A relationship that began in 2009 in Indy Lights between Gary Peterson and 18-year-old racer Sebastian Saavedra transfers to the IndyCar Series for the 2014 season.
KV Racing Technology co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser and Peterson, owner of AFS Racing, announced a strategic partnership to field the Chevrolet-powered No. 17 KV AFS Racing car driven by Saavedra in the 18-race season that commences March 30 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The move also reunites Saavedra, 23, of Colombia, with four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, who will drive the No. 11 KVSH Racing car. They were teammates at Dragon Racing in 2013. Both drivers participated in a Chevrolet manufacturer test day Feb. 12 at Sonoma Raceway.
“AFS Racing has strong leadership and a solid history in IndyCar and Indy Lights. I look forward to our partnership and having a successful season with Sebastian Saavedra behind the wheel of the No. 17 KV AFS entry,” Kalkhoven said.
Saavedra placed third in the championship and eared Rookie of the Year honors in Indy Lights competition in ’09, driving an AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport car. Following an Indy Lights season with Bryan Herta Autosport that included his IndyCar Series debut in the Indianapolis 500, Saavedra transitioned to the IndyCar Series in 2011 with Conquest Racing.
He returned to AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport in 2012 to contest the full Indy Lights schedule, and he also made three IndyCar Series starts for the team.
“It looks to be a great alignment between AFS Racing, KV Racing Technology and Sebastian Saavedra,” said Peterson, a former Indy Lights driver who is the founder of Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. (AFS). “My heart is always in racing and I’m looking forward to another great year.
“I’ve been supporting young drivers since I stopped racing myself, so Seb and I have become close. It’s been a pleasure to mentor him over the years. KV Racing is a great fit for AFS and Seb and we appreciate the opportunity to join them. KV has a strong two-car team and will be a contender for the 2014 IndyCar Series championship, as well as another Indy 500 win this year.”
Tony Kanaan gave Vasser and Kalkhoven their initial Indianapolis 500 victory in 2013. At Dragon Racing, owned by Jay Penske, Saavedra recorded two top-10 finishes with a best of eighth at Baltimore after starting 19th. He started a career-best sixth at Milwaukee. Bourdais registered four top-10 finishes in the final five races and had six overall, which was topped by consecutive podiums at Toronto.
“Gary is a racer and has been involved in the sport for a long time. He brings a tremendous amount of knowledge about the sport and about business to the organization,” said Vasser, the 1996 CART champion. “I am also excited to watch the growth and development of Sebastian Saavedra, an up-and-coming young talent who we all have high expectations for. Keeping the two (drivers) together for a second year, I'm familiar with how teammate situations work, I've been in them before. Usually the first season is a little bit awkward with new teammates. Now I think they've gotten that out of the way. They know how they work together good and how they work together bad. I think that will be beneficial.”
Before moving to Indy Lights, Saavedra competed in Formula BMW USA, Formula BMW ADAC and Formula BMW Asia in 2007. In 2008, he finished second in ATS Formula 3 Cup with three wins, four poles and eight podium finishes.
Saavedra will mark his 39th IndyCar Series start in the season opener.
"I am very thankful to be part of a great project that we have been working on for a good while now,” he said. “Seeing the AFS car back in action and with a great partnership with KV Racing Technology is something that brings a lot of excitement. All of this gives me great confidence to push not only my limits but the team’s, too. It's also great to be back working with Bourdais. I believe we have unfinished business out there.”