Ex-Sauber Formula 1 driver and current Action Express Racing IMSA pilot Felipe Nasr, who tested for Carlin Racing last month during IndyCar Spring Training, made a last-minute sprint to Sebring on Monday to drive the No. 31 Chevy. After the wild journey was complete, Nasr rewarded the team with the fastest lap of the 15 drivers in attendance.
After receiving the call to test late Sunday, Nasr’s impromptu travel plans meant scrambling to reach Sebring, but by the time he arrived, the entire morning session had been missed. If his trip had started Monday morning in Miami, the tardiness would have been hard to excuse, but considering that Nasr flew all night from his native Brazil to reach the famed road course, the 27-year-old’s resolve and ensuing pace made for a remarkable story.
“Twenty-four hours ago, I was with my family in Brazil having a barbeque,” he told RACER. “Then Trevor Carlin called and said he wanted me to be in the car, so I looked for a flight, but there were no flights right away. I tried to use all my air miles to get something that was OK, but there was nothing, so I flew economy all the way from Brazil to Miami, didn’t sleep at all, landed, took an Uber to my home to get my car keys, made an espresso, and drove straight to Sebring this morning and missed all the morning laps.
“I got there at 12:30, had a bite of a sandwich with the mechanics, and then we were rolling at 1 and we did the fastest lap. Days like today make me happy, and it’s building momentum in a good way. But I’m completely knackered.”
The Brazilian’s sleep-deprived effort was worth it, as his 52.1361s blast around the Sebring short course in the afternoon edged Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon (+0.0381s) in the No. 9 Honda. Another pre-season surprise was directly behind, as A.J. Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais clocked a lap (+0.1189s) within striking distance of Nasr in the No. 14 Chevy.
Andretti Autosport Honda took fourth through seventh as Ryan Hunter Reay (+0.1367s), Zach Veach (+0.1383s), Alexander Rossi (+0.1664s), and Andretti affiliate Jack Harvey in the Meyer Shank Racing entry (+0.1995s) were all close together.
CGR’s Felix Rosenqvist was eighth (+0.2626s) on the sunny and pleasant day, with new teammate Marcus Ericsson behind in ninth (+0.2846s) and Andretti’s Colton Herta (+0.3333s) in 10th. All times are unofficial.
Foyt’s Charlie Kimball was 11th, with Andretti’s Marco Andretti, the Dale Coyne Racing duo of Santino Ferrucci and Alex Palou in 13th and 14th, and DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley rounded out the runners.
Swiss F2 driver Ralph Boschung was expected to turn laps in the No. 31 Carlin, but did not venture out on Monday. It’s unclear whether he’ll strap in on Tuesday, and Nasr isn’t sure if he’ll be needed in the car, but hopes his recent testing performances earn an invitation to make his race debut in the coming weeks.
“I love racing, and when I can be here in this series, around the best guys, and get a full day in the car like I did, I can show what I can do,” Nasr said. “They are not promising me anything, and I’m not expecting anything. I’m just doing this because I love driving and want to help the Carlin team however I can. I’m here for whatever the future holds. From my side, I love where we’re at.”