WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Dixon family

Scott Dixon and family. Photo by Anne Proffit.

Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda has the pole position for the 101st running of The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, with a four-lap average of 232.180 mph, the fastest four-lap average since Arie Luyendyk set the record with a time of 236.986 mph in 1996. Dixon also turned the fastest one-lap average of 38.6938 seconds, fastest since Arie Luyendyk set a 37.895 seconds/237.498 mph first lap in 1996. Dixon has led more Indy 500 laps than any other driver in this year’s field – 434.

This is the third-fastest qualified field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 228.400 mph. The fastest field average was 229.698 mph in 2014; the second-fastest field average was 228.648 in 2002.

It is Dixon’s third Indy 500 pole in 15 starts, and his 26th career pole. For his team, it’s the fifth Indy 500 pole and 88th career pole position. Dixon’s pole also marks the first pole for Honda this season. The previous five have been won by Team Penske Chevrolet.

The top spot changed almost every time one of the Fast Nine drivers went out, giving a few drivers a moment of glory and edgy anticipation as the next driver went out. And the laps just kept getting faster.

Dixon admitted he was surprised about the speeds. “I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number, but yeah, I don’t know, we seriously don’t think we expected to see the speed that we did. The whole pre-lineup for qualifying was debating with Christopher my engineer we trimmed too much, we trimmed too much, and I was basically talking myself out of it and seeing if he could maybe put some for downforce in the car, and he was like, man, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine. When I saw that first number, I was like, wow, this is impressive, so obviously a huge thanks to Honda, too. They’ve been pushing extremely hard, I think, with the engine. They’re definitely pushing it to the limit.”

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Second fastest, starting in the middle of the front row, will be Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, who was fastest Saturday. His lap time was 231.664 mph. “It actually was better than I thought it was going to be from watching some of the earlier runs. That’s all she had. Would it have been fun to win a third pole? Yes, but at the same time to be in the middle of the front row with two former ‘500’ champions, hopefully I can convert from the front row this time and earn a victory.”

Carpenter didn’t rise to any Honda-advantage baiting questions. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to get into that. I think Scott won the pole and congrats to them. You know, like I said earlier, I’m proud of the fact that we put both of our Chevrolets in the Fast Nine and gave it our best shot to win a pole for the whole group.

“But it’s certainly — the level of competition in this series from teams, drivers, engine manufacturers, it’s cut-throat, and you’ve got to be on it all the time. We’re right there, so it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s not for a lack of speed we’re on the front row. You’re not going to hear me complaining, we’re just going to keep getting ready to put the best 500 miles out there we can.”

Carpenter was pleased about the speeds. “I think it’s awesome. Driving cars fast around here is what this place is all about. I’m excited to see what the car next year is going to do. I hope it’s not a drop-off. You hear the crowd when they see those numbers, and I get as excited as they do. I think it’s awesome that we’re pushing that speed back up, and I hope it continues.”

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

Third, starting right in the front row, was last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Rossi spoke to missing out on pole position. “Yeah, I’m always disappointed if you’re not in front, but I think it’s a good effort from the team. Seeing Scott’s speed is pretty impressive. I know we couldn’t have done that. We’ve got to be content with the front row. It was something that really bothered me last year and for a year actually that we didn’t make the Fast Nine, so yesterday was a pretty big relief, and today was just about trying to go as high up as possible. Front row is good. You can win this race from anywhere, so it’s a good place to be, no dirty air, and we’ll just get the race off to a strong start and see where it goes.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie, in fifth position. “The practice felt good on the car, and then we spotted some issues with the engine. At one point in the morning we didn’t know if we were able to run in qualifying because we had to change the whole engine. But the team was amazing. I saw like 20 people around my car changing parts. They were guys from all six teams working on car 29 just to make it possible, so thanks to all that teamwork, I was able to go for qualifying. That was a truly good thing to experience today, how the teamwork plays here. I was extremely proud and happy of them.”

Rossi had an observation for Fernando which caught the F1 driver off-guard.”I’m more relaxed I think than I was last year just because I know what to expect, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Sunday was probably even before the end result was my favorite day of the year. I’m really looking forward to watching Fernando go through that because I think from 6:00 a.m. to noon before the race even starts –”

Fernando: “6 am?”

Rossi: “Yeah. Is probably the coolest six hours of your life. He’ll really enjoy it.”

Fernando left muttering and shaking his head.

The Fast Nine Shootout was the highlight of Armed Forces Pole Day. The weather was 76 degrees F, the track temperature was 110F, humidity 56 percent, and the winds were inconsistently windy at 16 mph or barely moving the wind sock. Mostly 2 mph for qualifying

The drivers qualified in reverse order of their finish Saturday, with the Fast Nine Shootout, as well as for the rest of the field which had a separate qualifying session. Marco Andretti/No.27 United data Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda went first in the Shootout, and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet went last.

The Fast Nine results were: Dixon; Carpenter; Rossi; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Alonso; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

RHR's No.28 Honda

RHR’s No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was The Best of the Rest, slotting into tenth position – the highest he could attain, no matter how fast he went. And he went fast. His four-lap average of 231.442 mph would have placed him fourth in the line-up, based on speed alone.

Jack Harvey's No.50 Honda

Jack Harvey’s No.50 Honda

Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda tagged the Turn Two wall but kept his foot in it and qualified twenty-seventh.

Another Rookie, Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet made his first qualifying run Sunday, having missed Saturdays while his crew repaired his crash damage from Friday.

Good news from Dale Coyne Racing regarding his injured driver, Sebastien Bourdais. After his successful surgery Saturday night, Bourdais had a statement Sunday. “I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages, quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take some time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet.”

Dale Coyne Racing has announced that James Davison of Australia will drive the No.18 GEICO Honda in the Indianapolis 500. He has driven for DCR before: the 2015 Indy 500 and two races in 2013. The car won’t be ready for Pole Day Qualifying, and therefore will start last. Davison will have Monday to practice plus an hour practice on Carb Day.

The Last Row will be Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet, Veach, and James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with No Time. In years past a bigger deal was made about the Last Row.

IMG_9788

Sebastian Saavedra No.17 Chevrolet

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

The Group Two crowd (qualifiers 10-32) had their qualification session 2:45-4:45pm. They queued up in reverse order from how they finished Saturday, with the slowest going first and so on.

The afternoon started with open practice for all the Group Two drivers – those who didn’t make the Fast Nine level. They had a shortened, 35-minute session of 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed track time. There had been a short delay to complete drying from Sunday morning’s gully washer hit and run rain storm. It bucketed with the rain coming down hard from all directions. I mean hard, so loud it could be heard.

Rainy IMS

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Only 22 drivers used Practice Seven. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda was one of the first out and he held the top spot the entire session. He was the only driver who didn’t have any No Tow laps. His speed was a whopping 233.008 mph, which he turned after he had already shot to the top with a 232.685 mph. He only ran four laps, all with a tow. All the other drivers turned a lap faster than 230 mph.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was second fastest, turned early on – 231.733 mph and with No Tow, making him number one on that NT list.

Also MIA were two Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas of Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba; all three Hondas of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7, and Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team OneCure; and Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.

In the open practice for the Fast Nine drivers, the two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets didn’t go out – fastest Saturday driver, Carpenter/No.20 and his teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services.

INDY 500 Factoids and Stats:

There are seven former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field who have ten victories amongst them: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Buddy Lazier (1996), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, 2015) and Alexander Rossi (2016). The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992.

Buddy Lazier is the oldest driver in the field at the age of 48 and has the most experience – 19 starts. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet is the youngest, at 22, albeit with four Indy 500 starts; but is only three months older than Rookie Veach.

The 2017 starting field has a total of 191 previous Indy 500 starts. The record number is 260, in 1987 and 1992.

Twenty-four starters are graduates from the Indy Lights Series: Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Gabby Chaves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra, Oriol Servia and Zach Veach.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:35.0630 (232.164)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:35.3976 (231.664)
3. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.5163 (231.487)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.5981 (231.365)
5. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:35.6423 (231.300)
6. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.9191 (230.889)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:35.9601 (230.828)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.1998 (230.474)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.3859 (230.200)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.5463 (231.442)
11. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.1293 (230.578)
12. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:36.3118 (230.309)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3377 (230.271)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.3499 (230.253)
15. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.4758 (230.068)
16. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.5514 (229.956)
17. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:36.6169 (229.860)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.8180 (229.565)
19. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.8528 (229.515)
20. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:36.9213 (229.414)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.9447 (229.380)
22. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.5488 (228.501)
23. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.8303 (228.093)
24. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:37.9497 (227.921)
25. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6458 (226.921)
26. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:38.9831 (226.439)
27. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:39.4741 (225.742)
28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:39.9944 (225.008)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.6768 (224.052)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:41.1340 (223.417)
31. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:42.7911 (221.142)
32. (40) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 02:42.8360 (221.081)
33. (18) James Davison, Honda, no time, (no speed)

ABC OF INDY 500 – CARPENTER, BOURDAIS & ALONSO

Indy 500 Victory Podium

To quote a famous line in a Victorian novel, It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That’s what it seemed like Saturday for Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Hometown Hero – Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis drove his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet to the number one position Saturday. Carpenter’s four-lap average speed was 230.468 mph, set in the waning moments of what was certainly one of the more interesting Pole Days. Carpenter is now part of the Fast Nine Shootout taking place Sunday for the Verizon P1 Award and pole position. All the 24 other drivers will be going for tenth… unless Qualifying is rained out, at which point Saturday’s times will hold.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ/GEICO Dale Coyne Racing was on his third of his four qualifying laps and had just hit 231.534 mph, good enough to be on top when he crashed hard into the SAFER wall. He was taken by ambulance to Indiana University Methodist Hospital for further evaluation. The latest word is that the popular Frenchman will undergo surgery tonight.

The top Rookie qualifier was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, who made The Fast Nine by qualifying seventh overall with an aggregate speed of 230.034 mph. “Definitely, very happy. Obviously, now, we just finished the run. I’m really hopeful we’ll be in the Fast Nine, and tomorrow I think we will be much quicker than today.”

Carpenter was all smiles, and gave the credit to his 7-year old son, Ryder.”I think my seven-year-old son Friday when we were drawing for numbers, he was drawing. I was like, If you could pull, I told him five. Someone drew five. I was like, Let’s shoot for six. He drew 60. I was trying to be positive. Good job, son, you got one number right. He was the first person I thanked when I got out of the car because the conditions helped us there.”

Carpenter was the 27th driver of 32 to qualify, at 6:35pm, when the track was cooler. “The track temps were coming down. It was pretty ideal for us. But we’re running in the cool tomorrow night, too, so we’ll see what happens.

“It was exciting, a little surprising. I felt like we had a good car all week. I felt like JR (Hildebrand), myself and Will Power had the most speed in the Chevy camp. Last night when we did our qual sim, I was falling off a little bit. I thought I could run a 230 (mph) lap or two, but I wasn’t sure if I could run four.”

Carpenter was amazingly steady, with all four laps consistently above 230 mph. For those who understand such things, you’ll want to know that Carpenter’s rear wing assembly had no winglets. That’s how he trimmed out.

Bourdais was the nineteenth driver to make a qualifying run, and was on track to have the fastest time, until it appeared that something snapped on the car.. Bourdais bobbled and corrected, nosed in hard and fireballed it, flipping over and down the track, landing upright.

At 5:30pm the Red Flag for Bourdais’ Turn Two crash halted the session so the Holmatro Safety Crew could properly supervise and orchestrate his extraction, while the track maintenance crews worked on repairing the SAFER foam wall. He was put on the backboard, and taken by ambulance to hospital for proper tests. He was awake, alert and never lost consciousness. One journo reported that the INDYCAR T&S app showed that Bourdais had reached a peak speed of 239 mph in a speed trap.

Team Owner Dale Coyne said “Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover.”

ED UPDATE: Bourdais suffered multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip. He underwent successful surgery Saturday night. The surgery went well. INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Bellows met with Bourdais Sunday morning “and he was doing even better than I expected.”

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

Sebastien Bourdais’ No.18 Honda – before

Bourdais had just added a ‘new’ sponsor Saturday – GEICO. It’s been with the team before, for the past four years. The crew said they used stickers over the paint to make the last minute graphics change before Qualifying.

Alonso did make the Fast Nine Shootout. “The last lap, in Turn 1 and 2, it was lifting, shaking on the throttle. This is the hardest qualifying I’ve ever done at this place. It was very hairy on the last lap. We got in line at the right time. I think the conditions were really good. I’m sure we’re getting in the Fast Nine, so that’s really good. It was nerve racking, sitting there and wondering if we had the speed and all that. We’d been knocked out of the nine, so I am just happy to be there, honestly. I felt like we had a good car yesterday and I was kind of disappointed with that first run. It was just conditions.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

The Formula One driver was asked to compare Indy qualifying to others he’s done. “I think similar. All qualifyings are tricky, you know. I go to my go-kart place, when I have put new tires. I have 15 kids watching me with a timer on the hand. Is very tough, you know. So every qualifying you do, you go against the physics of the car and the physics of the circuit in that particular moment.

“It gets stressful. It gets difficult, tricky. But at the same time, you know, huge adrenaline when you cross the line.”

The Fast Nine Shootout contenders are: Carpenter, Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet; last year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Alonso; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; and Marco Andretti/No.27 United Cable & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda.

Takuma Sato

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

Will Power's Pit Cart

Tony Kanaan No.10

Marco Andretti's No.27 Honda

The sun came out, and the fleet of drying vehicles took to the track – all 16 pickups and three jet dryers. They turned more laps than any Verizon IndyCar, or so it seemed.

Drying Posse

RHR No.28 Honda going to Tech

No.15 & No.29 in Tech Bay

No.11 Chevrolet going to Tech

Down in Gasoline Alley, it was busier than a beehive. Fans everywhere trying for autographs or photos of the drivers, cars, or anything else. Most drivers were not to be seen. The poor teams trying to move about weren’t having the best of luck. There was a steady stream of packed up tire carts, supply vehicles and of course, the race cars once they’d cleared Tech. Those further back in the Qualifying draw were lined up along the fence, and the luckier ones were trying to slowly thread their way to the Scrutineering Bays for their mandated Technical Inspections.

Graham Rahal No.15 Nose stickers

Fernando Alonso No.29 Honda with nose stickers

Once the nose, which had been removed for Tech scrutiny and measuring, was re-affixed, the crews used Heliotape to cover the screws, and seams. Helicopter tape is strong enough to hold a rotor. It’s allowed to let the teams cover any possibilities of air … and they do. The stickers are either color-matched or clear. It’s all about the aerodynamics.

Zach Veach's No.40 Chevrolet & CrewINDYCAR had guaranteed all drivers would get one shot at qualifying. Rookie Zach Veach was the only driver not to queue, as his No.40 Indiana Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises Chevrolet was still being repaired.

Sunday’s schedule has practice starting at noon, and the Group One racers qualifying starting at 2:45pm. The Fast Nine Shootout is at 5:45pm, for fifteen minutes, to determine pole position.

You’ve heard of Rain Delay. Well, what we have here is a Failure to Communicate – I’ve been on my own personal Connectivity Delay. Sorry for the delays

FAST FRIDAY!

INDY Sign

It was Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon INDYCAR Series racers, and excitement was in the air. The garages and Gasoline Alley were bustling with activity, with everyone anxious and/or eager to get on track with the extra added boost in the trimmed out race cars.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

The fastest overall – and for most of the afternoon – was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda with a lap of 233.116 mph. His No Tow time was 231.192 mph, which was second fastest in that category. The Frenchman was the only driver to break 233 mph. Bourdais and team received a $10,000 check from Harding Group for Fast Friday Fastest. Team Owner Dale Coyne played coy when asked just who got to spend that big check.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Second overall and first for No Tow time was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport, with a lap of 232.132 mph, the only driver to score a lap at 232 mph. He was a happy camper. “Fast Friday was definitely fast. We had a good run today – found somethings that worked and found some things that didn’t. It was definitely one of the most on-edge couple of days this whole year. It’s nice to be done with the day and we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can put this No. 28 DHL Honda at the front.”

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato

Third was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda at 231.969 mph, and he was eighth in the No Tow class. His take on the day – “It was quite good day. Very productive, I must admit. Working quite seamlessly. So we share most of the data together.

“Obviously, oval speed is sometimes a little artificial. Some people get tow. But it was obviously good to see we all up there. Especially non-tow lap, which is a true speed.

“I’m pretty happy. It looks like I’m eighth quickest in no tow laps, I take it, concerning the conditions today. Where we are in terms of the car setup, I’m feeling better, actually enjoying the working all together with Andretti Autosport.

“Definitely this is the best situation or environment compared to past few years of my experience in Indy 500 close to the qualify. This is a good preparation. It’s nicely all coming together.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

The top Rookie was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, in fourth position, at 231.827 mph. He was fifth in the No Tow queue at 230.966 mph, behind Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, whose NT time was 231.054 mph. But TK had no pack racing time, and he was clocked at eleventh overall for the day. He was pleased with the day. “We managed to fit another two (qualifying simulation) runs late in the day. We’re quite happy. It was another day of learning those extra speeds, and hopefully tomorrow we have a good (qualifying run).

“Tomorrow is about doing a good four laps, hopefully (qualify) in the first nine and wait for Sunday for the real final classification. Tomorrow is another day, but for me, it is another learning day. We’ll see what we can do, but there’s not much pressure for tomorrow.

Juan Pablo Montoya's No.22 Chevrolet

Juan Pablo Montoya’s No.22 Chevrolet

Fifth and top Chevrolet was Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske, turning a 231.682 mph, but his NT time of 229.348 mph was only good for P20.

There were two separate accidents, in and around the Turns One and Two area, with both drivers able to get out of their own volition. They were each seen, checked and released from the Infield Care Center, cleared to drive; and neither driver knew exactly the cause: Spencer Pigot/No.11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet.

Pigot spun off hard into the SAFER wall in Turn One and bounced down the wall to Turn Two. “I’m not really sure what happened. I entered Turn 2. It had not been an issue for us all week. Before I knew it, I was backwards. We’ll have to go back and look and see what happened. I’m fine. The cars are really safe and it wasn’t that bad a hit. I don’t think the actual chassis is damaged, so we’ll go put some new parts on it and get back out tomorrow.”

Zach Veach's Crew

Zach Veach’s Crew

Veach hit the SAFER wall hard side and rear in Turn One and then bounced again into the Turn Two wall. He was not happy. “Overall, I’m extremely disappointed that we had the accident so close to qualifying. We’d been making such progress all day for this to happen, I feel badly for the entire crew and A.J., of course. Still trying to figure out what happened. At this point I’m thinking maybe it was a gust of wind. The entry to the middle of the corner felt perfectly fine like the runs before and then extremely late in the corner, the car just turned really suddenly. So we need to have a good look at everything to see exactly what was the cause, but with where it happened and particularly how things were feeling then, it caught me out by surprise. I had no idea this was going to be the outcome when I turned into that corner because things felt quite well by that point. So we need to look over everything. I’m just extremely disappointed.”

Alonso turned the most laps for the day – 46. Two Penske drivers, JPM and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet turned the fewest laps – 17 each. Pagenaud was 23rd overall for the day. The total number of laps for the day was 1040.

Overall for the five-day week – Rookie Alonso turned the most laps – 318. Running the fewest was Montoya at 151. Interestingly enough, Alonso was fourth overall for the week an Montoya was fifth. Not surprising, all 32 drivers who ran each day ran fastest on Friday. Lazier only ran one day and a iota, for a total of 31 laps. And Marco Andretti shows up on the time sheets twice, as he turned a few shake-down laps in Jack Harvey’s primary car – six to be precise.

Overall, there was more down time than track time – 3.13.28 hours to 2:45.31 hours, mostly due to weather concerns.

The Verizon INDYCAR teams all got their drivers out in force Friday, in a rush to get track time with the before the forecasted ‘storm’ landed at the Speedway. All 33 drivers got on course before the track shut down for threatened lightning at 1:29pm. The weather caution was the third of the session, there having been a brief one for ‘moisture’ early on, and one for the smoke trail following Jack Harvey into the pits in No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. When last seen Harvey’s crew and Honda technicians were huddled all over the car in the Andretti garages.

The most laps in the first portion were done by Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda with 32, netting him a fifth position at 231.969 mph. His No To Time was 230.966 mph. Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet got in five laps, for last place with a top speed of 214.942 mph.

The Doppler radar was quite colorful with reds, yellows and greens. Lightning was part of the forecast, so the grandstands were cleared and the big screens and PA announcements advised people “follow their own personal safety plan.’ It was much ado about nothing. Everyone scurried and sped back to garages, cover and dry places. It rained lightly. The temperatures was 74 degrees F with supposedly a 6mph wind, but the flags were hanging limply, barely protesting any breezes. Then the track maintenance vehicles began their parade laps to dry out the track. Fans were let back into the grandstand

Friday Indianapolis Motor Speedway got to show off how many weather scenarios they could produce in one day. They did sunny and warm, cloudy, heavy overcast, light rain, threatening lightning, repeat as necessary, etc.

The weather Caution started at 1:29pm and lasted until 4:05pm.

Empty Pit Lane

Holmatro Dryer Truck

Drying Truck Brigade

The Team Penske beavered away Thursday afternoon and evening, and again Friday morning to repair the crash damage to Newgarden’s Chevrolet. The team sought and received permission to remove and have INDYCAR unseal the engine, and send the unsealed engine back to Detroit for repair. INDYCAR seals all engines. The repairs were completed and the engine was flown back to the track by 8am Friday. INDYCAR was there for the uncrating, ensured what was requested was done, and re-sealed the engine, giving permission to put it back in Newgarden’s car.

IMG_9662 2

Newgarden got out for 11 laps before the “storm” hit. He turned a 227.069 mph for 26th overall. After the track went green, Newgarden turned more laps and moved up to 24th position, with a time of 228.624 mph. His No Tow aka unaided time, same as Tow Time, was good for 22nd overall.

Pippa Mann & Scott Goodyear

Pippa Mann & Scott Goodyear

Immediately after Fast Friday, the driver/team representatives drew numbers for starting order for their primary and back-up cars in Saturday Qualifying. The son of Team Owner, Robert Juncos drew the No.1 starting slot for the backup car of Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet. The first primary car will be Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Her number was drawn by Owner Coyne. During her Friday run, she surpassed the 230 mph mark, the first woman to do so at IMS.

Meanwhile, back in the Media Center, long-time IMS Volunteer and former staffer, Julie Cordes, put her calligraphy skills to work making the 33 Qualifying Run signs for the big board.

Sorry for the delay, but Connectivity Conundrums Continue to Confound.

Julie Cordes

HOWARD LOST HIS RUST AND FOUND HIS MOJO

Jay Howard

Jay Howard

It wasn’t quite so windy Thursday, but still gusty enough to blow off a hat for a major part of the day – 19 mph. It died down in the afternoon and was clocked at 2 mph by Happy Hour. It was hot all afternoon, with temperatures still high eighties at checkered flag: 87F/31C, and the track temperature was 117F/47C.

Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was the second car out of the chute at noon, right behind Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and Howard quickly took over the top spot and kept it all afternoon. He was the only driver to reach the 226 mph level. He ran 86 laps.

Howard hasn’t been in an IndyCar for the past six years. He passed his Refresher Phases early on Monday.

Howard said “It was really busy. It’s kind of like a fairy tale. This is like a dream right now. I don’t know if I’m going to wake up tomorrow and it’s all gone. Where do I start? First of all, what an amazing group of people I’ve got behind me. Team One Cure. Tony Stewart Foundation and I was fortunate enough to have Tony here today. That was fantastic having him around.”

Jay Howard in golf cart

Jay Lucas in Pit Lane

Tony Stewart & Harding Racing crew

The day Tony Stewart showed up Howard turned his fastest lap. “I’m going to chain him up in the garage. He ain’t going nowhere. He might think he’s leaving, he aint. He’s going to get out to his car, he’s got flat tires. He’s not escaping.”

Ryan Hunter Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay's No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was second, a time set early on also, and he kept his position all session. He went 225.826 mph and ran 79 laps. RHR is a past Indy 500 winner – 2014. “It’s been tough work, today I guess, but the past couple days. It’s been tricky out there. We’re definitely driving the cars a lot, I can tell you that. We’re on edge. You never really know what the next lap is going to hold, what surprise is coming at the next corner with dirty air or a gust of wind or whatever.

“We’ve done quite a bit of testing. We’ve tried a lot of things. We’ve kind of bounced around a bit. But certainly it’s pretty difficult out there.

“We’ll see what the weather does over the next couple days. Hopefully we can get in some qualifying simulation runs on Fast Friday if the weather cooperates. But we’re looking forward to the next page here tomorrow.”

Third was RHR’s teammate, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Honda, with a lap of 224.709 mph. He ran 77 laps, and set his time on Lap 18 of 77. He kept it all afternoon.

Fernando Alonso's No.29 Honda

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was fourth and top rookie, at 225.619 mph. He took that spot late in the afternoon, displacing Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – the top bowtie. Newgarden had held that slot much of the afternoon, even though he only ran 35 laps. Alonso ran 96 laps and his fastest was on lap 74.

Alonso said “I was (running) behind a car just a couple of seconds in front, but we (tried some laps) without any car in front. We tested a couple of different trims and different setup options. The car felt quite OK from the very beginning of the morning, but then I think we did improve it during the day, so I’m quite happy. We worked still a lot on the race situation, keeping other guys out there and running in traffic. I think we found a good balance for traffic. I think tomorrow we will concentrate a little bit more alone on qualifying, but the priority is the race.”

Josef Newgarden and Crew

Josef Newgarden and Crew

Two or so hours into the Thursday practice session Newgarden came into Turn Two hot, and slammed the SAFER Barrier hard on his right side. He was seen, checked and released from the Infield Care Center, cleared to drive, although he has a sore foot. His car will require care.

“I’m fine. Tough break for us in the (No.) 2 car with Team Penske. It’s obviously not something you want to do, especially on a day like today – a pretty nice day out, no big issues. I’m disappointed that we ran into a problem. I just got called into the pits, so I was coming in and I didn’t want to check up too much for the guys behind me and cause a problem. It just seemed to get away from me. Until I get to look at everything, I’m not 100 percent sure what caused it. We were having a really good day. We had a good run up until that, so again I’m not sure what went on. It was probably my mistake, but until I get to look at everything it’s hard to tell. I feel bad for our guys that we’ve got extra work.”

Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet was sixth fastest, the only other Chevrolet in the top ten.

Helio Castroneves' No.3 Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves

Team Penske veterans, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Chevrolet and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet clocked the most laps. Power turned a 224.563 mph on Lap 28 of 103. Castroneves was fifteenth fastest, at 224.407 mph, which he ran on Lap Six of 117. As with many drivers, the fstest laps were set early on. “The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet felt pretty good today. We were able to turn a ton of laps today after not being able to get any track time yesterday with the conditions. Today, we had a good chance to continue down our checklist and experiment with a few things. We’ll just keep worrying about our program and moving forward and not spend time and effort wondering what others are or aren’t doing.”

Buddy Lazier's No.44 Chevrolet

Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet made it through Tech mid-afternoon and made a couple of slow laps. “After our late start, today went really well. We would have liked to run more, obviously. We did two installation runs; one for the motor and one for telemetry and we are ready to go all out tomorrow. The team has obviously expanded significantly as the week has went on and we are about where we need to be right now. I know my way around this track, it’s my 20th start this year. I’m super appreciative to Chevrolet and all the partners on our effort that have brought us to this point. For a late start, we are in really great shape.”

Thirty-two cars were on track in the first hour. All during the afternoon there were spurts of activity – running in traffic, then periods of inactivity, just cautions for debris and track inspections. There even were cautions back to back with no cars on course.

The majority of the fast times were set Thursday. Seven were fastest on Monday and four were fastest Tuesday. No one was fast on Windy Wednesday. The most laps were turned Tuesday-2404.

Of the 13 Thursday Cautions, one was for a real incident, one was for smoke from a race car, and the rest were the usual Clean-up vehicle laps. The Holmatro Crew should be leading Team Points by now. The down time totaled 1.57.16 hours – nearly a third of the track time.

Zach Veach

Rookie Zach Veach/No.40 Indianapolis Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet is perhaps the only driver who has to be the one in the car for the tow to and from Pit Lane. Because of his slight frame, the crew is hard pressed to find someone small enough to fit in his cockpit. Team Owner AJ Foyt (and others) are telling Veach to eat up and gain weight.

Veach finished twenty-eighth, with 37 laps – two more than Newgarden who crashed out early on. “Pretty tough day overall, just still not much track time. We just kept making some changes, getting the car ready for race day. Had a few little gremlins come out there at the end that the crew is working extremely hard to fix, so want to thank everyone here at AJ Foyt (Racing) for working as hard as they can to make sure everything is ready for tomorrow. Still, just extremely happy to be here in the IWIT Champ car making great progress every time out. It’s just that that’s the way Indy is – sometimes it doesn’t go your way. We’re just going to keep working overnight and tomorrow will be a better day for all of us.”

WINDY 500!

Official Flags A'Flyin'

If I was Dorothy I’d not be surprised to find myself blown away to the Land of Oz. It was about that windy Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Verizon INDYCAR Series practice, leading up to the 101 Running of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Firestone technology measured gusts up to 25 mph. Others reported 30-35 mph. It was inconsistent but more on than off, and in the Pit Lane the tall, spindly electronics antennas were swaying like millennials at a rock concert. Certainly no day to be wearing a press hat. NBCSN Pundit Will Buxton coined the phrase “Windy 500.”

Starter's Yellow Flag

The third day of Practice was not the most exciting day, but at least it was dry. There were five Cautions for track inspections and debris, totaling 12.40 minutes of down time. The Starter didn’t have much to do save hold the flag stick and let the wind display the flag full and proper. There was not much race activity at any given time, so the drivers didn’t have much chance for racing in traffic. No drama, mama.

When the track opened at noon, it was 84 degrees F for ambient temperature/29 C; and the track measured a high of 108F/42C. The temperature actually varied turn by turn, ranging from 94-116 degrees F. And as the afternoon progressed, the skies got grayer and grayer, with a high cloudy overcast. And then … the cloud cover dissipated somewhat and by 4pm the pit grandstands overlooking the Pit Lane were bathed in warm sunshine.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ended up fastest with a lap of 222.451 mph, and his No Tow time was also fastest – 222.894 mph. “I felt it was important to run on a day like today just because it is a challenge. The wind was very, very gusty, variable. And to me, if you can go out and get comfortable in conditions like that, I think that bodes well for the car, the race car and how comfortable you can be.”

Second and third were drivers who had also led during the afternoon – runner-up Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Jr Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Dixon said he “actually expected it to be worse. I think once you got running, obviously the car has more downforce in it and you kind of are trying some bigger items. You can’t feel the subtle stuff, but there are definitely some gusts that can catch you out, especially in Turn 2 with the wind coming from behind. Nothing too crazy for us. Tried to get through some big-ticket items and we weren’t real happy with the car yesterday across the board with all four cars. We’ve been struggling. We had some ideas we needed to try and today felt a lot better than yesterday A good improvement.”

Hildebrand agreed with his teammate, “about it being important to get out and run a little bit in these weather conditions, just because it could be like this, even whether it’s over qualifying weekend or it’s next Monday, Carb day or it’s the race.”

The drivers were slow to go on course. By 2pm, only 11 drivers had been on course, the Pit Lane wasn’t exactly bustling, and more teams seemed to be headed to rather than from their garages. At that point, the fastest drivers were JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; then Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and then Hildebrand’s Team Owner and teammate, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka, who led for a long time. Then Dixon went faster – 222.599 mph.

After Dixon had met with the Media at 4pm as the then-fastest driver, Carpenter went faster. His lap was 222.894 mph and that was with No Tow. As with most drivers who meet with the Media, their necks are craned towards the Timing & Scoring Monitor and they make no secret of what they’re doing – monitoring/measuring their competition.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

At day’s end, Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the fastest Rookie, who ran mid-pack before jumping to fourth overall in the waning moments of Happy Hour. His fastest time was 219.533 mph and that was without a tow. He has an in-car camera mounted behind his head so you can see his hands move, which isn’t a lot.

By 2:30pm, only thirteen drivers had turned a lap, but the speeds weren’t fast and not many had a tow. The fastest OA speed at that point was 221.253 mph by Carpenter. The fastest speed alone/without a tow was Hildebrand’s 220.398 mph when he was running second. No driver was faster Wednesday than the other two days. So far, 19 drivers were fastest on Monday, the rest faster on Tuesday.

Sage Karam

Sage Karam

Track wise, at least the drivers could practice pit stops. That’s what Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet had been his plan, when he dropped by the Media Center for a chat. “We pretty much wrote off today. This is going to be windiest we’ll see. You’re not going to learn much from a day like today. It would be too risky. We went out to do some pit stop practice to get the guys ready to go and make something of the day. We are set to do some good work on Thursday.” Karam ran nine laps, for a seventeenth place overall on the chart. His best lap was 151.130 mph, and with no tow, it was only 68.882 mph.

I felt a pang of sympathy for all the driver spotters high atop the grandstands in the elements, having spurts of activity interspersed with longer periods of nothing. INDYCAR mandates that all drivers have two spotters for the Indy 500 – in Turn One and in Turn Three. The Spotters Stands are high atop the grandstands in those areas, and unlike some other speedways, IMS has no escalators or elevators. It’s quite a hike up those grandstand stairs; and once on top, there’s no protection from the elements, be it wind, rain or sun.

It’s not spectating up there – it’s hard work. In addition to the two-way conversations with their drivers, the spotters are also in communication with Race Control and the Pit Box. That’s a lot to digest and keep straight. The spotters have a couple of mandatory meetings with INDYCAR officials prior to race day.

The spotters situate themselves by teams on the roof, and watch each other for hand signals. The spotters wave one arm when their driver is going to pit. This allows the other spotters to advise their drivers of the pitting driver.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Damon Hill, a Kiwi from Melbourne, Australia, has six years of experience spotting for Andretti Autosport at The Brickyard. He does just the one event a year, and he could be the only spotter coming from another country. And while he’s named for the famous British driver, he’s no relation.

This first week Hill is spotting for Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda through Friday. For Qualifying through the race, Hill will spot for Takuma Sato. Tuesday through Thursday of race week, the VICS drivers are on their North America Media Market blitz to promote the race, leaving INDYCAR spotters some downtime. In Hill’s case, on Thursday he will spot for one of the Andretti Indy Lights drivers.

It must not be that much fun, either, for the corner workers who have to staff their posts from noon to six, whether there are cars on course or not. No sheltered turn stations or protection from the elements, and standing all that time.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Those drivers that didn’t go on track much or at all had a variety of options: skate boarding, riding golf carts, signing autographs and posing for photos, hanging with their pals, debriefing and discussing stuff with their crew, eating ice cream, strolling through the Media Center, or collecting race stickers and other swag.

The INDYCAR Scrutineers had packed up shop by noon – no takers. Garage door down in the Bay and everything put away by the transporter.

Meanwhile, the INDYCAR Communications Staff is hard at work with the plans and logistics of sending 33 VICS drivers around the US and Canada to promote The Greatest Spectacle in Racing on the Tuesday-Thursday, before Carb Day. It happens within a 24-36-Hour period: In-Out and back to Indy. Maybe a driver will come to a place near you. One of the two drivers from my area, JR Hildebrand of Sausalito CA, will meet with the media in a waterfront pub near the ballpark in San Francisco. And the other, Alexander Rossi of Nevada City CA will travel to New York City with Fernando Alonso to make the rounds of the TV and Radio studios and visit with print media also. And I look forward to the nickname the Andretti Autosport boys are hoping to find for Fernando, who’s currently going by Fred.

PERFECTING POWER

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Another hot, sunny and breezy day for the Verizon INDYCAR drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day of practice. The afternoon track session was run in mid-eighties heat, 12 mph winds, and 124 degrees F for track temperature..

The first fifteen minutes were set aside for the two Rookies who have yet to be cleared to run the Indianapolis 500, before the track was opened for all 32 drivers. Thursday, and not before, is when Buddy Lazier will be on track in No.44 Lazier Racing-In Stalk-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.

Will Power

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske led much of the afternoon, with a lap of 224.656 mph – nearly two seconds off the lap of 226.338 mph set Monday by Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda. Power’s No Tow Speed was 220.902 mph. He’s well on his way to a perfect month of May, as he wistfully discussed after his ‘perfect’ weekend at the Indianapolis Grand Prix – fastest in every session, and winning the race from the pole position.

Power agreed that the heat has definitely made the track greasy. Regarding the wind or heat contributing to top and lap speeds being down from fan’s expectations, he said “It all has to do with wether people want to practice qualifying. That’s when you start to see some bigger speeds, and we don’t get the boost until Friday that we’re running qualifying and probably not practice qualifying until Thursday. So these first three days – which being hot, yeah, it will make it slower. But we’re not in the configuration that’s going to put up a big speed anyway.”

Helio Castroneves

Second was Power’s Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet – jumping into that slot during the winding down of Happy Hour. When asked, he was coy about his having any thoughts about Honda basically sandbagging. “Not right now, and understanding – it sounds like they have issues in the past. We can only speculate. I can only speculate that they don’t want to keep blowing up engines now. They’ve got to wait until Saturday so that they can finish the qualifying and then put the race engine in, otherwise they’re going to have to do something like that.

“Right now it’s the name of the game. We’ve just got to focus on our work. We’re just trying to make sure that we feel as comfortable as possible, which whatever happens on race day, we’ll prepare as much as we can.”

Regarding Team Owner, Roger Penske, who also ‘calls’ the race for Castroneves: he said “Roger definitely just puts everything into this race. Obviously Roger is my strategy, for him to leave his day job, which is a pretty busy schedule. He’s here on Tuesday and actually staying here all week, which shows the commitment that he has and it shows what he wants. Roger would love to get No.17 (500 win) and I would absolutely love to do it for him.”

Gabby Chaves

Jumping into third position late in the day was Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, who had struggled earlier with few laps. He ran a lot in the afternoon, ending up with 87 laps. He displaced Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who had led and then sat in second spot for hours. He credits Larry Curry and Al Unser Jr. “Larry has really been more of a guidance to the team rather than to me so much. He’s been really just instrumental in getting together a brand-new team, two brand-new cars. He’s kind of taken the lead on who’s going to be my engineer, my mechanics, and who’s going to be involved in the team. And I think really he’s put a kickass team for me, so I’m very happy with that.”

Al Unser, Jr.

“We’re also working with Al Unser, Jr., who’s kind of taken more of that role to work with me and give me his experience, his learning and everything that he’s learned here, try to give as much as he can of that to me so I an expedite my learning curve, go out there and get right to it.

Fifth was Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet.

All 32 drivers were on track, eventually, although James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda didn’t go on track until mid-afternoon due to adjusting electrical faults. The six-hour session was punctuated with eleven cautions, all for track inspections/debris, lasting 1:00.55 minutes. The track was empty during some of the green sessions, so not every caution was depriving drivers. There were no incidents and the session was drama-free.

The top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in fifteenth position. He ran 85 laps.

Rookie Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech Championships AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet all three ROP Phases by 1:03pm ET. “Just really happy with the progress we made today. We got a lot of laps in, which has been nice. Toward the end, we even got to run in traffic.” He ran 68 laps Tuesday, turned a 221.629 mph on Lap 43, and was twenty-second overall.

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda upped his ante Tuesday afternoon. He turned more laps than did any other driver – 117, to finish 24th for the day. Alonso had run as high as eleventh at one point. He ran in traffic, with his Andretti teammates mostly, although he mixed it up with some others. His growing confidence was evidenced.

Two other drivers ran 100 laps or more: Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda with 106, and Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Honda with 100 laps.

Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest laps – 47. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ran 49 laps.

Andretti got into the No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda to shake it down. Harvey’s fastest lap was 215.716 mph, in last place, and he needed to ramp it up to complete his ROP. Andretti ran six laps, but the best he could do was 214.828 mph. Back to the drawing board. Then Harvey got back into the car and ran a whole lot of laps – 82, finishing thirty-first of 33 drivers. Harvey passed is third and final ROP phase at 5:18pm ET. Andretti, who had been fastest on Monday, was twenty-fifth Tuesday.

James Hinchcliffe

James Hinchcliffe's shoes

In his downtime, the comic Canadian spent his time, all suited up, signing autographs, posing for photos, and engaging the fans who were in Gasoline Alley. One of his trademarks is his infamous Sparco driving shoes. For years he used a Sharpie to write Stop and Go in Red and Green ink on the toes. Sparco took offense at its shoes being defaced and made to look bad, so it made special shoes for Hinch, with Stop and Go embroidered on the toes.

The eye-catching gold livery on Hinchcliffe’s car is so bright it can be seen glinting in the sun from one end of the garage to the other. It is a wrap, rather than paint job. His teammate, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 has a similar style livery in red. Their new teammate for the month of May, Jay Howard/No.77 has a bright, glittery blue highlighted on his car.

James Hinchcliffe's Gold

Mikhail Aleshin's No.7

Jay Howard's No.77

And no, you’re not going mad. Lazier did change the number on his car, from 49 as of yesterday to 44 as of Tuesday. No reason learned so far.

ACING ALONSO AND ANDRETTI

Quiet Pit LaneAnd a great good morning to you all from lovely Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the second day of practice for the Verizon INDYCAR Series leading up to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s not even noon yet and the temperature has already reached 78 degrees F. There is an inconsistent breeze, gusty at times and otherwise not. Gasoline Alley seems pretty quiet although most activity is hidden behind closed garage doors. The Scrutineering Bays have almost no customers and the INDYCAR Scrutineers are relaxed and enjoying the lull. For the most part there’s no worry about dodging the speeding pit carts, which are always on a mission. And in Pit Lane there is no activity at all … yet.

At noon, the track will open for fifteen minutes of private time for two Rookies, Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, and Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. Both drivers have passed Phase One of their ROP and have two phases to go.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda completed all his phases Monday. This is his first Indy 500, but he’s been running the full INDYCAR Series. Veach and Harvey are ‘one-off’ Indy 500 drivers.

Oriol Servia's No.16

Completing all phases of their Refresher Sessions were Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet completed all phases of their Refresher Session, and were cleared to compete in the Indy 500.

At 12:15pm the track will open for all drivers.

Marco Andretti

Reviewing Monday’s first day of practice: Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fastest at 226.338 mph. He was pleased that he was again able to be first fastest on Opening Day – repeating last year’s accomplishment.

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

Fernando Alonso

Andretti’s teammate Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie in nineteenth position, and he was fastest in the earlier Rookie/Refresher session. He met with the media after the session ended. “Good day. I will a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd. But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, yeah, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.”

When asked what he thought would be the most difficult or dangerous, Alonso said “I think the most difficult thing will be the race itself, you know, all the things that happen in a race like this one, which are the traffic, running in traffic, and learning all the little tricks to overtake, and then to use the performance of your car in which moment of the race, why, you know, and all these little things that only with experience and with races you can learn. And I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that time, so I know that I will be weaker in some of these aspects. I need to learn as quick as I can in the next 10 days, 12 days, and apart from that, I need to try to use other things that is not experience to try to close that gap that I will have, you know.”

Alonso admitted that running in traffic is part of his program yet to be experienced. Andretti added that “I think as we do these group runs we can almost simulate a race with all the cars we have on our team, almost a fifth of the field.”

Andretti isn’t usually overly emotional, but he seemed genuinely pleased with his top status Monday.”We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the ones that took — the changes that take long. That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week on the car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.

“Obviously ran good here last year. Car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”

Holmatro Safety Truck

Monday afternoon’s two on-track sessions went almost without incident. There were twelve cautions, ten of which were for track inspection / debris. Total caution time was nine seconds short of an hour. The Cleanup vehicles probably clocked as many laps as many of the drivers.

One exception was Rookie Harvey, who had a brush with the SAFER Barrier in Turn Two. He hit with the side panel and rear wheel, and spun to the opposite side of the track. He was unhurt and after being checked in the Infield Care Center, Harvey was released and cleared for driving. The crew went to work on repairing the damage. And it was truly a team effort, with crew members from all the six Andretti Autosport teams pitching in. Harvey said “To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that. A random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”

Not exactly a drama, but causing a caution, to be cautious, was Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda who pitted with a smoke trail. He lost an engine. Third one for Honda. Saturday Bourdais and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda each lost an engine in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

t only ran six laps, and he was 32nd fastest.

Rookie Jones turned the most overall laps, counting his ROP and Open Practice – 94. He finished twenty-second.

More Indiana students are on campus for a STEAM talk by Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda in the East Chalet. Tuesday the students are all from high schools.

HOT TRACK!

Start waving Yellow Flag

Opening Day for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at The Brickyard. It was sunny and hot Monday, and eager fans were in the garages aka Gasoline Alley. It was busy with the teams setting up their cars for Monday afternoon’s practice session. At noon local/ET time, all the drivers were allowed five minutes for installation laps to check out their cars and the track. Then all but a selected few parked their cars until 2pm when the track was open for all. The starter waved the Yellow Flag for the start of the Installation Laps.

The famed race track has had a full conversion, from the 2.439-mile, 14 turn road course circuit to the 2.5-mile, four-turn oval speedway. The work started with a crew of 25 immediately after the Indianapolis Grand Prix Saturday afternoon, and went until 10pm. It started up again Sunday at 8am and went until 4pm, with temperatures in the mid-eighties, and little wind for respite. It took 18 hours over the two days.The barriers, tire walls and fencing has to be removed and replaced, the track cleaned up and swept, and painting done. Lots of equipment was utilized to do the heavy lifting. Job well done!

Start waving Yellow Flag

Firestone color-coded tires

Firestone tires issues three extra sets of the Indianapolis 500 race tires to the Rookies, and two sets to the Refreshers. There is only the one tire for this race, and it has the same compound as last year, with a new rear construction. There are no rain tires for oval racing. The tires are color-coded: Left side tires have a silver rim with a white Firestone F logo; the right side tires have a bright blue rim with a red F logo.

There are but a few taking the ROP – Rookie Orientation Program, required of all rookies who haven’t previously run the Indy 500. It is also a Refresher session for those who haven’t run in a while, which could include the one-off drivers. The three Rookies who went out late were Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda; Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet. Those in the Refresher category include Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda, who passed his ROP in a private test Monday week; Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet; Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet; and Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Mann indicated she wouldn’t participate in the Refresher session.

Fernando Alonso's No.29 Honda

Fernando Alonso in Pit Lane

Alonzo's Car towed back to Garage

Alonso is garnering a fair share of attention and he’s paying back. He was seen at the airport signing autographs when he landed from Sunday’s Formula One race, after flying in with Zak Brown of McLaren, in a private jet. And he stuck around after his F1 race in Spain to do the obligatory bull pen interviews, smiling and grateful to have finished a race. In the Gasoline Alley Monday morning, Alonso was again seen signing autographs.

Alonso was fastest in the Rookie/Refresher Session, at 221.634 mph, on Lap 26 of 35 laps. Then the car went back to the garage for a couple of hours.

Second through seventh during the Rookie/Refresher session were: Servia, Rookie Jones, Howard, Saavedra, Rookie Harvey, and Rookie Veach. Others on the Installation Lap were Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Carlos Munoz/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Spencer Pigot/No.11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet.

Mikhail Aleshin's car in Tech

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda in Tech

Buddy Lazier's Car

All but one Verizon INDYCAR field have been through Scrutineering, at least the Safety Check portion. Drivers are allowed to have just the Safety Check portion, and waive going through the Technical Inspection until after they’ve been on track. That portion must be completed before the driver can compete.

The only driver yet to appear is Buddy Lazier/No.49 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet. He is on a ‘short-short program’ and won’t be on track until Thursday. Lazier is in stealth mode, with no garage sign installed yet.

Graham Rahal

Speedway Middle School Students

Lots of school children were on field trips Monday, ostensibly with a STEM focus. There are small groups of elementary school children with chaperones, and a huge mob of Indiana middle-school students from Speedway, practically the whole student body – 200. They and other middle school students were here with the Perdue University MSTEM3 Initiative. Verizon INDYCAR Driver Rahal spoke to the group before the track opened. Monday and Tuesday Honda’s STEM Connections Tour to promote STEAM – Science, Technology, the arts, and math behind motorsports. On Tuesday 2016 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda will speak to high school students. After the talks the students were free to roam.

Alonso's Garage Sign

Oriol Servia's Garage Sign

Sebastian Saavedra's Garage Sign

Pippa Mann's Garage Sign

Jay Howard's Garage Sign

Jack Harvey's Garage Sign
Spencer Pigot's Garage Sign

Gaby Chaves Garage Sign

Buddy Lazier's Garage Sign

PROSAIC POWER

Trylon

Trylon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Day One of the Merry Month of May continued at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the Autonomous to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. The theme is “The Greatest Legends in Racing!” The weather Friday was deceptively sunny, with a frigid wind chill factor, which kept all the Gasoline Alley garage doors shut. Not so much for privacy, but warmth. There wasn’t much to see as the teams were beavering away behind closed doors.

Juncos Racing

A couple of teams had just enough car parts outside their garage to pique one’s curiosity about the so-called ‘one-off’ cars which will be running the Indy 500. Examples were the bright greens and orange of the Juncos team entry for Sebastian Saavedra. Nearby blue and white livery on Harding Racing’s No.88 Chevrolet for Gabby Chaves was being set up. And one can’t miss the Pippa pink pieces outside Dale Coyne Racing.

Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Practice Two for the Verizon INDYCAR Series was early afternoon, 61 degrees F and a biting cold 12 mph wind. All cars went on course and for a brief while Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda led the field. It wasn’t long before another new track record was set by Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – 1:07.7684. As the session progressed, only one driver was faster in the morning session – Carlos Munoz/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Perhaps it was because he spun out sideways and coasted at speed into the grass, stopping short of the tire wall.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The 45-minute session was interrupted for a Red Flag when Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda ran out of fuel on the back stretch. Other than that, there was almost no drama in the session. To illustrate how prosaic it was, one of only a couple of talking points seemed to be the brief wheel touch by Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda. Both cars continued, and Rossi moved up to fourth position at that point. Afterwards, Rossi said “He was leaving the pits, and we were on our first lap on reds (the alternate Firestone compound tires). He stayed on my end in Turn Seven. Fortunately, it’s practice. It doesn’t matter. We always try and give each other space, but it was practice, so it doesn’t matter.”

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power’s fast time held, so he was again on top. Second and third were teammates Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon and Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Gilder Kits. Fourth and fifth were Rossi and another Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon.

Conor Daly/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet moved up to tenth in P2, after finishing last in P1.

Sam Schmidt, Mario Andretti & Doug Boles

Sam Schmidt, Mario Andretti & Doug Boles

There was a verbal preview of Saturday’s Challenge Race between Sam Schmidt and Mario Andretti were the two, who engaged in verbal jousting in the Media Center. At previous Indy 500 weekends, Schmidt, a disabled race driver/team owner, has driven his specially modified Arrow Electronics Corvette Stingray in exhibition laps. This year he will race SAM (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar) on the IMS road course. Schmidt’s Driver Assistant the past two years has been Robby Unser. Not sure who might be with Andretti. Andretti and Schmidt have yet to clarify just what is on the line in their own personal bet – maybe has something to do with a ride in the 2018 Indy 500?

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum there is “A.J. Foyt A Legendary Exhibition,” celebrating his 60-year involvement in the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing. The four-time Indy 500 winner, who has been involved in one form or another in every Indy 500 for the past sixty years, personifies American racing. He is perhaps the only driver who ever has or ever will start 35 consecutive Indy 500’s as a driver. He’s fielded an Indy 500 team for the past 35 years. Foyt is the only driver who has won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Dan Gurney.) In his 21-year IndyCar racing history, he won 67 races. The exhibit includes 35 of his race cars and much, much more.

I continue to have major connectivity issues which plague my posting. Sorry.

POWERFUL PENSKE

INDYCARS headed to Pit Lane

Friday morning the Verizon INDYCAR Series race cars queued up and paraded out through Gasoline Alley to Pit Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first session of the month – practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. This is the fourth year for the road course race, utilizing various infield portions of the Speedway, making it a 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit. The weather was mostly cloudy for the 9:15am session, chilly, breezy, a wind chill factor of 55 degrees F. The session got off to an inauspicious start with a very early red flag for debris. The field has 13 Hondas and nine Chevrolets.

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet led the field Friday in the first practice. He turned his fastest lap of 1:09.3172 / 126.670 mph on his last lap as the checkered flag about to fly, rising to the top for the first time in the 45-minute session. Power edged past Joseph Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who had been leading and led two other times; and Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who was running third and had led twice earlier.

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The qualifying track record is 1:08.6746 / 127.855 mph set last year by Power in the first round of knockout qualifying. Last year’s pole was 1:08.7696/127.832 mph, set by Simon Pagenaud, who went on to win the race. He also won the inaugural GP in 2014, with Will Power the 2015 winner.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Kits Team Penske was seventh fastest, in his first INDYCAR race of the season, since he left Penske after the end of last season. “I got an idea this morning of what we needed out of the car, and I think it helps. Even though we screwed up in the first session.” Later, JPM joked that he had to come back and lighten things up for the team, as they were getting too serious.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was twelfth. This weekend he is running the silver Verizon livery on the road course chassis. For the Indianapolis 500 he will run a new gold livery for Shell Fuel Rewards on the Speedway chassis. Travis Law, the Chief Mechanic for Castroneves’ car said that livery changes are labor intensive. The No.3 car has six different primary sponsors, which means six complete graphics changes for the driver, crew, and all equipment as well as the car. Everything changes. The Verizon car is a wrap, which takes about eight hours. Four of the guys in the Paint Shop help out with some specialized outside hired help. The special gold livery for the Indy 500 is painted on, with PPG help. PPG is one of the team’s sponsor and has been a great help with the technology as well as color design. It takes days to complete.

This weekend there also are three support races from the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America Series: Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda; Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires; and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Indy Lights has a field of 14 drivers, from six countries and the US. Half the drivers are Rookies.

The Pro Mazda field is 15, with three countries and mostly US drivers represented. Ten are Rookies, and four are in the National Class – which means the driver either has an older spec car, or is older than a kid.

The largest support race group is the USF2000 field, with 23 drivers, including two women – the only group with female drivers. Ten countries are represented, plus the US, and 17 are Rookies. What fun! Five of those foreign drivers commute from home or another country, while the others have more local addresses.

Thursday was a test day for the Mazda Road to Indy Series, the three support races this weekend. Their sessions were run under cool, heavily-overcast skies. The track was wet from the Wednesday late night rain, but it dried quickly.

Friday’s schedule called for practice and qualifying for all four groups and races for the three support groups.

Mega delay in posting due to WiFi problems. So sorry. Universal Frustration.