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

ONE AND DONE – PAGENAUD ON POLE & ALONSO GOES HOME

Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske Crew and car. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske Crew and car. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet became the first-ever Frenchman to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500 race. He ran 229.992 mph, not quite as fast as Spencer Pigot, but fast enough to score his 11th IndyCar pole, making it number 266 pole for Team Penske, and its eighteenth Indy 500 pole. A new record was set – the closest-ever Indy 500 field based on time. There was a mere 1.8932 seconds between Pagenaud’s pole time and that of the slowest car in the field, Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet, who qualified 30th.

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

Pagenaud said “I can’t thank my teammates enough for always pushing me. This is the biggest race in the world.” Last year teammate Will Power won both May races at IMS. Pagenaud won last weekend’s Indy Grand Prix. “I think we have all the . momentum we need. We have the best car; obviously, we showed it today. We have the best engine right now. At the end of the day, there is a lot that can happen. It’s a long race – 500 miles. We just need to execute.

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

Starting second through fourth are the three Chevrolets of Ed Carpenter Racing – Spencer Pigot/No.21 Auto Geek, Ed Carpenter/No.20, and Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa.

Fifth through ninth are:Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5g Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, and Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda.

It was thirty-five degrees cooler Sunday, and windy. The sun played hide-and-seek with the high clouds, and it rained sporadically during the day. The skies opened up for a brief but torrential downpour during Alonso’s presser. For the 103rd running of this iconic race, there will be 15 Chevrolets and 18 Hondas. The youngest driver is Herta at age 18 – just barely. The oldest is Oriol Servia/No.77 MotoGator Team Stange w/Arrow SPM Honda. He is 44 and starting nineteenth.

Sage Karem

James Hinchcliffe

Kyle Kaiser

Sage Karem No.24 DRR Chevrolet

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Arrow Honda

Kyle Kaiser's No.32 Juncos Chevrolet

Left to Right: Sage Karem, James Hinchcliffe & Kyle Kaiser.
Left to Right: No.24 DRR Chevrolet; No.5 Arrow Honda; & No.32 Juncos Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

It was Youth and Good Looks triumphing over Experience and Age, for the bubble seat on the Indy 500 grid. First, it was young Sage Karem/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet who took the top spot in qualifying for the Last Row. His car number is also his age. Then it was young part-time IndyCar driver, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet who knocked off the two-time Formula One Champion, Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet, for the very last seat on the last row. Kaiser is the fifth youngest driver this May. Sandwiched in between the two kids was Indy 500 hard-luck kid, James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Karem said “We just kept slightly missing the balance for the weather, and then ended up having to come back today to fight into the field, and that was probably one of the most — that was the most stressful 48 ours of my life, probably on e of the biggest battles I’e ever had to go through mentally.”

Hinchcliff said “Indy, she likes a dramatic day. It’s crazy how it played out. I know a year ago I was watching everybody else go out for the fast nine, and we weren’t in the show, and it sucks. I feel bad for those guys. We had a really strong car in race trim, so I’m bummed that I wrecked that one, but hopefully it all translate well to the new car and we get back to group running. I told Sam (Schmidt) before we went out that we are going to try to not do this next year, try not to have it be so dramatic.”

Kaiser said about today’s run that “It felt like we qualified on pole, to be honest. It was pretty wild. I didn’t really know right away. I had no idea. I had somewhat of an idea because I got to see the laps, but I heard it was really close. An I came across start finish and first thing I asked was ‘are we in, did we make it?’ and I just heard screaming, so that was a good sign. But the last 48 hours, like Sage said, has been an absolute whirlwind. It’s been crazy. We had really good pace with our main car, but obviously we had an incident, and it’s been just an uphill battle since then.”

Gil de Ferran & Fernando Alonso

Not making the show were Alonso, and the two Carlin Chevrolet teammates, Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 and Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher. Alonso and McLaren Racing Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran met with the media. Alonso said “It has been a very long qualifying, nearly 56 hours of qualifying from yesterday morning. So yeah, we were just one place all the time-out. Yesterday 31st instead of 30. Today 34th instead of 33 by a very small margin, and yeah, unfortunately not fast enough in any or both days. Yeah, disappointed now. Obviously it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough. You know, I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, everyone safe, and enjoying from the TV unfortunately.

But in terms of motorsport in general, to be here, and at least try, it deserves some credit. Obviously we are all disappointed, and we will try to do better next time. But it’s that kind of things that you learn. I said before, I prefer to be here, even 34th, than being at home like last year.

De Ferran was quite clear on the prospect of buying a ride into the race. “We will not do that. We want to earn our place in the field.”

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 Carlin Chevrolet

Patricio O’Ward’ No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Wrecker or Checker. That had been the mindset for Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet – so said he. He didn’t wreck and he didn’t make the field. “I did everything in my power to get everything out of the car I could. I can’t remember how many adjustments I made. It’s disappointing.”

UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:36.5271 (229.992 mph)

2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:36.5971 (229.889)

3. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:36.6402 (229.826)

4. (63) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 2:36.7629 (229.646)

5. (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 2:37.1465 (229.086)

6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.4490 (228.645)

7. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.4659 (228.621)

8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.6208 (228.396)

9. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:37.7240 (228.247)

10. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:37.3729 (228.756)

11. (25) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:37.4688 (228.617)

12. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.5337 (228.523)

13. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 2:37.5415 (228.511)

14. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:37.6874 (228.300)

15. (33) James Davison, Honda, 2:37.7057 (228.273)

16. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:37.8116 (228.120)

17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:37.8226 (228.104)

18. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:37.8256 (228.100)

19. (77) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:37.9009 (227.991)

20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:37.9535 (227.915)

21. (48) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:37.9584 (227.908)

22. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:37.9799 (227.877)

23. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 2:38.0815 (227.731)

24. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.0911 (227.717)

25. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:38.1063 (227.695)

26. (42) Jordan King, Honda, 2:38.2402 (227.502)

27. (81) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 2:38.2542 (227.482)

28. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:38.3523 (227.341)

29. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 2:38.3834 (227.297)

30. (39) Pippa Mann, Chevrolet, 2:38.4203 (227.244)

31. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:38.0747 (227.740)

32. (5T) James Hinchcliffe, Chevrolet, 2:38.2118 (227.543)

33. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:38.3311 (227.372)

SOGGY SUNDAY – QUALIFYING?

INDY 500 GRID (provisional)INDY 500 GRID (provisional)

Blue skies broke out around Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 2:45pm EST. The track was being dried and the first priority for NTT IndyCar drivers was to complete the Last Row Shootout. There were 15 tow trucks and pickups, plus seven jet dryers, and two big sweeper dryers, first on the track, and then in Pit Lane.

Jet Dryers

All qualifying cars were told to report to the Tech line at 4pm. Qualifying for the Last Row will be at 4:30pm, followed immediately by the Fast Nine Shootout. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda will be first car out for the Last Chance Qualifying, followed by the other five cars. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet has had no practice for this session. The Mayor of Hinchtown has quite the history with Indy 500 Qualifying. Three years ago he had his horrific crash which sidelined him for months. The following year he earned the Pole Position. Then last year he failed to make the show at the very last minute. And now he’s fighting to make the last row. Drama.

Immediately following the Last Row Shootout, with no practice or warmup, the Fast Nine will have their Qualifying for the Pole Position and other positioning.

There were Happy Feet Saturday on the Bricks after qualifying. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Tony Kanaan's Feet

Pagoda roof

Max Chilton's feet

Fernando Alonso's feet

Starter Stand

Ryan Hunter-Reay's feet

SPEED BUMP

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

It’s Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the track is alive with the sound of …. nothing. There were cars on track for about 20 minutes before they returned to the safety and dryness of their respective garages when the track was shut down for ‘conditions.” Translation – rain, or at least an anemic attempt with sprinkles. It’s supposed to be Bump Day, with the setting of the last row of the grid for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, as well as the Fast Nine Shootout determining who will have the pole and where the other eight will line up. For now, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet has the provisional pole.

The schedule, which had been on hold, has just been updated …. Again. Fast Nine practice was to have started at 12:45 pm EST, and Last Row Shootout at 1:30 pm EST. Track equipment were drying the track … again. It was out earlier drying up the rain from this morning’s shower, including the very noisy jet dryer. BUT…just as this was being edited for transmission, the rain returned.

Juncos Racing Garage

Juncos Racing Garage

The six cars vying for the last three slots on the grid had their shortened practice session, as rain ended it ten minutes early. Only five of the cars went out.

The No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet of Kyle Kaiser was being worked on in the garage. The crew felt it would be better to work on the car than running Sunday’s practice.

The ambient temperature at 10:15 am was 73 degrees F, with track temperature pegged at 78F. The wind was blowing 9-13 mph and back. It wold slow, and then gust. In the garages, I watched body panels parked outside Foyt’s garage rocking with the wind. Normally they are positioned at right angles to the garage. The crew decided it would have more grip and downforce and less chance to blow over if it was repositioned parallel to the garage. So be it.

Townsend Bell & #39 crew

Max Chilton

Aerodynamic Car Panels.

Left to Right: Townsend Bell, Max Chilton, and Foyt Racing grippy body panels.

James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda ran 12 laps and was the fastest at 228.125 mph. The order was Hinchcliffe, Sage Karen/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet-7 laps, Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet-11 laps, Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet-9 laps and Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet-6 laps.

Fernando Alonso's McLaren Crew working on car.

No.66 McLaren Chevrolet off to work

McLaren Crew packing up pit equipment

Left to Right: Fernando Alonso’s No.66 McLaren Chevrolet crew beavering away on race car prior to final pre-qualifying practice session; Race car being towed to pits; and McLaren team scrambling to cover up and pack up after start of rain.

Alonso was late coming to the session, as his crew were feverishly working hard on the car right up until they went to the Pit Lane so only ran the fewest laps. The team worked hard overnight on settups. Whatever they did wasn’t the answer. Alonso was last of the five, with his best speed being a non-competitive 220.009 mph.

Firestone Award Winners

Left to Right: Brett Schilling, Cara Adams, Phil Severyn, and John Norton of BorgWarner Inc.

Firestone tire engineers Cara Adams, Brett Schilling and Phil Severyn received the 53rd annual Louis Schwitzer Award for Engineering Excellence in the NTT IndyCar Series. The award recognizes the achievements of the engineers behind the Indianapolis 500 race cars. In this case it was for their expertise in developing the Firestone Firehawk 2019 Indy 500 Race Tire. The award recognized the innovative change in the tire’s construction, which improved the tire’s footprint. As a result, the lateral grip is less dependent on aerodynamic downforce. Additionally, a change in the tire compound improved the mechanical grip. These changes are especially beneficial in race traffic when the aero load on the right front tire is reduced due to leading car turbulence. The tire construction changes allow for a more consistent level of performance.

Adams was the first female engineer to win the award, which honors engineers who develop innovative new concepts to improve competitive potential. It is presented to engineers, by engineers, and judges aim to recognize advancements that increase performance, safety or efficiency. Adams graciously claimed the honor for the entire team of engineers, and in turn, Firestone donated the $10,000 prize to The Indy Family Foundation.

Firestone Garage Grid Display

DAILY DRAMA

Spencer Pigot & No.21 Chevrolet Crew. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot & No.21 Chevrolet Crew. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

NTT IndyCar driver, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, turned the fastest four-lap average of 230.083 mph Saturday morning, for the first day of qualifying for the 103rd Indianapolis 500; and it held all day. He was the second driver out, and no one was ever faster. This makes him the provisional pole sitter … until the Fast Nine has its shootout Sunday, weather permitting. If not, today’s times will prevail. Pigot’s closest contender was 2018 Indy 500 winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5g Team Penske Chevrolet, the only other driver to make the 230 mph mark. Pigot’s two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet teammates, Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa and team owner, Ed Carpenter/No.20 also made the Fast Nine.

Pigot is the only one of the nine who hopes for Sunday rain. “Obviously if I had to pick one wya or another, it would be nice to just kind of relax and not have to go again and be on pole, but if we get to go again, I’ve got all the confidence in the world that we’re going to be able to challenge for the pole.”

188A2663

ECR Team Owner, Ed Carpenter said “If there were team orders, I would have been first today.”

It was a day of drama, excitement, elation, sadness, hope and fear. The weather played a key role, getting warmer early on, with changing wind patterns, cloud covers playing hide and seek with the sun, and one big crash. No drivers were hurt, per se, but one will feel the effects Sunday.

The Fast Nine on Saturday are Pigot, Power, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, Rookie Carlton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda; Jones, Carpenter, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Pagenaud came to the post-conference with birthday cake in his hair. He’d been ‘caked’ by his Penske teammates.

Spencer Pigot.

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden

Colton Herta

Ed Jones & No.63 EC Chevrolet team. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Carpenter

Alex Rossi & No.27 Andretti Honda Crew.

Sebastien Bourdais & No.18 Coyne Honda Crew

Left to Right: Spencer Pigot, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud & his No.22 Menards Penske Chevrolet team, Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta, Ed Jones, Ed Carpenter, Alexander Rossi and his No.27 Andretti Honda team, and Sebastien Bourdais and his No.18 Coyne Honda team. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The top thirty slots were filled by early afternoon. Then the bumping began, and it was fast and furious all the way to the final gun at 5:50pm, with cars still left in line. There were 73 attempts by drivers to qualify, by the 36-driver field. Some drivers made multiple attempts, qualifying and being bumped and re-qualifying and some bumped again.

The top 30 of 33 are locked in for the race. Sunday six drivers will try to bump their way back into the field. They are only eligible for the last row, and three will not make the show. They are: Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet; Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet; James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet; Sage arem/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet; and Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet.

Pippa Mann. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pippa Mann. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pippa Man/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet made te cut. It was emotional for her, having gone through her heartache last year of being bumped at the very last moment. The Fast Nine each will get a single run, like single-file qualifying, to determine the Pole and other eight positions.

The schedule calls for, weather permitting, half-hour Last Row Practice starting at 10:15am; followed by half-hour Fast Nine Practice starting at 10:45am; an hour of Last Row Qualifying starting at 12:15pm; and then an hour for Fast Nine Shootout Qualifying. This ends with Pomp and Circumstance – Pole Awards Ceremony. After all is said and done, it’s one last Sunday Practice 3:15-6pm. All times EST. NBC, which is televising the race and many of the other Indy 500 sessions, will be live 12-3pm EST for qualifying. The post qualifying practice will be aired live on NBCSN. Those lucky enough to have Gold coverage get non-stop video and audio commentary from some very interesting people. Danica Patrick made her first appearance in the TV booth for color commentary, and insider qualifying commentary.

James Hinchcliffe No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crashed hard on his first run at 1:23pm. He spun and flew hard into the Turn Two wall. He was unhurt and was cleared to drive. He did a similar maneuver that previous crashers executed, only his hit was harder faster. He flipped up on his side, balancing on one wheel, and then came down. Hinch did not go all the way over. No driver has yet. He said “I got to Turn Two, and it just sort of suddenly snapped on me. I don’t know if it was a gust of wind or what. Worst-case scenario is doing it again tomorrow. I feel fine. I whacked my knee a little bit. That’s what happens when you hit a wall at 230 mph.” The right front wheel tether worked. Hinchliffe spent some time in the pit box, and then went back to the garage, where the team was working on setting up his backup car. By 4pm the car was back in the Tech Bay, and soon after he went back out. It wasn’t fast enough. His way of resetting his mind after the crash – “Honestly, it’s part of our job. It’s what we do. it’s not the first time we’ve crashed. Probably won’t be the last. So you just ave to be able to put these things behind you and close the visor tomorrow and do it again.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL & NO.23 CARLIN CREW

Charlie Kimball & No.23 Carlin Chevrolet Team. Phot by Pablo Matamoros

As Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet said and was requoted often – “There are two kinds of drivers: those who have crashed and those who are going to crash.”

Two-time F1 World Champion, Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet didn’t make it into the top 30 the first time. The crew tweaked and worked on the car, and he tried again. Still it wasn’t fast enough, so he got back in line again … and again … and again-staying in the car for three hours. Five tries. Give that man an E for Effort.

And, despite his frustrating day, he did pay the media a post-session visit. “It’s definitely been a difficult day again, difficult week in general, but difficult day. We need to try again tomorrow,, and now stay calm. Obviously it’s a difficult moment or everyone in the team and for me but there’s not much we can do now.” When asked what he thought of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, he responded honestly “Not much.”

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo MatamorosFernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alonso had interesting comments about his signing autographs after having a rough week, a rough day and being tired after getting out of the car – hopped out and went running. He was asked why he did still have time to sign autographs- why did he do that when most people would have just kept going. Alonso responded, “Well I didn’t sign all of them.” Laughter. “You know, I stopped, a few, but they are everywhere. You open the motor home, they are there; you go out to the garage, they are there; you go in the bathroom, they are there. So sometimes you stop, sometimes you don’t. But yeah, they are out of the emotions and out of the environment that you are in on that moment. Maybe you jump out of the car, but for them it’s like you were walking there. They didn’t see what you were doing the last ten minutes. So it’s not something that they can control. You try to be nice with most of them, but I understand that a lot of them, they are not happy at the end of the day. So you try to do the best you can.”

Other drivers had multiple tries, including Sage Karem/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.”I’ve been struggling all month. I guess we under-estimated the wind. I skimmed the wall. The car’s in one piece. It just won’t go quicker. It’s not that much different from our teammate (JR Hildebrand) who just got it in the show. It’s not looking good for us right now.”

The teams were concerned about Sunday’s weather curtailing qualifying and everyone was trying for his/her best time Saturday. There were 36 drivers making 73 tries, and for every try there’s a story.

Qualifying Pit Lanes 1 & 2. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Qualifying Pit Lanes 1 & 2. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Lane Two is the slow lane and long and/or filled. Your current time isn’t in jeopardy. Lane 1 is the fast lane and it goes first. But running from that lane negates any previous times. Lane Two cars can’t run until there are no cars in Lane One. After each run, a driver is expected to meet with media in the Bull Pen.

Qually Crowd.

Qually Crowd.. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

INDIANAPOLIS 500 DAY 1 QUALIFYING

1. (21) Spencer Pigot, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4655 (230.083 mph)

2. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.4666 (230.081)

3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6210 (229.854)

4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.6924 (229.749)

5. (88) Colton Herta, Dallara-Honda, 2:36.8779 (229.478)

6. (63) Ed Jones, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9035 (229.440)

7. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 2:36.9658 (229.349)

8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.0217 (229.268)

9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.3427 (228.800)

10. (98) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.3729 (228.756)

11. (25) Conor Daly, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.4688 (228.617)

12. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.5337 (228.523)

13. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.5415 (228.511)

14. (30) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.6874 (228.300)

15. (33) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.7057 (228.273)

16. (14) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.8116 (228.120)

17. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.8226 (228.104)

18. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.8256 (228.100)

19. (77) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.9009 (227.991)

20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.9535 (227.915)

21. (48) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 2:37.9584 (227.908)

22. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 2:37.9799 (227.877)

23. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.0815 (227.731)

24. (4) Matheus Leist, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.0911 (227.717)

25. (60) Jack Harvey, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.1063 (227.695)

26. (42) Jordan King, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.2402 (227.502)

27. (81) Ben Hanley, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.2542 (227.482)

28. (26) Zach Veach, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.3523 (227.341)

29. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Dallara-Honda, 2:38.3834 (227.297)

30. (39) Pippa Mann, Dallara-Chevy, 2:38.4203 (227.244)

31 Colton Herta 88 39.1869 39.2732 39.3191 39.4036 – 02:37.1828 229.033
32 Alexander Rossi 27 39.2116 39.2801 39.3881 39.4518 – 02:37.3316 228.816
33 Marco Andretti 98 39.2083 39.4134 39.6596 0.0000 – 01:58.2813 228.269
34 Marco Andretti 98 39.3436 39.5281 0.0000 0.0000 – 01:18.8717 228.219
35 Helio Castrone 3 39.3339 39.4492 39.4705 39.5304 – 02:37.7840 228.160
36 James Hinchcl 5 39.4461 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 – 00:39.4461 228.159
37 Conor Daly 25 39.4065 39.4404 39.5280 39.5745 – 02:37.9494 227.921
38 Scott Dixon 9 39.4031 39.4315 39.5284 39.6109 – 02:37.9739 227.886
39 Graham Rahal 15 39.3793 39.6078 39.5751 39.7530 – 02:38.3152 227.394
40 Fernando Alonso 66 39.4738 39.6072 39.6613 39.6916 – 02:38.4339 227.224
41 Zach Veach 26 39.4838 39.6490 39.6460 39.6705 – 02:38.4493 227.202
42 Felix Rosenqv 10 39.4707 39.6126 39.6845 39.6841 – 02:38.4519 227.198
43 JR Hildebrand 48 39.3756 39.4908 39.8213 39.7751 – 02:38.4628 227.183
44 Jordan King 42 39.5432 39.6040 39.6720 39.6980 – 02:38.5172 227.105
45 Graham Rahal 15 39.6161 39.6358 39.6115 39.6605 – 02:38.5239 227.095
46 Patricio O’Ward 31 39.5351 39.6360 39.6156 39.7585 – 02:38.5452 227.065
47 Fernando Alonso 66 39.5100 39.5596 39.7772 39.7435 – 02:38.5903 227.000
48 James Hinch 5T 39.5843 39.6441 39.6938 39.6990 – 02:38.6212 226.956
49 Sage Karam 24 39.4864 39.6450 39.7297 39.7637 – 02:38.6248 226.951
50 Max Chilton 59 39.5426 39.6306 39.7471 39.7160 – 02:38.6363 226.934
51 Patricio O’Ward 31 39.6065 39.6441 39.6835 39.7279 – 02:38.6620 226.897
52 Sage Karam 24 39.4393 39.6974 39.7884 39.7551 – 02:38.6802 226.871
53 JR Hildebrand 48 39.2651 39.6658 39.6522 40.1247 – 02:38.7078 226.832
54 Felix Rosenqvi 10 39.5616 39.7418 39.7241 39.7456 – 02:38.7731 226.739
55 Matheus Leist 4 39.5514 39.5246 39.6225 40.0829 – 02:38.7814 226.727
56 Ben Hanley 81 39.5568 39.6378 39.7259 39.8856 – 02:38.8061 226.692
57 Jordan King 42 39.7900 39.4961 39.8554 39.6850 – 02:38.8265 226.662
58 James Hinchc 5T 39.6008 39.6904 39.6559 39.9725 – 02:38.9196 226.530
59 Max Chilton 59 39.6466 39.7373 39.7990 39.8600 – 02:39.0429 226.354
60 Max Chilton 59 39.6954 39.7075 39.7335 39.9297 – 02:39.0661 226.321
61 Kyle Kaiser 32 39.7538 39.7301 39.8555 0.0000 – 01:59.3394 226.245
62 Fernando Alonso 66 39.3935 39.7859 40.2490 0.0000 – 01:59.4284 226.077
63 Ben Hanley 81 39.5982 39.7666 39.9345 40.0282 – 02:39.3275 225.950
64 Kyle Kaiser 32 39.6294 39.7515 39.8126 40.1565 – 02:39.3500 225.918
65 Sage Karam 24 39.8197 39.8402 39.8712 0.0000 – 01:59.5311 225.883
66 Sage Karam 24 39.5567 39.7184 39.9054 40.2065 – 02:39.3870 225.865
67 Kyle Kaiser 32 39.7532 39.8687 39.9364 0.0000 – 01:59.5583 225.831
68 Patricio O’Ward 31 39.7380 39.7721 39.8650 40.1098 – 02:39.4849 225.727
69 Fernando Alonso 66 39.6527 39.9934 40.0639 40.2100 – 02:39.9200 225.113
70 Fernando Alonso 66 39.6191 39.6813 39.7358 41.3816 – 02:40.4178 224.414
71 Sage Karam 24 39.8961 39.7744 41.0345 46.1755 – 02:46.8805 215.723
72 James Hinch 5T 39.7604 39.7930 39.9814 51.5065 – 02:51.0413 210.475
73 Jordan King 42 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 – 00:00.0000 0

GETTING READY

IMS Sunrise. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

IMS Sunrise. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indianapolis Motor Speedway weather will be crucial Saturday for the NTT IndyCar Series drivers qualifying for one of the Indianapolis 500 thirty-three slots. At 8am for practice, it was already 70 degrees F, with a forecast of 87 F. The 90-minute session is divided into three half-hour sessions: Group One is the first half of the qualifying draw Primary cars, one is for the second half, and the last is for everyone. When qualifying began, the temps had climbed to 83F ambient and 113-118 F for the track, depending on which corner one measured.The wind varied from 3 mph to 13 mph and back. The skies were blue with puffy white clouds here and there.

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

For the first practice group, only Max Chilton/No.59 Carlin Chevrolet and Rookie Ben Hanley/No.81 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet went out, turning but a handful of laps between them. For the second practice group, Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet were the only takers. Kaiser’s backup car was prepared and ready to go, after the team literally worked all night to get it ready. The track crew works also in the other series, so there weren’t that many other Juncos crew available as they all were at the track, without sleep. The paint guys from the Indy Lights team helped out with shiny new graphics. Kaiser went out and put it through systems checks, and just kept turning laps – 32, trying to get a decent No Tow speed in preparation for Qualifying. Kaiser’s Qualifying slot is 12th for the T car, and 62nd for the Primary, of 68 draws.

Fernando Alonso No.66 McLaren Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Fernando Alonso No.66 McLaren Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet went out near the end of Group 2, and ran flat out to warm up the car before pitting. Alonso drew P24 for the T car, and P39 for his Primary. His car also has a painted chassis. Alonso ran 13 laps. He was feeling better about his chances, after all the problems – electrical issues and crashing. Alonso was frustrated Thursday as the day wore on and the car wasn’t ready and then it rained. Another frustration was the changing weather, which didn’t compromise the car’s performance as he wasn’t out in it. But missing the track time hurt. “More laps you do, better it is.” And Fernando is enjoying having Johnny Rutherford with the team, in Alonso’s pit.

Patricio O'Ward No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet was able to get out Saturday morning in his practice group, turning 11 laps. His backup race car is still in its original wrapper – the blue Gallagher graphics of teammate Max Chilton. The car is Chilton’s road course car. When the damaged tub gets back from repairs, the team will rewrap O’Ward’s car.

The view seen by the Juncos crew Saturday morning

The view seen by the Juncos crew Saturday morning. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

FREAKY FAST FURIOUS FRANTIC FINAL FIFTEEN FRIDAY

Friday was hot and bothered. The temperatures at Indianapolis Motor Speedway reached 78 F ambient, with track temps as high as 107 F, with wind of 5mph. Earlier the wind had increased, but then slowed. The Indy 500 drivers went faster Friday, as they were given 30 more horsepower for the day. The session was stopped for two hours mid-afternoon for “lightning in the area.” The protocol dictates that the half-hour clock starts every time there is a lightning strike within ten miles. There are apps which can show/indicate just how far the strikes are from IMS. The clock counts down, and if another strike hits within ten miles, (such as the 4.2-mile strike which occurred after the clock was nearly wound down), the clock starts over. People were advised of the situation via the PA and many exited the metal grandstands; and then they were advised when the warning had lifted. By then the track temperatures ramped up to 117F.

Conor Daly

Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Andretti Autosport Honda ended up fastest overall Friday afternoon after The Fast and Furious Final Fifteen. A late-session caution for track inspection after tires were cut brought everyone to the pits. Once activity resumed, a mob of drivers went out for one last chance to better times. That’s when Daly ran 231.704 mph on Lap 54 of his 57, and pipped his Andretti teammate, who had been leading most of the day. Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda had held the top slot at 230.851 mph, set on his second of 26 laps. The four drivers behind him varied a bit, but not so much. It was most mostly were the same drivers … until the last half hour, when it got fast, furious and frantic. Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was the first to break into the top five, jumping into second place, and then joined by another Andretti driver – Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.DHL Honda. At one point, all three of the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets were in the top five, and two of them took turns having the fastest No Tow time.

Daly attended a post-session Media Conference. He was so excited he was trying to do an Instagram story, and Marco kept calling him, so Daly put him on Facetime to join the conference. Daly said “I’m just super thankful to be here, honestly. It’s incredible to be a part of this team. Obviously super successful here. The U.S. Air Force, that’s the group that made it happen for me, and that’s awesome. We’ve just been working away at it. It’s certainly interesting tomorrow to see what’s going to happen. I think no-tow wise, everyone is closer than we expected really manufacturer wise. I think there’s a little bit of a difference there for sure, but the Honda guys are working super hard, and I’ve been super happy with my group and our engine and our car. We’re just step by step, one change at a time, trying to make this thing go as fast as possible, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow, obviously.”

During the conference, Daly got the news that he was first out of the box Saturday for Qualifying. The order draw took place during the conference. There are 68 cars, including all the T/backup cars.

No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda

Crew Chief Ziggy Harcus & Team Owner Michael Andretti

Conor Daly No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda

Left to Right: Conor Daly No.25 Honda; Crew Chief Paul ‘Ziggy’ Harcus & Team Owner Micheal Andretti; and Conor Daly No.25 Honda.

At the end of the day, the top five overall were Daly, Andretti, Sato, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Sixth through tenth were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, and Ed Jones/No.63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet. The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in nineteenth place.

Mario Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti/No.98 Honda

No.30 Takuma Sato RHLL Honda

No.28 RHR Andretti Autosport Honda

Left to Right: Mario Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti; Takuma Sato No.30 Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 Honda.

The top drivers with No Tow speeds were Jones, Carpenter, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, 2018 Indy 500 Winner-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, and Pagenaud. Sixth through tenth were: Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Andretti, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Newgarden, and Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.

Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda has been playing chicken with the wall this week, narrowly missing it by micro-measurements. He finally grazed it Friday afternoon with about an hour plus left in the session. He kept going and pitted, finishing 22nd, with a best lap of 229.449 on Lap 8 of his 41.

Sage Karam’s No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet got a workout Friday. Both DRR drivers had a go in it, with JR Hildebrand shaking it down for for five laps. Karam ending up thirteenth overall at 229.932 mph on his last of 43 laps.

Juncos Garage

Juncos  Salvage Yard

Not surprising that every drive, save one, turned his/her fastest times Friday. The one exception was Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, who only turned one lap.

Kaiser hit the Turn Three wall and performed an aerobatic spin and flip, similar to that of yesterday’s crash by Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. Kaiser was unhurt and cleared to drive. His car was not, and after assessment, the team decided to rebuild its backup car, the one Kaiser drove at COTA earlier this year. It is a painted, not wrapped car. After being checked out in the Medical Center, he said “I’m fine. I’m grateful for the technology and safety that’s built into these cars – that was a big hit; I felt it.” He was 26th overall at the time of the accident. The car gouged the track, which needed quick fix. No doubt a more lasting repair will be done overnight.

Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said “We are very grateful that our driver Kyle (Kaiser) was not injured and safely walked away from the massive hit he experienced today at IMS. As everyone knows this has been a very intense month for our NTT IndyCar Series program. Despite off track set backs, that has not stopped this team from going out and performing during practice this week. We have been up to the Top-5 in no tow speeds and have consistently improved our times each day. Now we are faced with the challenge of getting our back-up car on track and set for qualifying tomorrow, but I am completely confident in this amazing group we have here at Juncos Racing to make it happen. This group will not stop working until we get our #32 back on track. We want to thank all of the teams who are willing to help out with parts, Chevrolet, and the fans who have stopped by to express their well wishes. We will be working hard all day and night.”

Nearly all the NTT IndyCar Series teams have offered help and parts, said a team spokesperson. “That’s what is so nice about the IndyCar family.”

McLaren Garage

Another rebuilt car which is painted, not wrapped, is the No.66 McLaren Chevrolet for Fernando Alonso. The team admitted the paint was still wet when they bolted on parts this morning. Alonso was one of the first cars on course Friday morning, after missing all day Thursday while the team built/rebuilt its backup car. Alonso was 24th overall, with 77 laps, with his fastest speed of 228.328 mph on his last lap. He was 30th for No Tow, at 226.869 mph. He turned the second most laps of any driver, right behind Rookie Ben Hanley/No.81 10 Star Dragon Speed Chevrolet, who ran 81 laps. He finished last.

Frnando Alonso

Gil de Ferran

Fernando Alonso

Left to Right: Fernando Alonso; Gil de Ferran; and Fernando Alonso.

Alonso attended the post-session conference, along with McLaren Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran. Alonso made light of having so many tires at his disposal. “Yeah, it was frustrating”, not being able to get out at all on Thursday. But yeah, nothing we could do at that point; yeah, having that extra time to check everything and to be ready. It was frustrating, but at the same time, as I said before, we saved a lot of tires that we were able to set up the car today maybe in a more — in a better way.

“It was a positive day for us (Friday), and we were able to put the car on track and try different directions on the setup and learn a little bit about the track and the day. Obviously, the boost was up today, so the speeds were higher, and it was more a qually (qualifying) preparation than race setups. But we had a lot of new tires from the last couple of days. So, we were able to do a lot of runs, and hopefully, that information will give us tomorrow a little bit of confidence into qualifying.”

De Ferran said ” I think certainly yesterday, as you said, was a difficult day for everyone. Like I said earlier, we’re a new crew. We respect this place a lot. So we wanted to make sure that we put the car together the best way possible. Obviously that took longer than we expected, and I guess having been here before, I’m very aware — I was very aware of the importance of being out on the racetrack, both from Fernando’s perspective and for the development of the car. We had a few guys in the crew that have done Indy car before. Dallara was very helpful throughout. But still, there’s a lot of things that we had to learn, and we’re still learning. Certainly not being a team that does this full-time, we’re in a very steep learning curve despite all the support that we’ve been getting from many different places.”

De Ferran was non-committal about plans going forward, such as what would happen to the IndyCar. “We haven’t made that decision yet.”

This year’s Double Duty will be performed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The retired NASCAR driver and current NBC Sports motorsports analyst will drive the 2019 Grand Sport Official Pace Car for the start of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. He will drive the Pace Car and then be in the booth for the television broadcast, being aired by NBC for the first time. Earnhardt has practice on the track, as a Cup driver in the Brickyard 400 and last year as Pace Car for said race. It will be his first time in the booth for an Indycar race. Corvette has been the Indy 500 Pace Car fifteen times, more than any other brand or vehicle.

2019 Corvette Pace Car

103rd INDIANAPOLIS 500 presented by Gainbridge Qualifying Order
Driver
#25 Daly
#21 Pigot
#27 Rossi
#30T Sato
#20 Carpenter
#18 Bourdais
#22T Pagenaud
#77T Servia
#14 Kanaan
#98 Andretti
#23 Kimball
#32T Kaiser
#12 Power
#88T Herta
#5T Hinchcliffe
#81 Hanley
#59 Chilton
#19T Ferrucci
#48T Hildebrand
#60 Harvey
#2T Newgarden
#19 Ferrucci
#21T Pigot
#66T Alonso
#60T Harvey
#7 Ericsson
#33 Davison
#18T Bourdais
#25T Daly
#33T Davison
#4T Leist
#9T Dixon
#63 Jones
#30 Sato
#22 Pagenaud
#14T Kanaan
#39 Mann
#24T Karam
#66 Alonso
#7T Ericsson
#24 Karam
#26T Veach
#42 King
#3 Castroneves
#2 Newgarden
#77 Servia
#9 Dixon
#81T Hanley
#5 Hinchcliffe
#31 O’Ward
#39T Mann
#15 Rahal
#10T Rosenqvist
#4 Leist
#48 Hildebrand
#28T Hunter-Reay
#15T Rahal
#12T Power
#3T Castroneves
#20T Carpenter
#28 Hunter-Reay
#32 Kaiser
#10 Rosenqvist
#98T Andretti
#27T Rossi
#88 Herta
#63T Jones
#26 Veach

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

Thursday was off to a warm and sunny start. There was a thin opaque haze everywhere, but it was 71F ambient and 91F on the track. The breeze was just waking up. As the afternoon progressed, it got darker and windier. The temps reached 79F ambient, with 100F on track. At 4:29pm the Lightning alert came and everyone was told to evacuate and excute one’s own personal plan. Ten minutes later the rain came down. At 5:26pm power went out in the Media Center. Fortunately, not for long. Welcome to Indiana – all four seasons in one day.

Patricio O'Ward's backup car

Patricio O’Ward’s backup car

Track wise, an hour and 17 minutes into the seven-hour practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there was yet another crash, in Turn 2. Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet is unhurt, but the rookie will probably have some down time while the Carlin crew goes to work on the backup (road course) car. O’Ward said he’s OK, a bit sore and really disappointed. He has been cleared to drive, as have the other two/Wednesday accident victims. The 19-year old was quite shaken when the TV crew showed him the crash video for the first time.

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 Carlin Chevrolet - BEFORE

Patricio O’Ward’s No.31 Carlin Chevrolet – BEFORE

The accident was spectacular, with him spinning and hitting the right side concrete wall hard left side and flipping up. He was air borne and teetered in the air balancing on the left front wheel, before the car landed hard on all four wheels. It didn’t do a complete flip, but nearly. The good news is that the well-build IndyCar held up and did all that it was designed to do, safety-wise. The team quickly went to work preparing teammate Max Chilton’s road course car for Pato.

McLaren Garage

Scott Goodyear

Meanwhile, back in the garages, the McLaren Racing team were working away on their backup car. At 1:10pm, McLaren Team Owner, Zach Brown, it would be another two hours or so. He said driver, Fernando Alonso, is in great spirits. Earlier in the day, seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson, visited with his buddy Alonso, and they did some filming. Scott Goodyear, former IndyCar driver and TV motorsports broadcaster, is working with the team this month as a consultant. Goodyear said Alonso seemed quite fit and fine this morning – not sore. Goodyear will spot for Alonso. Spotters are used in Practice, in Turn One and in Turn Three.

McLaren Garage - mid afternoon

Later, Tim Bampton, Group Communications Director for McLaren Technology Group, said that the car was still being prepped, and the plan was to get out today, although he wasn’t sure when. The team doesn’t have a US base, per se, and are working out of a shop in Brownsburg IN and the track garage. The team brought over crew from England and hired locals, so it’s about a 50-50 mix at this point, with team members coming from England, New Zealand and America. Bampton did draw a connection to his (one-off British-based) team to the full season, Indianapolis-based Ganassi team working on the damaged car of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Honda, saying it wasn’t as easy for his team as Ganassi’s team to repair in a timely fashion.

The No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist was repaired after Wednesday’s crash. The crew worked long into the night and it was ready Thursday for track time. He turned 41 laps and was thirty-fourth overall out of 35 drivers, and his best lap was near the end of his run.

Ed Jones

Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was fastest most of the day. His best speed was 227.843 mph on Lap 8 of the 37 he ran. He also had the fastest No Tow speed of 224.957 mph. He said it was different driving on a team where the owner is also a driver. He said “It was a great day! To be quickest in overall and no-tow is a goal. More importantly, I think we made more gains with the handling of the car. As the conditions have changed, we’ve been able to keep up. We just have to keep adapting to the track changes for tomorrow and for qualifying. With the rain, the grip level may come down a bit, so it’s all about optimizing the car for the track conditions.”

Thirty-five of 36 drivers were on course. Alonso was the only one who missed the Thursday session.O’Ward has turned the fewest laps of all drivers-94. Having run only two (one 1/2) days of the three, Alonso’s total is 96.Those two were the only drivers with double digit totals. Everyone else reached triple digit numbers. Spencer Pigot/No/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 302.

The overall top five drivers were Jones, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, and Top Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Honda. Of those, Sato and Bourdais had led very early on, for a short while, before Jones took the top slot.

Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet remains the top driver overall, with a speed of 229.745 mph. The overall top Rookie is Santino Ferruci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Power sad “We tried some qualifying stuff, so we’re definitely narrowing in on what we need for setup. We still need to make the racecar a bit better. We’re going to go completely for qualifying stuff tomorrow and see how we run.”

There were four cautions, two for drivers and two for track inspections/debris. Total yellow time was . 40.57 minutes. The day effectively ended when the last caution was called for lightning near the track at 4:29pm. O’Ward’s caution was and the one for Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2 Save Lives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet was so brief ithardly counted. She stalled on course but restarted before the emergency crew reached her. She experienced a vibration and was concerned. The team was still diagnosing but was hoping it was just a bad wheel weight.

Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing Honda narrowly avoided any aftermath from Rosenqvist’s accident. Despite graphic TV footage showing debris heading his way, Harvey was able to avoid the flying missiles. Only one piece hit a rear panel, making a small dent.

AFP on No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet

AFP on No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

According to NTT IndyCar Series Technical Director, Kevin Blanch, aka ‘Rocket’- no driver has had his or her AFP tested since they were first installed on the race cars at the Open Test last month. The Advanced Frontal Protection device is now mandated on all cars, until the next iteration of driver safety has evolved. IndyCar has promised the AFP is just in its first stages, and something new is coming soon. Maybe we’ll have some news on Carb Day. The mission of the AFP is to protect the driver from low, broadside projectiles. The current device is a 3 inch tall titanium deflector built by Dallara and bolted onto the leading edge of the chassis. It’s thinner than the Halo, which is mandated in F1 and FE. The Halo wouldn’t work on the current IndyCar. All IndyCar teams buy their deflectors from Dallara, who makes them according to IndyCar specs.

AFP

Max Chilton No.59 AFP

Zach Veach No.26 AFP

It’s been great to see IndyCar driver Robert Wickens whipping around in his manually-operated wheelchair.

Robert Wickens

Robert Wickens
He’s quite often seen in the Pit Lane, with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team. Sometimes he hitches a ride with a traveling golf cart. He said he’s up at 5am for rehab and then goes to the track in time for practice, which is getting a bit tiring. He’s helping out his four teammates.

Robert Wickens hitchin' a ride

WELCOME TO INDIANAPOLIS! FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY.

Thunderstorm

WONKY WEDNESDAY

Felix Rosenqvist No.10 Honda - before

Felix Rosenqvist No.10 Honda – BEFORE

Is crashing contagious? First former F1 phenom – Fernando Alonso crashed the No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet at noonish. He was on a fairly clear track, and hit three times on both sides of the track, knocking all four corners. Then just at the start of Happy Hour, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crashed in Turn 2. He is unhurt, but the car is not. He spun around and hit the concrete wall on the right and bounced spinning across to the SAFER barrier. The drivers behind him evaded and avoided quite skillfully. Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet missed the spinning Honda by inches. Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM was on the receiving end of flying carbon fiber debris. Rosenqvist lost a whole wheel assembly which went flying down the track. The track was down for 17-18 minutes. The car will require major work and the team may go to its backup car – the road course car he drove last weekend. Rosenqvist said “I was behind Colton (Herta) and just trying to run in traffic, and I felt just a very sudden change of having a bit of push and it went very loose, very fast. I couldn’t react to it. A shame, but that’s how it is.”

With the two crashes causing about 42 minutes of down time, the other four cautions for track inspections and debris brought the total of caution time to 1:18.42 hours. Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda turned the most laps – 132. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet ran the least, with 37 laps. The team noticed something in the vitals that it felt would jeopardize the health of the DRR engine, so opted to change the engine proactively. The total numbers of laps turned Wednesday was 3219.

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Basically two drivers led the charts all day – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet led the last half of the session at 228.856 mph. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was fastest in the morning and into the early afternoon wth a lap of 228.835 mph.

Josef Newgarden No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet

Newgarden brushed it off that it was a big deal, saying “It didn’t really anything to have his number at the top of the trylon. “It’s really nothing. It was an OK day, for us at least. You saw it’s not easy. A coupe of wrecks today. I think that shows that it’s not super straightforward to try and get around here even on a practice day.”

Dixon was second; with Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet third; the top Rookie, Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda; in fourth and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penkse Chevrolet.

Spencer Pigot No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Helio Castroneves No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet

Left to Right: Spencer Pigot; Santino Ferruci; and Helio Castroneves.

Overall for the two days combined, the defending Indy 500 winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet is still fastest overall at 229.745 mph. The fast five overall are Power, two of his three Penske Chevrolet teammates-Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards and Newgarden, with Dixon and Pigot fourth and fifth overall.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

The 2017 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, was the fastest in the No Tow category, despite being thirty-fourth overall. He agreed with Newgarden that the times and rankings this early on in the week weren’t significant in the long scheme of things. He didn’t go out in the late afternoon as he’d already accomplished all the items on the team’s checklist – “We were really efficient in the first two days of our specific checklist on the 27 car.” There was nothing to be learned from running at 5pm in the afternoon when the Indy 500 would be over by 3pm. Rossi only turned 46 laps. He spent time on the stand of teammate Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda. But it wasn’t to help Marco, it was to learn from him. But that’s not as crass as it sounds. The Andretti drivers gather daily for debriefing around the round table and share all their ideas and experiences. Rossi said this took getting used to at first, because it wasn’t the way they did it in Europe. “Just running through a checklist of things to try ad understand everything we learned over the offseason and applying it to kind of all five cars in different ways and compiling as much information as we can. That’s the advantage about being on a big team for this event When you have this much practice, you can really kind of divide and conquer, and I think we’re doing that well so far. It’s an open book. We share everything.”

MCLAREN GARAGE

The McLaren Racing team will be changing engines and cars overnight after all. They will be ‘building’ the Carlin backup car, which was built to McLaren specs. The McLaren Primary car will be rebuilt as a backup car. “When the engine cooled after the incident, the cam cover cracked, which is not uncommon with that sort of impact. McLaren is changing engines this evening due to crash damage.”

Chauffeured Patricio O'Ward

Patricio O'Ward No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet

Empty #88Pit

Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet passed all three levels of his Rookie Orientation Program in his early-morning track session, so it’s all systems go for all 36 drivers from here on out. O’Ward’s afternoon went so smoothly, the team packed up and called it a day early on. He turned 70 laps for the day.

The speeds are picking up, but they can be deceptive as there are two variables – with a tow and running alone. Tuesday the teams were busy working on setups, so they were in and out of the pits and garage. Wednesday the drivers spent more time on the track, and in the pits with crews working on tweaks and fine tuning.

Yellow Shirts Crossing Patrol

Yellow Shirts Crossing Patrol

OOPS!

NO.66 MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet had the first accident during practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. He hit the Turn Three walls at 12:34pm while he was running sixteenth of 36 drivers, behind Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Linage Racing Honda. Alonso is not hurt, he got out of the car on his own power, with a smile; but, as per protocol for anyone who hits the wall, he was checked out at the Medical Center. The car came back on the rollback truck, looking worse for the wear.

Alonso said “It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero. The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully we will come back stronger tomorrow. I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys.

“We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake. We will learn from this and hopefully tomorrow we’re back on track and back stronger.”

Alonso said the car wasn’t loose. “No, I think it was just pure understeer that I didn’t expect. I was running a bit close to another car and suddenly mid-corner I lost completely the front grip. I tried to lift off and avoid the wall.”

After the car was parked in the garage, McLaren Sporting Director Gil de Ferran said that the team would make a decision in an hour or so as to rebuilding their primary McLaren-built car or go to a backup car from Carlin, which isn’t finished yet.

It took less than an hour for the team to indicate they would be rebuilding their car.

The ongoing track session stopped for cleanup, and there was a mass exodus from the pit lane to the garages. It was a natural break for lunch. The track was down for 25 minutes. It was about 70 degreesF with track temperature of over 100. There wasn’t much of a breeze.

Alonso said his Wednesday progress “felt much better than yesterday. Definitely we were moving in the right direction. Small steps that we learned today that hopefully we can bring for next time. I’m sorry for the guys.”

Alonso was philosophical about his mindset now that there was a lot of work to be done. “Nothing you can do. These things happen in motorsport. Better today than on the 26th. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.” He had run 46 laps before the accident.

Garage Crowd Control

NTT IndyCar Tech Crew observing

It was a crowd scene in the garages, even before the tow truck arrived. People started running to the McLaren garage as soon as the accident occurred. Many media hot-footed it through Gasoline Alley, and all the TV folks arrived on their golf carts. The ubiquitous Yellow Shirts with whistles showed up to direct traffic, keeping everyone on the opposite side of the garages. In true F1-fashion, as soon as the race car was off-loaded, the garage doors immediately came down. McLaren is the only team with a privacy screen, which is so common in F1. Meanwhile, down the road from McLaren, all the NTT IndyCar Scrutineers were closely observing the whole scene.

Perhaps it was a bit ironic that a loose dangling body panel said “A whiter smile faster.”

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