Sebastian Saavedra pulled on his helmet and stepped into the No. 17 KV AFS Racing car May 13 just like he had dozens of times. He logged only seven laps in the red and yellow car before the Indianapolis 500 practice session was curtailed by rain with three hours left, but it was significant.
The pole sitter for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, who was uninjured after being involved in a multi-car incident on the standing start of the 82-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, made his debut on the 2.5-mile oval during practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
“It was good mentally for him and the whole team,” said two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who is serving as the driver coach for the four-car KV Racing Technology stable this month. “The crew on this team has done a fantastic job getting the car together. They started (May 11, Opening Day of Indy 500 practice) with the car down to the tub and built from there. It was a great achievement and important for Sebastian to get out there in.”
Click it: Indianapolis 500 Practice 3 results || Combined practice results
Saavedra, who qualified for his first Indy 500 in 2010 at age 19, said he’s “back in business.”
“It feels like somebody has given me a kidney punch and I’m stiff but OK,” said Saavedra, of Colombia. “I just wanted to get out there. Kudos to all my boys who had a couple of long days to put it together. She’s looking amazing.
“I’m not concerned with the laps really as long as we maintain the program we have we should be good. A.J. Foyt says there’s plenty of time, breathe it, enjoy it.”
Saavedra joined 29 other drivers who totaled 1,024 miles without incident. Thirty-one drivers have registered 4,041.
E.J. Viso, filling in for James Hinchcliffe in the No. 27 United Fiber & Data car for the third consecutive day, topped the speed chart at 224.488 mph (40.0912 seconds). Andretti Autosport teammate Kurt Busch, seeking to contest both the Indianapolis 500 and stock car race in Concord, N.C., on May 25, posted his fastest lap of the month (224.159 mph) in the No. 26 Suretone car.
Juan Pablo Montoya (224.115) was third in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske car, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (223.612) and Marco Andretti (223.605) also were in the top five. Hunter-Reay, runner-up in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, has the top lap speed of the month at 225.025 mph.
Hinchcliffe, in his third season driving for Andretti Autosport, was diagnosed with a concussion resulting from a separate on-track incident than Saavedra’s in the second half of the 82-lap race. He’s been cleared by INDYCAR to begin light training, but has not been cleared to drive. He will be re-evaluated May 15.
Viso competed in an Andretti Autosport car last season.
"So far it's been pretty positive," Viso said. "The first lap was a little bit awkward after eight months out of the car. ... When you drive (Andretti Autosport) cars they're already up to speed."
KV Racing Technology co-owner Jimmy Vasser, who made eight Indy 500 starts, noted that – even with track time lost to weather – there’s plenty of time for Saavedra to work through the details of the team’s program for qualifications May 17-18 and preparation for the May 25 race. KVSH Racing won the “500” last year with Tony Kaanan behind the wheel.
“Everything that happened on Saturday is behind him,” Vasser said. “We could have probably rushed things and got him out late (May 12), but he wasn’t really feeling up to it. Even though it appears there’s going to be rain this week, there’s a lot of track time. We have a really good race car set-up here team-wide, so I’m confident he’s going to be really competitive around here. We are hyper-focused on giving as good or better race cars as we gave TK last year.”
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