the past month and we are ready to keep doing that. The No. 12 Verizon Chevy team brought home a win last year at Texas and we feel strongly that we have another good shot at it. The fans are always a lot of fun there and really seem to enjoy the type of racing we get to do there. I’m really excited to go back there.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Texas is actually my highest average finish of all the tracks that I’ve been to. I’ve finished on the podium nine times there… we may bring to A.J. (Foyt) the big Texas win there. It will be fun. I don’t know why I’ve done well there. They’ve changed the layout of the track too. I like those types of races. Look at Indy, and those types of ovals, the mile and a halfs and two miles (tracks) are something that I probably understand a little bit better. I enjoy it a lot so I can’t wait.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda): “It has been a love/hate relationship for me at Texas Motor Speedway my whole career. I have had some really good moments and some moments that weren’t so good. In recent years it has certainly been more on the love side since we have had some great results. I think it’s a great place for us to go to right after this past weekend. I think it’s a place we can go to and have a good result, so I’m definitely excited to get out there and get running in the Fleet Cost & Care Honda. I think the new aero kit is going to behave quite differently than it did at Indy, but I also think that when we show up it’s going to be a real work in progress. I’m sure that from an aerodynamic perspective, INDYCAR is going to have to keep doing some work to get it right. If you look at the way the aero package is set up currently, I think that it’s going to be very difficult to run together but I did not test there so I’m not a great judge of that because I haven’t had any laps there yet. But I definitely think it’s going to be a work in progress and the folks at INDYCAR are ready, willing and able to adjust if we need to, to make the show great. We’ve had a great season so far minus my error in Detroit. I definitely think that we’re in a pretty good spot. We’ve just got to keep it going. A good, solid weekend will help a ton, points-wise. It would get us right up there in the hunt.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): “Some of our sponsors are based or operate in Texas, so the race means a lot to them, their guests and the team. The SealMaster Honda No. 18 car had good pace at both Phoenix (pole) and Indy (qualified fifth). We also had a good test at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, but the weather and track conditions will be totally different this weekend We just have to hope we unload off the truck with a good baseline and then work from there to fine-tune the car as the track changes and give everyone the result we need.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “This will be my first time racing at Texas Motor Speedway and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be nice to get back in the No. 19 Paysafe car after a week off. I feel that we can be very competitive this weekend as I’m more confident with my oval racing after all the time spent on track during the Indy 500.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “It is always great to race at Texas Motor Speedway! It’s a track that we have had success at before and we are excited to see if we can do it again. I am ready to keep the momentum going that the Fuzzy’s Vodka team built during the month of May!”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “Texas is one of the races I have been looking most forward to this year. I’ve tested there a couple of times, but not yet run in a race. I am really enjoying being able to race on the ovals this year. We qualified strong at Indianapolis but the race didn’t end how we were hoping, so it’s exciting to get to another high-speed oval so soon afterward and see what we’ve got.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Detroit was a bit of mix for us but we were glad to bring home a decent finish on Sunday. Now, we’re focused on getting the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet back to victory lane in the DXC-sponsored race. Texas is always a challenging racetrack but is always exciting for the fans and one of my favorites. My team has a few things up their sleeve and we’re ready to put on a good show for the fans with one of our few night races.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): “It’s been a long stretch for everyone in the Verizon IndyCar Series since the beginning of May, but we always look forward to going to Texas Motor Speedway. I had my first pole position there last year, so it’s always nice to have some extra confidence going into qualifying. It’ll be interesting to see how the new cars take on the night race. I’m ready for some Texas-sized fun with Carlin!”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Texas has been a race I’ve been looking forward to racing the past five years. I don’t think anyone would argue with me that it’s had some of the best Indy car racing we’ve seen. I’ve always been a fan of night races and fast ovals, they make for an exciting combination — on new tires when pushing pretty hard, it can be very exciting. I’m excited to go out there and race for the very first time and see if we can be there in the end because finishing this race is an achievement all in itself.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Texas has been an interesting race for us the past couple years, and with this new car it’s going to be a curveball for everyone to learn in a short period of time. The temperatures look very hot, but we’ve always had strong cars there in the past – we qualified third there last year. Hopefully, we can have that same qualifying performance with a better outcome and recover some of the points we missed in Detroit. These NAPA AUTO PARTS guys have been working their tails off to give me the best car and they deserve to be leading this championship.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Texas is always an exciting race under the lights. The conditions this weekend will be very hot, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the racing. We have a few top-10s at Texas Motor Speedway, but it’s a track we haven’t been able to add to a win list yet. Coming off a strong weekend in Detroit for the DHL team, we’re hoping to keep the momentum rolling.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda): “Texas is always exciting; a typical 1.5-mile oval!  The last few years we had very close racing and I enjoyed it. We will go back to the speedway and put on another exciting show. We want to get a good result and make up some ground in the championship. Hopefully, we have a strong package at Texas.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “I really enjoy the oval at Texas Motor Speedway and I’m excited to get back out there this weekend. We had good results there last season, qualifying sixth and then avoiding all of the trouble until three laps to go in the race where we were still able to come through with a top-10 finish in eighth and lead some laps. Last weekend in Detroit was great for Carlin with a top-10 finish and the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet just outside the top 10, so hopefully we can keep improving and get us both into the top 10 this weekend at Texas.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Super excited to get back to Texas. I always have had good results at this track. This is where we had the first top-five finish for Harding Racing and I can’t wait to get back there. Last year, we had a really good race and a competitive car. I think this year we’ll be in a really good position by coming back with a similar baseline. That way we can be competitive all weekend and hopefully get back into a good result and a good groove and rhythm to keep carrying the momentum forward.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda): “Coming off a solid weekend in Detroit, we’re eager to keep pushing our way up in points at Texas. There’s no denying this isn’t one of my favorite tracks, and the heat is going to be brutal, but we’re going to give it everything we have to bring home a good result for U.S. Concrete in their backyard.”

F1 Preview – 2018 French Grand Prix

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It’s hard to believe that the French Grand Prix, the oldest grand prix event on the planet, as it dates back to June of 1906, was ever removed from the Formula 1 calendar.

Alas, not since 2008 at Magny-Cours has Formula 1 held a race on French soil. Yet, that all changes this weekend, as Formula 1 visits the Circuit Paul Ricard for its first French race in a decade.

Formula 1 teams are not strangers to Paul Ricard. It has been a popular testing facility for years, as evidenced by the below photo from 2016, featuring Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in a wet tire test.

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE – JANUARY 26: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Scuderia Ferrari drives during wet weather tire testing at Circuit Paul Ricard on January 26, 2016 in Le Castellet, France. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

However, in terms of racing, Paul Ricard has also been absent from the calendar for quite a long time – the last time Formula 1 race at Paul Ricard was in 1990. Alain Prost won for Ferrari that day.

1990: Alain Prost of France punches the air in celebration after passing the chequered flag in his Scuderia Ferrari to win the French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Beausset, France. Mandatory Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport

As such, despite being a known quantity as a testing facility, how a race weekend will shake out is anybody’s guess.

And what’s more, it marks the beginning of three consecutive race weekends – The French Grand Prix, The Austrian Grand Prix, and The British Grand Prix – which F1 teams and drivers are calling “the triple header.”

Talking points ahead of the French Grand Prix are below.

A Journey Into the Unknown?

Like all new venues, or resurrected and refurbished ones in this case, the Circuit Paul Ricard represents somewhat of an unknown, as there’s no available race data to make predictions off of.

And the 3.61-mile, 15-turn track itself represents a range of challenges. It has fast corners, like Turns 1 and 2 (S de la Verrerie), a technical section between Turns 3 and 7 (Virage de l’Hotel through the Mistral Straight Start), and a 1.1-mile straightaway in the Mistral Straight, though it is separated by a chicane (Turns 8 and 9).

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff discussed the challenge of the circuit, highlighting the lack of data to build off of as well the tough three-race stretch ahead as especially challenging, in a preview on Formula 1’s website.

“France should be an interesting race. We don’t often get to race on a track where we have little to no historical data. It makes preparing for the weekend a bit trickier than usual, but that element of the unknown also adds to the challenge. The French Grand Prix marks the first race of the triple header, which will test all F1 teams to their limits, but also offers the chance to score a lot of points over the course of three weeks – which is precisely what we’re setting out to do,” said Wolff.

That element of the unknown makes Paul Ricard one of the biggest wildcards on the 2018 F1 calendar, and a championship shake up could be in the cards as a result.

Ferrari, Mercedes Continue Their Back and Forth

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 25: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 25, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari and Mercedes have traded jabs throughout the 2018 season, with neither able to pull away from the other so far through seven races.

Sebastian Vettel enters the French Grand Prix with a one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton, and holds a slight edge in victories – three to Hamilton’s two – and comes off a thorough domination of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel led every lap at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on his way to victory, while Valtteri Bottas had to carry the Mercedes flag in finishing second. Hamilton languished in fifth, a surprising and disappointing result given his previous success there.

The aforementioned Toto Wolff described it as a “wake up call,” though Mercedes will roll out a power unit upgrade this weekend – Ferrari and Renault, which also powers Red Bull Racing, rolled out upgrades of their own in Canada.

With four long straightaways present at Paul Ricard, power will certainly be at a premium, so such upgrades will be vital in giving Mercedes a chance to make amends after Canada’s disappointment.

Trio of French Drivers Look to Impress on Home Soil

It comes hardly as a surprise that the three French drivers – Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, and Esteban Ocon – are keen to make an impression at their home race.

And all three could certainly use a boost. Gasly has only one finish inside the points (seventh in the Monaco Grand Prix) since his stellar fourth place effort in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Ocon is coming off back-to-back points finishes (sixth in Monaco, ninth in Canada), but he has only one other finish inside the points this year (tenth, in Bahrain). And Grosjean, despite showing the speed to finish in the points, is yet to score any in 2018.

As such, all three are hoping for big things in their home race this weekend.

“I want to get a good weekend, have some luck, get my first points of the season, and get a lot of support from the fans,” said Grosjean. “I think we should be in a nice place at Paul Ricard. I’m always looking forward to jumping back in the car. I just love driving an F1 car.”

Ocon, who has raced and won at Paul Ricard in the past, expects his prior experience could be a big help.

“I did race at Paul Ricard early in my career – it was actually where I had my first victory in single seaters in 2013 so I have some fantastic memories of the place,” Ocon described. “I hope we can add some more success this weekend. Having been there in the junior categories makes getting used to a new track in a Formula One car much easier. I think I will find my rhythm quite quickly.”

Gasly’s excitement level obviously matches that of his French compatriots, with the added bonus that the return coincides with his rookie F1 effort.

“For me it will be absolutely incredible that my first full season of Formula 1 coincides with the return of a French Grand Prix to the calendar for the first time in 10 years,” said Gasly. “That has to be a reason for me to be very happy and I’m really excited to be racing in my home country. I can tell it will be a special feeling going out on track and actually, I have spoken to Jean Alesi and Alain Prost about it and they both told me that it will feel really special and something that you really have to experience as a Frenchman racing in France.”

Qualifying for The French Grand Prix begins at 9:55 a.m. ET on Saturday, with Sunday’s race at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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