ROOKIE REIGN!

Derek Kraus

Derek Kraus

TA2 driver, Derek Kraus, driving No.11 Shockwave Camaro won the Sonoma Raceway round of the Trans Am West Coast Series. The 17-year old, who actually had the fastest overall time in qualifying-1:38.183, had the pole position in the TA2 class, but was gridded fourth overall, in a split start, behind the top three TA cars for the start. Even with the split, the teenager ultimately worked his way to the lead which he held to the finish. Finishing second was TA driver and fellow Shockwave teammate, Chris Cook/No.15 Camaro.

Frank Emmett & Michelle Nagai

Frank Emmett & Michelle Nagai

The TA pole sitter, Michelle Nagai/No.72 Berkeley Jet Drive Inc. Corvette led the first lap, but experienced rear-end failure going into Turn One on Lap Two and was towed in. She was excited over her pole, but rueful that it was so short-lived. Frank Emmett, former owner of the car, came to watch. He said he was “proud of her and what’s she’s done. Finally, someone who can drive the car to its potential.” Emmett’s best lap time on this course was a 1:35.

TA West Coast points leader, Simon Gregg/No.59 Derhaag Motorsports Corvette, who gridded second, took the TA and overall lead. Kraus was “snookered” at the start, bested by Anthony Honeywell/No.76 TA2 Honeywell Competition Camaro. Kraus said “I waited for the green. We were three-wise going into Turn 1.” Soon after TA driver Michael Fine/No.66 AGS-Architectural Glass Systems Camaro lost brakes and pitted to retire. Fine had gridded at the back due to switching to his spare car, after missing practice and qualifying on Saturday due to two separate mechanical problems.

Michelle Nagai

Michelle Nagai

Just prior to the Safety Car for Nagai, Kraus passed Honeywell and led for two laps, before Honeywell again repassed. Kraus retook the TA2 lead on Lap 7 and the overall lead on Lap 9, and never looked back. It was confusing to those watching, as Kraus’ transponder failed and he wasn’t being timed. Even the announcers had to scramble to sort it out. The race ran 38 laps, and short of its 70-minute limit.

Simon Gregg

Anthony Honeywell No.76 Camaro

Michael Fine No.66 Camaro

Left to Right: Simon Gregg, Anthony Honeywell, and Michael Fine.

The race was electronically challenging. The track timing loops weren’t all functioning properly, one or more cars had no transponder signal, and the live T&S was never fully accurate during the race. The official results will be posted on the Trans Am website when available. The loops will all be replaced Wednesday before the big NASCAR weekend. The track is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Simon Gregg and Steve Goldman

Simon Gregg and Steve Goldman

Veteran Gregg won the TA class, finishing third overall, stretching his West Coast points lead. He was the only TA on course at the Checkered Flag, which was thrown earlier than the 40 laps/70 minutes limit. Finishing second in TA was Steve Goldman/No.13 LIG Racing Corvette, who pitted prior to the checkered as he had an oil line break and the oily tires scared him. At the start, Goldman was at the back of the grid by choice.

Chris Cook and Derek Kraus

Kraus won the TA2 class. Chris Cook, No.15 Shockwave Camaro, was second overall and in TA2 class. Cook had been Kraus’ driver coach when Kraus first came to the K&N Series three years ago. Like Anna sang in the musical, “If you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.” That’s also when Kraus met David Smith, team owner of Shockwave. Cook has often coached NASCAR drivers, and has coached drivers for this upcoming NASCAR race, including the Penske drivers recently.

Michael Mihld, Derek Kraus and Chris Cook

Michael Mihld, Derek Kraus and Chris Cook

Third in TA2 was Michael Mihld/No.55 Michael Mihld Racing Camaro. Kraus said he “loves road courses” which is a good thing for a budding NASCAR driver. He’ll be putting that love and skill to good use next Saturday for the K&N Carneros 200 race at Sonoma Raceway, as part of the big NASCAR weekend. Kraus has been with Bill McAnally Racing for three years, and has already run two NASCAR truck races this year and two more are on the docket. He told PA announcer, Dave Vodden, that he plans to work his way up the NASCAR top tier to Cup racing.

Brad McAllister/No.24 www.PortlandImplantDentistry.com Mustang was fast, but a bit rambunctious; so he was penalized 40 seconds for several on-track incidents. He is credited with a seventh TA2 finish,

Roger Eagleton, Clark Nunes and Joe Bogetich

Roger Eagleton, Clark Nunes and Joe Bogetich

Clark Nunes/No.79 Premier Homes Camaro won the GT class, followed by Roger Eagleton/No.21 Five Star Property Management Company Mustang in second and Joe Bogetich/No.65 Westover Controls Camaro in third. Eagleton admitted he lured Nunes to the race by telling him if he got a better car, he’d win. Truer Words….Nunes said he had a perfect car, which needed no adjustments.

No.8 Crew Member and Oli Thordarson

No.8 Crew Member and Oli Thordarson

The SGT class added a second car Sunday morning – Carl Rydquist/No.8 Prototype Development Group FFR GTM. It is a kit car, and Rydquist, who originally hailed from Sweden before moving to Pleasanton CA, races it in the USTCC (United States Touring Car Championship) which is racing this weekend with NASA. Rydquist had the pole in that race, so he missed the Victory Circle ceremonies. He was gridded very last for the TA race, and ended up winning the SGT class, finishing fourth overall, right behind Gregg. Being a late entry in a brand new series brought some unexpected challenges, in addition to late entry fees. Rydquist had to change stickers and tires on his car, to run Trans Am. Easier said than done. Fortunately, with the help of the Flying Lizards race team which is based at the track, Rydquist was able to find Pirelli tires in the parking lot, and the crew swapped out the stickers. Second in SGT class was Oli Thordarson/No.22 Alvaka Networks Corvette – in the Shockwave stable.

The Shockwave stable came home with one first and two seconds.

Shockwave Stable

Shockwave Stable

ROOKIE RULES!

Derek Kraus

Derek Kraus

Young Derek Kraus of Wisconsin has the pole position for Sunday’s West Coast Round 4 of the Trans Am Series, presented by Pirelli at Sonoma Raceway, in his first-ever time in a Trans Am race car. His lap, which was for the TA2 class as well as overall, was 1:38.183. That time almost wasn’t recorded as the transponder in the No.11 Shockwave Camaro was intermittent. It had to be changed, during the qualifying session, as TA rules require that qualifying times all have to be through the same transponder system – they can’t be recorded manually. And this was the second change for the 17-year old driver Saturday afternoon, as he had to quickly change cars after the afternoon practice session as the engine blew in No.5 Shockwave Camaro. He’s a quick study.

Derek Kraus in No.5 Shockwave Camaro

Derek Kraus in No.5 Shockwave Camaro

Kraus was fastest in the afternoon practice with a lap of 1:38.389. That session had only ten cars. The high school senior is competing in his first Trans Am race, and it comes with help from Shockwave team owner, Dave Smith, who offered the ride to Kraus so he could get more track time in preparation for next weekend’s NASCAR K&N West Series race. Kraus is currently leading the points in that series, and also in the K&N East Series. Smith further offered his own race car to Kraus for qualifying, when the No.5 Camaro failed. The crew scrambled for sheets of foam for Kraus, who is about a foot shorter than Smith. There had been no time for a seat change. At this point, Kraus doesn’t know if he’ll stick with the padding or do a seat change for Sunday’s race. While the purpose is to get track time for NASCAR next week, Kraus said every seat he’s in he wants to win. so he’ll be trying for a Sunday victory.

Derek Kraus's qualifying Shockwave Camaro

Derek Kraus’s qualifying Shockwave Camaro

This is the first time Trans Am has raced at Sonoma Raceway since 2004, and this time there will be four classes – Trans Am West, TA2, GT and SGT. The TA class is the Trans Am we knew and loved back in the day. It’s back with 800 hp cars with no electronic driver aids. The TA2 Class is basically hot rod muscle cars, and the largest subscribed class within the series, as it is more affordable. GT is limited-preparation production street cars, the most affordable class within Trans Am. SGT is the Super GT class, with high end production cars with few limitations. They all run Pirelli tires. Their races are sprints, 70 minutes long or 100 miles in length, whichever comes first. The drivers this weekend come mainly from the West Coast, but as far flung as Florida, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Michelle Nagai

Michelle Nagai

Michelle Nagai No.72 Corvette

Michelle Nagai No.72 Corvette

Second on the grid, starting besides Kraus, will be Michelle Nagai of Loomis CA, who had the top time in the TA class, of 1:38.583, driving No.72 Berkeley Jet Drive, Inc Corvette. She was excited about her ‘first real pole’ in the car, which she bought this season from retiring driver, Frank Emmett. Nagai said she’s been working on tweaking it all year and especially this weekend, and she’s feeling more comfortable with the car. She said Emmett been helpful with the transition, and might come out Sunday for the race.

Trans Am points leader, Simon Gregg/No.59 Derhaag Motorsports Camaro was third fastest overall, at 1:38.713. The only other TA racing this weekend is Steve Goldman/No.13 LIG Racing Corvette, and he starts 4th overall.

Clark Nunes No.79 Camaro

Clark Nunes No.79 Camaro

The fastest GT car was Clark Nunes of San Jose CA with a time of 1:45.981 in No.79 Premier Homes Camaro. Oli Thordarson of Trabuco Canyon CA was the only SGT car, and his time was 1:46.306 in No.22 Corvette.

Several cars had transponder problems and fast Brad McAllister of Oregon was one in No.24 www.PortlandimplantDentistry.com Mustang. So he’ll plead his case with the Trans Am stewards.

Michael Fine No.66 Camaro

Michael Fine No.66 Camaro

The qualifying weather was mild and sunny, 70 degrees F, with a brisk breeze. It had been cool (60F) and foggy for the morning 40-minute practice session. Morning practice was relatively uneventful, save TA driver Michael Fine/No.66 TAAGS-Arcitecture Glass Systms Chevrolet Camaro being towed in with a lot of smoke. His car remained in the garage for the afternoon sessions.

Roger Eagleton No.21 Mustang

Roger Eagleton No.21 Mustang

Anthony Honeywell/No.76 Honeywell Competition/TFB Perform Chevrolet Camaro was tops in the morning, at 1:38.216.He pipped Kraus at the last minute The top TA was Gregg, fourth overall. Roger Eagleton/No.21 Five Star Prop Mgmt/Energy Real Estate Ford Mustang was the top GT car. It was a last-minute substitution for Eagleton, who had been scheduled to drive No.98 Mustang. The lone SGT driver, Oli Thordarson/No.22 Chevrolet Camaro was seen on course, but had zero laps.

Local champion, Greg Pickett, had to withdraw prior to the event due to ongoing problems locating engine parts after his two earlier failures at Thunderhill earlier in the spring, forcing him to miss the rounds at Auto Club Speedway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Pickett is second on the all-time list of Trans Am starts. This leaves points leader Simon Gregg/No.59 without his strongest competitor. Gregg runs the entire Trans Am Series as well as the West Series. On the West Coast, he will be battling local drivers. Gregg originally hadn’t intended to run the full West Series, but after doing so well at first, he continued on and has now decided to go for the Championship. With Pickett absent, and Fine’s participation questionable, Gregg’s main competition will be Nagai.

Cameron Parsons No.83 Camaro

Cameron Parsons No.83 Camaro

Trans-Am qualifying was split into two groups – Three classes, TA/SGT/GT for the first 15 minutes, and the 13 TA2 cars for fifteen minutes. The TA2 session was cut short by a red flag for Cameron Parsons/No.83 Parsons Racing Camaro. He lost a suspension piece in Turn 7 and hit the wall hard in Turn 9. He is unhurt. Michele Abate/No.30 Grr Racing Chevrolet Camaro also had a throttle break coming out of Turn 11, and coasted towards the Starter stand. She said it could be fixed. The field pitted and then went out for their last five minutes. It’s unknown at this point if Parsons can repair the car. People had started arriving with parts, but it did look severe.

All the qualifying information is provisional, based on screen captures. The qualifying will be final Sunday morning.

Sidebar: The Trans Am Series is running with a NASA amateur event, and among the many entries in the multiple classes and events was a NASCAR driver – Current K&N West Driver, Hailee Deegan in a Miata. She’s won two races this season and currently is second in the standings, behind Kraus. They are teammates on the Bill Mcanally Race Team. No doubt she also is getting track time on the full road course prior to next week’s big NASCAR weekend which features the K&N Series West as well as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The track is going all out on a blowout event as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Another familiar name was Mike Bliss, who raced in all three top tier NASCAR Series, and was the 2002 Truck Series Champion. He’s racing his No.31 Legends car.

Sunday’s Trans Am race starts at 12:45 pm and will stream on MotorTrend TV.

SUNNY SWELTERING SONOMA SUNDAY

No.58 Wright Motorsports Pro Porsche 911

Pit Strategy paid off for Wright Motorsports Sunday noon and its Pro-Am team of Patrick Long and Scott Hargrove when they took their first win of the season at Sonoma Raceway in No.58 Porsche 911 GT3. When the pit window opened, Long was the first in the pits and co-driver Hargrove was first out, taking the lead from Wright teammates, Matt Campbell/Anthony Imperato in No.91 Pro-Am Porsche 911. Hargrove led the second half to take the Checkered Flag. The weather was in the mid nineties, but at least the smoke and haze from the Yolo County wild fires that enveloped the track Saturday afternoon had somewhat abated.

Dane Cameron & Memo Gidley

Dane Cameron and Memo Gidley

Also taking advantage of early in, early out were the Pro-Am teams, with Imperato & Campbell retaining their class lead, while relinquishing the overall lead. Moving up in class rank was Mike Hedlund, taking over for Dane Cameron in No.43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX. they moved into second place, ahead of GMG’s James Sofronas & Dirk Werner in No.14 Porsche 911.

Andy Lally/No.19 One11 Competition Pro-Am Porsche 911 didn’t make it past the exit of Turn 4 when he had an incident with Maxime Soulet/No.3 K-Pax Racing Pro Bentley Continental. Lally had to be retrieved from the corner, while Soulet continued. This brought out the first Safety Car for two laps, and a Steward’s Review post-race.

Guy Cosmo/No.31 TR3 Pro-Am Ferrari 488 pitted and retired after two laps.

No.19 One11 Competition Ferrari

Guy Cosmo & Patrick Byrne

No.3 K-Pax Racing Bentley

Left to Right: No.19 One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari; Guy Cosmo & Co-Driver Patrick Byrne; and No.3 Pro K-Pax Bentley Continental.

On Lap 6, Campbell set the fastest lap of 91.38 mph which held for the rest of the 48-lap race.

Two drivers drew drive-through penalties for passing during the Safety Car situation/on the restart: Kyle Marcelli/No.80 Pro-Am Racers Ed Motorsports Acura NSX and Alex Barron/No.38 KR2 Motorsports Pro-Am Porsche 911.

Caeser Bacarella/No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari 488 in the Am class brought out the Safety Car when he went off going into Turn 4. He got restarted, but the caution had already been called. Early on in the race, Bacarella’s teammate, Martin Fuentes, had turned the fastest Am lap of 88.69 mph.

The hardest hit of the race was David Askew/No.63 DXDT Racing Pro-Am Mercedes-AMG, spinning out and into the concrete wall on the drag strip going into Turn 7. This brought out the Safety Car yet again.

There was some nail biting racing which Werner hopes got caught on TV. He said there were three rows of two cars scraping mirrors going into Turn 6. He stuck his nose in there and took advantage. The RealTime Acura came home with doughnuts on the driver’s door, but Hargrove came second in class.

The podium winners for the Pro Class were Long & Hargrove in first, Saturday’s winners Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina second in No.61 R.Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 and K-Pax’s No.9 Bentley Continental with Andy Soucek and Alvaro Parente. Vilander and Molina lead the Pro Standings with 148 points. Parente and Soucek are second in the standings, with 134 points. Long and Hargrove have 101 points for third place. With this being their last race of the weekend, many of the drivers had early flights and were faster out of the track or onto the choppers than they were on track.

Pro Class Podium

Left to Right: Andy Soucek, Alvaro Parente, Scott Hargrove, Wright Team Representative, and two team reps from R.Ferri Motorsports.

Hargrove credited their pit strategy to getting in front of the R.Ferri Ferrari as he didn’t think he could pass it on the track. He admits the strategy was different, leap-frogging in the pits, but it worked. It would have been even better if he hadn’t had trouble restarting the car. The track debris and marbles were a problem for him on the restart going into Turn 1. Tires were a key component for the team this weekend.

The Pro-Am podium winners were GMG Racing No.14 Porsche 911 with Sofronas and Werner, with RealTime’s Acura in second with Cameron and Hargrove, and Racers Edge’s No.80 Acura in third with Marcelli and Martin Barkey, despite their earlier drive-through penalty. Barkey and Marcelli lead the Pro-Am standings with 128 points.

Pro-Am podium winners

Left to Right: Anthony Imperato, James Sofronas, Dirk Werner, Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund.

Sofronas said he really wanted to do this race, as he loves the Sonoma track. The pit stop was a bit of an issue for the team, as Sofronas admits he’s bigger than the other drivers; and it was a bit awkward during the driver change with him adjusting the belts. The cautions helped as it gave him time to work on the belts. He likes racing at Sonoma so much, he also ran in the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race both days, coming in second in the Am class both days.

The GT cars sat on the pre grid in the hot, sweltering sun for more than a half hour. Some drivers took shelter in their pit shelters, while others were out talking to folks. Most of the cars had protective coverings to help cut the heat for the driver who took the first stint.

Patrick Long & Justin Bell

No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche

Colin Braun and Team

Left to Right: Patrick Long & Justin Bell; covered-up No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche; and Colin Braun and DXDT Racing Pro-Am team.

The next race for the series will be Rounds 9 & 10 over Labor Day weekend at Watkins Glen International.

No.34 Murillo Racing Mercedes

No.34 Murillo Racing Mercedes

In other Sunday races:
The Pirelli GT4 America SprintX race was won by Christian Szymczak and local driver Kenny Murrillo, overall and in the GT4 West ProAm category, driving No.34 Murrillo Racing Mercedes-AMG. They had also won on Saturday. In other classes, the winners were Preston Calvert and Matthew Keegan/No.51 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano GT in the GT4 SprintX Am class; Jarrett Andretti and Colin Mullan/No.36 Andretti Autosport McLaren 570S; and Jeff Burton and Vesko Kozarov/No.91 Reardon Racing Audi R8 LMS in the GT4 West WAm class.

The largest race entry, with 25 cars, was for TC America-TCR & TCA Classes. This race was for single drivers, no co-drivers. It was won overall and in the TCR class by Mason Filippi, another local driver, racing No.12 Copeland Motorsports Hyundai Veloster. The TCR Cup class was won by Bryan Putt/No.15 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi Sport. Tyler Maxon/No.74 Copeland Motorsports Mazda Global MX5 Cup won the TCA class.

Ian James won the Pirelli GT4 America race over 20 other drivers including Spencer Pumpelly/No.66 TRG Porsche Cayman and Matt Brabham/No.20 CRP Racing Porsche Cayman. James drove No.50 Team Panoz Racing Panoz Avezzano to win overall and in the Pro Class. Drew Stavely/No.12 Ian Lacey Racing Ford Mustang won the Am class.

In the TC America-TC Class race, Cameron Evans won in No.82 Copart/BimmerWorld Racing BMW M240iR Cup. All but one of the 12 drivers ran a similar car.

SPORTY SONOMA

Sporting a new name and format, the Pirelli World Challenge has evolved into the Blancpain GT World Challenge America. Rounds 7 & 8 are this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Nineteen bright and flashy GT sports cars are entered with many familiar names. Saturday they had qualifying, after two practice sessions on Friday. The qualifying was broken into two sessions, one for each of the two races – Saturday afternoon and Sunday noonish. After their qualifying they joined all the Blancpain drivers for a well-attended autograph session in the cool shade under the grandstands. It proved so popular, it ran 40 minutes past time.

This weekend Sonoma Raceway, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, ran a different configuration. It is 2.50 miles long, incorporating Turns 7, 8, 9 and the Bus Stop/chicane in Turn 10 plus long 11. This no-name configuration hasn’t been run in recent memory.

No.61 Pro Ferrari Blancpain GT

Miguel Molina of Spain had the pole for the first GT race Saturday afternoon, in No.61 Pro R Ferri Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, with a lap of 1:37.310. He and teammate Toni Vilander of Finland kept their lead after their pit stop for driver change. Scott Hargrove/No.58 Wright Motorsports Pro Porsche 911 GT3 started second, but soon was passed for position by two Bentleys, Rodrigo Baptista/No.3 Pro and Andy Soucek/No.9 Pro. They ran together for the first half of the race. After the pit stops sorted out the order, it was again the Ferrari, with the two Bentley Continentals in second and third with drivers Maxime Soulet and Alvaro Parente. Vilander won the Pro Hard Charger Award for the fastest race lap of 90.70 mph.

Blancpain GT podium winners

Left to Right: Andy Soucek, Alvaro Parente, Toni Vilander, Miguel Molina, Rodrigo Baptista, and Maxime Soulet. Plus Happy Team Representatives with their Blancpain clock for top team.

In the Pro-Am category, Pole sitters Mike Hedlund/No.43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX started the race, with co-driver Dane Cameron finishing. The two are about as local as one can get, with Cameron growing up 15 miles from the track, and Hedlund hailing from Silicon Valley’s Redwood City. Cameron said he hasn’t raced at Sonoma Raceway for ten years, but back in the day when he worked for the Russell School, he ran every course configuration the track had. Hedlund also has many laps on the wine country circuit.

Blancpain Pro-Am Podium winners

Left to Right: James Sofronas, Dirk Werner, Dane Cameron, Mike Hedlund, Matt Campbell and Anthony Imperato.

Second and third in Pro-Am were Anthony Imperato and Matt Campbell in No.91 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3, and James Sofronas and Dirk Werner/No.14 GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3.

No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari

No.7 Squadra Corse Ferrari

The lone entry in the Am category was Martin Fuentes and Caeser Bacarella in No.7 Ferrari 488 GT3. They finished 13th.

Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina

Toni Vilander & Miguel Molina

This was the first time for R.Ferri Motorsport at Sonoma Raceway, for the team and for the drivers, so they had no experience with the track. They also had a fill-in engineer as their regular European engineer had family business back home. Vilander said the Ferrari handled well in the corners, whereas some of the other cars had more power on the straights. Despite the track surface, the Ferrari drivers were able to manage the tire degradation fairly well. Vilander said that qualifying was important, and their car has had no reliability issues so far. They see little improvements with each race.

Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund

Dane Cameron and Mike Hedlund

Cameron said they were able to keep their lead after the pit stop, and then stretch it out. They also were able to manage the tire degredation. Team Owner P.D. Cunningham was on hand for the celebration. No one knows just how many victories this makes for his long-running RealTime team. Something to check.

While the GT Series is international with all foreign manufacturers, 23 of the 38 drivers are American, with another five coming from North America. Other countries represented are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari

Dane Cameron & Son autographing posters

Ferrari GT steering wheel

Left to Right: One11 Competition Pro-Am Ferrari during pit stop; Dane Cameron & son signing posters; and GT Ferrari steering wheel.

The TC Class race Saturday afternoon was uneventful, with the 12 cars mostly parading around the road course. These sprint races have single drivers with no scheduled pit stops. Pole sitter Johan Schwartz/No.80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M240IR Cup won the 40-minute race, leading flag to flag. Second and third were Teammate Steve Streimer/No.81 BMW, and Robert Nimkoff/No.20 Auto Technic Racing BMW M240IR Cup. The only incident was with third-place Toby Grahovec/No.26 Classic BMW BMW M240IR Cup came together in Turn 7 with Shaun Webster/No.31 Hard Motorsport BMW M235IR Cup. Webster spun but both cars continued.

EYE CANDY COURTESY THE BENTLEY BOYS
1951 Bentley

Black Bentley

1935 Bentley

Left to Right in Bentley Corral: 1951 Bentley; Black Bentley; and 1935 Bentley.

HIGH AND DRY

Simon Pagenaud enjoying his Milk Cocktail. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud enjoying his Milk Cocktail. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pole sitter Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet won the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Sunday afternoon under sunny skies. Just like last year, the dire weather failed to appear. This is the second year in a row that a (Penske) driver has swept both May races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the seventh closest finish at the Indy 500 – 0.2086 seconds. Pagenaud now leads the Driver Standings, by one point over his teammate, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus.

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Matamoros

It is the lucky 13th victory for Pagenaud, as well as the 18th Indy 500 win and 206th career victory for Team Penske. The last time a pole sitter won the Indy 500 was ten years ago – Helio Castroneves. Pagenaud leading the most laps as pole sitter hasn’t happened since Dario Franchitti did in 2010.

Pagenaud Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Pagenaud Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Pagenaud led 116 laps – five times was for recycling through pit stops and regaining the lead he relinquished when he pitted; and the last two were during his battle with Rossi for the victory, after the last restart. Drama. Excitement. Worth the wait.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pagenaud said “The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars are aligned. It’s pretty amazing. So I’m just speechless. It’s just incredible. I never expected to be in this position, but I certainly was trying to make it as hard as I could. It’s all about achieving and executing at the end, and we did execute perfectly today. No mistakes. Here we are, Victory Lane!”

Roger Penske

Team Owner, Roger Penske said “That flight at the end, you knew we were building up to something with 15 laps and they take the cars that are not on the lead lap and put them in the back. It really sets up for an amazing run and good clean racing. You see how close it was.

“This win here today for Simon and our 50th, it goes down in the record book. But as I say, it’s not me, it’s all the people that we work with day in and day out that makes it so good.”

Alexander Rossi

The very disappointed runner-up was Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport who had battled fiercely with Pagenaud after the last restart. There were several on-track passes which led to edge-of-seat excitement until the Checkered Flag. Rossi led three times when recycling through Pit Stops, plus his two killer on-track passes of Pagenaud that were thrilling to watch – total 22 laps led. He now is third in the points standings.

Rossi said “Horsepower was the difference at the end. They did a great job. Obviously, he was on the pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.” Rossi persevered after two episodes which could have kept him further back at the finish. He had a trying time trying to pass a lapped Oriol Servia/No.77 MotoGator Stange w/Arrow SPM Honda; and when he finally did he shook his fists furiously at the Spaniard. The other problem was a fuel flow issue during his last pit stop. Again he showed some animated frustration, pounding his fists on the cockpit.

The dire weather forecasts never materialized, not even after the race was over. Although the early morning alerts warned of possible severe weather and lightning strikes, the warnings and threats faded. It was dry with high clouds all day, with sun breaking through on the last 50 laps of the race. That’s when the race woke up, after being somewhat lulling.

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda finished third, but felt like it was a win. “The last 15 laps were great excitement. It’s always challenging. It’s always difficult. We just kept our heads down, did our job and made the most of it.”

Santino Ferrucci

The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished seventh overall. He led once for a lap, and got up to second place at another point. And he made the most on-track passes of any driver, according to his team. And he wowed the crowd with his on-the-grass evasive maneuver he made during the five-car incident which caused a Red Flag. “My spotter says don’t go high, just don’t go high. Then I see everybody starting to wreck, and I’m just like, middle of the track, and then I floored it because I thought that was the smart thing to do. Then I saw the grass, which to me was the only hole, and that looked like the most intelligent place to go. So we mowed the lawn in retrospect, and we came out just fine.”

The 20-year old was still pumped after the race, ready to run another 500 race tomorrow. He said the race was “surprisingly longer than it looks, and the racing with other drivers was actually a lot more fun than I had evr hoped it to be. I got to battle it out almost the entire race with Hunter-Reay, who’s a champion here, and I can’t thank him enough because the experience that you get racing someone like that and the enjoyment and the excitement of racing around other competitors like him, it was just a blast. I think that was probably some of the best parts. It feels like a victory. We started 23rd, man.”

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Photo by

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Photo by

The first 150 laps were relatively drama free, with the most excitement happening in the pits. There was one crash – Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet got loose and spun out on his own, crashing hard in Turn 4. He was not hurt, and was cleared to drive. Close to the 150-lap mark, Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun coming into the pit lane, hit the wall and stalled. He had to be towed, which brought out a ten-lap caution. It was at the same time as Rossi was enduring his fuel flow failure. The caution was lucky for Rossi as he was able to move up during subsequent pit stops by others. Ericsson said he locked up his rears. He continued to race, and finished 23rd, two laps down.

There were three speeding tickets, and three cited for ‘Service in a Closed Pit.’ Two drivers-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda were given drive-thru penalties for hitting their respective crews during pit stops. JR Hildebrand/No.48 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet and Sato were fined for Pit Safety infractions. Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda came into his pit box too hot and hit a tire which hit his right front tire guy – Chris Minot, who was taken to IU Methodist Hospital for a leg injury. King received a fine.

Jessica Mace, #25 Tire Changer. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Jessica Mace, #25 Tire Changer. Photo by Nico Matamoros

After the restart from the pit lane incidents, there was maneuvering and jostling for position behind Pagenaud. Then there was the first on-track pass for the lead – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet passed his Penske teammate, who hung onto Newgarden’s tailpipe. This is where Rossi was trying to catch up and being thwarted by Servia. Rossi continued his passing, including his Andretti teammate, Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Honda, who had quietly been moving up and racing in the top ten and then top five. Pagenaud and Rossi pitted, and came back 16th and 17th. Then Newgarden pitted, and Rookie Ferrucci took the lead. Various leaders led and pitted, recycling leaders, including Penske teammate Will Power/No 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet and Sato. Rossi passed Pagenaud. In the end Daly finished tenth although he ran as high as fourth. It was his best Indy 500 finish. His pit stops went well. Daly said “Our car was fast enough to be in the top five, for sure. It felt nice to be in the lead group and fighting. I’m bummed to be 10th, but it’s still a career best and i think that the whole U.S. Air Force team can still be proud of what we did here this month.” Daly had the only female over-the-wall crew member, Jessica Mace, his right-rear tire changer.

Just as the race was getting exciting, there was an accident on Lap 178 which ultimately caught out five cars. Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Sebastien Bourdais/No.19 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda touched. Rahal was inside Bourdais, came up along side, there was contact. Rahal spun off inside and stopped and Bourdais fishtailed down track, spun into wall hard, and then was hit by Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet were also involved. Kimball was the only one who was able to continue. Four of the five drivers were unhurt and cleared to drive. Veach was not cleared – right knee. Veach said “I think that was the biggest hit I have ever had on an oval. My knee came up and hit the steering wheel where I backed in. I got my right knee pretty bad – I think it is okay. Luckily, they did x-rays, but it is just really bruised.”

Rahal was obviously frustrated and disappointed afterwards. He went over to check on Bourdais, who had to have help from the AMR Response team to get out of his car. Rahal said “I respect Bourdais, but I don’t respect that move. At those speeds that’s how you kill people.” Bourdais said “I thought he was going to back off, and we were going to be OK. He didn’t. It’s that stage of the race where nobody wants to give up. It’s just bad timing.” After a Steward’s Review, Bourdais was assessed a 30-second penalty for Avoidable Contact.

Red Flag Lineup. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Red Flag Lineup. Photo by Nico Matamoros

This accident caused a caution, which became a Red Flag situation for 3.17 minutes. The race restarted on Lap 180 under caution, with the lapped cars at the rear of the field as per rules governing a restart with 20 or fewer laps to go. The race went Green on Lap 187. Rossi was the leader. Pagenaud went high and passed Rossi at the Start-Finish line. One lap later Rossi retook the lead, and then Pagenaud repassed Rossi another lap later. Rossi made passing attempt but didn’t complete. Then on Lap 197 Rossi passed Pagenaud, Pagenaud tried a repass attempt but failed. He tried one more pass on Rossi and was succssful. He kept his lead and won.

Colton Herta. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Colton Herta. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda had a sad day, lasting only three laps. His car had gearbox problems, he couldn’t get sixth, so he stuck it in fifth gear. He was resigned to running in fifth, making it a long day. But he lost gear pressure, couldn’t change gears and the engine was dying. He limped to Pit Entry where he stalled and had to be towed, bringing out the first caution. “It’s just really sad. The guys have been working really hard, through Mother’s Day and every weekend. We’ve been quick everywhere and haven’t qualified outside the top 10 yet. I know we’ll be back next week.”

The crowd count was not released, but IMS President, Doug Boles, acknowledged earlier that the troubling weather forecast could affect the walk-up crowd.

Kissing the Bricks. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Kissing the Bricks. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running

2. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running

3. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running

4. (8) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running

5. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running

6. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running

7. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 200, Running

8. (22) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running

9. (16) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running

10. (11) Conor Daly, Honda, 200, Running

11. (32) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 200, Running

12. (15) James Davison, Honda, 200, Running

13. (4) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 200, Running

14. (3) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 200, Running

15. (24) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running

16. (30) Pippa Mann, Chevrolet, 200, Running

17. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running

18. (12) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 199, Running

19. (31) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 199, Running

20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 199, Running

21. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running

22. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 199, Running

23. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 198, Running

24. (26) Jordan King, Honda, 198, Running

25. (20) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 196, Running

26. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 195, Running

27. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 176, Contact

28. (29) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 176, Contact

29. (28) Zach Veach, Honda, 176, Contact

30. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 176, Contact

31. (33) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 71, Contact

32. (27) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 54, Mechanical

33. (5) Colton Herta, Honda, 3, Mechanical

SUNDAY AM

Pagoda

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway cannon went off on schedule at 6am Sunday to let the fans in for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. There was no visible cannon smoke in the air this time. The sunrise 24 minutes later was a non-event – too many clouds in the East for anything but a gradual over-all lightening of the skies. The lightning warnings had disappeared from the monitors, and all the big screens showed racing logos, endless loops of driver bios and photos, and a wide variety of other race-related notices… until live TV took over for extended pre-race shows. Occasionally the radar map would show. Didn’t look promising. A few scattered people were already getting settled in the front straight grandstands by 6:30am.

The temperature started out at 75 degrees F at 4am, dropped to 65F a couple of hours later, and then started slowly warming again. Humidity up and down, wind up and down. The weather continued to clear. Sunglasses and sunscreen were in order.One thing about Indianapolis, you’ll get weather.

Indy 500 Logo

In Gasoline Alley and garages, the teams were putting the final touches on the racecars, and from the looks of it, might extensive handiwork is in play. The NTT IndyCar Tech Team held its morning meeting, while the teams waited patiently in the queue for their turn in the Tech Tent and Garage.

Tech Team Morning Meeting

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Tech Officials waiting to start

Jessica Mace

Jessica Mace of Avon IN is the only female over-the-wall team crew member this year. This is her third time at the Indy 500 as over-the-wall tire changer, and one of those two other times she crewed for Conor Daly, the driver she is supporting this race weekend. He drives No.25 United States Air Force Andretti Autosport Honda, and she is the right rear tire changer. Although the rear tires are a bit heavier, and bigger than the fronts, Mace prefers the rears as they are easier to grab/pull. She works full-time for Andretti in the Indy Lights program where she is a mechanic, which she really likes. Mace enjoys working with young drivers, and she can also ‘have a life.’ She and the team have been using the Andretti ‘Pit’ Car for Pit Stop practice this week. As she is only a part-time crew for over-the-wall duties, she doesn’t have an extensive work-out regimen; but she does do shoulder work and relies on her muscle memory.

Jessica Mace at work

Mace comes from a family of racers, including her grandfather. She has an extensive background in race officiating, which she cultivated and honed in Northern California, before being called back to work Race Control with Pro Series such as Grand Am. She has been a mechanic for some years, and has been over-the-wall in more than a few other races, including Le Mans with the Ganassi Ford program.

Sarah Fisher

The IndyCar Observers had their morning meeting in the garages, and then Race Control had its meeting. Included in that was Sarah Fisher, who is the Official Pace Car Driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the 2019 Corvette Long Beach Red Grand Sport Pace Car to start the race. Once he peels off, Fisher will take over for the race duration.

Firestone Tires will be with IndyCar through 2025. This race weekend will mark the 70th Indy 500 victory for Firestone.

Firestone Team Lineup

Drivers and their helmets. They each have their own style and providers. What they all have in common is deflectors – the thin plastic across the top used to deflect wind flow and keep the helmet from buffeting. It steadies the driver’s head. With the advent of the new AFP (Advanced Frontal Protection) device it changed the air flow onto the drivers. Different drivers utilize the device in different ways. It is integral to the helmet, and the driver works with his helmet provider to get suitable preferences.

Fernando Alonso's helmet

Josef Newgarden's helmet

Scott Dixon's helmet

Scott Dixon's helmet

Oriol Servia's helmet

Jack Harvey's helmet

James Hinchcliffe's helmet

Alexander Rossi's helmet

Zach Veach's helmet

Colton Herta's helmet

Pippa Man's helmet

Ben Hanley's helmet

IMS Sunrise

LEGENDARY DAY

Autograph Lines

Saturday was Legends day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The day started out hot and humid, sunny with an unpredictable breeze. The weather forecast was for afternoon thunderstorm, right about the time of the Festival Parade downtown Indianapolis. It did rain, hard in mid-afternoon; but as it’s Indy, it came, it poured, and it left. The sun came back out. And the temperatures rose.

At the track there were huge queues for the morning NTT IndyCar driver autograph sessions. And then the fans all found grandstand seats for the public/open Drivers’ Meeting, where all the drivers were introduced and received their Starter Rings. Will Power, as defending Indianpolis 500 winner, received his winner’s trophy from the American Dairy Association; and along with Team Penske owner, Roger Penske, received his Baby Borg trophy for winning last year’s race.There were various and sundry other presentations and speeches. Before and after these festivities, the Historic indycars did Exhibition Laps.

Roger Penske & Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies.

Will Power receiving 'Winners Drink Milk' Plaque

Will Power receiving his Starter Ring

Left to Right: Roger Penske and Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies for their 2018 Indy 500 win; Will Power receives his ‘Winners Drink Milk’ Plaque from American Dairy Association CEO, Jenni Browning; and Will Power receives his 2019 Indy 500 starter Ring. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.

At the Drivers’ Meeting, all 33 drivers were present and accounted for. They sat in grid order in a mini-grandstand facing the grandstands, and stood when called to come down to receive their starter rings.

Pole Sitter Simon Pagenaud receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Ed Carpenter receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Spencer Pigot receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Kyle Kaiser received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

James Hinchcliffe receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Sage Karam received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Left to right, receiving their 2019 Indy 500 Starter Rings are: Front Row – Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter & Spencer Pigot; Last Row – Kyle Kaiser, James Hinchcliffe, and Sage Karem. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Saturday night is when the track makes its Sunday race decisions and plans based on its best weather information. The track has a weather station at the Speedway, plus a partnership with a local TV weather station. Its information is about as current and correct as it can get. Stay tuned.

Seb on a Scooter

Sato on a Scooter
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
RHR Golf Cart

Scott Dixon's Scooter

Alexander Rossi's Golf Cart

At the track, there are a variety of ways drivers get around besides walking or rental cars. There are scooters, and watch out – those drivers don’t have a rev limiter on their scooters. There are customized golf carts, fancy motorcycles, and to get to the parade – fancy busses waiting for them right beside the Public Driver’s Meeting grandstand.

Garage Motorcycles

Garage Golf cart lineup

Parade Busses

Many groups took advantage of the relative calm of the day to lead tours around the track and various facilities. Victory Circle had a queue of tours waiting for their chance to visit the iconic podium.

Eric Prill, Doug Boles & Deanna Flanagan at IMS Announcement

One very small group on the Podium Saturday morning was SCCA. Eric Prill, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, along with Deanna Flanagan, Director, Road Racing live-streamed an announcement on the SCCA Facebook page, which was billed as a ‘Major Announcement from a Secret Location.’ Joining them was Doug Boles, President of IMS, to tell the SCCA folks that the SCCA National Runoffs are coming back to IMS in 2021. The Runoffs were first held at the Speedway in 2017 and were so popular, the entry was 969, highest ever for SCCA. Now, as part of the rotation around the country, SCCA is bringing the event back to the Brickyard, with the three-day races being held Oct 1-3, 2021.

After the big announcement, IMS Radio asked Prill to talk about competing at the Runoffs and winning his first-ever National Championship, at IMS.

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

CARB DAY!

Carb Day Crowd

Friday’s Carb Day had a full schedule, with the Historic Cars Exhibition Laps, Indy Lights Autograph Session, NTT IndyCar Series final Indianapolis 500 practice, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights Race, and the IndyCar Pit Stop Competition. Things started out on hold due to a torrential downpour at 8:30am. But it ended less than an hour later, the track was dried, and things got mostly back on schedule. The morning weather was warm and muggy, windy, at 68-74 degrees F with 81 percent humidity, right after the storm.

The media enjoyed a string of indoor press conferences and award presentations, while fans took shelter in various locations, waiting out the storm. They queued up in the rain for autograph or book-signing sessions, which were then held in the hazy dry sunlight. The Indy 500 Drivers/Team Managers/Spotters had their indoor meeting, Indy Lights Series had its Drivers’ Meeting, PR Reps had a meeting, and some awards were presented. Late afternoon, at the Chevrolet Display near Pagoda Plaza, the Team Penske drivers and Ed Carpenter handed out ice cream bars to the fans.

Aeroscreen Press Conference

Left to Right: Scott Dixon, Jay Frye, Ed Collings, and Andy Damerum.

A very important media presser was held to announce the NTT IndyCar Series partnership with Red Bull Advanced technologies to design an Aeroscreen for enhanced driver cockpit protection. Alongside IndyCar President, Jay Frye and NTT IndyCar Series driver, Scott Dixon, were Red Bull Racing business development engineer, Andy Damerum; and Red Bull Advanced Technologies head of composites and structures, Ed Collings.

The Aeroscreen is in the works and will be used starting at the outset of next year’s season. Frye had promised when the ATP (Advanced Frontal Protection) device was introduced for the Indy 500 and going forward, it was just the first step in enhanced driver cockpit protection, and more evolutions would be forthcoming. Deflecting debris away from the cockpit area and the driver is the intent and design of the ATP. The Aeroscreen is basically a very strong windscreen, constructed using state-of-the-art technology and high-tech very high-strength composite materials, very high-strength carbon fiber, epoxy and titanium.

The polycarbonate laminated screen will have an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element, and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party components. Johnny Rutherford asked about the tearoffs, and was told they would have to be removed during a pit stop. Rutherford didn’t seem to like that.

The prototype is close to being built, with the plan for testing by selected IndyCar drivers this summer, after ballistic tests and certifications by the factory in England, so each team can have one by off-season.

The conference was interrupted and cut short by another announcement.

The 90-minute final/Carb Day Indy 500 practice, scheduled for 11am, actually started at 11:18am after the track had dried. It was cut short 18 minutes, as Carb Day schedule was ‘Time Certain,” and had to end at 12:30pm. The ambient temperature was 84 degrees F, and track temps were 110 F.

Tony Kanaan No.14 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan No.14 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet led the most laps and for the longest time. His best lap was 225.517 mph on Lap 17 of his 40.
Kanaan said “Yeah, a good day for us. Obviously, conditions look like pretty similar to what we’re going to see on Sunday hopefully, so you know, it was a pretty easy day for us. I wasn’t really happy with my car on Monday, and I was extremely vocal about it, and I think my engineers heard me, so we made it better today. It’s the most competitive field I’ve ever seen in my 18 years here. Qualifying was extremely hard, and it’s really tight. So yeah, I think it’s going to be a difficult race. I do strongly believe that everybody, every single guy is starting this race, and girl, they think they can win this race, which is true.”

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Near the end, Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda moved up to second, running 225.486 mph on Lap 60 of his 64 laps. Third and fourth were Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda teammates, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic and Rookie Jordan King/No.42. Fifth was James Davison/No.33 Dale Coyne with Byrd and Belardi Honda. All five led at one point. Other leaders included JR Hildebrand/No.48 DRR Salesforce Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. There were three Rookies in the top nine, with Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda coming in ninth. All 33 cars were on track and all turned double-digit laps. A total of 1755 laps were turned in the 75-minute session.

Colton Herta No.88 Honda

Graham Rahal No.15 Honda

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Colton Herta/No.88 Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda; and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda grazed the wall mid-session, but continued on and there was no caution. “The car was OK and then all of a sudden it just took off with understeer and brushed the wall. I had it one other time and I was actually leading a pack at that point and the front just gave up. With the wind like this, it gets a little bit gusty. I was behind two or three cars and if you get a crosswind and hit the wake, it’s going to go. I had one close call but the rest of the time the United Rentals car was really good.”

Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet has some signage on his formerly naked car. Congratulations! He said “We’ll see how the weather compares (to today), but overall really happy with this team continuing to work hard and put together a good package for us. Having 250oK, NFP, GMR, and Hagerty as sponsors on the car is amazing.”

Time wasn’t the ultimate outcome for this practice – it was for seeing and experiencing things for the first time, as they would be for the race. After qualifying, the pit spaces were reassigned, based on grid spots. So the drivers had to familiarize themselves with new pit stalls and locations, practice coming in and out in traffic, and also ensure they slowed sufficiently for pit entry.

The Annual Pit Stop Challenge took place after the Freedom 100 Indy Lights Race, which was won in a photo-finish by Oliver Askew/No.28 Andretti Autosport ahead of Ryan Norman/No.49. A first lap crash eliminated Dave Malkus/No.79 and Chris Windom/No.17. Malkus spun and Windom couldn’t avoid hitting him. Windom landed on top of Malkus and rode the fence and wall quite a distance down track before coming to a halt. Both drivers walked away and were cleared by the Medical Center. Brian Belardi is the team owner for both cars. The race was red-flagged.

No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda Pit Crew

Rookie Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda defeated several-time winner, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the Pit Stop Challenge Competition. Ericsson said “No, I’ve never done anything like this before, but it was really cool. It’s such a cool event. This whole month has been amazing, and today was a really cool day, and to finish it off by winning made it even better.”

Marcus Ericsson No.7 Pit Crew

No.7 Pit Crew Listing

Marcus Ericsson
Left to Right: No.7 Pit Crew, No.7 Pit Crew Listing, and Victorious Marcus Ericsson. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

Mark Miles presenting Robin Miller with his Award

The first annual Robin Miller Award was presented to Robin Miller, who is working his 50th Indianapolis 500. Its tenets: ‘Honoring an unheralded individual who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to IndyCar racing while bringing unbridled passion and unrelenting work ethic to enrich the sport.’ Among those there to share in the occasion: Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, AJ Foyt, Paul Page, and Mario. Mark Miles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, made the presentation. That speech and those of the other notables amounted to a mild roast of the motorsports maven, who is undoubtedly a legend in his own mind. And, as Helio Castroneves said in the RACER Robin Miller Roast/Tribute video, “The man has no filter.”

Special event Tee shirts were presented to a rare few. Miller said “These guys were my heroes growing up – AJ beat me up in 1981 but we became friends again – and now we’re all buddies.

“When you’ve spent your whole life doing this… obviously you’re not very intelligent – look at the company surrounding me; they’ve been upside-down, they’ve been dead a few times – but the great thing about this sport is these guys, and the people who gravitate towards them. You can never get enough of them.

“Anyway, very nice of you guys to show up for this. They usually give you these when you’re dead. Thank you, guys. It’s a fun day to be Robin Miller.”

Robin Miller & Friends

MEDIA THURSDAY

Media Show Car & Borg Warmer Trophy

It was Media Day all over Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NBC Sports broadcast team met with the Media, Team Penske & Shell had a big Media function, Dreyer Reinbold had a media function with AJ Foyt, and it was time for the annual IndyCar Drivers Media Day, where every driver had to make an hour-long appearance to meet with the credentialed media for open Q&A and photo ops. And this was after said drivers had been dispatched around the country on Tuesday/Wednesday to make appearances in various media market, on behalf of the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Andretti Pit Stop practice

No.30 RHLL Honda in Tech

Meanwhile, while the drivers and handlers were making the rounds, back in the garages, the teams were practicing pit stops on their ‘pit stop cars’ and tweaking their final tweaks before going through the Tech line. But no engines were fired. The sounds of racing came from the Indy Lights teams who were on track practicing and qualifying for their Freedom 100 race on Carb Day, and the Historic Indy Cars doing Exhibition Laps.

Retro Rebel & Paul Tracy

Retro Rebel & Paul Tracy

Watch out mainstream media – here comes Retro Rebel, the youngest media star at age 11. She is working with NBC Sports. Olivia, who has a YouTube video following for her Retro Rebel features, interviewed all the TV broadcasters. You’ll notice her Retro Rebel microphone with Paul Tracy. When she was interviewing drivers later on, such as James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, she had a NBCSN microphone. NBC Sports is doing a video on her which will be used on NBC “On Her Turf”, showingcasing what women can do (Be the best version of yourself, both on and off the field,) as well on various Social Media outlets including Instagram, NBCSN and IndyCar. Olivia was first spotted by NBC Sports at the St. Pete race this year. She is a huge Star Wars Fan, especially of the character Rebel. Olivia combined that with her love of retro in racing, the history and such. Thus, Retro Rebel was born.

Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dr. Geoff Billows, IndyCar Medical Director met with the media to go over some logistics for the weekend. The Elephant In The Room – thunderstorm forecast for race day Sunday – was on everyone’s mind. Boles reminded everyone that last year’s race day forecast was for rain and it didn’t materialize. It was one hot day. Thursday was a mixed bag of weather, starting with a horrendous thunderstorm with lightning. Rain lasted until 9am or so. And then it dried up, was overcast but not cold. It turned out to be warm and muggy hot for the rest of the day. Currently the forecast is for Thunderstorms through Monday. However, Boles reminded everyone, this is Indiana. Weather is changeable. The track has its own weather forecasting systems in place at the track, and work with a local TV station on weather forecasting. There will be no working on Plan B – in case of rain on the race – until Saturday night. Putting the race off until Monday has been discussed, but is something Boles wants to avoid if at all possible. The race can be started Sunday up until 6pm. Sunset is set for 9:02pm or so, and it only takes 101 laps for the race to be complete and legal.

The 1986 Indy 500 was rained out on Sunday and Monday, and run on Saturday 31 May. It was won by Bobby Rahal, running for Jim Truman, who died 11 days later. The 1997 Indy 500 was rained out completely Sunday, and Monday after 15 laps, and ran full length Tuesday 27 May. It was won by Arie Luyendyk.

Regarding threats and warnings, Boles said that when it’s just rain, the fans can stay or move. When there’s thunder or lightning, the warnings go out to vacate the grandstand and follow your own personal safety plan. He explained that a personal plan can vary depending on where a person is located and where their transport is. Some involve more distance than others, so warnings can’t be more specific on time frame. So have a Personal Safety Plan in mind ahead of time.

On a medical note, Dr. Billows indicated that there has been some concerns about measles, so there will be a limited number of free measles vaccines available Carb Day in the Medical Center.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Here Thursday and for the weekend is Damon Hill, who is experiencing his first-ever Indy 500. His father, the late Graham Hill won the Indy500 in 1986, and was the only driver to win the ‘Triple Crown – Indy 500 – Le Mans 24 – and Monaco. This is the feat to which Fernando Alonso aspired when he entered this year’s (and the 2017) Indy 500.

Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt and Danica Patrick will be providing color commentary for the Indy 500, for perspective and what they’re seeing and experiencing. For Earnhardt, this is his first Indy 500 as a broadcaster. He said he didn’t want to learn too much about it ahead of time, over- learn about it, since NBC wanted his first-time experience outlook … “to share my experience.”

Earnhardt said “I want to sit in a real Indy 500 car, not a show car; and I can’t wait to talk to some drivers, pick their brains a bit. I got a lot to learn. At 9’clock I got to hop around, to six or seven locations for the Pre Race. I’ll probably check them out a bit the next couple of days, so I have sort of an idea of what I’m walking into. But I don’t want to know everything. I want to be surprised, to have a reaction to it. I’m a fish outa water, and they’re trying to capture my reaction to it, as seeing it for the very first time. So it’s about finding out a little bit but not too much. I don’t need to know the background and history of every driver. That’s for the guys in the booth. I’m not going to be playing that role in this race. I’ll be on the pit box, and they’ll come to us to explain my reaction on how it’s playing out. That’s more tricky to do. You gotta find things that pull you, intrigue you. Such as an underdog. I love an underdog. So I’ll be trying to find the guy that plateaued out, or doing things really good. So they’ll come to us, for our reaction, not anything technical. But here I’m coming in as a fan. I would be here whether I was working for NBC or not. Something they told me at the beginning. We’re not going to put you in a situation where you fail.”

Danica Patrick & DeDe Service Dog

Patrick was the most relaxed and open as I’ve seen her, and she admitted she liked “having makeup and hair.”

In terms of what she did for her preparation for this weekend’s TV coverage: “Fourteen years, starting out in 2005 at the Indy 500. That’s what I’m here for, not to be someone like Marty Snyder directing and throwing to the other on air talent. That’s not my role. That’s what they do and they’re very good at it. I have the information, so I guess, essentially we’re all professionals in our own little way. I’m enjoying this new role. It’s a lot more fun and less stressful than driving a car. It doesn’t mean it’s not a little challenging at some points in time, but you know, you want to do a good job. I think the hardest thing is that when you’re doing an interview, you realize you’ve got all kinds of time and the more I say the better. But when you’re on air and you’re transitioning from everything from an interview on pit road to the booth to a pit road reporter or to a commercial, there’s a clock on. So you need to get very concise with your thoughts because you don’t have a lot of time and they’re in your ears telling you to hurry up. So that’s a little bit of the challenge. But other than that, it’s stuff I know. It’s a little bit different, transitioning to that kind of editing. You realize you’re part of a production, instead of making a story of whatever you say, you’re working on a team a little bit more when it comes to what you say. So it’s just speaking in sound bites.”

Mixologists Josef Newgarden & Helio Castroneves

MONDAY

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet is on a roll, figuratively, not literally. This year’s Indianapolis 500 pole winner turned the fastest lap of 228.441 mph on his last of 88 laps Monday, as the Checkered Flag flew at the end of the two-hour NTT IndyCar Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was only on the top for half a lap, after pipping Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet, who had just hit the top minutes before the end of the session. The last few minutes of the two-hour session were busy with everyone on track. All 33 drivers participated.

Simon Pagenaud's lap chart

Simon Pagenaud’s lap chart

It was pointed out to Pagenaud how incredible it was that he was very consistent in his four laps, perhaps more than any other driver. “I must have had a magic — we used to call it the Franchitti wind. Do you remember that, when Franchitti used to get those magic winds? I think he gave me a bit of wind there. So I don’t know, the car was just phenomenal really. Joking aside, it’s just — the consistency of the car is phenomenal. We run really well on tires. We don’t really use the tires badly at all, and I think we’re not sliding, so we can run really low downforce without sliding, and I think that’s why the consistency is there. Obviously the conditions yesterday helped everybody be a lot more consistent compared to Saturday, but yeah, it’s quite amazing to see this average for sure. I don’t know what I was doing on the fourth lap, right? What the hell.”

The weather was cool and cloudy/overcast with a 12 mph breeze.

Other fast drivers included Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Kanaan finished 11th with 56 laps while his Foyt teammate, young Matheus Leist/No.4 ran 57, finishing 16th. Kanaan also ran four laps in Leist’s car. “Kanaan said “It was busy. We’re still trying to learn everything we can to the race. I had to drive both cars because we wanted to make a change that was going to be too big to do it between one car only, so I jumped in his car to get a feel for it. We’ll try to make a decision. We have a week — five days to decide until we get to Carb Day. A pretty cool day. I wish it was like that in the race, but it’s not going to happen, so everything is going to change again.”

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was sort of squeezed up high on the track, into the dirty high line, and he grazed the wall. There was a brief caution, as he continued and pitted for the team to check his tires. And yes, they were covered in marbles.

There were three cautions for 18.39 minutes: Ericsson; track inspection; and one for Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who slowed on the back stretch, and it wasn’t clear if he’d make it back to the pits on his own. He did.

Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet had an aha moment entering the pits, with Ferrucci coming in hotter than Mann, who had slowed in her approach. Monday was the first day the pit road speed of 60 mph was strictly enforced, meaning if someone exceeded the limit, he or she would get a drive-thru penalty. Maybe Ferrucci forgot.

The Monday Practice Day after two-day Qualifying was said to have been added these past two years as the drivers used to do their full-tank runs on Bump Day. Kanaan was asked how valuable the session was for the drivers. “Well, I think you saw it. Everybody put like 60, 70, 80 laps. Everybody is running together. It is helpful for sure. Although we have so much time to do those kind of things, I think it was — I liked everything about this year’s, the way qualifying went, the way the organized qualifying — I always felt like last year, I felt — I qualified in the top 12 in the first day, but I wasn’t in the show. I went to sleep, I’m like, I’ve got to do it again. I mean, what — so for us, it was — for me in my opinion it was a pretty good move.”

Tony Kanaan

Takuma Sato

Marco Andretti

Left to Right: Tony Kanaan; Takuma Sato, and Marco Andretti.Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Validating Kanaan’s point on the value of the Post-Qualifying Practice session were the numbers.Everyone did double digit laps.The most laps turned was the 98 laps run by former Indy 500 Winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda ran the fewest laps – 50.

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud