By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
MADISON, Illinois — Looking ahead to the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, temporary Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Sebastian Saavedra rediscovered his passion for IndyCar racing while filling in for Mikhail Aleshin on the streets of Toronto.
“I mean, as of right now I want to stay here,” Saavedra said after qualifying for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
“I was a bit more sports car prone before Toronto, then we did Toronto and that passion for speed just came to stay so that’s basically where we’re at, we’re working very hard to make it happen.”
Saavedra will have raced this season at Toronto, Pocono and at Gateway before surrendering the No. 7 Honda to Jack Harvey for the final two IndyCar races of the season at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Saavedra though hasn’t been worried by the pressure of only having Saturday’s race left on his calendar.
“I mean it’s not about the pressure,” said Saavedra.
“It’s about making things work and showing the consistency and the good work that we’ve been doing with the engineers and I think that’s overall what the teams are looking for.”
One would think that the former Indy Lights race winner would have had a massive mountain to climb working his way back into a car for the first time since running the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year for Juncos Racing.
“It’s been a lot easier than I expected,” he added.
“I think we had a very quick click, we used to work back in the Indy Lights days with their engineer and it’s made everything a bit of a quicker process. Then again, it’s just learning the tracks, learning the cars, learning the new Honda kits, those are the things that are taking a bit more than I want.”
The toughest part for Saavedra this weekend was getting familiar with a track he hasn’t been to. This is the Colombian’s first shorter oval race since 2014 at Milwaukee.
“I got a one hour session and then qualifying. That’s a bit unfair but it is what it is, that’s where we are at and we just need to focus on doing a good race and continuing building for a more productive 2018.”
For Saavedra, a best case scenario for 2018 would be returning to SPM. Whether that happens or not is up to how the funding chips fall but rest assured, Saavedra wants to be back driving for Sam Schmidt’s team.
“Best case scenario? Yeah.”