Cup Series welcomes Russian driver’s return to racing

Indianapolis (AP) – Daniil Kvyat spent almost two years eagerly waiting to race again.

After reserving the driver for last year’s Formula One season, he watched helplessly as his team withdrew from the World Endurance Series in March after the governing body imposed sanctions against the Russians due to their country’s invasion of Ukraine. .

On Sunday, the 28-year-old will finally take the green light with three F1 podium finishes – as the first Russian to start a Cup race. He’ll start 36th with Eric Jones on Indy’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course.

“I was so excited to get in the car here,” said a relieved Kvyat on Saturday. “For me, it was like when the car started, ‘I was like, Yeah, we’re going to the track. At the end, we’re going to race.’ Yeah, it’s really cool, so yeah, very, very excited.”

Kvyat last competed in Abu Dhabi in mid-December 2020. He finished 13th in the race and 14th in points during the COVID-19-shortened season, posting seven top-10 results in 17 starts.

That wasn’t enough to persuade Alphatauri to re-sign Kvyat and he agreed to a second-tier job with the European-based Alpine team.

Now, like other former F1 drivers, Kvyat seems to have found a new home on American soil.

He thanked NASCAR for opening his arms after being turned down by the FIA, and he hopes to follow in the footsteps of other international drivers who have made successful transitions from Europe.

Romain Grosjean posted two runner-up finishes on Indy’s road course last year, his rookie IndyCar season. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in his debut year, and Juan Pablo Montoya won two of his 500 and two of his Cup races after leaving F1.

Kvyat is probably not at that level yet. But he has teamed up with Loris Heisman, a 25-year-old Dutchman in Team Heisberg. Heisman qualified in 34th place for the first European-based cup team.

And Kvyat has already identified some of the unique challenges facing American wrestlers.

“In Formula One, it’s a little different. Sponsors, they choose you and they pay you – I always get paid,” he said. I’m ready to get it.”

The team at Kvyat would appreciate the schedule extension courtesy of the additional sponsorship money. IndyCars could also be an option.

But, for now, Kvyat is content to compete in as many races as possible this season, find a full-time ride in the future, and avoid any lengthy layoffs.

“I’m very open-minded to maybe do a full season here one day, maybe next year,” he said. “But I need to get up to speed on the oval, try oval racing and definitely want to be competitive. I don’t just want to come to drive. I want to be competitive. That means I’m in the right place. Am getting the right experience, in the right car.”

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