CASTRONEVES CHALLENGED & OTHER MILE-STONES

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was the seventh win in the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Challenge for Helio Castroneves and his cracker-jack crew on No.3 V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet. His fastest time was 12.561 seconds vs runner-up Charlie Kimball at 13.017 seconds. Maybe it was some Castroneves’ new sponsor’s Shell fuel in his tank – V-Power Nitro+. This special fuel is slated to be available 1 June 2015.

It was also the fifteenth Pit Stop victory for Team Penske.

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves said “I’m glad we’ve got this one, boys. I tell you that. All jokes aside, I’ll be very quick because I’m always the one that’s talking, but these are the guys that deserve this big attention.

“First, this is a way of thanking them for everything they do. Obviously, what happened to us on Wednesday, it was a blip on the radar and these boys did not even flinch. Basically, we got back on our feet right away and got the spare car and we’re running in the afternoon. So that’s just to prove that — it’s not about the pit stop only, but without them I wouldn’t be able to do, without winning and being competitive, that’s why I’m so thankful.”

The 12 teams are in the contest based on their pit stop times for the past 12 months – dating back to last year’s Indy 500. This year there were nine teams qualified, so the other three positions were filled by “Promotor’s Options.’ Among those were the of team of Townsend Bell in the No.24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet. He races for Dreyer & Reinbold, who always want to be in the challenge even though they are an Indy-only team.

The Challenge dates back to 1977 and this year total prize money totals $100,000 including $50,000 to the winner and $15,000 to the runner-up. Last year’s winner was Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Other drivers/teams participating in the Challenge were: AJ Foyt Enterprises teammates, Alex Tagliani/No.48 Honda vs. Jack Hawksworth/No.41 Honda; Kimball vs. Takuma Sato/No.15 AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing vs Castroneves; James Jakes/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports vs. Bell; Hawksworth vs. Marco Andretti/No.27 Andretti Autosport Honda; Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kimball vs. Dixon; Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda vs. Castroneves; Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet vs. Bell; Andretti vs. Kimball; Castroneves vs. Power, and finally Kimball vs. Castroneves.

Castroneves isn’t the only one celebrating is 300th indycar race this Merry Month of May. His long-time Brazilian buddy, Tony Kanaan reaches that milestone Sunday at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan, winner of the 2013 Indy 500 said “If I win again, that would be a new story – 300th start. Obviously it would be really cool, but I’m extremely humbled already just to be able to be at 300.” This will be Kanaan’s 13th Indy 500 start.

Castroneves ran his 300th race earlier in the month, at Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Brickyard’s road course.

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Justin Wilson/No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda has a brand new look for the Indy 500, with a new sponsor – the Rolling Stones. The band will play at the Brickyard on Fourth of July, as part of its summer ZIP CODE tour.

Wilson is justifiably excited. Both Wilson and the Stones are from England. “For the biggest race of the year, to have one of the biggest rock bands in history is just incredible. Listening to the Rolling Stones was a Sunday tradition in our house. We would wake up and my Dad would have the music on full blast.”

And the best milestone of all: As of Thursday before Carb Day, injured driver James Hinchcliffe was up and walking the hospital halls. I won’t embarrass him too much, but he looks so cute with that hospital attire, yellow booties and bed head. You go, Hinch!

CARB DAY: SUNNY, SAFE AND CROWDED

Will Power

Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest for Coors Light Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His lap was 229.020 mph. The hour-long session was graced with warm sunny weather, with no incidents and lots of fans. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Power has been quoted as saying he wanted to be out front for the race. He clarified that point. “Not out front, up front. You’re right, no one is going to want to lead, because you can’t get away. In the old car, you could get away, so track position was really important.

“Now you sit half throttle on the straights. Last year, no one would pass me. Leading felt like one of the biggest mistakes of the race. You had to pit earlier, you get shuffled back. Yeah, that’s the game till lap 150, literally one stop to go, you’re going to be playing that game. It’s a real pity because it used to be about car speed and driving well. I wish this big drafting fest, I mean, if you get a good car, you can actually do a good job and pull away in the old days. Now you’re a sitting duck if you’re leading basically.”

Regarding the apparent performance advantage Chevrolet has over Honda this season, Power said “I think the performance advantage is both engine and aero kit, although Honda is definitely closer here on the oval than they are on the road courses. The Hondas are difficult to draft, very clean through the air. I think they find the same with us. Just different airflow off the car, so it doesn’t draft as well. You have to draft your own manufacturer.”

Second through tenth were: Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet; Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC AJ Foyt Racing Honda; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; JR Hildebrand/No.6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet; Rookie Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda; and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Racing – who turned the most laps, 52.

Scott Dixon

Dixon was asked if he wants to lead in the race. ” Oh, I’ll lead. The only time that it gets to be a bit of a problem is if you get too out of whack on strategy. It only takes one yellow to reset that. You don’t want to do it four stints in and you’re eight laps or ten laps out of whack with your competition. We’ll see how the pace is between the front of the pack and the slower cars. Obviously once you start getting into traffic … For us, we would probably want a lot of green-flag pit stops. One is going to stream the field out a little bit, give you room on a bit of strategy, having to save fuel, things like that.
We’ll have to see how it goes. The racing is going to be pretty tight, though.”

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Chevrolet

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet spent much of the session with his crew in the pits. Near the very end he went back out and after being last of the 33 drivers with just a few laps, he jumped up to fifteenth at 226.022 mph.

Tristan Vautier of France was confirmed as being the official driver for the remainder of the weekend in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing. He was eighteenth overall at 225.939 mph. His teammate James Davison, for whom Vautier qualified the No.18 Honda, is back in the car and he ran eleventh overall.

Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had his first real laps in the car since taking over the ride for injured driver, James Hinchcliffe. He ran 38 laps and finished thirtieth. But then, Carb Day isn’t about speed as much as getting into race mode, running in traffic and ensuring everything is set to race.

For those who have been at IMS for the month, Power said, “There was no additional pressure on work to be done. I think at that point you’re pretty set on what you’re going to run. You’re just kind of doing little tweaks here and there, pit stop practice, practicing coming into the pit off four. It’s just those type of things, getting in the groove for the race.”

Tristan Vautier

Vautier said – “It has been a roller coaster of emotions this month. qualified No.18 and now racing No.19.” He was at O’Hare Airport with 90 minutes before he board his flight to England, for the Silverstone round of the Blancpan GT Series, and had to quickly retrieve his luggage, rent a car, and drive to Indy. He thought the Team Akka ASP was very understanding, and Vautier wanted to thank them. “We just had a call and they said I could race, seize the opportunity that opened up. They would find a replacement driver so I could race in the 500. That’s really cool from them to let me do that.”

“On this one (as opposed to qualifying No.18), it’s not really the way you want to get back in the car honestly. I think Carlos deserves to be racing because he did a really good job in qualifying and on practice. Obviously you can’t help but be excited to start your second Indy 500. It’s good to work with the guys. Not a lot of prep for the race. The practice we did last week was aimed for the complete opposite in running by ourselves, setting the car up for qualifying in low trim. At one hour, we made the most of it and have a direction for the race.

“It’s tough to start at the back here because obviously being behind other cars and stuff, you’re in the dirty air, you use your tires more, you go back and forth with the balance of the car. We’ll just see. I don’t have really time to think too much about it. It’s just what I have and we have to make the most of it.’

In the Freedom 100 race for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, there were eight lead changes between pole sitter Rookie Ethan Ringel/No.71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb Agajanian and front row starter, teammate Jack Harvey/No.32. It ended up as a 1-2-3 finish for Schmidt Peterson Motorsportsw/Curb Agajanian with Harvey prevailing for the win, Ringel second and Scott Anderson/No.77 third.

Unofficially, Harvey leads the Indy Lights standings 192 points over Rookie Ed Jones with 179. Third is Rookie Spencer Pigot with 168 points. Jones finished tenth and Pigot finished ninth in the race.

IMS Grandstand Crowd

CARB DAY & MORE CHANGES

It’s Coors Light CARB Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the good weather is bringing out the crowds. It’s sunny but breezy cold but it’s early – forecast is for 75 degrees F by afternoon. In the meantime, the traffic getting into the track was heaviest it’s been all month. That’s a good sign.

IMG_5692

Carlos Huertas of Columbia won’t be racing the rest of the weekend. He has an inner ear infection, and INDCAR medical consultant Dr. Terry Trammel has not cleared Huertas to drive pending further evaluation.

Huertas was gridded eighteenth, but whomever replaces him will start at the back due to the driver change. This makes three drivers moving to the back for that very reason. The order is based on points, so this will move up Ryan Briscoe from thirty-second to thirty first, to slot in the DCR driver. James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing will remain at thirty-third, due to points.

Elsewhere in the garage area, all is really bustling. Cars are going through the Tech Barn, the Tech Tent and at the gas pumps.

No.9 Chevrolet

No.29 Honda in Tech Tent

No.88 Chevrolet in Tech Tent

Meanwhile, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires has its Freedom 100 Race upcoming Friday noon. Rookie Ethan Ringel of New York has the pole position driving No.71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian. His qualifying laps averaged 197.684 mph. There are twelve cars entered, nine of whom are Rookies.

BRISCOE TO DRIVE SPM No.5

Ryan Briscoe

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports sent out a release half an hour prior to its scheduled Media Conference that Ryan Briscoe has been announced to drive the No.5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in the Indianapolis 500. He is a replacement driver for SPM’s regular driver, James Hinchcliffe, so Briscoe will start in the last grid position.

Briscoe has one Indy 500 Pole Position and two top-five finishes on his resume.

James Hinchcliffe of Canada had a horrific crash Monday afternoon in the first hour of the Monday Verizon IndyCar Series practice session for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Hinch had surgery for upper lift thigh injuries, was in Intensive Care Unit, but now has been transferred to another room, in stable condition.

Sam Schmidt

Co-Owner Sam Schmidt said “We explored quite a few options and felt confident in Briscoe. We were glad he was available and willing to drive for us with such short notice. Obviously this was not a situation we were expecting to be in for the biggest race of the year but we’re making the best of it. Our thoughts and prayers are with James [Hinchcliffe] and his family right now while we work through the details of finding his replacement. We’re excited to have an accomplished veteran in the seat of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics car.”

Briscoe said “First and foremost, I feel absolutely terrible for Hinch. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery. Under the circumstances, I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be here and fill in for him. I really hope to do a great job for Arrow Electronics, Lucas Oil and the SPM team, and I’m looking forward to being back here in the Indy 500 again.”

The naming of Hinchcliffe’s replacement driver for the duration of his recovery will be named later.

Briscoe will be on track after the Press Conference, for his Track Familiarization.

COLD DOESN’T BEGIN TO DESCRIBE

Pit Lane Jet Dryer

It’s a cold win a blowin’ at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday morning – so cold the ambient temperature was/is 48 degrees F and the track temperature is so cold there isn’t an official reading. The morning Indy Lights by practice was postponed an hour so the track can be warmed up by vehicles on track and two jet driers in Pit Lane.

Thursday’s schedule calls for Indy 500 Media Day and on track practice and qualifying for Indy Lights. Part of the Media Day activities are a couple of new Press Conferences not earlier scheduled.

The INDYCAR Media schedule is somewhat fluid, and one new press conference has been announced by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 11:30am ET. Presumably this is to detail the team’s plans going forward for this weekend, including a driver announcement to replace the injured James Hinchcliffe. The good news is that Hinchcliffe has successfully undergone surgery for his upper left thigh, he’s out of Intensive Care Unit and resting. He won’t be racing for awhile, but the word is that he will make a good recovery. That replacement driver, TBA, will be on track at 12:15pm ET for Track Familiarization.

In the SPM Garage in Gasoline Alley, the door is nearly closed in the bay where the No.5 car was being prepped. The only visible portion was the bright gold nose cone. In the other bay bits and pieces wee being worked. No one was talking, and no driver or owners were seen.

No.5 Honda being prepared

No.5 Nose Parts

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports garage

Although the driver announcement is still officially forthcoming, rumours swirled and a fan who prints a Spotters Guide before each major race issued his updated Indy 500 Guide Wednesday night, showing Ryan Briscoe as the driver for No.5 Lucas Oil/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Preferred Freezer Polar Bear

HINCHCLIFFE MEDICAL UPDATE

IndyCar Series Logo

James Hinchcliffe Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR medical director:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe underwent surgery May 18 at IU Health Methodist Hospital for an injury to his upper left thigh. He has been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit and remains in stable condition.

“Obviously we’re relieved that James is awake and out of surgery,” said Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt. “That’s the most important thing on our minds right now and we will do absolutely everything required to ensure a complete recovery.”

Additional updates to Hinchcliffe’s condition will be released when available.

MONDAY WRAP

The Monday practice session schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was changed more than once for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Series. The noon Indianapolis 500 practice session was halted after the accident of James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

James Hinchcliffe

It has been confirmed by Honda that it was indeed a mechanical failure which caused Hincliffe’s crash. It was the failure of the right-front suspension rocker arm, causing Hinchcliffe to lose control of his steering. He went into the wall at a 45 degree angle. Honda said it was the hardest hit of the Indianapolis 500 sessions. Hard like accidents pre-HANS devices and carbon fiber. The cause of the mechanical failure is yet unknown.

The latest INDYCAR update on Hinchcliffe’s medical condition is that he “is in stable condition and undergoing surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital for an injury to the left upper thigh.

“Hinchcliffe was awake when he was transported by ground to the hospital following a single-car accident during practice for the 99th Indianapolis. The Canadian’s Schmidt Peter Motorsports car made heavy right-side contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier. Additional updates to Hinchcliffe’s condition will be released when available.”

Meanwhile, the Monday schedule should have been written with a pencil with a good eraser. Mid-afternoon, INDYCAR announced IndyCar practice would resume at 4:15pm and run to 5pm ET, and Indy Lights practice would end at 4pm. Part way into the afternoon INDYCAR practice session, it was extended to 6pm, which tentatively moved the Indy Lights Series to a 6:15-7pm ET slot. Those schedules stuck.

Sage Karam's car

Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet topped the charts at the end of the session, with a lap of 227.831 mph.

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had led most of the truncated session with a best time of 226.429 mph in traffic, until Karam pipped him.

Third through fifth were JR Hildebrand/No.6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet; James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet was the top Rookie, in twenty-third place.

Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Honda turned the most laps – 87, while Townsend Bell/No.24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet opted for the other end of the spectrum, running six laps. Overall 1449 laps were run by twenty-eight drivers.

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet remains the fastest driver of all ten practice sessions at 233.474 mph, set in Practice Six. He’s run a total of 259 laps. Bryan Clauson/No.88 Jonathan Byrd’s/Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chevrolet has run the most laps overall – 460.

Those not out on track Monday were: James Jakes/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Carlos Huertas/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Oriol Servia/No.32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Conor Daly/No.43 FUELED by BACON Special Honda.

Traditionally, once a T/Backup car has qualified, the car number reverts to the primary number – no T.

Tony Kanaan

Kanaan visited the Media Center briefly after the session.

Some of the comments and questions were geared to his feelings and reactions to Hincliffe’s accident.

“First and foremost we need to understand that this is a very dangerous sport. Every time we hop in that race car, we don’t know if we’re going to come out of it, if you’re going to come out of it in one piece, if something’s going to happen to you. And that’s something we’re going to have to live with. I believe that.

“That’s what makes us different than other people. That’s why not everybody can do this. It’s never easy to see a friend of yours get hurt or lost a friend of yours. But this is the sport that we chose. And I believe … not trying to be rude to anyone in the field, but if people feel uncomfortable with that, you shouldn’t be in the race car.”

When asked if he had any safety concerns going into Sunday’s race, Kanaan didn’t hesitate. “We’re always going to have concerns. And when people crash, anything can happen I think it was four different accidents. I trust the engineers. I trust the guys who built the aero kits. Are we going to have 100 percent of all the answers that we wanted to have? No, but I don’t think we’ve ever had them and will ever have them. No, I am not concerned.

“I’m ready to put on a good show for the fans who are coming her to watch us. Accidents happen. We hate that, but it’s part of our job.”

Addressing the question many are asking: his reaction to INDYCAR’s action on the flips. Should they have reacted at all. Kanaan said “It’s tough to say. I think they talked to the engineers. That would be a question for Derrick (Walker – INDYCAR President Competition & Operations) and not to me. I just drive the race car. I trust what my engineers tell me and I trust what Chevy told me. I think my opinion is irrelevant because I would be talking about something I don’t understand. I understand that we crash, sometimes we have the risk to flip. Am I willing to take that risk. 100 percent.”

Each year one of the Coors Light Carb Day highlights is the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Contest. The 12 teams are entered based on their pit stop times since the previous year’s Indy 500. This year the teams are:
1 Will Power / Verizon Team Penske
2 Juan Pablo Montoya / Team Penske
5 James Hinchcliffe / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 James Jakes/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon / Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
14 Takuma Sato / A.J. Foyt Enterprises
15 Graham Rahal / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
24 Townsend Bell / Dreyer and Reinbold – Kingdom Racing
27 Marco Andretti / Andretti Autosport
41 Jack Hawksworth / A.J. Foyt Enterprises
48 Alex Tagliani/ A.J. Foyt Enterprises
83 Charlie Kimball / Chip Ganassi Racing Teams

The competition is for the entire team – bragging rights as well as more tangible rewards. And no, I don’t know what is or will be the situation for the No.5 car. Watch this space.

Next up for the IndyCar drivers – Carb Day Friday 22 May 2015. That’s also the opening day for the new Paul Newman movie, “Winning.”

HINCHCLIFFE ACCIDENT

James Hinchcliffe's No.5

The Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, drove his No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda hard head on into the Turn Three wall. He spun and his right rear and side slammed before bouncing the spinning flaming car onto the track, going two wheels up on his right side before landing back on all four wheels. It looked like something failed on the car as he drove straight off.

The crash came during the first hour of practice. Thirty-one drivers were in Pit Lane, and 25 had been on track.

Practice was originally put on hold while the SAFER wall being replaced.

Then, at 2:25pm ET the checkered flag was thrown on the INDYCAR pratice session, so “INDYCAR could continue to investigate the accident of No.5. It hoped that INDYCAR could practice later in the day.”

Indy Lights practice, originally scheduled for 4-7pm ET was moved up to 3:15-5:15pm ET.

The popular Canadian driver was awake and alert, put on a backboard and transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for evaluation. Later came word from INDYCAR: Dr Michael Olinger, INDYCAR medical director said “James Hinchcliffe sustained an injury to upper thigh and is currently in surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital. Additional updates to his condition will be released when they are available.”

James Hinchcliffe

Hinch had been scheduled to fly to Toronto, with Josef Newgarden/No.21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet and Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet as part of the Tuesday Tour for all 33 of the INDYCAR drivers. Kate Guerra, INDYCAR Manager, Advance Communications, was going along. The plan was for the boys to do a ‘car wash’, which is the term of making the rounds of the broadcast station. In this case, it’s INDYCAR Canadian TV partner, StarNet. They were slated to visit all the different StarNet TV shows. The schedule even called for them to go to “Make-Up.” If anyone could jolly up Karam, it would be those two – Hinch and Josef.

Hinchcliffe had been running ninth of twenty-five drivers, at a speed of 223.916 mph.

I had a brief conversation with Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay earlier in the morning, in a Media Center elevator ride. They were in very relaxed, joking mood, full of the quick quips.

More as we learn it.

SAY CHEESE!

Scott Dixon & team

After winning the pole position for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, you’d think that Verizon IndyCar Series driver, Scott Dixon and his winning No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team would get to celebrate and sleep in Monday morning. But, winning such the Verizon P1 Award means you all have to get up with the chickens and be all ready for a mega photo shoot at The Brickyard. This goes for your front row companions also.

There’s variations on a theme – change the hats, smile for the photogs, pose with the trophy, add or subtract the various folks who post with you, and so on.

The front row trio aren’t the only ones who get to have photo shoots. It’s tradition that after qualifying each driver, car and team go to a designated place in Gasoline Alley and has a group photo taken, which is then part of the Firestone Indy 500 Grid Display.

Scott Dixon

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud

And, for Pagenaud, it’s a special day. It’s his birthday. Joyeaux Anniversaire, Simon! He’s 31 today. All day.

And for the front row teams, it is an especially long, busy time from the end of qualifying to the photo shoot, because of the engine changes.

For the Indy 500, teams are allowed to take out the existing engine, even if it hasn’t mileaged out. A new Indy 500 engine out of the crate can be installed for the week culminating in the race. After the race, that engine is sealed by INDYCAR and put back in the crate to be used at a later time. The previous engine – if it hasn’t mileaged out – is reinstalled and run til it’s done. Then the Indy 500 engine can be used.

The teams swap the engines Sunday night so that they can be prepped Monday morning for the Monday afternoon practice. So now you know.

Although the weather forecast is the same as it’s been all weekend – 82 and thundershowers, it’s 73 degrees F at noon and overcast. The wind measures 10 mph. Stay tuned. This is Indianapolis, after all. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.

Monday’s schedule calls for a couple of hours practice for the Indy Lights drivers – all 11 of them. This is followed by practice for the Indy 500 drivers, for three and a half hours.

Then they all pack up and head off for specific locations to promote the race far and wide for one full Tuesday.

The track is relatively quiet, and the fans are fewer. Another good day for the local schools to have field trips.

The Firestone tires folks are busy getting all the tires ready for the upcoming track days. In total, Firestone brings about 5,000 tires.

Monday is the last on-track day for the Indy 500 drivers until Friday’s Carb Day.

Firestone Indy 500 Grid Display

Lonely food court

Firestone tires

RUN, WON AND DONE DIXON STYLE

Scott Dixon & crew

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has the pole for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis. Sunday qualifying was run under overcast but dry skies, with a very brisk breeze. The weather was warm – 75 degrees F at the start of practice with 80 percent humidity. By qualifying, the temperature had raised to 79 degrees, humidity dropped to 72 percent and wind picked up to 8mph.

Dixon, third out of all drivers, set a four-lap average of 226.769 mph, with his first lap a 227.041 mph. Then he had the anxiety of waiting two hours.Wife, Emma, got to wave the Green Flag for qualifying.

This is Dixon’s second Indy 500 pole – the first one was 2006 which he won. It is the fourth consecutive pole position for Chevrolet.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

Scott, Poppy & Tilly Dixon

Team owner, Chip Ganassi said ” This is a real testament to the team. The driver really comes into play during the race. Obviously you need a great driver here, but qualifying is just all about the team. Preparation and the Target team just did a great job here today. I couldn’t be more happy with them, Scott Dixon, Mike Hull, the engineers, everybody. I’m blessed to have great guys like that to work with. My hat’s off to Roger Penske and his team.”

Dixon said “Huge credit to Chevrolet. We first ran in one configuration today, and then changed to the new mandates, with only a 30 minute practice. If you think of oval racing regarding safety, it’s the most dangerous form of racing. It’s always in the back of your mind, but the car was great. The three crashes were very different scenarios, but you only have so many tools in the tool box. With the speed down, the safety is going to be better.

“The Race for the pole is prestigious, but it’s not winning the Indianapolis 500. There’s no reason to moan about the decisions, because there was nothing you could do about it. You’ve got Chevy and Honda with two very different cars, so having rules for them is very difficult.

“The pressure came more before you ran than on the track. Knowing you’ve got one run and done, that’s pressure.”

Will Power

Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was second, at 226.350 mph, followed by his teammate, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Aveya Team Penske Chevrolet at 226.145 mph.

Fourth and fifth were Dixon’s Ganassi teammate, Tony Kanaan at 225.503 mph and a third Penske driver, Helio Castroneves/No.3 at 225.502 mph.

Justin Wilson & Crew

The top Honda was Justin Wilson in sixth place, with a lap average of 225.279 mph. Chevrolet had eight of the top ten qualifiers.

Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the top Rookie, placing twenty-ninth at 222.916 mph.

Fill-in driver, Tristan Vautier/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda qualified the car twenty-first for James Davison, who was racing in Canada. However, because of the driver change, he will start in the back.

Ed Carpenter/No.20T Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet qualified twelfth. His crew quickly threw together his backup car in two and a half hours, after Carpenter’s big crash in the first morning practice.
“When I was upside down out of Turn 2 this morning, I didn’t know we were going to have the delays that we had. If things would’ve stayed on schedule, we would’ve been qualifying for a spot on the last row, but the way things worked out, it gave the team the time it needed to get a car ready for me.

“There’s definitely more there. It felt good. We were off a little bit on the gears, so just a gear change and we would’ve been well into the 225 mph range. I don’t think we expected to win the pole with the morning we had, so I’m just thankful for the whole CFH Racing team. All three crews pitched in and got the Fuzzy’s Vodka backup car ready. It was good teamwork and a great effort to get me out there and I’m very thankful.”

The infamous last row consists of Jack Hawksworth/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda, Rookie Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Raving Technology Chevrolet, and Bryan Clauson/No.88 Jonathan Byrds/Cancer Treatment Centers Chevrolet.

Buddy Lazier/No.91 Wynn Iowa Vision Research Lazier Racing Chevrolet was odd driver out, with a disappointing lap average of 220.232 mph. With his elimination, Honda has 17 drivers and Chevrolet has 16.

Power said “I’m happy with the front row, but I’ve been here before. I definitely would like to get pole.It came down to reacting as quickly as you can to the situation. You know, it was quite easy, flat, obviously, because you’re going so much slower and you have more grip, believe it or not.

“I sat with engineers this morning after the changes, to see what we could do to trim out the car. Just looking for weird ways to make it fast through the air. Maybe we weren’t extreme enough, but I felt we did as much as we could.

In response to queries about the Sunday format changes, Power said “It was a hard decision, but I think they made the right decision. This was the first year we could trim out the car and go faster, so the first time in years we’ve had accidents. We had that a lot years ago. I don’t think it’s Chevy either. The floor is built for a road course and we’re running on an oval. I thought it was great we could trim the car and it was going well, and people back in the day people used to crash every day. Take the risk and trim out the corner.

Regarding the power/grip matter, Power said “Preaching to the choir. More power and less grip. You don’t want your grandma driving around here. It’s just guiding the car, not driving the car.”

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud also discussed speed. “It was weird, we talked about before, we’re flying  we’re talking, what, five miles an hour, right, and it feels like you’re going really slow, obviously, until you hit the wall.

“I’m just super proud of being part of Team Penske. In the other configuration we had a way to get the pole. It is what it is. We only got one attempt, and the wind was difficult. We’re running very similar cars,” so regarding the slower pace of Helio and Juan (Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet-fifteenth) – it was wind. “I guess the weather was difficult, as well, with the gusts of wind. Sometimes you get the wind perfect, sometimes you get a headwind, and that is just the way it is.”

Pagenaud had the last word. “Now it’s more about the show and putting on a good show for the fans. We’ve been waiting for a year and we want to race.”

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Photos by Pablo Matamoros.