COTA Cowboy Hat

Day Four of USGP COTA week. What a difference a day makes. Gone was Wednesdays somnambulant demeanor. The tempo picked up and there was activity everywhere.

First up for the 18 Formula One cars was Scrutineering, and everyone was a happy camper. The teams were pleasant and cooperative, and by noon all but two of the teams had passed inspection, and by 2pm local time the 30 Scrutineers were done.

Lotus F1 Car


Infiniti Red Bull Racing Pit Stop Practice

Shortly after the deadline for official entries the FIA Stewards listed all 18 current drivers as eligible to drive, and added two other drivers cleared for FP1 – Max Verstappen in No.38 Scuderia Toro Rosso and Felipe Nasr No.40 Williams Martini Racing.

The Stewards also clarified Qualifying: the slowest four cars in Q1 would not advance to Q2, and the slowest four cars in Q2 wouldn’t advance to Q3.

Other Steward decisions including no penalties assessed to either Marussia F1 Team or Caterham F1 Team for their non-participation at USGP, despite breaching regulations due to current financial circumstances. However both cases were referred to Jean Todt, FIA President.

The weather warmed up nicely and was downright hot by end of day. The beautiful people came out, F1 drivers and owners were interviewed, and F1 held its F1 Extrication Practice in the pits of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, much to the delight of the large crowd of spectators on a Pit Walk.

Several teams practiced pit stops. Amazing how fast four tires can be changed when you only have seventeen to twenty crew members swarming all over the car.

2009 Mercedes AMG F1 Safety Car

The corner stations were staffed mid-afternoon for the obligatory Systems Check. Safety Car driver, Bernd Maylander and Medical Car Driver, Alan van der Merwe, took turns driving their respective cars around the 3.4-mile elevated road course. Maylander took TTOD with a purple (fastest) lap of 2:26.869. He has been driving the F1 Safety Car since 2000. Maylander has been in his role since 2009. The 2013 USGP COTA pole time was 1:36.338, set by Sebastian Vettel in No.1 Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault.

Formula One has two practice sessions, as does the Ferrari Challenge Series. The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Series has an afternoon practice, and the day ends with the annual Marshal Pit Lane Walk.

Let the fun begin!

Posted in F1


FIA F1 Safety & Medical Cars

Wednesday – Day Three of USGP COTA week, and it’s so quiet compared to what I thought it would have been the day before all the F1 cars go through Scrutineering and all the FIA officials go through their systems checks. Not much activity to be seen, especially in Pit Lane.

The FIA Scrutineering Bay was all dressed up … and looking quite lonely.

FIA Scrutineering Bay

Only a few F1 teams – mostly at the far end of the pits – have their garages open on the track side. The rest are a closed book. Ingenious and often decorative means are utilized to prevent the cars and teams from being seen. And on the back side in the Paddock/Hospitality Area, the closures are so cleverly installed so that all one sees is branding opportunities, often quite stunning.

Red Bull Racing Garage

Sahara Force India Garage

Lotus Garage

Ferrari Back Door

Lotus Back Door

FIA Back Door

For the most part, working with tires seems to be the only visible activity.

The Marussia and Caterham garage signs have finally been replaced with Pirelli signage, and inside those repurposed garages all kinds of activity is undergoing. Williams also scored another garage.

Red Bull Racing tires

Pirelli signage installation

Pirelli Garage

Track personnel are putting the finishing touches on everything, including painting, striping and still more container placement.

Pit Lane painting & striping

Container Movement

Foliage Transport

The teams have until 4pm Thursday to officially enter, after which time the FIA Stewards will determine the Qualifying Process.

Registration packets have been put together for the nearly 300 volunteer race marshals and officials, in readiness for Thursday’s big rush. By Friday morning at 6:30am, Worker Reg is closed and all Registrars are off to other duties.

Keeping busy and behind the scenes were all the specialty chiefs and a few helpers, putting the finishing touches on all that there was left to do.

Dr. Steve Olvey

Dr. Steve Olvey

The weather was quite mild, with overcast skies and breeze lasting into the early afternoon. There was just the right amount of warmth and it felt like Indian Summer. As Dr. Steve Olvey said “Let’s hope this great weather lasts.”

Thursday morning the F&C seniors have their first meeting, before heading out on course for the hour-long FIA systems test.

F1 Bull Pen

Posted in F1


Tuesday – Day Two of USGP COTA week, and the pace has picked up but is not outwardly frenetic, fast or furious. Our long-time friend, Lon Bromley is the COTA Director of Safety. He has a staff of 48 handling fire, rescue, safety, track repair, MRV’s, plus Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steve Olvey who brings five-six doctors including Dr. Chris Pinderski from Champ Car, and Dr.Gregg Summerville from ALMS. Lon tells me that this year’s preparations and readiness is at least on schedule, if not ahead. And even though all the basic freight arrived last week, it’s still being moved in – he’s never seen so much F1 gear. More than last year.

F1 Medical Garage Setup

Mercedes Gear Moving

Lotus Garage

It’s always fascinating to watch the circus come to town and set itself up in orderly fashion. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes to make the show go on – we’ll never know all that is entailed. Everyone has a part to play.

Red F1 Lights

Yellow F1 Lights

Green F1 Lights

Race Official Specialty Chief’s Bill Armitage (F&C) and Ben Coleman (Pit/Grid), along with Bob Pearson, spent the day tending to all the last minute details such as making and installing signs for all the marshal posts.

The empty F1 garages have been claimed by Pirelli tires – who used to be further away from the garages in a tent. As priorities go, taking down the Marussia and Caterham driver signs is probably not high on the list, but it could happen.

Tired Mechanic

McLaren Setting Up

Sauber Setting Up

The COTA F1 Administration setup is linear. One can go from Race Control down a hall and through doors to Scrutineering, through the F1 garages and end with Pirelli. No muss. No fuss.

Behind the F1 garages, in the Paddock/Hospitality area, it is all compact. The backs of the garages, are all closed off and it’s like the teams are competing even there with the decor of their back doors. Ever seen a black Coke Cooler? Lotus has. Ferrari continues to one-up everyone with its blinding all-red color scheme , down to the shoes and socks of the crew and their bicycles. And they again brought their very own smoking booth for the Paddock.

Red Bull Back Door
Ferrari Hospitality

Black Coke Cooler

Ferrari Smoking Booth

The weather continues to be gorgeous. Warm but not unbearable. No chance of rain, and more of the same throughout the weekend. Just enough clouds in the skies to make dazzling sunsets.

Posted in F1


COTA SignMonday – Day One of USGP COTA week, and the tempo is already picking up. All the F1 containers have arrived and mostly put in place near and by the appropriate garages. In Pit Lane, the Caterham garage sign is gone, replaced by a track sign, but Marussia and three of the four driver’s signs are still in place. Those empty garages will be ‘repurposed’ including making more area for race marshals.

The weather was hot but with a brisk tempering breeze. Almost too much for my hat outside the track, but no problem in the Pits and Paddock.

COTA Tower

Up Pit Lane

Down Pit Lane

Ferrari Equipment

Williams Garage

COTA Tower

Del Valle Sunset

Del Valle TX treated me to a beautiful sunset as I left the track for a good meal and more research. I had dinner with F&C Chief, Bill Armitage, and learned of some impressive training sessions and learning opportunities in store for the trackside marshals.

It’s going to be a great week!

Posted in F1


Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet won the Verizon IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 race Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway, his first race victory since last year’s Indianapolis 500. He was ebullient. Kanaan’s win meant the series had its eleventh different winner in the 18-race schedule. This finale race had double points.

Kanaan led twice for sixty-four laps

This was Kanaan’s 17th indy car victory. He dedicated his win to his good buddy and mentor, Dario Franchitti, who retired from driving the No.10 Chevrolet after his bad racing accident last year at Houston. The popular Scot was quick to have a long private moment with Kanaan in Victory Circle.

Will Power with Driver Trophy

Will Power. Photo courtesy Chevrolet.

Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet finished ninth and won his first IndyCar Drivers Championship, after finishing runner-up three times. It was the lucky thirteenth indy car victory for Roger Penske, whose last win was in 2006 with Sam Hornish, Jr. It was a long-time coming for Power, and he admitted “This was one of the hardest races ever. Oh my God, I was crying over the line. It’s unbelievable. That’s 15 years of hard work. I started taking it seriously in 2000. That’s just 15 years of hard work.” When asked, Power said “my car was fine, I just stroked it after learning of Castroneves penalty which dropped him in the running order.”

Tim Cindric

Will Power

Roger Penske

Left to Right: Tim Cindric, Will Power, and Roger Penske.

Tim Cindric, Penske President, was the Strategist for Power, and has been for the past three years. Roger Penske handled those duties for Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet

Last year’s IndyCar Champion and Kanaan’s teammate, Scott Dixon No.9 Chevrolet was race runner-up. The Margin of Victory was 3.6750 seconds. Ed Carpenter, the 2012 Auto Club race winner, finished third despite a speeding ticket earlier in the race. This was his last run with the No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Next year he merges his single-car team with the single car team of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, and it will be called CFH Racing. Carpenter will be moving his shop into SFHR. This was the third consecutive podium finish for Carpenter at Auto Club Speedway. He led once for three laps, but a speeding ticket cost him his chance for victory.

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan & Ed Carpenter

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan & Ed Carpenter. Photo Courtesy Chevrolet

Fourth and fifth were pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda, who had also received a speeding ticket.

The race’s only caution was for Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, when he spun out on Lap 175 and landed in the grassy infield, where he stalled. RHR led twice for 26 laps, and was battling Kanaan for position when the solo spin occurred. Hunter-Reay was safe but the flag was already out. He had been battling Kanaan for second place behind leader Castroneves, and frustrated by not being able to pass. During that caution, Sebastien Bourdais No.11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Chevrolet had a Steward’s Review for passing the Pace Car under caution, and received a thirty-second penalty.

With Kanaan’s win, no driver captured the Triple Crown, which would only happen if a driver won all three races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana.

The race was exciting to watch – nine different leaders with 17 lead changes. Pole Sitter Montoya led five times for 85 laps, the most of any leader. Power led once for eight laps, and during that time, on Lap 189, he turned the fastest overall lap and the fastest race leader lap – 218.982 mph/32.8794 seconds.

Twenty of the 21 drivers finished the race, with ten drivers on the lead lap. Huertas was the first/only driver to retire, after 21 laps. The original IndyCar report was for Medical reasons, but it later changed to Driver Illness. He was “not feeling too well.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Going into the race, three drivers were mathematically in contention for the Driver’s Championship. Power and his Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet, who were 51 points apart going into the double points race, and Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda was 81 points behind Power. The win awarded 100 points for the win, plus the chance at 1-4 Bonus Points.

It didn’t take long into the race before the title contention was between the two Penske drivers, as Pagenaud was never a contender after starting an unlucky 13th, and having a disappointing race.

Pagenaud’s Crew Chief, Rob Edwards, said every innovative thing had been tried. Pagenaud scored MAVTV sponsorship for the race, running all-white livery instead of his usual orange. He finished P20, seven laps down. Pagenaud said “Tonight was not our night. It wasn’t the night we expected, that’s for sure. The car was strong Wednesday night (at the open test) until the crash that night. It wasn’t the same and we never knew why. I don’t have any answers. It wasn’t a big crash and there was no cause to change to a backup car. This is a proper team, a top team, which finished in the top five the past few years.”

Pagenaud hasn’t yet seen his teammate, Mikhail Aleshin, but he has spoken with him. Pagenaud will see the young driver Sunday morning, but wouldn’t comment on his medical condition. Aleshin is recovering in hospital from torso injuries incurred Friday night during a severe crash during final practice.

Pagenaud was coy about his plans for next year. His contract is up this year. He said he’ll get a good night’s rest and start making decisions tomorrow. It shouldn’t be long now before all is revealed.

Castroneves also had a disappointing race, after the highs of leading three times for 41 laps. He finished fourteenth after his penalty dropped him out of race/title contention on Lap 220 of the 250-lap race. He was obviously deeply disappointed, but he put on his game face and joked about his teammate/winner. “Congrats to Will for being a champion and great job. I hope the rate in his house doesn’t increase because every time I stay with him, he charges me.”

The Penalty Box was used five times, four for Pit Lane violations, and one for Passing Under Yellow. Perhaps the most heartbreaking was that levied against Castroneves for going below the Pit Lane magnetic stripe and then back on track. He said “I knew the only way for us to get in front was through the pits and my ins and outs seemed to be working very well except for my last one and I got a drive though. So my bad.”

Unofficial Points Standings: Will Power-671; Helio Castroneves-609; Scott Dixon-604; Juan Pablo Montoya-586; Simon Pagenaud-565; Ryan Hunter-Reay-563; Tony Kanaan-544; Rookie Carlos Munoz-483; Marco Andretti-463; and Sebastien Bourdais-461.

The handy-dandy IndyCar Points Possibility Chart made it easy during the race to chart the progress of the contenders. Such a chart possibly had its origins traced back to Wally ‘The Rat’ Reese back in the days of the NASCAR Truck Series.

NBCSN TV Commentator/former IndyCar racer Paul Tracy observed that Montoya’s shiny chrome helmet was so affected by track debris and dust it turned pewter color. By Lap 180 Castroneves had lost his Formula One helmet protector – came loose somewhere around the track.

Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had a moment halfway through the race – almost kissing the wall, but recovered and got back up to speed. He finished twelfth.

As soon as the race started, Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay Andretti Autosport Honda won the IndyCar Rookie Driver’s Championship. He had 435 points going into the race, while his only competitor, Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Motorsports Honda had 364. As Aleshin didn’t run the race, Munoz gathered even more points to win the Rookie title. The other two Rookies, Jack Hawksworth No.98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda and Carlos Huertas No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, weren’t in contention.

Huertas had been consistently slow throughout the weekend, and was considerably off the pace. Munoz finished eighth and Hawksworth in P15.

The temperatures during the day got as high as 99 degrees F by 5pm PDT, but then cooled nicely to 93 degrees F with a 15 mph breeze at race start. The temps continued to drop, and at 7:30pm PDT it was 85 F/29C, with the track temperature charted at 99 degrees F/37 C.

It was a beautiful sunset and fitting finale to the 2014 season.

Auto Club Sunset


1. (7) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
2. (5) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
3. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
4. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
5. (11) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
6. (4) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
7. (12) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
8. (19) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
9. (21) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running
10. (3) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running
11. (18) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
12. (6) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running
13. (16) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
14. (1) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running
15. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running
16. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running
17. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running
18. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 245, Running
19. (10) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running
20. (13) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 243, Running
21. (22) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 21, Driver Illness
22. (8) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 0, Did Not Start


Will Power

Will Power

Tony Kanaan No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet won his first IndyCar race this season Saturday night, making him the eleventh different victor. Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Drivers Championship at the Verizon IndyCar MAVTV 500 race Saturday night on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway. Power, nursing an ill-handling car, dropped back from fourth, to finished ninth. He had started P20, and steadily charged up the pack, and led for a few laps.

This is the first Title for Power, who was runner-up three times.

Power said “It just went on and on and on. I can’t believe it. I’m mentally exhausted now, and my hands are numb from holding onto the steering wheel so tight. I can’t believe I won it.”

For Team Penske owner, Roger Penske, it was win-win no matter who won the race. Two of his drivers, Power and Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Chevrolet, finished 1-2 in the championship – Penske’s first championship since 2006; and the third driver – Juan Pablo Montoya No2 Hitachi Chevrolet had the pole position, led the most laps, and finished fourth in the race.

Castroneves was a title/race contender until he fell back to P 14 after receiving a drive-through penalty on Lap 221 driving down onto the apron and then crossing back onto the racetrack. He went a lap down. That’s the pits.

Castroneves said “I was pushing it extremely hard. My ins and outs seemed to be working out, until the last one.” It’s another second – his fourth runner-up position.

Montoya said “Today we had a car to win. It’s great for Team Penske and my being with the team, I could help them.”


Power’s SuperFan, Brian McEnnerney, was in the pit for the race – he’s Power’s good luck charm. Power flew the entire family down to Fontana for the race. Young McEnnerney has been Power’s Number One Fan for several years.

Power never asked for an update during the race. He had previously said “As long as I finish sixth or better, I’m good.”

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan

Kanaan said “Not bad for an old man. Finally. If you win the last race, you get to brag about it for seven months. Long time coming. I finally get my picture on the shop wall.”

Penske Performance Inc President, Tim Cindric, called the race for Power, while team owner Roger Penske called Castroneves’ race.

Tim Cindric

Tim Cindric

Tim Cindric

Mark Miles, CEO Hulman Company, said this season was “compelling.”

One crowd count estimate by a local journalist was 22,000.


Derrick Walker

Derrick Walker

Derrick Walker, IndyCar President of Competition and Operations, puts it this way: We learn from accidents and move on to ways to make racing safer.

Friday night during Final Practice at Auto Club Speedway, Verizon IndyCar driver, Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda, had a horrific accident. He spun out and was unavoidably hit by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Aleshin then spun up, down and around, and hit the safety fence. Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda got caught out in the debris. Kimball and Andretti were checked and cleared to drive. Aleshin was air-lifted to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center, where, as per Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar Consultant, Aleshin is now in stable condition after a procedure for a chest injury.

While the young Russian Rookie recuperates and recovers from his torso injuries, the IndyCar Safety Committee and IndyCar Vice President, Technology, Will Phillips, will be working with all the data recovered from the car remains. Among the members of the IndyCar Safety Committee are two drivers – Charlie Kimball and James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda. Others are Dr. Trammell; IndyCar Director, Engineering/Safety, Jeff Horton; and IndyCar Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart.

The IndyCar folks very carefully and laboriously sift through all pieces and parts, download data, take multitudes of photographs and generally do an accident reconstruction. All of this is done before the car can be released back to the race team.

Once back in IndyCar’s Indianapolis headquarters, all the involved IndyCar folk will carefully analyze all the details, and learn from the process, which can take several weeks.

Included in the analyzed data will be the G-forces, which can be detailed by the IndyCar Earpiece Sensor System, aka accelerometers. These three sensors are integrated into the earpieces all IndyCar drivers are required to wear. They sense and measure vertical, lateral and longitudinal G-forces sustained by the driver at the moment of impact. These devices have been mandatory for IndyCar drivers since 2003, and Indy Lights drivers since 2004. Since 2007, the accelerometers have been manufactured in-house by IndyCar.

The load failure of the chassis is determined by a push test, exerting force on the car until something happens. This leads to the number of anticipated G forces which can be tolerated before failure. In Aleshin’s accident, the load failure was higher than expected, based on the initial data collected before the event. That was a good thing.

All of this leads to new innovations which in turn lead to greater driver safety.


The good news about Verizon IndyCar driver, Mikhail Aleshin, is that he survived Friday’s night accident in Final Practice at Auto Club speedway before, considering how horrific it looked. The young Russian driver destroyed his No.7 SMP Racing Honda. He spun out down low, perhaps to avoid Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet, who was pitting. Aleshin spun up the track where he was unavoidably collected by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog FlexPen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Kimball was checked at the Infield Care Center post-accident, and cleared to drive.

Aleshin was air-lifted to Loma Linda Medical Center after the accident, where he was admitted, listed in serious but stable condition. INDYCAR Medical Consultant, Dr. Terry Trammell, updated Aleshin’s medical condition. Aleshin was diagnosed with fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, a concussion and chest injuries. He was admitted to the hospital and listed in serious but stable condition.

Sunday afternoon Pastor Bob Hills, Director of IndyCar Ministry, said in Chapel that Aleshin had undergone surgery for shoulder and chest injuries. Aleshin had planned to return to Russia Friday, but his hospital stay will preclude that trip for now.

NOTE: After this column was written and about to be sent, another update came from Dr. Trammell, advised that Aleshin’s condition was upgraded to stable, following a procedure for a chest injury. Aleshin will remain hospitalized while he recovers from the procedure.

Aleshin’s car was a bucket of bolts, a scrap heap. Both his front wheels came off and through the fence. The tub was speared by Kimball.




Kimball’s car sustained an impact higher than the failure load, but the front was messed up. The Ganassi crew went to work after the accident to prepare the T or backup car for Kimball. The car drove in the Saturday afternoon Systems Check, which is just what it sounds for each team who can send out a car. According to the Scrutineers, Kimball’s car underwent a safety check before the track Systems Check. Afterwards, Kimball’s car underwent the full tech inspection. All the teams can exercise a voluntary option to bring their cars to Tech Inspection, but it is up to the teams to ensure the car is legal.


Marco Andretti's Car

Simon Pagenaud's Car

Other teams also brought cars through Tech, including pole sitter Helio Castroneves No.3 AAA Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet, Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda, and Aleshin’s teammate, Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda. Pagenaud has a mathematical chance to win the title championship Saturday evening, but it would mean a lot of things would have to occur to the top two contenders – points leader Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and Castroneves.

Andretti wasn’t directly involved in the Friday night accident, but he did run into a lot of debris, causing damage. No other drivers seem to have been involved in the accident.

Auto Club Speedway replaced one 25 foot wide safety fence panel. Everything else was intact. The fencing is standard for all ISC (International Speedway Corporation) race tracks. Everything needed for the repair was already on site. Eighteen track Operations Crew members worked for six hours repairing the fence. And is the case with all such repairs, IndyCar was “thoroughly engaged in the process.”

The Official Starting Line Up for the MAVTV 500 race was released, and it shows that Kimball and Andretti retained their original starting positions – P6 for Kimball, who went to a backup car, and P18 for Andretti, who repaired his damaged car. Aleshin’s SMP team will not run another driver in its backup (Sonoma Raceway) car. Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who qualified P9, will move into P8, Aleshin’s qualifying position. This will mean 21 drivers, seven rows of three for the Starting Grid.

Posting of this column was delayed awaiting clarification of the Starting Line Up procedures.


The night/final practice for the MAVTV 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway was cut short after a horrific accident involving several drivers.

Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda spun out down low in Turn Four, spun up high to the safety fence and was unavoidably hit by Charlie Kimball No.83 NovoLog Flex Pen Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Aleshin went up into the safety fence, tearing it apart, up in the air and landed down in Pit Lane. A wheel and wheel tether landed over the wall. Taking great care, Aleshin was extracted from the car, put on a stretcher and transported.

Kimball walked away, as did Marco Andretti No.25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda. Several other cars were caught in the melee, including KVSH Chevrolet teammates, Sebastien Bourdais No.11 and Sebastian Saavedra No.17, and Jack Hawksworth No.98 Castrol Edge BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda. All the other drivers are allright.

An update from the IndyCar Medical Director, Michael Olinger, said that Aleshin was conscious and being air lifted to Loma Linda Medical Center, complaining of injuries to right shoulder and right foot.

This was the first incident of the weekend.

Kimball, who was checked in the infield care center and cleared to race, was interviewed afterwards, in the garage, by Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times, while Kimball watched his team repairing his car. Kimball told Peltz “The 7 car spun from the bottom and I really had nowhere to go.”

The safety fence panel will require replacing.

The session, scheduled for half an hour was ended – after 19 minutes.

At the end, Ryan Briscoe No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was fastest, running 218.660 mph. He was followed by Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Kimball was running fourth when he was hit. James Hinchcliffe No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fifth.

Charlie Kimball

Sebastien Bourdais


Left to Right: Charlie Kimball, Sebastien Bourdais & James Hinchcliffe.

Aleshin was running fourteenth when the accident occurred.

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet had a less than stellar evening, finishing in P20

Power is still the points leader. He was the first out of the chute when the session opened. The Aussie went out and came back, twice in quick succession, for tire changes, and then a third time for data download/dump.

Will Power awaiting start

Will Power tire change

Will Power Data Download


Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves No.3 Southern California AAA Team Penske Chevrolet took the Verizon IndyCar Series Verizon P1 pole position at Auto Club Speedway Friday afternoon in the blistering 97 degrees F sun, while the track was 147 degrees F.. His pole lap was 218.540 mph/355.30292 kph/105.2247 seconds, set on the last qualifying run. The ebullient Brazilian was so happy he jumped up and down, while the Team Penske crew cheered in the pit lane.

This was Castroneves’ third Auto Club pole, his 26th on an oval, and his third pole this season. His sum total is now 41 poles, breaking the tie with Rick Mears, Penske driver with four championships and now Team consultant. Castroneves is now fourth on the all-time pole list.

Helio Castroneves & Mikaella

Helio Castroneves & Mikaella


Up to the point Castroneves took the pole, his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya No.2, who had gone out second, held the pole position – and when any close contender ended up slower than JPM, the guys cheered. Montoya stood on the pit box, glued to the T&S monitor. He will start second.

Completing the front row will be Josef Newgarden No.67 Hartman Oil/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Will Power

Will Power

Last year’s pole sitter/winner, Will Power No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet qualified a disappointing P21 out of 22 drivers. He still holds the qualifying record for an average of two laps – 220.775 mph/1:05.2247, set last year. Power won last year’s race from the pole

Power said “”For starting positions we would have liked the Verizon Chevy to start from the front, but starting in both the front or very back can help keep you out of trouble. From the back you learn what your car is like in traffic and we will have 3 hours to do it. It will be a long race. We have another practice tonight to work on things, as the Verizon Chevy was too lose. The start is to be there at the end and it’s far from over. The Verizon Chevy boys are going to do everything possible to make it happen.”

Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda has an outside chance at the title championship this weekend, what with double points and all. He qualified fourteenth.

Castroneves was ever so jubilant. He brought his daughter, Mikaella, with him to his pole conference. He said “I really have to thank my guys and Will (Power) and Juan Pablo (Montoya). Going out last (in qualifying) really helped because I was able to get my teammates’ feedback and we made some changes that really helped us get the pole. Now, we need to keep going. We are starting up front but it is a long race and we know what we need to do to make it happen. This is the first step. Now we need to make sure we end up where we start tomorrow night. I am concentrating on my own race, and not being concerned by (my teammate and title contender) Power.”

Montoya said “We really had it set up for race trim, so I wasn’t expecting it to be that good for qualifying. But it was. It was really quick, especially for the hot conditions that we had to qualify in. We ran the same time that we ran this morning and it was much hotter. I’ll be honest I didn’t think that time would hold up that well. Congrats to Helio (Castroneves) on the Verizon P1 Pole Award. It’s going to be an interesting race tomorrow night.”

Josef Newgarden

Newgarden, the highest qualifying Honda for the last four races, still wasn’t completely happy. “We’re always right there but can’t get the top spot. Today was the perfect day to do it. No one knows what line to use. Guys going high, low, middle throughout their run. If the game plan was right, you could hoodwink people. Our first lap could have been way quicker with a better line choice in T1 and T2. Judging off everyone’s performance, I think we could have been pole today.”

Qualifying was single file, using the average of two green flag laps. The Qualifying Order was done by blind draw. After Qualifying the temperature rose to 99 degrees.

Helio Castroneves' Car

Will Power's Car

Josef Newgarden's car

There are 11 IndyCar Observers stationed around the two-mile speedway, spotting for Race Control this weekend at the Speedway. This is the most ever for this event, and it’s working out quite well.

Next up is Night/final practice. The reason the time was pushed back to 7:15pm PDT was so that the drivers could check how the evening light would be. Last year the race was in October, and this year it’s in August, which means the sunset time frames are different.