Another beautiful day in the neighborhood – at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Media Day and Indy Lights. The Verizon IndyCar drivers spent Wednesday doing Community Outreach in various school districts. Thursday all 33 of them spent time with the Media, in two groups, arriving in a bevy of golf carts to the Pagoda Plaza, where outside savvy fans – the few that were on site – hovered anxiously awaiting a chance for autographs. The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Series had two practices and qualifying Thursday, in preparation for Friday’s Freedom 100 Race. Various announcements and press conferences were held.
For the Freedom 100 Race, three of Andretti Autosport’s four entries are 1-2-3 on the grid. Pole position went to Dalton Kellet/No.28 K-Line Insulators USA, Inc with an average speed of 195.027 mph. Rookie Pato O’Ward/No.27 Riverina CDMX Mexico City Mazda is second, followed by Ryan Norman/No.48 Journey Mazda.
One announcement Thursday was to advise how Race Day would be, operationally. Doug Boles, IMS President, Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar Medical Director, and Mike Bates, IMS SeniorDirector of Safety & Security, also wanted to pass on their sage words of advice. Increased health and safety awareness is key. Heightened security measures will be in place entering the track and involves multiple jurisdictions. Sunday the infield care center is the Number One-visited trauma center in the state. Sunday’s weather is expected to be quite hot and humid, so everyone is urged to start hydrating now and keep it up throughout the weekend. Leave earlier than usual for the track, and be patient with possibly slower and more thorough vehicle inspections.
Conor Daly/No.17 United States Air Force Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts last in Sunday’s 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. He has a strategy. “Initially you have to be aggressive, as you’d rather be in sort of the middle of the field rather than right at the tail end.
When it comes to how important the draft, the suction effect when you’re trying to get around the track. There are two different ways to look at it, and there’s two different ways you have to approach this race. Aggression and Patience. I will have to decide at the time which it will be, and it changes every lap. For me, Patience is very important once I settles into the race, but at the beginning I would love to be very aggressive and try to jump forward, just like Alex Rossi will be as well.” As far as trusting the drivers around him, “There are some I trust and some I’d like to stay very far away from.” Daly has raced against Rossi and knows him very well. Rossi starts next to Daly in P32, the two have been roommates, and were paired together on The Amazing Race TV reality show.”I would rather him lead the way, because I know his car will probably be a little bit faster. But there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be able to follow him. There are plenty of reasons why I wouldn’t be able to follow him, but I would love to follow him forward, and I think it would be a really cool story for both of us making our way forward, like a certain television reality show.”
Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda starts second to last in the Indy 500, starting next to Daly. He was asked if it was a silver lining starting next to Daly. “No, Absolutely not. The silver lining is that we have a cool opportunity. I think it will be one helluva a story if we pull it off.”
Regarding his impression of the newest racetrack to be added to this year’s VICS schedule – Portland International Raceway, Rossi said “First of all, Portland, Oregon is beautiful and it was kinda awesome landing there and seeing Mount Hood and everything. The track is great. In terms of the layout. I thought the layout was spectacular. It’s got two very long straightaways. We have two and a half passing zones, and a good mixture of mostly high-speed corners, but a couple of slow-speed corners as well. So, I’m excited about it. I think it’s good any time we can go to a new market. It’s a great opportunity for the series. I went to an event at the Wilsonville Museum of Speed Monday night, and with five days notice, we had 200 people. And the questions they asked were possibly the best fan questions I’ve ever received; so there’s a passion for IndyCar racing there. And I think the motorhome and camping sold out in an hour and a half. So any time we can go to an excited market it’s good.”
Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 NFP/Juncos Racing Chevrolet, and 2017 Indy Lights Champion, starts seventeenth – midpack. “Last year it was a race of attrition. I don’t think it will be as much of that this year. There’s a race of attrition and there’s a race of survival. I think this year it’ll be a race of survival, keeping it out there, keeping it out of the wall, and it’s going to be very challenging conditions. It’s gonna be hot, lotta guys saying it’s hard to run in traffic. So I need to go out there, keep it on the track, and we’ll do pretty well. Having the experience of running in last year’s Indy Lights Freedom 100 Race will pay dividends. Running in traffic, and just knowing this track, knowing its fast speed, running laps, knowing the lines, I think will be helpful. I’ll be learning as I go in this race. It’s a lot of laps. I’ll be learning how to adapt throughout the race for sure.”
As for being on a brand new IndyCar team, with just one driver, Kaiser said “It’s been challenging. I think the lack of testing makes it more challenging than anything, because we have a lot of experienced guys. But experience doesn’t make up for the lack of testing. It’s difficult not having another driver to provide feedback. I think it’s a benefit to have experienced crew guys because they know what to expect. I was asked earlier today if I would like to have two cars, and I would say, No, because I know all the effort is going to me and towards my program. And I know it’s 100 percent on me. Yeah, there are times I’d like to see more data and have another data point to look at. But I know everything is going towards our effort and that makes me feel good. They’re giving their all for me, and I’m giving my all for them.”
More than a few of the VICS drivers use their visible platform to promote worthy causes. One such case is Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MST w/SPM. He spent some time several weeks ago at The Childrens TherAplay Horsepower 500 Tricycle Race, which paired Indy 500 drivers and young special needs children. Harvey’s partner was six-year old William and they bonded over Harvey helping William learning to tie shoelaces. William came as Harvey’s guest to the track Thursday for some more bonding and sharing of livery. This is Harvey’s second year with the Tricycle Race and he plans on keeping in touch with William’s family and his progress.
Harvey’s Gasoline Alley garage will be the site for a live broadcast Friday 10am-1pm by Pat McAfee on SiriusXM.
Friday is Miller Lite Carb Day and Freedom 100. There are meetings, awards presentations, the hour-long Carb Day practice for the Indy 500 drivers, immediately followed by the Indy Lights race, Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition, and the Miller Lite Concert with Train and Blues Traveler. For the drivers there are then evening receptions, sponsor dinners, and various functions. As Zach Veach said, Thursday night was his last time to have ‘personal’ time. So he and his girlfriend are going to see Deadpool 2.