THE CAPTAIN WINS!

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team, Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Verizon IndyCar Team Owner Roger Penske was a double winner Sunday at Sonoma Raceway’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, with the race winner Simon Pagenaud and 2017 Champion, Josef Newgarden. Pagenaud led the last 24 laps of the 85-lap race, with Newgarden hot on his heels. The crucial turning point of the race came on Lap 64 with the last lead change between Newgarden and Pagenaud, with the Frenchman coming out ahead. They raced hard after that stop. It was the eleventh career victory for Pagenaud, and his second straight win at Sonoma Raceway. His Margin of Victory was 1.0986 seconds. Pagenaud completed every single IndyCar race lap, the only driver to do so. He was cheered by his peers in the Sunday Drivers’ Meeting on his performance as the Defending Champion all year.

Simon Pagenaud, Race Winner

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Pagenaud had already depleted two-thirds of his Push to Pass, whereas Newgarden had only used three seconds of the allotted 150. Pagenaud kept Newgarden at bay, finishing with only 7 seconds PTP, while Newgarden never used any more. The Frenchman was on a mission from the get-go, turning the fastest time of 109.575 mph – 1:18.3576 on Lap 13. Pagenaud said “I would rather be hunted than in the hunt.”

Josef Newgarden, Champion

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden’s race strategy was called by Penske President, Tim Cindric, who kept coaching him to keep focused on the goal – the Championship. Newgarden did and finished second, to become the youngest Championship since the unified series. He and Pagenaud swapped the lead six times, each leading for 41 laps. Newgarden won by 13 points, in his 100th career start. Newgarden said “It’s too awesome.” And “It was hard not to win, but Tim kept coaching me to be smart.”

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Finishing third through fifth were other contenders: Will Power/No.11 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power

Power said “Obviously, you want to be the one that wins it, but it’s very tough these days, and you’ve got to have a very solid year to get it done, and when I look at this year, no one made mistakes. You see the top six there, top six or seven are the top six or seven almost every race. We had some ups and downs with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team, but it was a good year. We won some races and some poles. We’ll give it another go next year.”

Scott Dixon fueling

Scott Dixon fueling. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Dixon said “”It just seems like the No. 3 car covered us. Every time we short-pitted they followed us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got into clean air, we were able to make up ground, but every time we got into traffic we got real loose. Huge credit to everyone on the NTT Data crew obviously not the way we wanted to finish. A big congrats to Penske and Josef (Newgarden) on a job well done.”

Castroneves said “I’m always going to focus on the positive thing. The (Championship) P4 is not what it represents because we were in a battle a lot more years than that. And that’s what I look at. I look because each year that’s what kept me motivated to come back and push hard, and that for me was hard. But to keep up like I’ve been doing all these years, I think it’s the hardest thing to do. But it doesn’t just happen. It comes with a great team. It comes with great dedication from your guys, great trust, and obviously, myself to keep motivated, finding ways to keep pushing and having teammates like I have today, no question, helped me to become a better driver.”

The other championship contender, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda fell out of contention early on, after pitting with mechanical problems. The crew labored for 25 laps and got him back on track to finish in P21. “It was a pretty disappointing day, to have a mechanical issue after the first stop. I think we were in a pretty decent position to possibly get in the top five after our opening stint but it wasn’t meant to be today. A huge shout out to the NAPA Auto Parts team and the Andretti-Herta boys for the hard work back in the garage to get us back out there, we picked up another spot.”

There were only three leaders – Pagenaud, Newgarden and Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, who led once for three laps during leader pit stop rotations. He finished tenth. “I have to thank the boys for keeping faith in the strategy. It was a bold move to make the three-stop call.It was a good consistent race. It was tough – there were a lot of moments of flying through the air and banging wheels with people. It was wild, so I’m just happy to come back in one piece and have another consistent finish to end the year.”

The top Rookie was Israeli driver, Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who finished 17th after starting 21st. “Jack Harvey and Tony Kanaan came together and they got stuck and slowed down a bit more than I anticipated. I just clipped Harvey, who was really close, and unfortunately, I broke the front wing which forced us to make an early pit stop. After that, the pace was really good. I ran with some quick guys like Will Power and Helio (Castroneves), and drove away from Helio. It was a good day. I learned a lot and want to thank Paysafe for the opportunity.”

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

All kinds of stats came with this caution-free race: Newgarden is the first American IndyCar Champion in five years, the youngest since the unified IndyCar. Newgarden finished with more Push to Pass remaining than any other driver, including those who retired. This was the fifteenth indycar Championship for Roger Penske, and his 197th indycar win. This was the first caution-free IndyCar race in Sonoma Raceway’s 14-year year history. This was the fifth Driver’s Championship for Chevrolet since joining IndyCar in 2012.

Simon Pagenaud.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Nico Matamoros

There wasn’t much in the way of incidents – some banging and blocking, and good racing. Pagenaud was teased about his shortcuts through the turf, and he joked that he wanted to try some dirt racing. There was only one penalty – Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing got a speeding ticket. Twelve of the 19 finishers were on the lead lap. Three retirements were due to mechanical problems.

It was announced during the broadcast that Tony Kanaan is going to AJ Foyt Racing next year. Musical Chairs begins.

Hinchcliffe didn’t have the best of luck this weekend, including the race. “After a good start, we made up a couple spots and then I was trying to set up someone going through Turn 3, and I guess Spencer (Pigot) just went for a gap that was closing and hit us, spun us out and put us to the back of the field and did some damage to the car. From there on it was tough just hanging on to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics machine. Like I said, we don’t give up, and we kept digging, trying to make up whatever spots we could, but ultimately some damage was done to the electronics on the car and the gearbox electronics stopped working so I was stuck in gear. Very unfortunate, but still a lot to be proud of this season.”

Rookie of the Year, Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda retired after 69 laps with technical failures.

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda retired on Lap 62 with mechanical problems. Early on he had a shredded right rear tire which he nursed back to the pits.

American Flag Parachute Jump

The Push to Pass stats were interesting. Newgarden only used three, while Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber &Data Andretti Autosport Honda and Pigot used up theirs. Along with Pagenaud, other drivers with only seven seconds left were Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba.

UNOFFICIAL GOPRO OF SONOMA RACE RESULTS

POS Car# Driver Car Laps Status

1. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
5. (4) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
7. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
9. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
10. (13) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (15) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 85, Running
12. (14) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
13. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
14. (20) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (22) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (12) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 84, Running
17. (21) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 84, Running
18. (19) Jack Harvey, Honda, 84, Running
19. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 69, Off Course
20. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 62, Off Course
21. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 60, Running
22. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 52, Electrical

Unofficial Points Standings:
Josef Newgarden 642
Simon Pagenaud 629
Scott Dixon 621
Helio Castroneves 598
Will Power 562
Graham Rahal 522
Alexander Rossi 494
Takuma Sato 441
Ryan Hunter-Reay 421
Tony Kanaan 403

First Lap

First Lap. Photo by Nico Matamoros

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, it’s mild and sunny, with hazy blue skies and a moderate breeze. The Verizon IndyCar drivers got to sleep in a bit as they’re not on track until 11:30am for their half-hour warm-up. Other activities were ongoing as the weekend wound up its four-day schedule. There were five two-seater IndyCars giving VIP rides with drivers Mario Andretti, Gabby Chaves, Davey Hamilton, Arie Luyendyk Jr, and Zach Veach. The morning race schedule included Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS races, as well as another Pirelli Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge race. It was fascinating to watch the transition between the various series, which are paddocked in various reaches of the elevated road course, including the World Challenge cars which are parked outside Turn Seven. So all three ‘lanes’ on the front stretch are a maze of activity with the various cars going in different directions simultaneously. They snake up one lane, down another, and around the course up to Turn Seven, or into the pit lane and paddock behind the IndyCars.

IndyCar Pre-Race Ceremonies began at 2:20pm local time, and the Green Flag set for the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar race at 3:30pm. It will air live on NBCSN. By 6pm there will be a race winner and 2017 Champion – one or two different drivers. The excitement mounts.

For the race, nine drivers including the top three drivers, will start on Black Primary Tires. The other 13 will start on the softer red Alternative tires. Of the four Penske drivers, three will start on Primary, with only Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Chevrolet out on Alternatives, as will the other two contenders, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda. Let the games begin!

Tony Kanaan

IC Autograph Crowd

Sebastien Bourdais

Saturday morning the IndyCar drivers got up early and sat in the chilly morning air to sign autographs for a huge, orderly crowd of fans.

Paul Blevin

Ever wondered what it takes to be an IndyCar Starter? I asked Paul Blevin of Riverside just that. He was asked 18 years ago by the then-current starter to come on board as an assistant, and that it would take some travel. Blevin came from flagging off road and Mickey Thompson events. He found open wheel and road racing was a bit more complicated. With larger fields and all those pits stops, blue flagging is more complex. Experience over the years has helped. And now there is technology to assist. In the Starter Stand, Blevin has a computer and monitor which keeps him apprised of the running order. There is also a screen resembling the video game, Centipede. It has a track outline showing the position of each race car – diamond icon for the leader, circles for the field, and a yellow box for those a lap down.

The job has grown over the years and just this year the crew has added its third Starter – Brad Hackaday. He joins Tom Hansen who’s been a starter for more than five years.

Among the duties on their job description now comes working with the IndyCar Timing & Scoring crew, helping with setup and breakdown. There are eight TV monitors to run just for Race Control, and “miles and miles of cable.”

Marcia Ulise

At an IndyCar weekend, Blevin will be on the stand for the IndyCar race and any other race under the IndyCar umbrella. This includes the three official series in the Mazda Road to Indy: Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda; Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires; and Indy Lights. There also could be the occasional Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, part of the Mazda Road to the 24 Series.

This weekend Blevin is working with Hackaday and local starter, Marcia Ulise.

Honda’s Art St. Cyr met with the media and discussed the 2017 season. Honda had seven wins this season and all of its five teams won a race, including the Indianapolis 500 with Takuma Sato from Andretti Autosport. Last year AA won with Rookie driver Alexander Rossi. St. Cyr said he was pleased that Honda had its team line-up for 2018 set, although not all the individual drivers. The teams are (again) Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. And St. Cyr wouldn’t be drawn into any speculation on the musical seats. “Driver lineup might be a little bit different, but having those teams set right now gives us a chance to really put our plan in place early on to make sure that the offseason testing will go well, especially with this new universal aero kit, make sure that the information that we can provide for the teams gives them a good foundation for them to launch off next year. Hopefully next year will be even more successful.”

Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors All-Star and points guard for the last two recent NBA Championships, is the Grand Marshal for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. He got a two-seater ride in an IndyCar with Mario Andretti, and was awed by the experience, saying he was impressed by how the drivers put it on the line every time they get in the car.

The IndyCar Series Manufacturer Championship was determined before this weekend’s events, and the huge trophy was presented by Jay Fry, IndyCar President of Copetition and Operations to Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell, Vice-President of Performance Vehicle an Motorsports and Mark Kent, Director of Motorsports Competition.

Chevrolet Manufacturer's Trophy

Also present were the three Chevrolet team owners whose drivers earned the championship: Ed Carpenter, AJ Foyt and Roger Penske. Points were earned by drivers and teams based on finishes on the first four engines they ran. This put a premium on reliability and performance. Going into the weekend, Chevrolet had nine wins and ten poles this season. It became 11 poles by Saturday afternoon. Currently there are eight Chevrolet drivers, approximately 40 percent of the field. Campbell hinted there could be more drivers next season, but refused to be drawn into any further elaboration.

Left to Right: Team Owners TonyGeorge, Larry Foyt, AJ Foyt, Roger Penske, Ed Carpenter, and Chevrolet's Mark Kent & Jim Campbell. Back Row Ilmor: Steve O'Connell, Wayne Bennett, Paul Ray & Steve Miller.  Photo by Mike Levitt/GM.

Left to Right: Team Owners Tony George, Larry Foyt, AJ Foyt, Roger Penske, Ed Carpenter, and Chevrolet’s Mark Kent & Jim Campbell.
Back Row Ilmor: Steve O’Connell, Wayne Bennett, Paul Ray & Steve Miller.
Photo by Mike Levitt/GM.

HERE’S TO THE KID!

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden and his No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet team gambled on red tire choices and won, taking his first Verizon Pole Position since 2015 and broke the qualifying track record with a blistering lap of 1:15.5205. He had run his sticker reds in the first qualifying round and took the pole on red “scuffs.” This stretches his points gap to four points ahead of closest contender, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda.

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden was so excited, he had to be reminded what he said when he was told he had the pole. “Are You Kidding Me?”

The pole position doesn’t change his attitude going into the race. “No, this is IndyCar racing. Anything can happen. So, we’ve checked one thing off the box this weekend. We’ve got one big one to check off tomorrow. And then, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll see where we end up at the end.”

It was a nail biter of a Firestone Fast Six, with the lead changing a couple of times between Newgarden and Castroneves. The Penske Posse prevailed for the top four: Newgarden, Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Fifth and sixth were Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, the only non-contender in the Fast Six, and Dixon.

It was the tenth pole for Team Penske this season – the only team to win any poles in 2017. Now all Penske drivers have at least one 2017 pole on their respective resumes. All in all, Roger Penske’s team has 256 indycar pole positions, more than any other team.

The post-conference was brief and full of levity. While one driver would speak, the others closely perused the T&S monitor.

Penske Posse Paying Attention

Regarding his thoughts on the Championship, Newgarden said “You always think about it. If you tell me not to think about it, I’m going to think about it. So, it’s difficult to not envision it, but I think for us, we’ve got to get through the race. We’ve got to have a good race car. Qualifying is one thing. Having speed is one thing. Winning the race is a whole other deal. So, we’re going to work hard with this Team Penske group. We’ve got four guys very capable of getting it done. For the Captain and for everyone at the factory, we want to make sure one of these Team Penske cars wins the championship. So, that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Will Power

Power was asked how frustrating to be so close, three and a half hundredths off pole. “Yeah, well, I mean, you start going back through the lap in your head. I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, yeah. Would have helped me braking actually, push back.

Yeah, it’s tight. It’s just like that sometimes. I mean, gave it everything I got. That’s the situation.”

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud said “That was really close. I can’t be unhappy with the DXC Technology Chevrolet. I thought we had as good a chance as any at the pole, but Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) were a little bit faster. Third is not a bad starting position at all. We’ll be right there if they make a mistake and right there to apply some pressure. We’ll continue to work on the car this evening and tomorrow morning in final practice then put together our race strategy. We plan for it to be a great day for the No. 1 team, but expect it to be a great day for Team Penske.”

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves said “The talent of our group is incredible. Great job on Josef Newgarden winning the pole. Our team is really strong and we work really well together. It’s really exciting for Team Penske that we will start in the front tomorrow. I’d rather Josef get the pole and we get the victory. For us with the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, we wish we had a little more speed during qualifying. We have a great spot up front but wish we had a little more. It’s going to be quite a battle tomorrow with my teammates and Scott Dixon and we are ready for the challenge.”

Roger Penske

Roger Penske.Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Castroneves summed up the Penske Posse philosophy. “But in the end of the day, we still got to deliver this championship to Roger. We understand what we need to do. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

He elaborated. “Yeah, well, you know the top four today here is Team Penske. It made a lot of sense. We planned that at the beginning of the year. We’re surprised actually people did not decide to join Team Penske. I’m not sure how the rules were, if they’re allowed or not. But the point is, they were allowed, right? I don’t understand why.

“As mentioned, a hundred points (for winning race.) Team Penske, we’re throwing everything out there. We wanted this championship as bad as anybody. We do have a chance. We going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.

“So we did learn a lot, not only as qualifying but also as race pace. Certainly this place, the weather change quite a lot. So even that we came here, it was one way, but at least that day, we checked that box. We knew what to do. But it was a progress toward the entire weekend for us, to keep improving our cars. Today it showed very well in the qualifying. Now we got to continue finishing the rest of the job.”

Sato said “It was a fantastic feeling. Obviously, the fifth position isn’t pole position, but I think looking at the speed of the competitors, we achieved what we could do. I think certainly, the entire Andretti Autosport and No. 26 guys did a enormous, fantastic job so I’m really happy with them and we got it done all together.”

Scott Dixon

Dixon was philosophical after the session, in which it was down to the wire if he or Rahal would make the cut. “As a team, I think this is always one of our most difficult circuits that we come to. This morning, we made some good gains, but the conditions this afternoon, we just didn’t have the grip. It was kind of strange. The balance felt good. The car was kind of decent to drive, but just couldn’t carry the speed through the corners.

“Kind of interesting. We almost didn’t make group one. Then just squeaked through in Q2. Good to make it through to where we did. It was definitely hard work. A big credit to the team.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there. I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.

“We’ll make the most of the starting position and see what tomorrow brings.

“We’ll just have to see how the car is on the long run. We always know that the Penskes are going to be strong here. The other manufacturer’s aero kit is going to be strong at this track. We know the deficits that we have. But we can still as a team overcome those, whether it’s strategy or a car on the long run that’s hopefully going to be good.”

His team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he wasn’t going to beat up Dixon.

Takuma Sato

GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA QUALIFYING

POS CAR# DRIVER CAR TIME SPEED

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

PENSKE POSSE POWER PLUS DIXON

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The Penske Posse dominated yet again in the third and final practice for the Verizon Indy Car Series at Sonoma Raceway Saturday morning, with another contender – Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda splitting them up. In a run-up for qualifying for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 22 drivers ran 247 laps during the 45-minute session. There was almost no drama during the green-flag practice. I said almost. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing did a gentle spin early on, but no harm, no foul, and he continued to finish fifteenth for the session. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had a couple of spins – first in Turn 2 from which he recovered; and later, a spin in Turn 7 about two laps from the end of the practice with a mega tire burnout, and stall. Traffic got around. He was able to run eleven laps before his misstep. He finished seventeenth.

This time the Penske lads mixed up the order, with 2016 IndyCar Champion, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology Chevrolet leading the pack at 112.925 mph/1:16.0329. He was fastest on his third of his eight laps. Dixon pushed his nose into second place, 0.1125 seconds behind.

Third through fifth were Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Sixth was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport, followed by Sato’s 2018 teammate, Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals/Soldiers Strong Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda, and Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, in his last race with Ganassi.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Of the top eleven, only Newgarden and Rahal drove ten or more laps. All the rest turned single digit laps. JR Hildebrand/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran the most laps – 20.

Ed Jones

Jones has captured the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, the second Rookie for team owner, Dale Coyne. The previous driver was Alex Lloyd in 2010. Jones was the 2016 Indy Lights Champion which earned him three starts in the IndyCar Series. He has run the whole season with DCR and is hopes of continuing on next season. When pressed, Coyne was coy about how close was his brokering his 2018 driver lineup with Jones, but said “Just about. We’re very, very close. I would love to have Ed back next year, so..”

Ed Jones & Dale Coyne

Coyne said “When you take a rookie to his first test, you usually know right away what you’re going to get. That’s been pretty straightforward everywhere we go. Ed was that way. The biggest surprise with Ed was his race craft. When we got to the tracks, he’s never crashed this year, he’s had a couple little spins but never crashed. So that’s very welcomed on our team because we crashed plenty with the other car.”

Ed Jones. PM

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jones said it was difficult to pinpoint one specific thing Coyne told him in terms of best advice. “It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of advice that Dale’s given me. But, you know, he’s always been very supportive of learning everything step by step, learning from Seb (teammate, Sebastien Bourdais.) Every time I get to every weekend, even every session, I remember early on it was try to learn as much as you can, take it step by step, there’s no need to overdo it early on.”

Other IndyCar Rookies of the Year currently racing include Alexander Rossi/2016, Carlos Munoz/2014, Simon Pagenaud/2012, James Hinchcliffe/2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay/2007, Marco Andretti/2006 & Will Power/2006, Sebastien Bourdais/2003, and Scott Dixon/2001.

Jay Frye , Fred McConnell, Ed Jones and Dale Coyne

Jay Frye, IndyCar president of competition and operations; Fred McConnell, Sunoco Director of Fuels Marketing, Ed Jones, and Dale Coyne.

WINNING PRACTICE

Josef Newgarden. PM

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Friday afternoon the weather conditions were the closest they could be to replicating Saturday’s qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The temperature was 79 degrees F with 12 mph breezes. The skies were blue and all 22 drivers took to the track.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest driver, at 1:16.2485. This lap is unofficially under the official track record set by Penske teammate, Simon Pagenaud last year in the first round of Qualifying with a time of 1:16.2530. He was pushing the car to the limits and it paid off.

“You don’t get anything for winning practice, but it goes a long way to build confidence,” said Newgarden. He’s topped the first two practice sessions at Sonoma Raceway

Simon Pagenaud

Helio Castroneves

Will Power

Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Second through fourth were the other three Penske Posse drivers: Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi, and Will Power/No.11 Verizon. Power’s overall fourth place time was set in the morning. He might have gone faster, but he had a late-session spin on his alternative tires.

Josef Newgarden carrying Will Power

Newgarden & Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Two of the four Penske drivers are fighting physical ailments. Power showed up Thursday with a sore left leg incurred body surfing in Santa Cruz when he got knocked back by a wave. He can drive OK and even left brake. He just can’t walk easily, which is why Newgarden carried him into the Thursday Media briefing. Castroneves has a bad cold for which he’s being treated, gotten when he was fleeing Hurricane Irma and was trapped in the Atlanta humid, crowded airport for hours on end waiting out rescheduled flights.

Nine of the 22 drivers were faster in the morning practice, including Power.

Ryan Hunter-Reay NM

Scott Dixon NM

Marco Andretti. PM

Alexander Rossi. NM

Takuma Sato. NM

Graham Rahal. PM

Fifth through tenth were all four of the Andretti Autosport Honda drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL, Contender Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb, and Takuma Sato/No.26. Photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda in seventeenth place. The other Rookies were Jack Harvey/No.7 AutoNation Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in a dazzling purplish vinyl wrap; and Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in twenty-first and twenty-second.

After the afternoon practice, the IndyCar teams had Pit Stop Practice.

Power's Pit Stop . NM

Power's Pit Stop. NM

Castroneves Pit Stop. NM

Pit Stop Signaler. NM

All Pit Stop Photos by Nico Matamoros.

FULL FRIDAY

Friday at Sonoma Raceway the day started early with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and World Challenge practice. The Verizon IndyCar Series had its first official practice at 10am local time. The drivers were slow to come out. The skies were partly cloudy with a listless breeze and temps in the low sixties.

Josef Newgarden. PM

Will Power. NM

Simon Pagenaud. PM

Penske Posse: Josef Newgarden No.2-Photo by Pablo Matamoros; Will Power No.11 Photo by Nico Matamoros; Simon Pagenaud No.1 Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest, at 112.390 mph/1:16.3950. He took the lead halfway through the session and never looked back. Second and third were his Penske teammates, Will Power/No.11 Verizon and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology.

Fourth and fifth were Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 UNIFIN Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing teams Honda was sixth and the other contender, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was eighth.

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Hondas were first out and fastest, until the field filled. Other leaders during the 45-minute session were Rossi, Power and Newgarden.

In the second test session Thursday afternoon, Pagenaud was fastest at 112.014 mph/1:16.6511, considerably faster than the cooler morning session. All of the 22 drivers posted faster times in the afternoon. Penske teammate and Points leader, Newgarden was ninth. Championship contender Dixon was sixth. The top Rookie, of three, was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in thirteenth position.

The only drama was late in the second test session. Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda went off in Turn 6. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was – substantial damage to the rear end. He ended his test and his crew went to work repairing the car. He was out Friday morning and ran 12th overall.

The day’s lone incident occurred when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato went off course in Turn 6, sustaining significant rear-end damage to the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda that ended his day about an hour before conclusion of the session. Sato was unhurt.

There seemingly are some new TV camera angles, making for interesting viewing. NBCSN will broadcast live the second Friday IndyCar Practice at 2pm PT/5pm ET; qualifying Saturday 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET; and the Sunday race on NBCSN and mathematical 360 in Canada at 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET. All sessions are live-streamed on IndyCar.com.

Zachary Claman DeMello

Rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo is racing for the first time at Sonoma Raceway. He’s taken an abbreviated trip up the motorsports ladder, going from Skip Barber to Indy Lights to IndyCar. His goal this weekend is to learn and prepare himself for next year. While he wouldn’t mind running another year in the Indy Lights Series, go for the championship and the IndyCar seat prize money, his goal is IndyCar itself.

DeMelo is finding Sonoma Raceway challenging, with its high speed corners and lots of braking. The IndyCar has more downforce and softer tires. He ran primary tires in the morning practice, and is looking forward to running the alternative reds in the afternoon.

The Rookie trained a lot for this race, so he’s not sore from Thursday’s test session and its higher G forces. He’s finding confidence in running with other cars. Having an experience teammate such as Graham Rahal is very helpful, especially in debriefs. It’s good having Rahal’s feedback.

The number 13 is special to DeMelo. It’s lucky. His grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, she was liberated on the 13th, and her tatooed arm numbers added up to 13.

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Next year Andretti Autosport can boast being the only IndyCar team which has an all-American driver lineup – four drivers.And they’re all on multi-year contracts. This is the first time team owner Michael Andretti has had all his drivers lined up and signed by the last race of the season. “It will be a good Christmas.”

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

The newest addition, Zach Veach, came all the way up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport, and somehow, Andretti knew that someday Veach would be back racing with his team.

Veach and Andretti have a long-term sponsorship agreement with One Thousand And One – a family of insurance companies based in Indianapolis. Dan Towriss, CEO, joined Veach and Andrtti for a media conference. Towriss said “We met Zach earlier this year and we formed a relationship and really just quickly identified in Zach a lot of shared values that are important to us, and as that relationship grew and the opportunity came to be involved with Michael and with Andretti Autosport, we just saw a match there for us that was perfect. We loved the way Zach will represent our brand, and we think, again, those shared values will be key to that.” Towriss wouldn’t go into specifics, but has several plans of how the company plans to activate the sponsorship of the insurance company, which focuses on retirement insurances, but is interested in expanding its reach. He wants to make it more intuitive and accessible. “There also will be activation on the philanthropy side which will involve Zach and what he represents: kind of being able to be involved in communities. We want to do well as a business, but we also want to make sure we’re giving back into the communities where we work and live, and Zach is going to be a big part of that.”

This finale race will award double points – 100 to the winner. Bonus points include one for pole position, one for leading at least one lap, and two points for leading the most laps. The points possibilities charts for the six mathematical contenders are mind-boggling.

A second practice session is set for Friday afternoon, in conditions most replicating qualifying and race conditions. Saturday morning IndyCar has its last practice session, with qualifying Saturday afternoon.

Points Possibility Charts

TESTY THURSDAY

Team Penske Contenders

Team Penske Contenders. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Thursday was an open test day for all 22 of the Verizon IndyCar drivers at Sonoma Raceway. Yes, I said 22 drivers. Rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo, of Canada, has joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the weekend in No.13 Paysafe Honda, adding one more car to the usual 21.

The weather was sunny and breezy, with mild temperatures. Fourteen drivers were on course in the morning session, with laps varying between four by three drivers to the 32 for Rookie DeMelo. Those who held back said they were waiting for the warmer afternoon temperatures which would be more ideal – more closely resemble the Saturday mid-afternoon Qualifying session or the mid-afternoon Sunday race. Among those who didn’t run in the morning session were four of the five Championship contenders Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; and three of the four Team Penske Chevrolet drivers, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Hum by Verizon, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, and Helio Castroneves/No.3.

Four sets of tires were allotted to each driver for the six-hour test, and of these three must be returned to Firestone at the end of the day. One set can be carried over as scuffs for the rest of the weekend. For the weekend, the teams are given seven sets of tires,

The primary and alternative tires Firestone brought to Sonoma are the same as for this year’s Barber race, which Firestone Chief Engineer Cara Adams said is more durable than last year’s primary compound. The 2017 Sonoma alternative tire is similar to last year’s primary tire. The drivers often characterize Sonoma as an abrasive surface, tough on tire degradation.

Josef Newgarden carrying Will Power

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

The contenders joined the media for brief availability during the lunch break, with Dixon coming first, followed later by the Penske Posse.

Dixon said that the tire carryover rule was changed, which shortened the teams’ allotments even further. He waited out the morning, while his three teammates ran. Dixon said they would gather data, and prep during the lunch break, for the afternoon session. “Today is just about trying to understand the car as best as possible, try and get some data for the weekend. But, you know, as far as the race goes, it’s going to be more about trying to eliminate silly mistakes and situations that we can control.”

Castroneves said “We’re just waiting for the weather to be at least closer to what it will be in qualifying or tomorrow’s practice or race. As we all know, the track is very challenging, plus abrasive, which is difficult when you trying something with the tires after about five or six laps, already going to the next level. So you always got to keep that on mind. Right now I think not only ourselves but everyone, at least 10 other cars thinking the same way. As we going to go out, the track going to get better, even with the weather. It will be interesting to see this afternoon for sure. But it’s a lot of time.”

Pagenaud said “The goal is to go for the championship, especially with a great Team Penske that we’re all on. The goal is to come back and win another championship.”

Josef Newgarden carrying Will Power

Newgarden & Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

It was variations on a theme when the four Penske drivers were asked about going for the win vs the championship. Basically go for the win and the championship will sort out, and it’s important that the Championship go to Team Penske. And Power and Newgarden proved they have each other’s back. Newgarden said “Oh, it’s business as usual. I think that’s the way Team Penske operates. It’s also what’s helped us have so much success this year, is that’s the way we operate. It seems to make us better every weekend. I think we’re going to need to work together if we want to be better than the field. It’s not going to be, in my opinion, straightforward or easy to be better than everyone this weekend.”

Despite only running four laps in the morning, Will Power/No.11 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest in the test, at 109.922 mph/1:18. Seven drivers turned laps of 109+ mph.

By mid-afternoon, a couple of drivers went on course, and then the course went Red to rescue Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Autosport Honda, who had stalled on course. It was 71 degrees F ambient and 108 F on track at 3pm, for the few drivers on course. More were waiting it out in pit lane, umbrellas and all. The second Red Flag was to tow in Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda.

In other news, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet and the team have confirmed that Hildebrand won’t be returning full time to the team next season, although he could run a third team car in the Indianapolis 500. Spencer Pigot will race the No.21 full-time next season.

Zach Veach was announced this week as the newest member of Andretti Autosport in No.26. His teammates will be Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Veach progressed up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport and drove for AJ Foyt Racing at this year’s Indy 500, finishing 26th.

There are other seats in flux,

Also on track Thursday for testing were the young lions in the Formula Car Challenge presented by Goodyear Series. Sixteen drivers – fifteen fellows and one sixteen-year old gal, mentored by Lyn St James, took to the track.

Everything starts in earnest Friday, with two IndyCar practices, and an IndyCar Pit Stop practice. Also running will be Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, World Challenge, and Formula Car Challenge. The track will be busy non-stop from 8:15am to 6:10pm, ending with the two-seater IndyCar rides. The weather is forecast to be warmer.

MORE REUNION RACING

Laguna Seca 60 Years

The last day of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca started out as most with a heavy palpable layer of fog; but it was high enough so the racing started on schedule. The sun broke through at noon and the skies were clear and blue all afternoon, with a gentle breeze. Sunday’s races were for the seven B Groups. The schedule was shorter than the rest, as the weekend concludes with the traditional Awards Ceremony. Even the lunch break was shorter – so short the SFR SCCA volunteers had to have their lunches delivered to their stations.

Black Mercedes Shuttle Van

Everything is classier at the Rolex Reunion – even the Shuttle – a huge black Mercedes Benz Van.

Group 1B was for 1955-1962 GT Cars, with a field of 48. Forty-two ran the Rolex Race. Kevin Adair in No.171 1959 Austin Healey 3000 won the race and turned the best time of 1:52.0 on Lap Five of the nine-lap race. Ron Goodman from Australia was second driving No.23 1954 Porsche 356, followed by Wolfgang Friedrichs from Westphalia in No.51T 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT. Fourth and fifth were Ranson Webster in No.39 191 Porsche Abarth Carrera and Kaid Marouf in No.38 1960 Alfa Romeo SZ.

In the morning race, the order was Goodman, Jeffrey Abramson in No.145 Morgan Babydoll IV, Adair, Friedrichs and Webster. Forty of the 48 entries ran in the morning race.

Robyn & Dave Handy and No.44T Austin Mini Cooper station wagon

Dave Handy drove the family No.44T 1962 Austin Mini Cooper station wagon in 1B, finishing sixteenth in the Rolex Race after starting in P20. The car was originally purchased as a street car in the mid-eighties by Robert Pass, father of Mrs. Dave Handy, and converted to a race car while being tricked out as a promotional car for his company, Passport Transport. After Dad quite racing, the car was then sold and had a motorsports hiatus for 15 years. Then Robyn Pass Handy, Mrs. Handy, became nostalgic for the car and somehow through Facebook connected with the then-current owner at Watkins Glen last September. She indicated they would be interested in buying it back if the owner-now getting on in years- wanted to sell it. In November the owner said he’d sell, but Robyn, sadly, wasn’t able to get it at that point. But unbeknownst to her, hubby Dave bought it and gave it to her as a Valentine’s Day gift this year.

No.44T Passport Austin Mini Cooper Station Wagon

He’s racing it this weekend, but is used to racing bigger cars, so from here on out, Robyn will race it. And yes, that’s her name above the door, already. The Handys keep their race cars and their Sasco Sports race prep shop at Virginia International Raceway, and attend 30 races a year. They also run a non-profit “Vintage Racers for Rescues” to raise money for other non-profit pet rescue organizations.

And speaking of such organizations, Dean Case, who handles the PR for Mazda North America is a long-time advocate for MUTS and he uses motorsports to promote animal shelter adoptions. This weekend is “Clear Out The Shelters” weekend, hoping to adopt as many pets as possible. His promotion this event is for the benefit of the Monterey County SPCA shelter across the street from the Laguna Seca main gate. The fundraiser is the auctioning of four custom-designed race helmets donated by SPARCO. All the artists donated their talents, including Bill Patterson, who designed the Reunion Poster and Program Cover.

All the proceeds go to charity.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/spcaofmontereycounty/m.html?item=182717528886&ssPageName=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

Group 2B was for 1958-1960 Formula Juniors – front engine and drum brakes. These were the older, smaller of the two groups of cars gathered at Laguna Seca to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Twenty-five cars comprised the field for this group, coming from Australia, Denmark, England, New Zealand, and all points West. Twenty-one of the field made each race.

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Chris Drake from England won both races, driving No.55 1961 Elva 300, and won by a good margin in the Rolex Race Sunday afternoon. But the fastest car in the group was the runner-up, Ray Mallock in his No.32 U2 Mallock Mk2. His best time was 1:46.8. Third place winner Joseph Colasacco in No.55 Stanuellini Formula Junior was the second fastest car in the race, with Drake third fastest. Mallock and Collasacco had a good dice in the beginning, with Mallock gridding ahead of Collasacco. They passed and repassed and Mallock held on for the rest of the race. They had the same sort of race in the morning, with a Safety Car bunching up the field. Collasacco was, accoding to Mallock, a bit over-eager on the re-start and tapped the rear of the British Racing green Mallock. It skidded Mallock a bit so he had to play catch-up and repass for second position. After the race Mallock had cosmetic damage to repair. The Mallock race cars are still being built in England by Ray’s brother, Richard.

Twenty-one of the 24-car field raced, same as in the morning’s race. The finishing order for the top three was the same for both races.

Group 3B was for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc. This was the largest field, with 51 entries, with 43 running the races.

Patrick Long's No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

Patrick Long’s No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

Patrick Long, the only American Porsche factory driver, won the race in Ron Benjamin’s No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T.R, and by a country mile. His fastest lap was 1:43.763 on Lap 7. Second was Michael Malone in No.37 1965 Lotus 26R, followed by Dalmo De Vasconcelos in No.185 1965 Lotgus Elan, Dennis Kazmerowski in No.199 1964 Ginetta G4 and Patrick Byrne in No.162 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa.

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Long’s car has an impressive resume, with wins in the 1975 24 Hours of Daytona and 1979 12 Hours of Sebring – both in the GTU Class. Two Class runner-ups, 1969 Daytona 24 Hour and 1971 Sebring 12 Hours.

Among those who didn’t run was professional racer, Gunnar Jeannette in No.67 1964 Abarth Simca 2 Mila Corsa. He was also entered in two other races.

Dr. Lee Talbot & Ginetta

Another driver of note in the field was 87-year old Dr. Lee Talbot, who raced a MGA in the first-ever raceat Laguna Seca in 1957. This weekend he’s racing his No.62 1967 Ginetta G4, whom he calls “Ginetta.” This is the first time she has been out West. Talbot towed her himself all the way from McLean VA. He has been racing for 69 years. Talbot ran sprint cars for a couple of years back in the day, before he turned to SCCA road racing. He’s enjoyed both Laguna Seca course configurations, and said at the time he drove the first Laguna Seca road races, that it was the best course in the North. It was a real road course. At that point SCCA was running airport circuits, such as Cotati and Vaca Ville, Stockton and Crows Landing. This current configuration is very much different, but it is safe and much more technical. The width is wider, and the camber has changed. It has many turns. He likes it.

IMG_0450

Dr. Lee Talbot in No.62 Ginetta

Talbot Crew Shirt

Talbot has raced on four continents including rallyes in Africa. Among his racing honors are 1969 SVRA Driver of the Year, and he’s a member of Road Racing Drivers Club, an honorary invitational driver’s club, whose current president, Bobby Rahal, is on site this weekend as a spectator.

Group 4B was for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. It was another large field, with 46 entries and 41 starters for the Rolex Race.

Lorne Leibel won both Sunday races in No.96 1965 Cobra AC, but second and third places were reversed from morning to afternoon. Thomas Steuer in No.75 was second in the Rolex Race driving No.75 1965 Chevrolet Corvette, followed by Kyle Kelley in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette. In the morning it was Kelley and Steuer. Fourth and fifth in both races were claimed by Jeffrey Abramson in No.5 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster and Bill Ockerlund in No.98 1963 Shelby Cobra.

Steuer was the fastest driver with a lap of 1:40.7.

Kyle Kelly in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette

John Morton in No.74 1964 sunbeam Tiger

Mike Joy in No.89 1966 Ford Mustang

Left to right: Mike Joy, John Morton & Kyle Kelley.

Veteran racer, John Morton, drove Buck Tripel’s No.74 1964 Sunbeam Tiger to eleventh place, David battling many Goliaths. TV Broadcaster, Mike Joy, drove Ken Epsman’s No.89 1966 Ford Mustang, and finished twenty-fourth, on the lead lap of ten.

Among those who DNS were Chris MacAllister in No.146 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 and Dyke Ridgley in No.86 1963 Jaguar Lightweight XK-E. Both drivers are in multiple events.

Group 5B was the newer, faster Formula Juniors – 1961-1963 with disc brakes. The field numbered 39, with 34 starting the Rolex Race. Ten drivers came from overseas, including Australia, England, Nuevo Leon, Scotland, US Virgin Islands, as well as the US. Major kudos go to Karol Andrews who facilitated the organizing of the FJ gathering. She was always too busy to have time for an interview. My loss.

Several of the (local) FJ drivers also race historic Formula One cars and have extensive track time at Laguna Seca. It certainly helped.

Pole sitter Timothy de Silva, driving his No.10 Gemini MkIV was fastest in three of the four sessions and led for the first seven laps until he experienced what could have been suspension problems, and he limped around to the pits and retired. The crew tried shaking the car, to no avail. Danny Baker had been charging through the field from his fifth grid spot, to take the lead on Lap Eight in his No.36 1963 Lotus 27. Hot on his heels was Art Hebert in his silver No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A, turning fastest laps. His Lap 5 time of 1:39.6 held to be the best 5A lap of the day.

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Baker and Hebert finished 1-2, with Mark Shaw from Scotland drove is No.77 1963 Brabham BT6 to third. Fourth and fifth were Andrew Hibberd in No.272 1963 Lotus 27 and Joseph Colasacco in No.30 1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJ.

In the morning race, de Silva won, with ibberd as runner-up. Third was Robert Hoemke in No.4 1962 Cooper 59, with Shaw and Baker in fourth and fifth. Thirty-five drivers started the race.

Group 6B was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc. The field was 37 strong, with 27 starters for the Rolex Race, and nine DNS.

Cameron Healy won both races Sunday, in his No.55 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. He also had the fastest race lap of 1:50.7 on the last lap of the nine. Second and third in both races were Jeff Mincheff in No.52 1956 Lotus Eleven and Thor Johnson in No.99 1959 Lotus 17.

In the morning race, there were 31 starters and six DNS.

Start of 7B Race

Group 7B for 1973-1991 IMSA GTu, GTo/Trans AM Cars. Ground Pounders one and all. And fast! They turned the fastest times of the day.

Bill Ockerlund won the race in his No.33 1991 Chevrolet Duracell Camaro, and turned the fastest time of the race and the day at 1:31.4 on Lap eight of the ten-lap race. Finishing second was Joel Miller in the ear-splitting No.62 1991 Mazda RC-7. Third was Ken Epsman in his No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird, a car first raced by Bill Doyle in the original Trans-Am Series.

Those same three finished in the morning race, in a different order: Miller won, followed by Ockerlund and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Keith Frieser from Canada in No.63T 1984 Mercury Capri, and Kenneth Davis in No.8 1985 Roush Mercury Capri.

The day ended in bright sunshine, as it did all six days of the Reunions. A far cry from the early morning fog experienced some of the days. But – it didn’t stay.

Foggy Morning at Laguna Seca

The 2018 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will be one week later, to accommodate the PGA Tournament. So mark your calendars for 23-26 August 2018. And stay tuned for the featured marque. “It took two hours to decide and now it will take Legal two weeks to clear.” The Formula 5000 cars will be back. And the 2nd Annual Spring Classic will be back 18-20 May 2018. And the Porsche Rennsport has already been announced for 27-30 September 2018. So plan now. See you there!

REUNION RACING

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Foggy Friday. The deep fog enveloped Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the start of the morning Group A Races at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. There was line-of-sight between the Turn Stations so it was safe to race, but it was cold, palpable fog. The sun didn’t appear until noon, and then it shone on all the many and varied activities.

The eight Group A races were run in chronological order, as there were no sound limits for the weekend. The morning races set the grids for the afternoon Rolex Races.

Group 1A No.37 Luca Maciucescu 1934 Ford Granite State Special & No.18 Brian Blain 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special

Luca Maciucescu No.37 & Brian Blain No.18

Group 1A was for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & Touring Cars. These cars were really old, dating back to 1911 and up through 1935.

In the Rolex Race, Luca Maciucescu, who gridded third, won in his No.37 1934 Ford Granite State Special after a hard-fought battle with pole sitter, Brian Blain in No.18 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special. Finishing third was Rick Rawlins in No.11 1926 Bugatti 37A. Maciucescu turned the fastest race lap time of 2:15.6 on Lap Five.

The oldest car was driven by Charles Test. He ran a best time of 2:52.8 in his 1911 No.19 National Speedway Roadster. The youngest cars were two 1935 Rileys. Richard Jeffery drove No.117A Riley Special Brooklands and Greg Powell drove No.16. Riley-Ford Single SeatChamp car. Sixteen drivers of the 20 entries ran the race.

In the morning race, Blain won, ahead of Rawlins and Maciucescu. Fourteen drivers ran the race.

Group 2A was for 1927-1951 Racing Cars.

Paddins Dowling won the Rolex Race in No.7 1934 ERA R2A, from the pole position after winning the morning race. Runner-up was Hans Hugenholtz in No.26 1950 Talbot T26C, who hadn’t run the morning race. Third was Charles McCabe in No.6A ERA R6B. Dowling had the fastest time of 1:58.1, on the final lap of the eight-lap race. Eight drivers DNS, including Derek Hill, son of F1 World Champion, Phil Hill, who was to drie No.51 1931 Bugatti Type 51.; and Alain de Cadenet of London, who is also part of the CBS TV Reunion telecast. He was to have driven No.106 1936 Alfa Romeo 8C.

In the morning race, Chris MacAllister came in second, behind Dowling, in his 1938 ERA 14B. That made up for not starting the morning race. Third finisher was Peter Giddings in his familiar No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza.

Group 3A was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc.

Dyke Ridgley drove his 1960 Chaparral I to victory in the Rolex Race, and turned the best time of 1:43.2 on Lap five of the ten-lap race. He finished second in the morning race. Greg Meyer came in second in No.84 1959 Sadler MkIV. They ran close together. Charging hard to catch them was David Swig in No.16 Scarab MkI. His best time was second fastest of the race – 1:44.1. Fifteen drivers ran and all finished the race. Five drivers DNS including Dominic Dobson in No.60 Cooper Monaco MkIIII.

Between races, Swig received from Executive Director Mark Gessler of the Historic Vehicle Association – on behalf of the Scarab – the beautiful glass bowl which signified the Scarab had been accepted into the HVA Registry. Each year at the Reunion it selects/honors an important car. Last year it was a Cobra. This car is owned by Dyke Ridgley.

David Swig and Scarab Trophy

Vintage Registry Trophy

David Swig & Scarab Owner

1958 Scarab MkI

David Swig and Scarab

1958 Scarab MkI

Race Group 4A was for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars.

This was a large group, with 48 entries, of which 41 ran.

Local driver Bruce Canepa won the Rolex Race after failing to finish in the morning race. He was driving his fast No.12 1979 Porsche 935, which turned the fastest time of 1:32.3 on Lap four on the ten-lap race. Second was Kiel Hogan in No.24 1976 Dekon Monza, one of three in the race. Not often one sees that many such cars in the same place at the same time. Finishing third was Cooper MacNeil in No.0 1980 Porsche 935.

Canepa owns a large restoration facility nearby in Scotts Valley in which he houses his collection of historic vehicles. He also hosts a monthly Cars and Coffee event which is so well-attended that local volunteer college students staff it.

Fourth and fifth were Ken Epsman in No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Zak Brown in No.18 1981 Porsche 935.

Adam Corolla finished 16th in his No.70 1979 Porsche 935, and 19th in the morning race.

Sat AM Race 4A photo finish

In the morning race, two Porsches proved yet again you don’t have to win or be in front to have an exciting race and photo finish. Mid-pack, Alan Benjamin in No.61 1975 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR and Cameron Healy in No.11 1977 Porsche 911 Carerra RSR finished neck and neck, in positions 21 and 22.

MacNeil won the morning race, followed by Gunnar Jeannette driving No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5 and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Hogan and Brown. Forty-five drivers started that race with three DNS.

Also in the morning race, three fast drivers DNF’d after two laps – Canepa, Mike Thurlow in the boldly colorful No.53 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, and Charles Nearburg in his No.70T 1980 Porsche 935 K3; with Thurlow and Nearburg among non-starters for the Rolex Race.

Don Zurlinden No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Don Zurlinden & No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Race 5A was another large group, for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars. Many of these cars used to race in the Del Monte Forest before the opening of Laguna Seca. Most of the Group’s cars are in Row Q at the Reunion, and most of them will still be there Sunday. Several, including four owned by Rob Manson, will be showing at the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday, including the winner of both races – Dave Zurlinden of Monterey CA. He drove Rob Manson’s 1953 Tatum-GMC Special (with car body by Hagemann) to victory in both races, and turned the fastest time of 1:50.4 on Lap Four of the nine-lap race. Second in the Rolex Race was Dyke Ridgley in No.17 1953 Jaguar C-Type, with John Buddenbaum in No.3 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which also will be showing at Pebble Beach. They all finished in that order for the morning race also.

Fourth and fifth were local driver, Don Pepperdene in No.77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special and Marcus Bicknell from the United Kingdom in No.15 1952 Streets Manning Special.

Thirty-seven drivers started the race, with seven DNS, including Joe Huffaker in No.77 1955 MG TF 1500, who had mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning race, Bruce McCaw in No.65 1961 Austin Healey Sebring Sprite and Manson in No.9C 1953 Kurtis 500S, who didn’t run the morning race either.

Finishing fourth and fifth in the morning race were Bernard Juchli in No.86 1955 Jaguar Hagemann Special and Don Pepperdene in No77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special.

Young Timothy de Silva is one of a new generation of vintage racers. The college student won his two races last weekend at the Pre-Reunion. I mistakenly wrote that he didn’t run the second of the Formula Junior races (as his car broke.) But what I didn’t know, and neither did Timing and Scoring, was that Scott Drnek offered up his 1963 Brabham BT6 for de Silva to drive. Timothy started ninth in Group Nine for FJ’s with disc brakes – the faster cars. He won the race.

This weekend, deSilva was fastest in all four of his sessions for Group 6A – 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. He won the Rolex Race and was nearly three seconds faster than the next closest car, driving No.25 1978 Osella PA8. Runner-up was Cal Meeker from British Columbia, driving No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third was Andre Lara Resende i o.126 1978 Chevron B36. Eighteen cars started the race, with three DNS including Mike Thurlow, who finished second to de Silva in the morning race. Thurlow drove No.4 1973 Lola T294. Nearly all drivers ran their fastest time on Lap Seven.

Meeker was third in the morning race., which had nineteen starters and two DNS.

Group 7A was for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars. There was a nice turnout of 34 cars, plus the seven DNS.

Chris MacAllister won from the pole position in No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, and was four and a half seconds faster than the runnerup, Cameron Healey in No.20 1970 Porsche 908/3. Third was Richard Dean of England in No.46 1970 Chevron B16.

Fourth and fifth were Gray Gregory in No.44 1970 Chevron B16 and Bob Kullas in No.23 1969 Chevron B16.

In the morning race, the finishing order was MacAllister, Healey, Gregory, Kullas and Dean.

Scott Barrett & No.53 1965 Koch Special

One of the drivers who didn’t run Saturday afternoon was Scott Barrett of Texas. He drove his No.53 1965 Koch Chevy Special in the morning race. The car was built by Wayne Koch, with a 440 hp, 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder Chevy engine, with Porsche 356 rear end. Back in the day it ran a lot of races, including the American Road Race of Championships. Koch won the ARRC DMod class his first year. After that the class became DSR and was a larger, more inclusive class and the Koch Special was not as competitive. Barrett has had the car for nearly four years and completely rebuilt it, saying it’s ‘awesome.”. At the Reunion he runs with the larger FIA Cars, in what he calls a “most diverse class”

Group 8A was the smallest run group all day, with 11 starters in the 19-car field. This group of 1981-1991 IMSA GTP Cars were the fastest all days. Winner Charles Nearburg in his No.99 AAR Eagle MkIII GTP ran a lap of 1:23.9, two seconds faster than runner-up Jonathan Bomarito in his No.202 1989 Mazda 767-B, who didn’t run the morning race. Third was Wade Carter in No.68 1984 Porsche 962. The DNS list for the afternoon was impressive, including Bruce Canepa, who only ran two laps in the morning race in his No.10 1986 Porsche 962; and Zak Brown, who finished third in the morning race, driving No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He won both his Pre-Reunion races in that car last weekend.

The McLaren M23 Formula One car, driven by former F1 driver, Mika Hakkinen, in Exhibition Laps Friday and Saturday, is being packed up and crated for its trip back to the UK. This was the first Hakkinen had driven on the 2.238-mile elevated road course. He found the braking zones required a lot of skill, and The Corkscrew was challenging. He thought German Touring Cars at Laguna Seca would be fun, but it was a long way from Germany.

McLaren M23 F1 Car in Turn 11

McLaren M23 F1

Freight-Prepping McLaren M23 F1 Car

Laguna Seca Sunset

CELEBRATING LAGUNA SECA

Racing Through The Decades

There is something for everyone at the 8th Annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. This weekend’s Reunion is featuring the 60th Anniversary of Laguna Seca, with a big display of representative race cars from the different decades and large murals.

1957 Ferrari

1963 Shelby King Cobra

Race Cars

2000's IMSA car

1990 Yamaha Moto GP Motorcycle

2016 IMSA Car

There are 15 run Groups, ranging from Pre 1940/Pre-War cars to 1991 IMSA cars. The largest group is 3B with 51 cars – 1961 to 1966 GT Cars under 2500cc. They were double parked in Pit Lane. The smallest group is 8A for 1981-1991 IMSA GTP with 19 cars, the newest cars; but they do make up for it by being loud and fast.

There also are Parade Laps, Fast F1 Laps with Mika Hakkinen, Informal Celebrity Presentations, Bill Patterson Poster Signings, Vendor Island, Picnic in the Paddock with Tom Kristensen, Pete Lovely Book Signings, and of course retail therapy in the Souvenir Shop. And there’s always the sensory overload of all those beautiful cars on display – most of which are seen on track during the weekend, plus all the participant street vehicles instead of generic rental cars, which range from sensuous, exotic and expensive to wild and crazy or just darned cute. It takes four days to embrace and experience it all.

Thursday was overcast until mid-morning when the sun broke out, and then it was sunny and mild all day. The weather was bright and beautiful for the Welcome Party hosted by the track, with the theme “1957.” Local food and wine were aplenty, with a nice musical quartet in the background. Drivers, crew, volunteer SCCA & SCRAMP workers mingled with track staff, and a good time was had by all.

WELCOME Party

Friday the weather was sunny from the get-go. How refreshing to wear sunglasses while stuck in the notorious early-morning Highway 68 commute traffic. But it was a better class of cars surrounding one this time – classy classics and sporty roadsters prevailed.

Thursday and Friday was Practice/Qualifying. Thursday’s positions (no times on the results sheets) were merged with Fridays, which will then set the grid for the morning races. The eight A Groups race on Saturday and the seven B Groups race on Sunday. The weekend morning races set the grid for the afternoon Rolex races.

Del Monte Trophy

The first Laguna Seca race was in 1957. Prior to that, until the Pebble Beach venue’s demise in 1956, the races were run in the Del Monte Forest. In the Laguna paddock this weekend, in Row Q, are cars of that era, which ran or could have run the Del Monte races. They all run in Bonhams Cup Group 5A for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars.

Dave Zurlinden in Tatum Special

Dave Zurlinden in Tatum Special

So far the fastest car in The Del Monte Trophy Group (5A) is Dave Zurlinden, who is driving Rob Manson’s 1953 Tatum-GMC Special, built by Chuck Tatum, who raced it in ‘the Forest.’ The car was invited to be shown in Sunday’s prestigious Pebble Beach Concours, along with several other Del Monte Trophy cars. It’s a 6-cylinder 300 hp car, called ‘The Beast.’ Zurlinden said the car has no grip and no brakes. The engine was built by Wayne Engineering in Southern California, which became a sponsor of Tatum when he raced it.

Tatum Special Engine

Tatum Special Engine

Tatum Special engine

Tatum’s son, Blake Tatum, is a local club racer with San Francisco Region SCCA and editor of its publication, The Wheel. Zurlinden is a SFR SCCA racer, dating back to 1989 when he started racing Formula Vee’s. He ran a Piper Formula F to win the 2014 SCCA West Coast Majors Championship Majors, and has since sold it to Skip Streets. Zurlinden now plans to drive his newly restored 1969 Formula F Merlyn Mk17 in vintage events, as well as in SFR SCCA.

#32 Mallock

Talking about degrees of separation: Skip Streets’ father, John Streets, used to own and race the No.32 1960 U2 Mk2 Mallock at the Monterey Historics and Rolex Reunions. John Streets has since sold the car back to Ray Mallock, son of designer and builder Major Arthur Mallock, who is driving it in Group 2B for Formula Junior Cars 1958-1960 – front engine and disc brakes. The U2 is based on the Charles Atlas advertising campaign of “You too can have a body like mine.” Mallock wanted it to be an affordable race car driven by the common man, a Clubman’s car. John Harwood campaigned it successfully in Europe for years and had a wild victory in the rain in October 1960 at Nurburgring. For awhile it was raced by Bob Costanduros, now a motorsports broadcaster in Australia. He sold it back to the Mallock family in 1980. For the next twenty or so years it was raced by Mallock’s good friend, John Streets, and Arthur Mallock whose last race was the Monterey Historics in 1990. He passed away in 1993. In 2011 the car came back to Ray Mallock, who restored it back to its original 1960 specifications, including the original distinctive boxy, stubby nose.

Based on his Thursday practice & qualifying times, Ray Mallock will start second in Sunday’s Group 2 B races. He was second fastest Thursday and wasn’t at the track Friday.

Formula Juniors

Formula Junior Flag

More Formula Juniors

Group 2B and Group 5B are both Formula Junior classes, and a large number have turned out to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of Formula Juniors, which is also being featured at this weekend’s Reunion. There are 25 FJs in Group 2B and 39 in Group 5B. They come from all over the US, Europe and Down-Under.

This weekend’s events will be live streamed (TV broadcast show quality) Saturday and Sunday 1-6pm on the Motor Trend YouTube channel, with Jonny Liebermann Ed Lohn, and Angus MacKenzie, so I’m told. Also the CBS TV show talent will also be involved, and they are Justin Bell, Alain de Cadenet, Mike Joy, Ralph Shaheen, and Bob Varsha. Somehow the TV production company will find a way to winnow down all the weekend’s events into a one-hour show airing later this year on CBS Sports.

Eye Candy
Jaguar

Vespa

Ferrari