HAPPY HARVICK!

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Kevin Harvick aka Happy Harvick, made it two for two in winning races this weekend, putting his No.4 Mobil 1 Ford in Victory Circle Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. He won the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick was the 11th winner in the 16 Cup races so far.

Harvick, the California Kid, had never won a Cup race at Sonoma, the Cup track he considers ‘home.’ His team owner, Tony Stewart, won the race last year. This year, the Stewart Haas, owned by Stewart and Gene Haas, team switched to Ford.

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

“It’s been a lotta work, a lotta hours, and it’s paying off. This is worth the wait, to come to Sonoma for so many years. This weekend has worked out well.

“It means a ton to get this Sonoma win. To finally check this one off the list. I feel like we have been close a couple times but never put it all together. Being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list and today we were able to check that box.”

Harvick hadn’t won a race this year, so this was his first win of the season, his 36th career victory, and his first win since his team switched to Ford for this season. The team has won twice, the other victory belonging to Kurt Busch. Ford has won seven races this season. Harvick’s win brings him up to third in the Driver points.

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Photo by Mike Burghardt

As race wore down, Harvick was slowing down to save fuel, but still maintaining a healthy lead ahead of contending SHR teammate,Clint Bowyer. Harvick led twice in the race, laps 65-66 and the last 21 laps.

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

Harvick beat Bowyer by 8.036 seconds. Harvick had slowed his pace to save on fuel, gambling on there being no late-race caution. Bowyer had some interactions with a couple of other drivers, but hung in there to finish runner-up. “You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 (Kyle Larson) check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front. We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just had to start dead last to get it.”

Cars 3

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Clint Bowyer No.14 FordBowyer had the CARS 3 racecar this weekend. For those who need more encouragement to go see the movie just out, which features substantial voiceovers from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, here is another photo of the Pixar CARS.

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

Third through fifth were Brad Keselowski/No.2 Freightliner Elite Support Ford; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota; and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota.

Dale Earnhardt No.88 Chevrolet

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran as high as third, but finished sixth overall. He was asked what stood out for him in his 17-race career, making him the most proud. “I think the wins and everything, are great. I enjoyed celebrating those. But, long after your career; guys come along and win races and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten. But, who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well. I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever; and I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. And, what people I think will remember, is always you’re alive and beyond. Hopefully I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Kyle Larson

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Pole Sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet led for the first nine laps before being passed by Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota. He then ran off course and fell backwards. Larson won four different races in the past week, but was lapped in the fading moments of the Cup race. He finished twenty-sixth. However, Larson maintain his points lead, 659 points, thirteen ahead of Truex.

Daniel Suarez/No.19 Stanley Toyota was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.

Harvick won Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race, and said then, and now, that he wanted to keep busy on weekends, wanted to get more laps on a road course, and definitely wanted to bring more attention to and work with the Western series to help them get more attention and sponsorship. The Western drivers sometimes don’t get equal representation or focus as do the Eastern series, and Harvick wants to change that.

Martin-Truex

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota won the first Stage, making it the eleventh stage he’s won this season, which helps him points wise. With two wins and 11 stages, he has 21 Playoff Points, more than any other Cup driver. His day didn’t end so well, however, as his engine failed and he retired on Lap 86.

Jimmie Johnson/No48 Lowe’s Chevrolet won Stage Two, his first. He already has two victories, so he’s in the Playoffs.

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford had a character-building race. She had her best start this season, sixth. Patrick had contact with Earnhardt in the first stage, and finished thirty-seventh. That brought out a caution to rearrange the tire stacks. She started Stage Two from twentieth, and had another contact with Earnhardt which included AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger Chevrolet, which spun her wherein she was then hit by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford. Patrick finished that stage in 34th. She started Stage Three from eighteenth spot and finished 17th, on the lead lap. “It definitely wasn’t the day the Code 3 Associates team was expecting, but we were able to battle back to a decent finish. The car was just awful in the final laps of the last two runs, but we made the most of it at the end.” Her boyfriend, Stenhouse, was evaluated and released from the infield care center.

Also into character-building was Allmendinger. He started fifth, led for four laps and then had encounters and excursions. He then lost power and finished thirty-fifth, six laps down. “I don’t know what happened there. I just noticed what was going to be our final pit stop I kind of looked down and just noticed the battery starting to die. From there that was it. Shutting all the switches off and everything wasn’t going to work. I’m mad at myself for not driving very well. The car was pretty good. That first stint was good. The No. 78 (Martin Truex) was pretty good, but thought we were going to be okay. I just didn’t drive very well and just bad luck again.”

Kasey Kahne/No.5 Microsoft Windows Chevrolet hit the wall hard on the last lap which brought out a caution but didn’t affect Harvick taking the victory. Kahne finished twenty-fourth, one lap down. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center. “It was a hard hit. No. 15 no clue who he is, I saw him a lot today lapping him, but he went low down the front stretch and then just, I was going to his outside and he just turned right and just hit me, put me straight in the wall getting the white flag there. No clue what he was thinking. You obviously don’t know what he’s doing either.”

There were ten leaders and thirteen lead changes. Other leaders were Truex three times for 25 laps; Hamlin twice for thirteen laps; Keselowski once for 17 laps; Johnson once for 12 laps; Kyle Busch once for three laps; JTG Daughtery Chevrolet teammates, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger and Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford, each once for four laps; and Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, once for a lap. McMurray also turned the fastest lap

Harvick Cup Banner

As the race progressed, the average race speed increased to 77.710 mph, but never reached last year’s average of 80.966 mph. The three-stage race was interrupted by six cautions for 12 laps, but none for the third and final stage – 60 laps.

There were several speeding tickets, including Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Joey Logano.

Other penalties included too many crew over wall or over wall too soon or not in contact with outside tire, and pitting before pit road open.

Post Race Tech Inspection Report: First and second place cars plus the random car, No.1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and left for the NASCAR R&D Facility in Charlotte. The third, fourth and fifth place finishing cars passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and were released. NASCAR Tech had an issue with the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota having two lug nuts not safe and secure. This means a one-race suspension for the Crew Chief and a $20,000 fine. The Kyle Busch team is already serving a Crew Chief suspension for having five lug nuts not safe and secure leaving the pits at Dover. That wheel left the car. At Sonoma, the No.18 Assistant Crew Chief was filling in. Now the No.18 team will go to the next backup Crew Chief.

The next race is 1 July 2017 at Daytona International Speedway.

Stage Three Restart!

SONOMA SUNDAY

Sunday morning at Sonoma Raceway was overcast and downright chilly. But the enthusiastic fans didn’t seem to mind.The RV field across the road and down aways from the track was very full with campers and lots of team flags. The Trackside TV show was broadcast live from Victory Circle with various drivers and notables. Remnants of colorful confetti from Saturday’s Victory Circle were strewn everywhere. Happy fans were queuing up for parade laps around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile NASCAR track configuration.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick. Photo by Mike Burghart

Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race was, as always, exciting and filled with drama. Pole sitter, Will Rodgers/No.7 Solvang Brewing Company Chevrolet led most of the race, but in the end was beaten by 2014 NASCAR Cup Champion, Kevin Harvick, who started sixth, drove No.4 Fields Ford. He turned the fastest lap of 88.302 mph/1:21.131. The Margin of Victory ahead of Rodgers, a Rookie, was 0.530. Rodgers was running his first K&N road race.

Finishing third through fifth were David Mayhew/No.17 MMI Racing Chevrolet; Michael Self/No.9 Sunrise Ford; and Rookie Derek Kraus/No.19 Carlyle Tools Toyota, who is now third in the standings.

Will Rodgers

Kevin Harvick

David Mayhew

Left to Right: Will Rodgers, Kevin Harvick, and David Mayhew.

Harvick, one of four Cup drivers entered in the race, said he wanted to run the race for fun and give back to the series which gave him his start. “It always feels good to win no matter what it is. The main objective was to come have fun, shine a little light on the series and shine a little light on how much talent is in the series. This particular series did a lot for me and to come back and be a part of it, see the health of it and see the young guys racing was the main objective.

Kevin Harvick banner

“It’s always fun to race in front of your home state fans. It’s been a long time since I raced in this particular series here, so it was a fun weekend.”

Rodgers said “For some funny reason, I had a feeling as far back as four weeks ago that it was going to be me and Kevin coming into turn 11 on the last lap. And sure enough, there we were. He ran a really good race, I learned a lot from him. We were able to lead some laps there in the beginning. It doesn’t feel too bad to finish second today.” Rodgers moved up to fourth in the standings.

Todd Gilliland/No.16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota maintained his lead in the standings, with his sixth place finish.

The other Cup drivers running the race were Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez. Blaney, driving No.88 Discount Tire Ford, ran hard and well, before his starting third and then ending up at the rear, and working his way back up the field. He unfortunately had to retire mechanical on Lap 53 of the 64-lap race. Suarez started seventh and had worked up to third near the end only to suffer mechanical issues which dropped him back to eleventh at the finish. This was his first Cup weekend on a road course, his first time at the wine country track. All the Cup drivers drove hard and well, and the K&N drivers appreciated the opportunity to race with the professionals, giving them a chance to learn from the best.

Kevin O’Connell from the Cup race was also entered, but withdrew after qualifying.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Sonoma round of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series is one of the first race tracks to which Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won’t be returning, as he ‘retires’ from full-time Cup racing. Track President & General Manager, Steve Page and his staff set the bar high in terms of unique and memorable ways to salute NASCAR’s most popular driver for the past 14 years. Drawing on Dale and wife Amy’s love of dogs, Sonoma Raceway will sponsor the training of three service/comfort dogs who will work with children. The three puppies, named Dale, Junior and Amy were introduced to Earnhardt in a surprise ceremony Friday just prior to his scheduled media conference.

DaleEarnhardt No.88

Earnhardt was also presented with a a more traditional Sonoma Raceway (huge) wine bottle for his trophy case. There will be other highlights during the Sunday pre-race ceremonies. He starts the race from tenth position, and there will be no missing Junior’s racecar on track, with its in-your-face yellow. Way to go, Dale!

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter. Photo by Mike Burghart

Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer and Executive Producer of the movie, CARS 3, John Lasseter, is the Official Pace Car Driver for the Cup race; and Cristela Alonzo, the voice in CARS 3 of elite trainer Cruz Ramirez, is the Grand Marshal. He said he wasn’t nervous until he got his Pace Car lessons from Brett Bodine. There is no Cruise Control on the tricked-out Toyota Pace Car, so he’ll have to manually control the mandated 40 mph pace car speed. But he said “It was the thrill of a lifetime” getting his lessons

All CARS movies were directed by Sonoma County residents, and Sonoma Raceway President/General Manager, Steve Page, facilitated Lasseter’s introduction to the world of NASCAR.

The cowl area of the front engine cover has an air intake opening which teams cover up for aero reasons. The teams seem to delight in finding trick emblems to affix on these covers while the race cars are on the grid prior to the race.

No.1 Cessna

No.34 Love's Stop

No.20 Stanley

Cup Starting Grid

GANASSI FRONT ROW

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet continued his NASCAR dominance Saturday with his second straight pole position in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway. His best lap was 1:15.177 at 95.295 mph. This is his fourth start at Sonoma, and his fourth career pole in 127 Cup races.

Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet will start next to him, with a qualifying lap of 1:15.249/95.204 mph.

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray

Third through fifth were Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota; Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Carmel Toyota; and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

Larson was stoked, winning the pole at his ‘home’ track with lots of family and friends. His idea of celebrating is going to nearby Calistoga Speedway to watch Saturday night short-track racing. “It feels good. This is my home track, I grew up about an hour and a half from here. So, always love coming to Sonoma. It’s a fun place and our race cars are always fast. I felt like I’ve had a shot at the pole every time I’ve qualified here and just haven’t gotten the job done. Focused on hitting my marks today and messed up a little bit there on that run. Honestly, didn’t think it was that good of a run. I felt like I had less grip there, but we were able to probably make up some time in the braking zones and stuff like that and run a good enough lap for the pole, so it was pretty cool.”

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

McMurray said “It was a really good lap. The team is on a roll and it’s awesome. On my sticker run I missed Turn 7, so I knew that I had given up a couple of tenths probably in that corner. But on my last run, I did everything I thought really well. The No. 42 just put together a really good lap and was able to have enough of a cushion, he messed up Turn 11, but he had enough of a cushion there that he was able to overcome it. It was a good day though for our organization. Our cars have been so good this year and both teams have run so well and it has just continued this weekend. Congratulations to Mike Hull at Road America (IndyCar race),) who has been with Chip for 25 years.”

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez of Mexico was the top Rookie, qualifying eleventh in No.19 Stanley Toyota. This is his first time at Sonoma Raceway, his first Cup road race.

Suarez is one of four Cup drivers who are also running Saturday afternoon’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Race. The others are Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Kevin O’Connell – who withdrew at the last moment. Harvick won the race in another very exciting, fun-filled race in one of NASCAR’s exciting Home Track Series.. Harvick said he ran it to have fun and to shine attention on the young up and coming drivers. And that he did – he raced hard against pole sitter, Rookie Will Rodgers of Solvang CA, who led much of the race and finished second.

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford will start sixth, making it her third-best starting position in the Cup Series and the best start by a female at Sonoma Raceway. The previous best was her eleventh position last year and in 2014.

One of the long-time ‘Road Racing Ringers,’ Boris Said/No.33 Circle Sport Chevrolet may be the oldest driver, at the admitted age of 55. While he’s grateful to be running Cup still, at his age, he is pleased with all the young guns and said it’s time for a changing of the guard. This weekend’s crop has five drivers age 25 or younger, with the youngest two being 21, months apart – Chase Elliott and Erik Jones. Josh Bilicki/No.51 Marriott Chevrolet is 22, Ryan Blaney/No.21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford is 23, and Larson is 24. Ty Dillon/No.13 GEICO Chevrolet is 25.

Thirty-seven of the 38 entries qualified. Matt Kenseth/No.20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota eschewed making the run as he already was going to be starting at the back due to an engine change.

Sunday’s 110-lap race will start at noon local time/3pm ET and air live in FOX Sports 1 TV, the last of the FOX TV broadcasts for the season.

Goodyear Tires

IT’S ALL ABOUT CARS

Cars 3

The pace picked up Saturday morning at Sonoma Raceway for Day Two of the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 250 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend. After Friday’s two practice sessions, cars were again going through the technical inspection process prior to their noon-time qualifying session. Once cleared, they lined up in Pit Lane side by side, all neat and tidy, awaiting their turn to peel out.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the paddock, the CARS 3 display was being set up, the final stop in a cross-country tour of 27 cities promoting the release of the latest Pixar movie. Three life-sized versions of the movie’s cars will be in the display, including No.95 Lightning McQueen.

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, will drive the 2017 Toyota pace car for Sunday’s Cup race. He was the executive producer on CARS 3. Cristela Alonzo, voice of the film’s elite trainer, Cruz Ramirez, will be the Grand Marshal Sunday.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Leader, Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet, was fastest Friday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway for the final practice session leading up to the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race. He drove 94.389 mph/1:15.899, one of only two drivers who were in the fifteens. Larson also turned the most laps of any – 30. He edged Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Carmel Toyota, who turned a 1:15.935 at 94.344 mph.

Dale Earnhardt/No.88 Axalta Chevrolet was third. He had led most of the morning session. AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet was fourth, followed by Jamie McMurray/No1 Cessna Chevrolet.

NASCAR Penalty Box

Three drivers sat inside their cars in NASCAR’s equivalent of the Penalty Box for fifteen minutes prior to the first practice, for failing multiple tech inspections at the Michigan Cup race. They were Kurt Busch/No.41 Monster Energy/Haas Automotive Ford; Ty Dillon/No.13 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet; and Erik Jones/No.77 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota.

Final practice was more lively than the earlier session.

All 38 entries ran the session. Several drivers barely warmed their tires, including Landon Cassil/No.34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, who ran once around. Jones turned seven laps, getting out in his backup car which was thrown together after his tire wall encounter in Turn Eleven, in which he wrecked his car and damaged the tire barrier setup.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott/No.24 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet had an even harder hit in Turn Ten. He slammed into the concrete wall, first with the front end and then with the rear. The Cup Series youngest driver was evaluated and released from the infield care center, cleared to drive. He was able to get the car into the pits, where his crew parked it outside the garage where the team could dismantle it and salvage whatever parts could be saved. Inside his garage, the crew started to work on the backup car.

Elliott said “I just made a mistake. It was really my fault. I hate it for my teammates on the No. 24 team. They sure don’t deserve it. They worked hard this past week to get this car ready to come out here a long way from home. So, made a mistake and we shouldn’t be having that.”

Cole Whitt/No.72 RTIC Coolers Chevrolet slide in his own oil in Turn Seven and retired with a blown engine. This caused a caution for extensive cleanup and oil dry.

Five drivers of the 38 are making their Cup debut: Kevin O’Connell/No.15 SBC Contractors Inc Chevrolet; Alon Day/No.23 earthwater Toyota; Billy Johnson/No.43 Smithfield Ford; Josh Billicki/No.51 Marriott Chevrolet; and Tommy Regan/No.55 OscaroParts.com/Capri Tools Chevrolet. O’Connell is also entered in the Carneros 200 K&N Race Saturday afternoon and qualified 28th in the 32-car field, but withdrew at the last minute.

Alon Day

Alon Day

Day, who ran as high as eleventh before finishing 23rd in final practice, is the first Israeli to compete in NASCAR’s top tier Series. He comes from a mostly road-racing background. Day competes full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and runs up front much of the time. Day comes to Sonoma fresh from his win last weekend at Brands Hatch in England. That series only has one oval (Netherlands) in its 12-race schedule. Those cars are more akin to the current K&N Series cars, much lower in horsepower and comfort. Day is racing for BK Motorsports, which is a Charter Team in the Cup Series and runs other drivers.

Johnson is also a road racer, coming from a sports car background. He races full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the World Endurance Cup Series, and raced last weekend at the 24 Hours of LeMans. He also races full time in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Series, where he has the most race wins. Johnson is also is a test driver for Ford Performance. The young American, with a Bus Ad degree, is substituting this weekend for Aric Amirola, who is recuperating from a race injury.

Next up is qualifying, road racing style. All cars will go out for thirty-minutes knock-out session, with the top twelve making it to a ten-minute shootout.

Cup Cars Qualifying Lineup

SONOMA SALUTATIONS!

Sonoma Sign

Martin Truex

Martin Truex

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers waited until the waning moments of the 115-minute long first practice at Sonoma Raceway to turn up the wick. Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota literally jumped to first in the last minute, with a lap of 1:15.740, the only driver to reach the fifteens.

The last ten minutes had three other leaders and top ten position changes. Truex edged Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota for the lead, who edged Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford, who edged Dale Earnhardt Jr/No.88 Axalta Chevrolet-who had led most of the session. While running third, Earnhardt was edged by Clint Bowyer/No.14 Cars 3 Ford, who won Sonoma in 2012. Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford Chevrolet jumped into the fifth slot, then dropped to sixth followed by his teammate and road race veteran, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet.

Rounding out the top ten were Chase Elliott/No.24 Chevrolet, Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, and Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Toyota.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr No.88

Clint Bower No.14

Chris Buescher No.37

AJ Allmendinger

Joey Logano No.22

Row One: Left to Right: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr; Dale Earnhardt, Jr; and Clint Bower
Row Two: Left to Right: Chris Buescher; AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano.

Big Blue Sweeper

Big Blue Sweeper

There was a Red Flag and two cautions and a Red Flag during the 115-minute session. The Red Flag was early on, to clean up the mess on the track caused by the off-course excursion by Ty Dillon/No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet. The track clean-up vehicles got a good workout. The caution was for Erik Jones/No.775-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota, when he hit the Turn Eleven tire wall hard enough for it to dislodge the protective rubber conveyer belt. Neither driver was hurt, but Jones crew brought out his backup car. The second caution was for Matt Kenseth/No.20.DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota, who lost an engine.

Ty Dillon

Erik Jones

Matt Kenseth

Left to Right: Ty Dillon No.13 Chevrolet; Erik Jones No.77 Toyota; and Matt Kenseth No.20 Toyota.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

The big feel-good moment of the day was the Sonoma Raceway President Steve Page’s presentation to Dale Earnhardt of a unique and definitely warm-and-fuzzy gift in honor of this being his last year of full-time NASCAR Cup racing. Knowing of Dale and wife Amy’s love for animals and wanting to do things which have a positive impact on the lives of others, Sonoma Raceway will sponsor three Labrador Retriever puppies being raised and trained to help child victims in courthouse settings, with disabilities at home and in the community. The puppies are named Dale, Junior and Amy. It was the first time I’ve ever seen Junior so surprised. He was also presented with a large Sonoma Raceway ceremonial wine bottle. Sonoma Salutation!

Sonoma Wine Bottle

The dogs were donated by Micons Labradors and Fieldstone Labradors, and will be trained by PALS Assistance Dogs. Another unique aspect of the thorough training process is that the dogs spend twice a week with incarcerated youth who assist in the training. Page said “Dale has such a huge following among our fans and we wanted to find a way for his legacy to carry forward locally, well beyond his days as a driver.”

Steve Page, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and PALS Nancy Pierson

Steve Page, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and PALS Nancy Pierson

At Sunday’s race the track will distribute 10,000 “Thanks, Junior” hand-held fans. And if there’s continuation of the warm weather the Greater Bay Area has been experiencing, the fans will be welcome. Additionally, in the pre-race ceremonies, there will be a highlight video, and the Patriots Jet Team will write “#88″ in the sky as part of their traditional aerial show.

SATO SHINES!

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda held onto the past six laps of the 200-mile race to take his first win at the 101st running of Indianapolis 500 presented race. He took the lead for the second time on Lap 195 and held off the charging Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet for his first oval victory. The Margin of Victory was 0.2011, the sixth closest finish in the history of the legendary race. He said “It’s such a privilege to win here. So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn’t really matter. Winning today, it’s just superb.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves tried and tried after Sato’s last pass on him, but just couldn’t get around Sato, and finished runner-up – for the third time at the Indy 500. He said “This place is unbelievable! I really thought we had it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t do it.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

The veteran Brazilian driver, in his twentieth INDYCAR season, has finished runner-up three times. He’s won the Indy 500 three times and has been chasing his fourth victory since 2009. “It was so close. We’ve got to keep going. I take my hat off to Takuma (Sato) for having a strong car today. He really seemed to be getting better as the race went along. I say, ‘great job’ to my guys. They worked their tails off. We saw it all today. We were in the back and we led some laps. We avoided disaster and we almost got number four.”

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished third – the highest Indy 500 finish for the team. He congratulated Sato. “I didn’t really have the pace for him and Helio at the end.But we did the best we could. I think those guys were trimmed out quite a bit. Even in the draft, I was struggling to stay up with them. He was still pulling away.

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was Sato’s second career victory, the last being Long Beach 2013. Sato San, as his teammates call him, is the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Sato turned the fastest race lap of 226.190 mph on Lap 150.

Sato said “Unbelievable feeling. I cannot thank this team enough. Look at these guys. Fantastic. It was obviously a tough, tough race. But Helio really drives fair. I can trust him. I can really trust him coming from the outside. What a race. Hopefully the crowd enjoyed it.” In terms of knowing at what point he would win, “Until three laps to go, you really didn’t know. Me and Helio went side by side with three laps to go. You’ve got to go for it, run it flat. And we did it, and we pulled away. Fantastic.”

For Andretti Autosport, it was its fifth Indy 500 victory and third in the past four years. Andretti has had 65 career wins. Four of its six drivers led laps in Sunday’s race: Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28, seven times for 28 laps; Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29, four times for 27 laps; Alexander Rossi/No.98, six times for 23 laps; and race winner Sato twice for 17 laps. That’s 19 lead changes of the 35 recorded, and Andretti drivers led 95 of 200 laps.

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Team Owner, Michael Andretti said “He (Sato) is awesome! Oh, my God; I can’t believe it. We work really really hard on this race. We focus on it a lot. Having all those cars out there, gaining all that information helps a lot. And we have great people on this team, and they’re the ones who got this win, as well as Takuma. He drove unbelievable.”

The Verizon INDYCAR Series has had six different winners in six races this season. The race had a record 15 different leaders, nearly half the field. Nineteen cars finished the race, 16 on the lead lap. There were 11 cautions for 50 laps, one-fourth of the race.

Race Start

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones was the top finishing Rookie in the race, but he never led a lap. Another Rookie got the lion’s share of attention all May long. McLaren F1 driver, Fernando Alonso skipped his Monaco Grand Prix to do something he’d always wanted to do. “I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alonso was more relaxed, spontaneous, accepting of his new race environment, and willing to learn than anyone ever expected from an elite athlete from a supposedly more sophisticated and sheltered race environment. He met with the media one last time, immediately after the race – which he didn’t finish due to engine failure on Lap 180. He was credited with a P24 finish. “Obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today was not possible. anyway, it was a great experience, the last two weeks. It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking of that moment if Zak or someone from the team was taking a picture because I want that picture at home.

“Thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here.”

Fernando drinking the milk

Fernando drinking the milk

He captured the heart of the Media Sunday with his farewell. “Last thing. Thank you for all media. I didn’t won, but I will drink a little bit of milk.” With that he brought out a small carton of milk he’d been hiding and drank it all, and waving it to the media as he left. “You follow me for two weeks every single minute, but I really enjoy. Thanks for the welcoming. See you in Austin.”

The race was marred by three big accidents, both causing downtime for cleanup and track repair. All drivers were taken to the infield care center, checked and released, cleared to drive. The same could not be said for any of the race cars. There also were two minor accidents, in which no drivers were hurt; and one accident where a driver was transported.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The first accident was terrifying in its ferocity and and destruction, and it brought out the Red Flag for 19 minutes and 40 seconds. It is incredible and a testament to the safety of the race cars and the SAFER walls that pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Camping World Chip Ganassi Racing Honda wasn’t injured. On Lap 53 Dixon’s car went airborne after being hit by Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Dixon hit the catch fence and came down cockpit first on the SAFER wall before flipping away and landing on the ground. While airborne Castroneves drove under Dixon trying to escape the wreck. Castroneves said his winglet was hit by Dixon causing some damage which needed repairs. “I just shut my eyes and ended up in the grass.” Howard had hit the Turn One SAFER wall and came down the track and collected Dixon. In the history of the Indianapolis 500, there have only been nine red flags for reasons other than rain. Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was leading at the time, followed by Rossi, Sato, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon said after getting out of the infield care center: “I just got a little beaten up there. It was a bit of a rough ride. I’m bummed for the team and for Camping World. We got a little loose on the first stint there, but they dialed it in, and we started to make some progress. Overall, I think we were a little bit light on downforce but for later on in the race that would have been the right move to have. I’m just bummed for them and glad everyone is OK. It was definitely a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety of these cars. It’s tough. I was hoping Jay (Howard) would stay against the wall. I’d already picked a way to go and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. It makes you believe in the safety of these cars and the progress they’ve made.”

Max Chilton

Max Chilton. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Another big accident was multicar, on Lap 184. James Davison/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda hit, which in turn collected Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda. Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske spun to avoid them but hit the SAFER wall. Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was leading when the Pace Car came out, followed by Sato.

One of the lesser accidents involved Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, when he hit the Turn Three SAFER Wall, and Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda spun and hit the SAFER wall. Sato was leading at the Caution, followed by Rossi, RHR, Alonso, and JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Another big accident involved Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet on Lap 122. He spun on the short chute between Turns One and Two, hitting hard into the Turn Two SAFER wall and bouncing back on track. He got out of the car by himself, but was transported from the infield care center to IU Health Methodist Hospital for evaluation of chest discomfort. No further word on his condition has been received.

Pace Car leading Alonso and field

Pace Car leading Alonso and field. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

OFFICIAL INDIANAPOLIS 500 RACE RESULTS

1. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
2. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, Running
4. (15) Max Chilton, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, Running
6. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
8. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
9. (25) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (24) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (14) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
13. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (31) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (28) Pippa Mann, Honda, 199, Running
18. (29) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 194, Running
19. (22) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 186, Running
20. (33) James Davison, Honda, 183, Contact
21. (12) Oriol Servia, Honda, 183, Contact
22. (17) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 183, Contact
23. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
24. (5) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 179, Mechanical
25. (16) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 166, Mechanical
26. (32) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 155, Mechanical
27. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 136, Mechanical
28. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 125, Mechanical
29. (30) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 118, Contact
30. (26) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 65, Contact
31. (27) Jack Harvey, Honda, 65, Contact
32. (1) Scott Dixon, Honda, 52, Contact
33. (20) Jay Howard, Honda, 45, Contact

UNOFFICIAL INDYCAR POINTS
1-Helio Castroneves – 245
2-Scott Dixon-234
3-Simon Pagenaud-234
4-Takuma Sato-234
5-Alexander Rossi-190
6-Tony Kanaan-188
7-Will Power-186
8-Josef Newgarden-186
9-Ed Jones (R)-185
10-James Hinchcliffe-170
Max Chilton-170

Helio Castroneves

Photo by Nico Matamoros

SUNDAY SUNRISE SOUNDS AND SIGHTS

Pagoda

Sunday morning at 4am it was dry with a 20 percent chance of rain, 74 percent humidity and wind at 3mph. It was already starting to bustle and the queue outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 16th Avenue Gates was two blocks long. Fans were seen on the street walking to the track in the dark. Inside the track, the Pagoda was all lit and Media Center was filling up. Everyone who was awake was waiting for the 6am cannon to go off. It would be a wakeup call for the Verizon INDYCAR drivers who mostly stayed at the track in motorhomes. Welcome to The Brickyard, Fernando!

Cannon fired!

Cannon fired!

>

Fox TV Crew

Local TV Crew

Broadcast crews from the various local TV, radio stations, and networks were already setting up their vantage points to begin live broadcasting. While the locals may not get to see the race live, their local TV stations will have plenty of color and pre-race coverage. The anticipated attendance estimates for Sunday predict upward of 300,000.

Sunday Schedule

Sunday’s schedule is all about history, pomp and circumstance and tradition. There will be lots of marching bands and parade laps for Festival Princesses, drivers, Historic Cars and Military Silverado as well as the Red Carpet. By 9:30am the race cars will be moving to Pit Lane and then for at least half an hour they will be gridded. Getting around the Pagoda Plaza, Gasoline Alley or Pit Lane will become very problematic. Good luck in getting around. The congestion will be mega!

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

Friday night some lucky folks were treated to the American premiere of the new documentary, ‘McLaren.’ The producer, Matthew Metcalfe is at IMS this weekend starting his latest project, a feature-length documentary on INDYCAR driver, Scott Dixon. The movie, yet to be named, will be co-produced by GFC Films and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Group (UPHE). It will be shot in the US, New Zealand and France, directed by Bryn Evans. The expected worldwide release date is scheduled for 2018.

Matthew Metcalfe

Matthew Metcalfe

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

Metcalfe description of the project: “A powerful and inspirational story of dedication, fear and one athlete’s will to defy personal limitations, the documentary will blend cutting-edge race footage, intimate observational filming and unparalleled access to Scott, Chip Ganassi Racing and those who know the driver best to present a seminal study of one of the greatest race teams in the United States.”

Pagoda

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

SATURDAY COLLAGE

Autograph Mob

Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a day of several disparate events, strung together throughout the day. They included the on-track laps by the Indy Legends, autograph session for the Verizon INDYCAR Series drivers followed by their the open Drivers’ Meeting, two autograph sessions for the Indianapolis 500 Legends, Chevrolet Corral Laps, and three concerts: Clayton Anderson, Dustin Lynch, and Keith Urban.

Chevrolet had a fan session with six Indianapolis 500 Legends: Four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, three-time winner Helio Castroneves, two-time winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Al Unser Jr., and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. They had to have a police escort back from the downtown Indy 500 Float Parade in order to make the mid-afternoon session. The drivers were the celebs, riding in cars.

Some fans sat basking in the grandstands despite a distinct lack of on-track activity. Others wandered through Gasoline Alley as the teams do their final race preparations.

The hour-long INDYCAR drivers’ autograph session was an organized mob scene. Everyone was queued up nice and orderly according to driver preference. It was heavily monitored by IMS Yellow Shirts, IMS staff, and all the team/driver reps and handlers. Mingled in, especially in the vicinity of Fernando Alonso, were gendarmes of various ilks.

Autograph mob scene

This line is closed

Autograph queues

Tony Kanaan

Scott Goodyear & Alan Bestwick

Fernando Alonso

Brian Barnhart

Brian Barnhart. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

The Open Drivers’ Meeting was held in Pit Lane in front of the Grand Stands. There were awards presentations, giving of Starter Rings to all 33 Indy 500 Drivers, and the Race information given by Brian Barnhart.

Among the guests at the Drivers’ Meeting was this year’s Pace Car Driver, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, of TV fame. The heart throb is best known to some as Denny Duquette from Grey’s Anatomy, others remember Jason Crouse on “The Good Wife.” Others know him as the villain on The Walking Dead. He looked anything but at the meeting, in his spiffy leather Pace Car jacket. He’ll be driving the three Parade Laps and one Pace Lap in a 2017 Corvette Grand Sport. Each lap will increase by 10 mph. That should warm up cold tires.

Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti

Alexander Rossi & Milk Award

Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

JAR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso

James Davison

Left to Right: Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti with Baby Borgs; Michael Rossi with ‘Milk’ Award; Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi with Baby Borgs.

Left to Right: Pole Sitter Scott Dixon; JR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso; and James Davison.
Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda

James Hinchcliffe’s No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda made it through Tech Saturday morning after an overnight engine change. He’d lost his engine in Carb Day practice Friday afternoon.

This is the 14th time Corvette has paced the Indy 500, more than any other marque, and 28th time for a Chevrolet. Several previous Corvettes are on display in the Chevrolet display area across from The Pagoda. And I’m told that all the Pace Cars are stored in a vault below the Speedway Museum, along with a whole lot more of the Museum’s vast treasure trove of memorabilia. It takes special permission to see those exhibits.

Saturday afternoon Chevrolet hosted a fan-driven Q&A with six Indianapolis Legends: Four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, three-time winner Helio Castroneves; two-time winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Al Unser Jr., and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. It was a lively exchange of barbs, one-liners and war stories among the six.

AJ Foyt

Buddy Lazier

Juan Pablo Montoya

Rick Mears

Al Unser Jr

Helio Castroneves

Left to Right: AJ Foyt, Buddy Lazier, and Juan Pablo Montoya
Left to Right: Rick Mears, Al Unser, Jr., and Helio Castroneves
Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Friday night had been another mixed bag of weather – warm and nice, then cooling leading up to mid-evening. Friday night, while I was blissfully enjoying the American movie premiere of the ‘McLaren’ documentary, a big thunder and lightning storm occurred. It blew away and was nice again by movie’s end. Word was a bigger storm is due to hit Saturday night. Gotta love Indianapolis weather in the month of May. Not boring.

Shameless plug here for the McLaren movie. It is wonderful and well worth a watch, so be sure and catch it when it becomes available. An added treat at the premiere was having an introduction by the film producer, Matthew Metcalfe, and then a Q&A afterwords with Metcalfe and McLaren’s daughter, Amanda. A good time was had by all.

And word comes now that Metcalfe will now make a documentary on Scott Dixon.

McLaren road car

JR Rutherford's Indy 500 car

And in the foyer of the Indiana State Museum, where the movie was shown on the really big screen – two original McLarens were on display: the very first McLaren road car, and the indycar in which JR Rutherford won the 1974 Indianapolis 500. And outside the museum were two current McLaren road cars. And how sweet they sounded when they drove off.

Security has been tightened and awareness heightened since the announcement was made that Vice President Mike Pence will attend Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Changes have been made in some entrances and traffic patterns. Pence, formerly Governor of Indiana, has no official role in the weekend.

Mark Miles

Mark Miles

Mark Miles, INDYCAR President, announced Saturday the addition of China to a list of broadcast partners. Three outlets will air The Indianapolis 500, and in some cases, other INDYCAR races, and otherwise promote the series. The agreements were aided by Mitime Group, a sports organization and subsidiary of Geely, a Chinese auto manufacturer.

Miles said “Someday we hope to race internationally, and possibly in China, which is very important to us. The signing of this partnership is a terrific first step in presenting INDYCAR racing to the Chinese people.”

Stephen Starks, INDYCAR vice president of promoter relations said “It’s a big step toward the development of the sport in China, of which we have for a long time wanted to play an important part.”

INTERNATIONAL BROADCAST LIST – live/on delay
Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands – ESPN
Austria – Sport 1
Belgium – BeTV
Brazil – BAND
Canada – Sportsnet and TVA Sports
Caribbean – ESPN
Czech Republic – Nova Sport
Finland – Elisa Viihde Sport
France – Canal +
Germany – Sport 1
Greece – Nova Sports
Hungary – Digi Sports
Israel – One Sports
Italy – Sky Sports
Japan – Gaora
Latin America (excluding Brazil) – ESPN
Netherlands – Ziggo Sports
Middle East and North Africa – OSN
Romania – Digi Sports
Portugal – Sport TV
Russia and CIS – Viasat Sport
Serbia & ex-Yugoslavia – Arena Sports
Slovakia – Nova Sport
South Africa – Supersport
Spain – Movistar
Switzerland – Sport 1
Sub-Saharan Africa – Kwese Sports
United Kingdom – BT Sport

CASTRONEVES CARB-ED OUT

NALBERICO4

It was sunny, 71 degrees F/22C for the start of Carb Day practice. The track was 82 F/28C and there was little wind.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet was first in the hour-long session. He was a happy camper. “I think today it was just a great way to finish practice like this, show that we have a good car, a good balanced car, and we’re going for the big one on Sunday.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

In answer to what he will do in the first 50 laps, starting from an unaccustomed P19, he said “Well, normally you’ve got to check those boxes that we in the past we didn’t have to. We’ve got to pay attention with the people that surround you, make sure that, you know, you control everything on your own, put yourself in a good position so that if somebody makes mistakes, you don’t be part of it. And be patient, obviously, is always a good thing at this place. And, you know, take your time. Obviously when you have a good car like that, you don’t want to rush into things because it’s a long race. That’s probably what we’re going to do.”

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Second was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, at 226.802 mph. He was all smiles. “And come to today with Carb Day, is kind of really shakedown of the car because car was spitting off all the things and put everything back together with new engine. Install and then feel it out. Car felt really good. So that was a great sign because it’s just no surprise. You don’t want to have any surprise on Carb Day because all the work you’ve done in the last week, this is the result. We have a car and be ready for Sunday.”

Third and fourth were Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip and pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Camping World.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Top Rookie, in fifth position, was Fernando Alonso/No.29 Mclaren-Honda-Andretti Honda at 226.608 mph. He was happy with the session. “It was great. I mean, it was very smooth. You know, the car felt the best so far in the last two weeks. So extremely happy with the car. I was there making some moves, some different lines, just to try what I saw in the last three or four days in different medias from different years, so I was practicing that. I also did in the simulator in the last two or three days, I was putting it in place there.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

“It was a lot of action today in a one-hour session. You have a lot of things happening. Everything is compressed on those 60 minutes. So we had some yellow flags; we had some laps to test different things on the car. And just even, you know, very normal things that for everyone else will be straightforward. For me, I don’t know where, you know, if we change something on the car, where to find it, you know, on the steering wheel and things like that. So simple things that I am still running behind a little bit, but today I think we put all the ticks in all the boxes and extremely happy.”

All thirty-three Verizon INDYCARs took to the track Friday morning for the hour-long Carb Day practice, the last opportunity to check out the car before the race. It went well for most. One exception was James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. He blew an engine.

The session was busy and who was the fastest driver changed often. Among those were: Josef Newgarden, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi, Castroneves, Pippa Mann, Rossi again, Jones again, Conor Daly, Fernando Alonso and then a Caution – all in six minutes. Then Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alonso again and another Caution. Then Castroneves, another caution for Daly, and quickly another Caution for Hinchcliffe.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the most laps – 41. Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran the fewest-21. What was interesting to some and amazing to others was how many drivers drove so many laps and so fast, for a Carb Day. The total laps run was 960 in a session which was only half long due to cautions.

There were four cautions, for 31.29 minutes. Two were for track inspections. One was briefly for Conor Daly/No.4 AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet having slight contact with the front straight inside wall. Shortly after the track went Green, it went Yellow again, for Hinchcliffe leaving a trail of smoke into the pits. As the car sat waiting for the tow, oil dry was put down. Hinch was P 14 at the time with 29 laps. He immediately got on his Pit Box in Pit Lane to debrief. He was upbeat, “The good news is the No. 5 car was as strong as it was all month. We are very thankful that it happened now and now 20 minutes later, because that would have been five laps into the 500,”

When Alonso was asked if he was concerned about his car after Hinchcliffe’s engine failure, he said “As long as it’s in practice, it’s OK. You know, I mean, if you put it in another way, you know, if the practice today was 10 minutes shorter, that could happen on the parade lap. So I think it’s a good thing that these things happen in practice like this. We can make sure that we learn and we save engines for the race. So no concerns, not thinking on that problem, and I’m 100 percent will be OK.”

Copious amounts of oil dry had to be laid in Hinch’s path. The track session was extended five minutes to 12:05pm due to the length caution to clean up the track.

The only penalty assessed during the session was to Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, for making contact with pit personnel.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was the fastest car without a tow, at 220.881 mph. Most drivers had a tow, but six drivers were able to get out in clean air. For a long time, Jack Harvey had the fastest NT time of 220.744 mph. Some others were James Hinchcliffe, Sebastian Saavedra and Charlie Kimball.

With Hinchcliffe’s blown engine, the total for Indy, according to Honda, is eight, including the Grand Prix. Five were lost at Long Beach, and eight at Phoenix. “It hasn’t been unexpected as we’re pushing the envelope. They’ve been for different reasons and it’s being looked into.”

Chevrolet lost an engine earlier in the year, and they’ve changed two engines at Indy due to crashes.

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Pit Stop Challenge contest, making it seventeen wins for Penske Racing. He beat Hinchcliffe in the finals. Power’s best time was 11.619 seconds and Hinchcliffe’s was 13.223, total time Green Flag to Finish Line. Crew Chief Matt Jonson has now won three times, as have three other Crew Chiefs: Chuck Sprague, Rick Rinaman and Owen Snyder.

Will Power

Will Power

Power spoke highly of his crew. “These guys, all the teams, all the crews on all the cars at Team Penske work very hard in the offseason practicing pit stops, you know, and working out. They’re all fit, and they’re all ready to go. That was an example of four or five perfect pit stops, no mistakes.

“You know, when you think about the “500,” that’s what wins races. Mistakes like no mistakes on pit lane, quick pit stops under yellow, and I have absolute faith in these guys every time I pull in the pit box”

Jonsson, addressing the practice regimine, said “It varies with the schedule, obviously depending on how much we’re home and so on to get ready. We spend a great deal of time and to answer the question there, when you pick a pit crew, honestly it’s done per event. You may not be in that spot for the rest of the year if you don’t perform. We do have backup guys. If backup guys start performing better than the ordinary guy, if you so will, there will be a trade-out on that position. But that’s how we go about it.”

The lads were so quick, they fled after the presser before a nice group photo could be taken.

Other contenders were Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Partners Chevrolet: Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; James Hinchcliffe who used the Honda of his teammate, Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure, as his No.5 was having an engine change; Castroneves; Carpenter; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; and Dixon.

Other awards were presented Friday.

Adam Rovazzini, the chief mechanic of the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda driven by Jack Harvey, was named recipient of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. This honor goes to the Indy 500 chief mechanic who exemplifies the mechanical excellence, ingenuity and perseverance of its namesake, the legendary mechanic, Clint Brawner. Rovazzini received $5,000 from Firestone Racing and his name on a plaque which is in the Speedway Museum.

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

The Bob Russo Founders Award went to Holly Cain, a much-respected and popular motorsports journalist for the past 25 years, who has shown courage and provided inspiration in the face of personal adversity. Cain is the first female as an individual to receive the award in the 13-year history of the award. She has worked for several newspapers, AOL, Foxsports.com, NASCAR.com and written a book on NASCAR driver, Rusty Wallace. She has gone public with her breast cancer diagnosis and been a strong advocate and fundraiser for the disease.

Andy Hall

Andy Hall

Andy Hall received the annual Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. He currently works for ESPN and has worked for NASCAR and INDYCAR in the past.

In keeping with a new custom, IMS President, Doug Boles, unveiled the logo for next year’s Indy 500. He spoke of the design challenges, looking forward and yet incorporating parts of the existing logo. And he put in a plug for the 500 hours of Reservations – time to renew Indy 500 tickets at this year’s prices. “In an evolution from the logo for the 100th Indianapolis 500, the design for the 102nd “500” includes the iconic IMS “Wing and Wheel” logo and its spirit of speed. The “500” is underlined with a segment of the world-famous 2.5-mile oval, designed to represent the exit of Turn 4 down the main straightaway and into Turn 1. The typeface represents the athleticism, competition and cutting-edge technology that are hallmarks of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Every part of the logo leans with a 20-degree shear, symbolizing the relentless forward motion of the race’s competitors and the Indianapolis 500’s second century of competition. The color scheme features red, white, blue and steel, which together represent the American spirit and tenacity that has formed the core of the Indianapolis 500 since the inaugural race in 1911. These colors also were included in the logo for the 101st Indianapolis 500 that is taking place this Sunday, May 28, maintaining continuity between the two events.” So now you know.

INDY 500 2018 Logo

WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Dixon family

Scott Dixon and family. Photo by Anne Proffit.

Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda has the pole position for the 101st running of The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, with a four-lap average of 232.180 mph, the fastest four-lap average since Arie Luyendyk set the record with a time of 236.986 mph in 1996. Dixon also turned the fastest one-lap average of 38.6938 seconds, fastest since Arie Luyendyk set a 37.895 seconds/237.498 mph first lap in 1996. Dixon has led more Indy 500 laps than any other driver in this year’s field – 434.

This is the third-fastest qualified field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 228.400 mph. The fastest field average was 229.698 mph in 2014; the second-fastest field average was 228.648 in 2002.

It is Dixon’s third Indy 500 pole in 15 starts, and his 26th career pole. For his team, it’s the fifth Indy 500 pole and 88th career pole position. Dixon’s pole also marks the first pole for Honda this season. The previous five have been won by Team Penske Chevrolet.

The top spot changed almost every time one of the Fast Nine drivers went out, giving a few drivers a moment of glory and edgy anticipation as the next driver went out. And the laps just kept getting faster.

Dixon admitted he was surprised about the speeds. “I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number, but yeah, I don’t know, we seriously don’t think we expected to see the speed that we did. The whole pre-lineup for qualifying was debating with Christopher my engineer we trimmed too much, we trimmed too much, and I was basically talking myself out of it and seeing if he could maybe put some for downforce in the car, and he was like, man, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine. When I saw that first number, I was like, wow, this is impressive, so obviously a huge thanks to Honda, too. They’ve been pushing extremely hard, I think, with the engine. They’re definitely pushing it to the limit.”

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Second fastest, starting in the middle of the front row, will be Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, who was fastest Saturday. His lap time was 231.664 mph. “It actually was better than I thought it was going to be from watching some of the earlier runs. That’s all she had. Would it have been fun to win a third pole? Yes, but at the same time to be in the middle of the front row with two former ‘500’ champions, hopefully I can convert from the front row this time and earn a victory.”

Carpenter didn’t rise to any Honda-advantage baiting questions. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to get into that. I think Scott won the pole and congrats to them. You know, like I said earlier, I’m proud of the fact that we put both of our Chevrolets in the Fast Nine and gave it our best shot to win a pole for the whole group.

“But it’s certainly — the level of competition in this series from teams, drivers, engine manufacturers, it’s cut-throat, and you’ve got to be on it all the time. We’re right there, so it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s not for a lack of speed we’re on the front row. You’re not going to hear me complaining, we’re just going to keep getting ready to put the best 500 miles out there we can.”

Carpenter was pleased about the speeds. “I think it’s awesome. Driving cars fast around here is what this place is all about. I’m excited to see what the car next year is going to do. I hope it’s not a drop-off. You hear the crowd when they see those numbers, and I get as excited as they do. I think it’s awesome that we’re pushing that speed back up, and I hope it continues.”

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

Third, starting right in the front row, was last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Rossi spoke to missing out on pole position. “Yeah, I’m always disappointed if you’re not in front, but I think it’s a good effort from the team. Seeing Scott’s speed is pretty impressive. I know we couldn’t have done that. We’ve got to be content with the front row. It was something that really bothered me last year and for a year actually that we didn’t make the Fast Nine, so yesterday was a pretty big relief, and today was just about trying to go as high up as possible. Front row is good. You can win this race from anywhere, so it’s a good place to be, no dirty air, and we’ll just get the race off to a strong start and see where it goes.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie, in fifth position. “The practice felt good on the car, and then we spotted some issues with the engine. At one point in the morning we didn’t know if we were able to run in qualifying because we had to change the whole engine. But the team was amazing. I saw like 20 people around my car changing parts. They were guys from all six teams working on car 29 just to make it possible, so thanks to all that teamwork, I was able to go for qualifying. That was a truly good thing to experience today, how the teamwork plays here. I was extremely proud and happy of them.”

Rossi had an observation for Fernando which caught the F1 driver off-guard.”I’m more relaxed I think than I was last year just because I know what to expect, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Sunday was probably even before the end result was my favorite day of the year. I’m really looking forward to watching Fernando go through that because I think from 6:00 a.m. to noon before the race even starts –”

Fernando: “6 am?”

Rossi: “Yeah. Is probably the coolest six hours of your life. He’ll really enjoy it.”

Fernando left muttering and shaking his head.

The Fast Nine Shootout was the highlight of Armed Forces Pole Day. The weather was 76 degrees F, the track temperature was 110F, humidity 56 percent, and the winds were inconsistently windy at 16 mph or barely moving the wind sock. Mostly 2 mph for qualifying

The drivers qualified in reverse order of their finish Saturday, with the Fast Nine Shootout, as well as for the rest of the field which had a separate qualifying session. Marco Andretti/No.27 United data Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda went first in the Shootout, and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet went last.

The Fast Nine results were: Dixon; Carpenter; Rossi; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Alonso; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

RHR's No.28 Honda

RHR’s No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was The Best of the Rest, slotting into tenth position – the highest he could attain, no matter how fast he went. And he went fast. His four-lap average of 231.442 mph would have placed him fourth in the line-up, based on speed alone.

Jack Harvey's No.50 Honda

Jack Harvey’s No.50 Honda

Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda tagged the Turn Two wall but kept his foot in it and qualified twenty-seventh.

Another Rookie, Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet made his first qualifying run Sunday, having missed Saturdays while his crew repaired his crash damage from Friday.

Good news from Dale Coyne Racing regarding his injured driver, Sebastien Bourdais. After his successful surgery Saturday night, Bourdais had a statement Sunday. “I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages, quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take some time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet.”

Dale Coyne Racing has announced that James Davison of Australia will drive the No.18 GEICO Honda in the Indianapolis 500. He has driven for DCR before: the 2015 Indy 500 and two races in 2013. The car won’t be ready for Pole Day Qualifying, and therefore will start last. Davison will have Monday to practice plus an hour practice on Carb Day.

The Last Row will be Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet, Veach, and James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with No Time. In years past a bigger deal was made about the Last Row.

IMG_9788

Sebastian Saavedra No.17 Chevrolet

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

The Group Two crowd (qualifiers 10-32) had their qualification session 2:45-4:45pm. They queued up in reverse order from how they finished Saturday, with the slowest going first and so on.

The afternoon started with open practice for all the Group Two drivers – those who didn’t make the Fast Nine level. They had a shortened, 35-minute session of 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed track time. There had been a short delay to complete drying from Sunday morning’s gully washer hit and run rain storm. It bucketed with the rain coming down hard from all directions. I mean hard, so loud it could be heard.

Rainy IMS

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Only 22 drivers used Practice Seven. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda was one of the first out and he held the top spot the entire session. He was the only driver who didn’t have any No Tow laps. His speed was a whopping 233.008 mph, which he turned after he had already shot to the top with a 232.685 mph. He only ran four laps, all with a tow. All the other drivers turned a lap faster than 230 mph.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was second fastest, turned early on – 231.733 mph and with No Tow, making him number one on that NT list.

Also MIA were two Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas of Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba; all three Hondas of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7, and Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team OneCure; and Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.

In the open practice for the Fast Nine drivers, the two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets didn’t go out – fastest Saturday driver, Carpenter/No.20 and his teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services.

INDY 500 Factoids and Stats:

There are seven former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field who have ten victories amongst them: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Buddy Lazier (1996), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, 2015) and Alexander Rossi (2016). The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992.

Buddy Lazier is the oldest driver in the field at the age of 48 and has the most experience – 19 starts. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet is the youngest, at 22, albeit with four Indy 500 starts; but is only three months older than Rookie Veach.

The 2017 starting field has a total of 191 previous Indy 500 starts. The record number is 260, in 1987 and 1992.

Twenty-four starters are graduates from the Indy Lights Series: Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Gabby Chaves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra, Oriol Servia and Zach Veach.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:35.0630 (232.164)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:35.3976 (231.664)
3. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.5163 (231.487)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.5981 (231.365)
5. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:35.6423 (231.300)
6. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.9191 (230.889)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:35.9601 (230.828)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.1998 (230.474)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.3859 (230.200)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.5463 (231.442)
11. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.1293 (230.578)
12. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:36.3118 (230.309)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3377 (230.271)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.3499 (230.253)
15. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.4758 (230.068)
16. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.5514 (229.956)
17. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:36.6169 (229.860)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.8180 (229.565)
19. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.8528 (229.515)
20. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:36.9213 (229.414)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.9447 (229.380)
22. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.5488 (228.501)
23. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.8303 (228.093)
24. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:37.9497 (227.921)
25. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6458 (226.921)
26. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:38.9831 (226.439)
27. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:39.4741 (225.742)
28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:39.9944 (225.008)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.6768 (224.052)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:41.1340 (223.417)
31. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:42.7911 (221.142)
32. (40) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 02:42.8360 (221.081)
33. (18) James Davison, Honda, no time, (no speed)