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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Saavedra Saga Continues…

I’ll admit, I was a fairly harsh critic of Sebastian Saavedra after the 2011 season. He did very little of note in a ride with Conquest Racing, and there was still a bit of a bad taste in my mouth from his acrimonious departure from Bryan Herta Autosport’s Lights program in 2010. I did not think at that point and time he had what it took to be a successful IndyCar driver.

But do you know what happened? It seemed as if Saavedra agreed with that assessment, at least in part. IndyCar’s spiky-haired “Sonic” swallowed his pride, took a full-time Firestone Indy Lights ride in 2012 with a couple of IZOD IndyCar races thrown in, and worked at his craft. No, he didn’t win a Lights title with Andretti Autosport last year, but it was a more patient, humble Saavedra that took to the track. It terms of driver development, it seemed to be a big win. And now, it seems Sebastian Saavedra is back in the IICS full-time with Dragon Racing.

What will Saavedra's next chance in IndyCar hold?
(Courtesy IMS Media)
Now, there will be those that dismiss this signing for the simple fact Saavedra has yet to have a Top 10 result in his 19 career IndyCar races so far, but that would also ignore the fact that a majority of those races occurred before his 21st birthday. This is a young driver, just 22 years old, who still has plenty of room to develop. This year, he’ll get to do so as a full-season teammate of one of best open wheel drivers in the Series, S├Ębastien (not Sebastian) Bourdais.

While the murkiness at Dragon Racing this offseason hasn’t exactly brought about loads of happy feelings or puppies and sunshine, seeing Saavedra get another shot is a good story, albeit perhaps one that won’t get the attention of some of the other sagas currently in play. Whatever your feelings on Saavedra, he is a product of the Mazda Road to Indy, specifically Indy Lights. In baseball, we think nothing of a young player being sent down to the minor leagues for more seasoning, but somewhere along the way in IndyCar, it’s become a taboo of sorts. There’s this propensity to push drivers along, as if 1-2 years in Lights will always be enough for a driver to be ready for the move to IndyCar. That’s an expectation that ignores the example of drivers such as James Hinchcliffe (5 seasons in Atlantics/Indy Lights), and J.R. Hildebrand (3+ full seasons between Atlantics/Lights). Saavedra jumped up to IndyCar from Lights, didn’t quite have what it took yet, dropped back down, and then got another chance to see what he had. I suppose that’s part of the reason why I’m pulling for him to make good this time.

So before you overlook the Saavedra news, think for a moment on what a rollercoaster the last three years or so have been for him. When I interviewed him back in September, he confessed talked about his “ego’s touchy state” and how scary the move back to Lights had been. Yet he did it, and when the season opens at St. Pete, Sebastian Saavedra will be a full-time part of the field. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but it’s a sign that having the guts to make the right choice for one’s self can pay off.

6 comments:

  1. While I can admire Saavedra for having the guts to take a step back, I still find it hard to actually like him. And yes, most of that is because of the way he left Herta's team in a lurch. It will take me a long time to get over that one.

    In the meantime, I've seen nothing that shows me he is any more likable than he was three years ago. If he can perform in a Dragon car and become a star for the series in the process - more power to him.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, George. I totally get where you're coming from. I don't think any of us in Kentucky that weekend had or will have an easy time shaking that off. But I think there was some parental involvement in that one, too.

      In the meantime, every time I've interacted with Saavedra in the past year, he's seemed very humble, grateful for his opportunities, and ready to make the most of them. Will that be enough to win some fans over? I suppose time will tell.

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  2. George, I agree that what he did at Bryan Herta was a big turn off for me and I'm still feeling this negative feeling (not sure how to better describe it) towards him, but over the past year or so he has been saying some very mature things in interviews and even when I have seen him speak on camera I've become even more impressed. Watching him take a step back and do something that could probably only help (whether that be his decision, his father's or some pressure from those in the paddock) really did show his potential as a driver as he was part of a trio that just as easily could have won the Indy Lights Championship. I will certainly be pulling for him to show positive results on and off the track this year. His signing was a big surprise to me but the more and more I ponder that move the more excited I am for him and the potential he brings to his team and the series.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Ryan. It sounds like we're sort of coming from the same place re: his stuff with BHA vs. his current situation.

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  3. Never impressed by this kid. I was at Fontana and seen this kid on the track instead of being a good teammate to RHR this guy was racing him and came awfully close to RHR in corners, pretty crappy teammate if u ask me. Can careless he's in the series thought Katherine did a good job adapting to ovals last year, heard TrueCar is staying with Dragon which mks zero sense aboutthe mission they claim to be on. Sidenote, great website stumbled here by accident but exactly the convo and topics I care about. Diehard indy fan since 92 since I was 11 years old, cant wait for St Pte.

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    1. Thanks for reading! I hope we keep pushing the right buttons!

      I hear you on St. Pete--it seems forever away, even if it isn't...

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