At the 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the streets of Long Beach, California
Saavedra, driving the No. 17 KV AFS Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone entry, qualified 22nd yesterday on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit. The 80-lap contest began today with the first standing start of the Verizon IndyCar Series season and the first at Long Beach since 2008. Unfortunately for Saavedra the car stalled at the start, dropping him to the back of the field. With nothing to lose, the KV AFS team decided to pit him early and switch from black to alternate red tires. He remained in 22nd until the first yellow, which saw him move to 17th and from then on kept battling his way through the field. With approximately 25 laps to go Saavedra's left thumb got hit by front wing debris, but he fought through the pain. Saavedra was patient and with a great race car, he found himself leading his first IndyCar race when the third yellow flag was shown due to a multiple car pile up. Saaedra pitted three laps later and with 10 laps to go the team suffered a mechanical problem, which meant the talented Colombian was forced to nurse the car home. Saavedra was able to gain a total of 24 places to finish ninth and pick up 23 points, which puts him 10th in the championship standings.
"It was quite an interesting race," said Saavedra. "I made a big mistake at the start, stalling the car, but we kept calm and focused. We had a great car with great pace and that enabled me to move back through the field. I was also able to capitalize on the mistakes by others. Unfortunately with 10 laps to go we had a mechanical situation and then our main goal was to bring the car home. I was able to pick up some great points and am real proud of all of the KV AFS crew for keeping their heads in the game and not panicking when we got into those situations. I also need to thank my engineer for a great strategy and for getting me back in the race. We move on to Barber in a couple of weeks and I look forward to getting another great result."
The 23-year-old made his third Verizon IndyCar Series start at Long Beach this weekend. In two previous races, Saavedra has a best starting position of 15th in 2011 and now has a best finish of ninth today. A graduate of the Indy Lights Series, Saavedra has experienced success here. While racing in the junior series, he never finished outside of the top-10 and in his three previous attempts at Long Beach had a best finish of second in 2012.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Saavedra has been among the youngest drivers in nearly every series he has competed in. He joined the Firestone Indy Lights just before his 19th birthday and that year was awarded Rookie of the Year Honors with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport. He moved to Bryan Herta Autosport for 2010 where he made his Indianapolis 500 debut becoming the third Colombian driver to do so. Saavedra then stepped up to the IndyCar Series in 2011 with Conquest Racing before returning to Indy Lights in 2012. Last year he spent the entire season back in IndyCar with Dragon Racing.
Next up on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, April 25-27, 2014. The race will be broadcast live from Barber Motorsports Park at 3pm ET on NBC Sports.