After a long delay yesterday due to severe weather conditions and a tornado warning, Saavedra advanced to the second round of qualifying and put the No. 17 KV AFS Racing Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone machine 11th on the grid.
At the start of the 110 lap race, he was able to maintain the 11th spot until his first pit stop. Replacing the red (softer compound) tires with the blacks, he then struggled to find speed and slowly dropped his way to the back of the field. Pitting for his next stint, the KV AFS crew switched to red tires and made a change to his front wing. Saavedra re-joined the field in 19th and remained there till the first of two yellow flags on lap 75. He followed the rest of the field into the pits under yellow and with a fantastic stop by his crew, he gained a couple of spots to come out 15th. As the green flag came out on lap 82, it was immediately changed to yellow when an accident on the front stretch happened just in front of Saavedra. Managing to avoid it and also the debris, the Colombian moved to 11th and managed to withstand pressure from behind to secure the position and earn his best finish at St. Petersburg.
"I am happy with how the first race of the season went," said Saavedra. "Unfortunately we didn't have the pace at the end but after where we started at the weekend, I am pleased with the 11th position points in the bank. At the end it was a survival race. We had a strong stint on the reds, the blacks were not very quick and that really caused us to drop places and that last stint was a big battle to the end. I'm very proud of my KV AFS boys, everybody did an amazing job in the pits. We just need to keep focusing and prepare for Long Beach in a couple of weeks time."
The 23 year-old native of Bogotá, Colombia has been the youngest driver in nearly every series he has competed in. In the two previous races at St. Petersburg, Saavedra has had a best starting position of ninth last year and his previous best finish was 13th in 2011.
Next up for Saavedra and the KV AFS team is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which takes place April 11-13 on the streets of downtown Long Beach, CA. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSports Network at 4:40pm ET.