Dragon Racing's ongoing pursuit of better performance within the team and improved results on the racetrack took another turn this week as the Jay Penske-owned organization released all but two of the pit crew members on Sebastian Saavedra's No. 6 Chevy entry.
Teammate Sebastien Bourdais was the first to undergo personnel changes at Dragon in 2013, receiving a new crew chief for Indy and a new engineer last weekend at Pocono on the No. 7 Chevy. And after a string of mistakes and misfortunes that started with Saavedra's car at Round 1 in St. Pete, wholesale changes were called for prior to the doubleheader in Canada.
“I'm looking to start fresh at Toronto,” the young Colombian told RACER. “The mechanical problems were just too many, too many times we had big errors in the pits, situations where we come in seventh and go out 15th… that kind of stuff was happening too often so we needed to make changes so it didn't keep hurting us through the rest of the year.”
Saavedra's coming off finishing next to last at Pocono after a throttle issue — one that initially surfaced in practice — returned before the race. With his car refusing to fire, his day was effectively over before it started, setting in motion the staffing changes for Toronto and beyond.
The 23-year-old has been impressive at times this year, but the combination of errors by his team and some mistakes of his own has left the Indy Lights veteran 23rd in points, last among the full-time drivers. Bourdais sits 21st in the rankings.
Two crew members will be retained on the No. 6, including crew chief Chris Schofield, who previously held the position at Player's with the late Greg Moore and also with the late Ayrton Senna at McLaren. The replacements for the other vacancies are being pulled from a variety of sources.
“I really like Chris, and there's still eight races to go so I just need one or two good ones to clean up my season,” Saavedra added. “We knew this season was going to be tough, but not that tough. We've been struggling overall, and even Seb Bourdais has been struggling, so we know that as a team, we can do much better over the next eight races.”
Saavedra's desire to wipe the slate clean was obvious, and that sense of renewed optimism is expected to carry forward through the season finale in October.
“Did we make these changes a little bit too late?” he asked. “Probably, but I think you have seen that Jay isn't afraid to do big things to make Dragon better if it's required. Every race counts now. I told my guys that we need to forget the bad stuff, look at Toronto like the season is just starting tomorrow and race really hard like it's a separate championship from now until Fontana.”