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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”