|An IndyCar race in Mexico will fail without a Mexican driver in a competitive ride|
After getting a taste of the Verizon IndyCar Series, one thing has become clear: Esteban Gutierrez doesn’t want to be anywhere else.
The 26-year-old Mexican subbed for an injured Sebastien Bourdais for seven races this year in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Despite never driving an Indy car prior to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader in June, Gutierrez performed admirably. He finished better than he qualified in five of the seven races, including a 13th-place finish at Iowa Speedway in his first oval race.
After years in Formula One and Formula E, Gutierrez acknowledged this weekend at Sonoma Raceway why his desire is to remain in INDYCAR.
“The competition," said Gutierrez. “It’s very competitive. The difference between the cars is not that big and next year it will be even closer because you have all of them with the same bodywork, aerodynamic package, making it even more competitive.
“That’s going to be something that gives you a lot of opportunity to show, as a driver, your capabilities and to compete – even though sometimes you don’t have the best car. It’s a pretty open window with how you can work with your team, set up the car properly for each type of track and that, in combination with the driving, you can achieve something nice."
Gutierrez is working the paddock this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, in hopes of putting together a deal for the 2018 season. With the offseason officially here once the checkered flag waves on the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma today, he said he is nearing the end of the search for his next destination.
“I would say hopefully in the next month," Gutierrez said of the possibility of announcing a deal. “I’m working on it right now. Things are looking positively.
“I am quite certain it can happen in the next month. I think it’s important to be prepared and be ready, on time for the season. So the earlier, the better."
Gutierrez also holds out hope that the Verizon IndyCar Series could be racing in his native Mexico as soon as next season. Indy cars haven’t race in Mexico since 2007, but Gutierrez is confident fan support would again be strong.
“I really feel grateful with all the support I’ve got from my fans over the years I’ve raced," said Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico. “Now, I’m in America, closer to Mexico, it makes it easier for them to come visit the races.
“This would be an amazing opportunity to represent Mexico and INDYCAR and also to share wins with them." Joey Barnes/IndyCar