FONTANA, Calif. – Traditionally a late season race, Auto Club Speedway hosted this weekend’s MAVTV 500 in the late June sun. Tristan Vautier continued his string of races for Dale Coyne Racing in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car and Pippa Mann returned to the No. 18 after driving in earlier superspeedway races for DCR.
Pippa Mann officially made her second start at Auto Club Speedway, but was not in the race terribly long in 2013. This lack of track time made her feel like it was her first race in Fontana. She put her car 22nd on the grid and kept an eye towards consistently fast speeds over long stints during the race.
Mann battled hard in a group of cars near the rear of the field for the first half of the race and the team did well to have her on the lead lap towards the latter stages. She had a great race car for the long runs and hoped this would pay off. The end of the race saw several cautions and those short stints prevented her from grabbing a top 10 finish.
However, Mann did earn the best Verizon IndyCar Series finish of her career by bringing the car home in 13th place. “I’m glad to get a good result for these guys,” said Mann. “The team did a great job improving the car for me during the pit stops. The car was better and better as the race went on.”
Tristan Vautier was particularly impressive in Friday’s practice sessions and challenged to crack the top half of the field all day. He wasn’t quite as fast in qualifying due to a conservative setup and a focus on the long, 500 mile race on Saturday. He started in 20th position.
Vautier had a very strong start to the race on track by gaining six positions and running as high as 14th. Unfortunately, a mistake by the young Frenchman coming into the pit box on his first stop ruined his day. He made a mistake selecting first gear and that propelled his car into the inside front tire changer, Oren Trower.
This mishap put Vautier several laps down and didn’t allow him to show the car he had under him. He finished the race in 17th place. “We had a great car,” noted Vautier. “In the first stint we went from P20 to P14 and the car felt really good. The mistake happened so early in the race it just ruined our race.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series will return to its Midwest home for the next few rounds of the championship as they race at the famed Milwaukee Mile on July 12 and Iowa Speedway on July 18. The series will have a unique schedule in Milwaukee that will see drivers qualify and race on the same day. The race will be shown live on NBCSN at 5:00 PM ET and can also be heard on Sirius 212 and XM 209.