SUNNY SATURDAY

Wayward Wafting Fog

While the fog blanketed Highway #68 leading to WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca, inside the track it was all sunny and bright. Except for a brief fog delay in the second session when a wayward belt of fog hit the Corkscrew, it was all systems go for the first of the two-day Pre-Reunion, gathering of vintage and historic race cars. More than 300 cars are gathered here for the run-up to next weekend’s four-day Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The race groups run the gamut, from cars dating back to 1947 through cars racing in 1984.

John Morton

This year the featured marque for the Rolex Reunion is Nissan and its illustrious racing history that dates back to its Datsun heritage. No one personifies this more than the venerable John Morton. He is racing No. 46CP 1970 Datsun 240Z in Group 5 for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, and GTU cars, alongside 38 other cars. His car has a place of honor in the paddock, all by itself near the gas pumps. It displays the race car, with the trailer insides set up as a mini-museum containing Morton Memorabilia – posters, helmets, driver suit, and more posters. The Stainless Steel Carrot written by Sylvia Wilkinson years ago, recently updated and reprinted, chronicles Morton’s racing odyssey.

Morton Helmets

John Morton #46 Datsun 240Z

Morton Memorabilia

Morton is also listed as the driver in No.51A 1973 March F5000 in Group 4. But, as those two races are back to back, he had to decline the F5000 ride. To his dismay. Although he is often thought of a sedan driver, Morton raced a F5000/Can Am car in the mid 1970’s.

F5000 Paddock

In the middle paddock there is a large gathering of F5000 cars, from all over the US as well as a large contingent flown and shipped from Down Under – New Zealand and Australia. There are 41 cars entered to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Here to help them celebrate is Ken Smith from New Zealand, long-time F5000 driver. Though his race career spans 60 years and he’s been to the track before, Smith has never raced it. He has an unbroken record of competing at a national level since the 1960’s. The only other driver with that distinction is West Coast driver, Eric Haga/No.8 1970 Lol R140. Smith’s last visit was in 2004 with then Indy Lights driver and fellow Kiwi, Scott Dixon.

Ken Smith

Ken Smith

Smith is racing No. 11 1975 Lola T332. After the Saturday morning session, Smith said he found the course interesting, and it will take him a bit of time to learn it. Some drivers have been here before and one of them pinged the radar gun in Turn 1 at 145 mph. Smith laughed that it wasn’t him.

Ken Smith's 1975  Lola T332  F5000

Michael Collins from New Zealand piloted his No.94 1972 GM McRae to victory, taking the lead on the penultimate lap of the 8-lap race. He bested fellow Kiwi, Steve Ross/No.5B in No.1972 Macrae GM1, who led the first six laps. A field of 35 took the green flag, and 29 finished the race.

During the Saturday afternoon F5000 race, Seb Coppola/No.12 1970 Lola T192 had an unfortunate meeting with Martin M. Fogel Jr/No.11T 1969 MCLaren M10A, and hit the Turn 11 exit wall, necessitating assistance from the SFR Emergency Crew. The drivers are alright, but Coppola’s Lola will need some TLC.

The Safety Car won more than one race Saturday afternoon. In Group 7 for FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars, Neil Alexander/No.1964 Porsche Platypus spun out in Turn 1 hitting the tire wall hard, dislodging the tires and rubber banding. Roger Cassin/No.256 1964 Elva Mk7S spun out evasive. That effectively ended that race. The drivers are alright. Heavy duty track equipment helped the SFR Course Marshals repair the damage.

The drivers were definitely eager to show their stuff this weekend. More than one group started racing before the green flag, sometimes three wide.

William Connor No.15 1971 Ford Mustang

William Connor No.15 1971 Ford Mustang

Group 6 for 1966-1972 Historic Trans-Am cars was lively, with three different leaders, with Chris Liebenberg/No.16 (116) 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 the winner of the nine-lap race. Other leaders were Jim Hague/No.16T (16) 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 John Hildebrand/No.49 1964 Pontiac Tempest/GTO and No.16T. This was a small field – only 14 of the 20 entries competed. It was a bit confusing as the two butterscotch-colored Mustangs had identical numbers. The only difference was the color of their wheels. A third butterscotch 1970 Mustang was No.15 raced by William Connor, who finished third in the race.

Sunday’s schedule calls for morning practice and afternoon races for al ten race groups.

F5000 Pack

TRUEX WINS SONOMA

Martin Truex

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota won the 30th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race at Sonoma Raceway, with a 10.513 second Margin of Victory ahead of Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford. Truex led four times for 62 laps, the most of any driver. Truex is a repeat winner at Sonoma, breaking the streak of nine different winners in nine races. This is his third victory this season, his third on a road course as he won Sonoma in 2013, 18th in Cup, and his second road course win in a year as he won Watkins Glen last year.

The weather was a mild 80 degrees F, with 12 mph breezes and 46 percent humidity.

Truex was running second behind Harvick, when Harvick pitted. Truex stayed out, although his Crew Chief, Cole Pearn, called an audible and then rescinded.

Pearn said it was planned to do one pit stop. “We knew we were going to do one stop. That was kind of our plan. We just – we really needed them to pit earlier for it to work out. It was a bit of a gamble obviously, but obviously it paid off and worked out great. It’s tough. Everybody is so good in this, it sometimes takes something different to mix it up to pull one out.” Regarding the Pit/No Pit call, Pearn said “I felt it was better to call it and then call it off. Martin understood we were only doing one stop. We were lucky no caution came out.”

Truex said “I just drove the car. That’s what I do. I’m cool with whatever he wants to do. Cole and I have a great relationship. I tell him all the time, like you know win, lose or draw, we do it together and I just got a lot of trust in him. I don’t even say anything when he says pit or don’t pit. I just did what he wants to do, so awesome job by him today.”

“The last ten laps were easy. A little stressful. I was just hoping for no cautions because we had a big lead.”

Kevin Harvick and son

Harvick was runner-up. He led three times, for 35 laps. He turned the fastest race lap and on the final race lap he cut the gap behind Truex by half. “I think I was too hard on the car. I had a lot of problems with the car. Just kind of a few things compounded there to add up to a few things that didn’t work out to win the race today. We had a really good weekend and came up one spot short.” Regarding Truex’s late pit stop being confusing to him, Harvick responded “It didn’t affect our day at all. I don’t think it would have been any different of an outcome.”

Clint Bowyer

Finishing third was Clint Bowyer/No.14 One Cure Ford. Bowyer said ” I get bummed out when you get that close. Hate to give up the stage points. It’s fun no matter how you finish.” Regarding Truex’s pit strategy, “You know, you just don’t know what’s going on. You pick up little bits ad pieces of what the crew chief and spotter are telling you. But I saw him (Truex) stay out when we pitted and I was like, what’s that mean. And I kept looking, where is the 78? But, I had fun and I’m ready to go see my little guy.”

Fourth and fifth were Chase Elliott/No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota. Busch still leads the overall Driver standings, 72 points ahead of Harvick, but Harvick has one more Playoff point than Busch. Truex is now fifth overall, and third in Playoffs.

The top Rookie was William Byron/No.24 Liberty University Chevrolet, who finished twenty-fifth. He leads the Rookie standings.

Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota won Stage Two. Truex won Stage Three and the race.

There was only one two-lap caution for cause – a new record for Sonoma; and two cautions to end stages – three laps each. AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet brought out the second caution of the race after he missed a shift/blew up early on in Stage Two and stalled on course going uphill to Turn One. He said it was the first shift he’s missed on a road course in ten years. It was especially sad for him as Allmendinger had just won Stage One. He had gridded fifth and worked his way up to take the lead on Lap 23 of the 25-lap stage.

With so few cautions, the race speeds just kept increasing, and by the last 15 laps of the race, almost every lap was faster. The average race speed was 82.862 mph, compared to last year’s average of 78.71 mph. The average race speed in Stage One was 89.692.

Twenty-one cars of the finishers were on the lead lap. Only one driver retired due to an accident – Cole Whitt/No.72 Chevrolet, who hit the wall. It didn’t even bring out a caution and he was alright. Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet had oil pump problems, lost pressure and the engine shut off. Cody Ware/No.52 SBC Contractors/Bubba Burger Chevrolet had fuel pump problems.

Pole sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet led two laps and finished fourteenth.

There were seven leaders with 11 lead changes: Pole sitter Larson; Truex; Harvick, Allmendinger; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota-four laps; and Erik Jones/No.20 DeWalt Toyota and Kurt Busch/No.41 Haas Automation Ford who each led a lap.

The race lasted 2 hours 38 minutes 28 seconds, eight minutes 24 seconds faster than last year, which had two cautions, which was a record at the time. Sunday’s race wasn’t as exciting as some, but it certainly was cleaner and less aggressive than most. Drivers commented that some drama was missing as there were no restarts. Harvick said “You know, this is always a tough race, and it’s not always about slamming into people. I think as you look at the restarts, that’s usually where the most damage comes, and we didn’t have many of those today.” Bowyer said “We never got a restart or anything else to put on a show. That’s unfortunate. You work your ass off out there. I mean, it’s hard to showcase that.”

All cars cleared tech and no cars were taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center. The engine from Truex’s car did go back for inspection.

The next MENCS race is the Overton’s 400 1 July 2018 at Chicagoland Speedway, airing live on NBCSN at 2:30pm ET.

Sonoma Rising

SONOMA SUNDAY – PRE RACE STYLE

NASCAR Garage

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – if that happens to be Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – and try saying that five times fast. It’s 71 degrees F and only predicted to have a high of 77 – quite a welcome drop from Saturday’s 101 F. The humidity is 58 percent and the wind is desultory in places, and frisky in others.

Sonoma Raceway, an elevated road course, is utilizing the 1.99-mile, ten turn NASCAR configuration. It has 160 feet (49 m) of total elevation change. The track was opened fifty years ago.

There are mobs of people everywhere. Tours are being led, gaggles and groups are clogging the byways and and there’s a lot to see. The view from the Spotters’ Stand on top of the John Cardinale Media Center is amazing, and appreciated all the more for the very steep and tall ladder one must traverse. Spotters used to go on top of the Drag Tower, but when the new, big ISM Vision TV screen was installed outside the top floor and roof, no one could see over it.

Victory Circle TV crowd

There’s a busy Pre-Race Schedule with two separate air shows – Wild Thing Airshows with ex-Romanian Military IAR-823 aircraft & Patriots Jet Team Air Show for 25 minutes with six-L-39 albatross jets; lots of pomp and circumstance with bands and grid girls, introductions, presentations, traditions, Driver Introductions and Driver’s Parade. Throw in live pre race telecast in Victory Lane and Talk With The Champ – Martin Truex, and you have a plethora of choices.

In the garages, the teams pushed their cars down to the pit lane – a veritable parade, with a variety of techniques for negotiating the pit ramp.

No.34 Chevrolet

No.10 Ford

No.88 Chevrolet

In Pit Lane it’s sensory overload with all the colors. liveries, signs, logos, and tchotchkes on the car hoods. Pit Tours, Pre-Race TV broadcasting, and crews tire marking for quick installation. So much going on.

Pit Stop Sign

Matt Yocum

Tire Marking

Drivers made their way to the stage for their introductions, wending their way in some instances past the fans.

Michael McDowell

Bubba Wallace

Denny Hamlin

The field of 38 cars is lined up in Pit Lane and covered up from the heat. The race stages will be 25 laps, 50 laps and 110 laps. The race distance is 218.9-miles/110 laps. Each driver will execute 1,210 turns during the race, so said the talking heads on the FSI Pre Race Show.

The race will be telecast live on Fox Sports 1.

Cup cars lineup

RUBBIN’ IS RACIN’ FOR RODGERS

Will Rodgers

Pole sitter Will Rodgers/No.7 KELLY Benefit Strategies Ford learned well from his teammate last year – Kevin Harvick – how to get through Turn 11 and how to handle restarts. Rodgers finished a close second last year to Harvick in the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race, and this year he won a hard fought victory, and he turned the fastest race lap of 89.424 mph. He led 35 of the 64-laps. This was is second road course victory in as many races – and back to back – East Coast and West Coast Series. And it’s a good thing he subscribes to the ‘rubbin’ is racin’ philosophy as there was some of that.

Aric Almirola

Aric almirola

Rodgers led laps and got racy with those surrounding him, falling back at one point to seventh place. But he clawed his way back and with some gutsy driving with Cup drivers Daniel Suarez/No.No.54 ARRIS Toyota and Aric Almirola/No.41 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford, he prevailed after a daring pass of Almirola in Turn 11.

William Byron

William Byron

Finishing second, 4.420 seconds behind was Almirola. Third was another Cup driver, William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet. Byron has Max Papis as his full-time driver coach.

Suarez finished fourth, and Ryan Partridge/No.9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach/Lucas Oil/Braille Ford came in fifth – taking the points lead by one point.

The race is always exciting and a crowd pleaser. This time was no exception. There were lead changes – Rodgers – Almirola – Suarez. It would be interesting to see a lap chart. There were some crashes and hurt cars, but the drivers were all OK. It was a race of attrition as several cars gave up the ghost and retired. Most made it the Pit Lane on their own, some with help.

Hailie Deegan/No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota was the top finishing Rookie, coming in seventh behind Cup driver Erik Jones/No.9 Dewalt Toyota. Deegan, who races with Bill McAnally Racing, had gridded third and stayed in the front pack despite the aggressive drivers of others in that group, which included most if not all the five Cup drivers at any given time. She held her own and made a killer outside pass late in the race in turn 9 – and made it stick. That was a particularly frantic lap already and Deegan at that point had already been smoking for a couple of laps. She kept on driving and pushing, gaining positions after the smoke first appeared.

Deegan now leads the Rookie standings and has moved up to fifth in the overall points.

Deegan has been racing since she was eight. Her father, Bert Deegan, is a noted dirt, motorcycle and off-road racer. They come from Temecula CA, but are building a house in Mooresville NC. She was home schooled and just graduated. During Driver Introductions, she had a ‘mini-graduation, complete with cap, gown and diploma. Deegan said she wants to race on the East Coast, and is looking at the K&N Series and the Late Model Series. She definitely wants to stay in stock cars, 100 percent. “I want to race on Sunday. That’s the goal.” Deegan was coached by Chris Cook as she’d never been on the Sonoma race track before. She drove a Trans-Am car, which was a little different and it was about a thousand pounds lighter, but it was still helpful. She also ran the NASA race in a Mazda Miata – “not the highlight of my career.” Deegan was clear that she doesn’t want to be like Danica (Patrick), whom she thinks moved up too fast. Deegan wants to take it slower and in steps.

Haile Deegan

Haile Deegan

Deegan raced a K&N race in Bakersfield against Kevin Harvick and said she learned a lot. And the two have kept in contact. To prepare for this first-ever road race, she had some coaching from Chris Cook, a Bondurant instructor and part-time NASCAR driver. He’s racing No.51 Shockwave Chevrolt in Sunday’s Cup race, and she will definitely will be around for that, perhaps on the Pit Box.

Harvick said about Deegan – “Hailie’s doing great. She’s got a lot of potential. She’s got a great feel for what she needs to be concentrating on, loves to race, comes from a great family and a family that loves to race. She’s got a lot of work to do. She’s got a great mind set of how long it’s going to take, but she’s off to a good start. She doesn’t want to rush into it and take it step by step. Kevin agreed that’s the right thing to do. If you look at our sport, there’s a tendency to rush people because they’re marketable and people like them. But in the end you can look at Danica. No matter how marketable you are in the end it’s going to come down to results.”

Team Owner Bill McAnally said what impressed him about Hailie at her first test was her feedback. She immediately was able to say what she wanted in the car to go faster, and when she got it, she went faster. Deegan came to his attention via Toyota Racing Development’s Driver Development program for young, upcoming drivers. They in turn introduced her to McAnally, along with several other young drivers, and she’s been a part of the NASCAR NEXT Development program for the past two years – the only female this season. She has her roots in off-road racing.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford is helping Jeff Motley, Vice President of Public Relations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the promotional efforts for the K&N race which will be part of the Playoffs Race weekend. The K&N race will be on dirt Thursday night, the only dirt race on the schedule – this year or recently. Motley said Harvick told him, basically whatever the track needs, he’ll help. “I’m here to help in any way I can.” This will be the first time the Las Vegas track was in the Playoffs. The schedule calls for the Truck race on Friday night, Xfinity race Saturday afternoon and the Cup race on Sunday. Harvick, having come up through the various NASCAR series, has always been a big supporter of grass roots racing. Motley said “That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Harvick said “I’m glad we’re going to Las Vegas and that city is going to embrace what we do. Sometimes you have to promote the sport correctly and do the things that it takes to promote from an event stand point. It’s not all about the cars. We’ve had some great races, but not every race is that great. Every football or baseball game is that great. It’s just a different time in how people absorb things, where they watch the race, and I think it’s time to concentrate more on the event, more on the atmosphere. Everybody used to hate to come to a road course ten years ago. But Sonoma – it’s an event, a destination event. All the sponsors show up to Sonoma, they have big events, you can bring your wife and family. It could be the best race you ever saw, it could be the worst race you ever saw, but everyone will have a great time. Really what needs to be concentrated on …. my point in all this is we’re gong to go to Las Vegas this year. I’ve seen the marketing plans, what NASCAR has planned. If we go into that market, we’re going to sell tickets, draw awareness, and work on the local TV ratings, all the local angles and what goes with that. Chicago had gone a little bit stale and the crowd wasn’t what it used to be. I think we need to show up at Las Vegas, and it’s going to be a great way to start the Playoffs. It’s a great city to do that in. What I’m saying is that you can come to this particular race and a lot of people that come to this particular race are not here for the race. They’re here for a good weekend with their husband, wife, daughter or they’re part of a group and they say ‘Man, I can go to the wine country and you go to a race and they’re gonna hear all those cars coming down the front stretch and they’re gonna drop the green flag, and they’re gonna say ‘Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this.They’re gonna see cars spinning through the dirt and running into the tire barriers. they’re going to watch five guys change the tires and fill the thing up with 20 gallons of fuel (and Mobil 1). It’s just an event like they’ve never seen before. When you go to these events – fifty percent of the crowd doesn’t care about the race because of the fact they’ve never been there. But when they leave fifty percent of those fifty percent are going to say ‘Man, when’s the next one?”And that’s what you want to leave them with. Having a great weekend. There are a lot of people that care about the race, but there are people that come to race that are coming to Sonoma for a great time.”

For those who missed the race, or want to relive all the excitement, it will be aired on NBCSN Thursday 28 June 2018 at 6 pm ET.

K&N field

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-Carneros 200 Results

(Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) Will Rodgers, Solvang, Calif., Ford, 64 laps, 58.482 mph.
2. (5) Aric Almirola, Tampa, Fla., Ford, 64.
3. (2) William Byron, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 64.
4. (6) Daniel Suarez, Monterrey, Mexico, Toyota, 64.
5. (4) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 64.
6. (13) Erik Jones, Byron, MI, Toyota, 64.
7. (3) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Toyota, 64.
8. (9) Derek Thorn, Lakeport, Calif., Ford, 64.
9. (16) Cole Keatts, Lewiston, Idaho, Ford, 64.
10. (8) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wisc., Toyota, 64.
11. (11) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif, Chevrolet, 64.
12. (14) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Toyota, 64.
13. (18) Tom Klauer, Reno, Nev., Chevrolet, 64.
14. (26) Rodd Kneeland, Sonoma, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
15. (20) Jesse Iwuji, Carrolton, Texas, Chevrolet, 63.
16. (24) Rich DeLong III, Santa Clarita, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
17. (10) Kody Vanderwal, LaSalle, Colo, Ford, 56, engine.
18. (12) Jim Inglebright, Fairfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 46, clutch.
19. (15) Todd Souza, Aromas, Calif., Toyota, 45, engine.
20. (25) Trevor Huddleston, Agoura Hills, Calif., Ford, 44, electrical.
21. (17) Travis Milburn, Eagle, Idaho, Chevrolet, 39, electrical.
22. (19) Carlos Vieira, Atwater, Calif., Ford, 31, accident.
23. (23) Hollis Thackeray, Gridley, Calif., Toyota, 17, transmission.
24. (7) Alex Bowman, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 10, engine.
25. (21) Takuma Koga, Nagoya, Japan, Chevrolet, 9, accident.
26. (22) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 1, accident.

LARSON AND RODGERS ON NASCAR POLES

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet has the pole for the 30th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, with a lap of 94.597 mph/1:15.732. It did not break the qualifying track record he set in 2015 of 96.568 mph/1:14.186. This is Larson’s sixth Cup pole position, and back to back from Sonoma last year. It also is the 697th overall Cup pole win for Chevrolet in the series, and 15th at Sonoma Raceway.

Larson said “It’s cool to get a pole at my own home track here in Sonoma; and DC Solar’s home track as well. Qualifying here is one of my favorite things of the year. So, I’m glad we could pick up a lot of time there and get the pole.”

It was 93 degrees at the start of Cup Qualifying, with 33 percent humidity and winds of five mph. It continued to heat up to 101, the wind picked up and the humidity continued to drop. The Cup qualifying session was delayed due to extensive cleanup during qualifying for the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race, after the track was extensively oiled from the Esses to Pit Lane. The announcer said it resembled the oil slick from the Exxon Valdeez. Billy Kahn/18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet grenaded his engine and flamed out while driving through Turn 8, leaving a swath not unlike the Exxon Valdez. With the humidity already low and lowering by the minute, no doubt Kahn felt it was wiser to continue to the pits rather than pull his flaming car off into the tinder-dry grass.

The course condition was of concern to Larson. “Yeah, I think we were all, or at least I was a little concerned with all the speedy dry over there. Even if it doesn’t affect the grip it is still in your head and you can see it and it affects you. I wouldn’t say I tip-toed through there, but I was a little more cautious the first round through all the speedy dry and through the esses and stuff. But then, once you get through there after the first round it seems fine. You can kind of just forget about it the second round and I think that is what I did.”

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota “I missed a little bit in Turn Two, I think. I missed my line a little bit and bumped the corner a little bit more than I would have liked to and I was a little late getting back to the gas there. I think I lost some time exiting two. Overall it was a really good lap.”

Martin Truex, Jr No.78 Toyota

Regarding the effect of the oil dry on his qualifying, Truex said “It didn’t affect me, it affected the way the qualifying session went, without a question. You could see that nobody wanted to be the first on the track. You could see that the guys that went out early were really slow. It’s really unfortunate when those things happen in a 25 minute session. You get down to 15 minutes to go, or something like that and everybody starts to get really antsy. You don’t want to jump the gun and go too early or you’ll be too slow which we have seen some guys do. It’s just one of those things. It’s really difficult, I wish they would have done a better job cleaning the track up. It appeared they didn’t have the equipment needed for it. The only way to really get the rest of it off is to run cars on it, unfortunately it was qualifying.”

Chase Elliott No.9 Chevrolet

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

AJ Allmendinger No.47 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and AJ Allmendinger.

Third through fifth were Chase Elliott/No.9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet; Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet; and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet – who also has had a pole position at Sonoma.

Four of the top five were Chevrolets. Points leader Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota qualified ninth.

For Cup qualifying, they had two groups. The first group was the field, and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet was fastest at 94.4770 mph/1:15.828. The second group was the top 12 from Group One.

During Cup Group One, more than several of the drivers sat up in ‘The Bus Stop’ by Turn 9 area waiting for a clear spot to take their flying lap. They were playing chicken with the clock.

Will Rodgers No.7 Ford

William Byron No.27 Chevrolet

Hailie Deegan

Left to Right: Will Rodgers, William Byron, and Hallie Deegan.

Will Rodgers/No.7 KELLY Benefits Strategies Ford took the pole position for the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race with a lap of 90.591 mph/1:19.081, faster than he ran Friday. He was in the third of the three qualifying groups with the third being the fastest, based on Friday practice speeds. His lap and that of William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet pipped the top speed of Group Two leader, Rookie Hailie Deegan/No.19 No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota, who will grid third.

The K&N West qualifying track record of 92.794 mph/1:17.203 at Sonoma was set by Cup driver, Kyle Larson on 21 June 2014. He holds the qualifying records in both NASCAR series which run at Sonoma. A native of nearby Elk Grove CA, Sonoma could be considered his ‘home’ track.

In the first group, Cole Keats/No.55 Peters & Keats Equipment Ford was fastest at 86.659 mph/122.669. There was drama in Group Two, first with Deegan jumping from mid-pack times to fastest. This is her first road course and her lap was 89.8270 mph/1:19.753. The other drama was Kahn’s car fire.

Group Three had to drive through the oil slick. By the end of their first qualifying lap, the caution came out to check the course conditions, after drivers had radioed in. A lengthy track cleanup prolonged the afternoon.

The scrutineering process for the MENCS has changed this year, with a more formalized, technilogical process. There are four stations the cars must visit, with the third now being in a closed, darkened tent with black flaps at each end, the better to protect the laser equipment measuring the various dimensions. The first three are in the paddock, and the fourth was in Pit Lane, after which time the cars lined up for Qualifying. Normally the crew members push the car station to station, remaining with the car during the process and sometimes doing things directed by NASCAR officials. In watching Jimmie Johnson/No.48 Lowe’s for Pros Chevrolet going through a station, it was interesting to watch the ever-vigilant Crew Chief, Chad Knaus, one of the more technically creative Crew Chiefs, watching every single move and checking the car stem to stern before it rolled into the station.

No.18 Toyota in Station One

No.17 Ford in Station Two

No.14 Ford in Station Two

No.43 Chevrolet in Station Two

No.21 Ford in Station Two

No.3 Chevrolet in Station Four

No.37 Chevrolet in Station Three

Station Three

No.95 Chevrolet

No.48 Chevrolet in Station Two

Chad Knaus

Cup cars in Qualifying Lineup

BUSCH, AS IN KURT, FASTEST IN FINAL PRACTICE

Kurt Busch No.41 Ford

It was sunny and hot for the second/final practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Friday afternoon. The temperatures reached 101 degrees F. Kurt Busch/No.41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion led most of the 75-minute session. His top speed was 94.061 mph, faster than the earlier speed of 93.590 mph set in the noon practice by Clint Bowyer/No.14 One Cure Ford. Before Busch took over the top spot, 2017 Cup Champion, Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota was running fastest. KuBu’s little brother, points leader Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota, was nineteenth.

Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota, Truex, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, and last year’s Sonoma race winner, Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford were the top five. And that was the way they ran for the majority of the session. William Byron/No.24 Liberty University Chevrolet was again the top Rookie, in 24th position. Several of the drivers set their fastest times and then retreated to the relative cool of their garages and watched/took notes out the windows overlooking Pit Lane and Turn Eleven.

Immediately after the session, the cars were in the garage, up on blocks, being attended to by the bustling and busy crews, and refueling.

Denny Hamlin No.11 Toyota

Martin Truex No.71 Toyota

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Left to Right: Denny Hamlin; Martin Truex, Jr; and Kevin Harvick.

Local road racer, A.J. Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet ran ninth in the first Friday session, and 12th in the final.

Early on in the session, there was a red flag interruption for two cars which ultimately pitted with heavy smoke. Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet was possibly the culprit for oil in the esses. His problem was a lose transmisson line. Byron had oil problems in his axle – a leaky hub.

Kasey Kahne/No.95 Procore Chevrolet took a wild spin but recovered nicely. He has a new Crew Chief this weekend – Jon Leonard.

Martin Truex, Jr.

Truex said that “Sonoma is the short track of road racing,” and he’s predicting “three pit stops during this year’s race.” Truex leaves it up to his Crew Chief, Cole Pearn, to determine the pit stop strategy. His first goal, as driver, is to win races, rather than stage points. Truex knows this weekend is going to be hot, and that’s one of the hardest things with which to deal in the car; “It’s difficult to stay focused in the heat. The mental focus is hard. There’s a lot to do at Sonoma – shifting 13 times a lap, left foot braking six to seven times a lap, and hitting marks around the course.” But … he still thinks “Sonoma is a blast to drive. You can really show your talent.”

Truex said he doesn’t train a lot, or hard.

Furniture Row Racing, Denver Mattress and Team Toyota are among those who are helping the Sonoma Rising program this weekend. They are donating Aspen mattresses to firehouses in Santa Rosa and Schellville, as well as making a substantial donation to the Sonoma County Parks Department.

Among the Hometown Heroes nominated for honoring this weekend were the nine Santa Rosa CityBus drivers who provided critical evacuation during the night of the fire, despite at least one of them suffering the loss of his home to the fire. They will be honored during the Sunday Pre-Race Show.

Richard Childress

Richard Childress

Richard Childress Racing with driver Ryan Newman/No.31 Chevrolet, and sponsors Grainger and the American Red Cross, packed 500 personal hygiene kits Friday for North Bay families that still are in need/those in need in future. Newman, who is running a partial schedule, finished 27th.

Eleven hundred Fire Survivors have been given race tickets provided by fans, businesses and community members.

This year’s Grand Marshal for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 will be Jonny Moseley, Olympic gold medalist and local Bay Area resident. He is a two-time Olympian and World Cup Champion in mogul skiing and has medaled in both the X Games and the Olympics. Moseley said he’s been a fan ever since his first Sonoma race at age 16 above Turn 4. “I am beyond excited to be immersed in the racing from the inside this time. What an honor and privilege to be on the track and kick off the race for these fine and talented daredevils. Let’s do this!”

Kyle Busch No.18 Toyota

BOWYER’S HOT!

NASCAR Tech Line

It’s Day One of the 30th Annual Toyota/Save Mart’350′ – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, and it quickly heated up – literally and figuratively. The Friday weather forecast was for 94 degrees F with 2 mph breeze and 56 percent humidity. It’s a High Fire Danger Day. This weekend the track is honoring Fire Survivors, First Responders, and Home Town Heroes from last October’s devastating North Bay fires and the ongoing rebuilding efforts – Sonoma Rising.

The Friday schedule called for practice for the two NASCAR races this weekend – Cup and K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race. Cup had two sessions, sandwiching the K&N practice. Cup has thirty-eight drivers.

K&N has 27 drivers including five Cup drivers – Daniel Suarez/No.54 Arris Toyota; Erik Jones/No.20 DeWalt Toyota; Alex Bowman/No.24 Axalta/Nationwide; William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet; and Aric Almirola/No.41 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford. Since 2011, only two West winners at Sonoma were non-Cup drivers – David Mayhew/No.17 MMI Services/Madoram Chevrolet in 2015 and Derek Thorn/No.6 Sunrise Ford/Eiback Spring/Lucas Oil Ford in 2013. Both are running this weekend.

In the paddock, in preparation, the 39 Cup cars were busy going through the Tech lines, while selected drivers were fulfilling media obligations before donning drivers suits. Above, catching everyone off-guard, were two F-15’s from Washington, loudly practicing for Sunday’s Air Show as part of the pre-race festivities.

It was 84 degrees F for the start of Cup practice, and 91 degrees F at the end – 75 minutes later. Thirty-nine drivers were on the original Entry List, and thirty-eight Friday. Missing was Reed Sorenson/No.107 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet. In the past 13 races, there have been 11 different winners, and in all 29 races, there have been 19 different winners. Jeff Gordon won five times and Tony Stewart won three times.

This weekend for Cup, there are 19 Chevrolets, 13 Fords and seven Toyotas. For K&N, the breakdown is 11 for Chevrolet, nine for Toyota, and seven for Toyota.

Clint Bowyer/No.14 One Cure Ford led early and long – the only leader. His fastest lap was 93.590 mph. Second through fifth were Ryan Blaney/No.12 PPG Ford, Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, and Daniel Suarez/No.19 STANLEY Toyota. The top Rookie was William Byron/No.23 Liberty University Chevrolet, in 22nd place.

Bowyer won the last Cup race at Michigan and is feeling good this weekend. His strategy is to “Just to get settled in and comfortable on the race track and get your car comfortable. That is the biggest thing. This race track presents all kinds of challenges. The forward bite issues and the high speed section and you have to have good aero grip through the high speed section. It is very technical up through the hill. It is the short track of road racing. And who am I to say that? I am not a road racer and haven’t really been on anything other than these two that we race on. It has always felt like a little bullring short track somewhere in the midwest. It just happens to be that you go right and shift gears all at the same time.”

Some Cup drivers stretched their limits, including Erik Jones/No.20 DeWalt Toyota, and Bubba Wallace/No.43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, but no worries.

Points-leader Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota ran 13th at best and ended up 18th. Last year’s race winner, Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford ran as high as fifth, but finished 12th. Despite being a California native and racing many times at Sonoma, last year was the first time Harvick won at the elevated road course. He cleaned up that weekend, also winning the K&N race.

Half-way through the first practice, a full-course caution for track inspection interrupted the session. Cody Ware/No.37 52 SBC Contractors Chevrolet lost a brake duct.

Tomy Drisi

Tomy Drisi

The Sonoma race often attracts road racers from other series, sometimes labeled ‘road course ringers.’ This weekend Tomy Drisi from Trans-Am and Chris Cook are such this weekend. Drisi is racing No.00 Go Share Chevrolet for StarCom Racing, while Cook, Bondurant driving instructor, is again racing for Rick Ware Racing in No.51 Shockwave Chevrolet. Earlier this month Cook coached Rookie K&N driver, Hailie Deegan/No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota.

Cook ran 36th, and Drisi was 38th. Rookie Deegan was 14th of 27 K&N drivers.

Spotters are mandated for all NASCAR races, and at Sonoma, the favorite spot is up above Turn Two by the Water Towers. Other positions are on top of the Media Center overlooking Turn 12, and the Drag Tower near the Pit Lane entrance. No driver can go on course until his spotter has checked in at the Spotter Stand. When a NASCAR team enters a race, they are required to have/name three things – Driver, Crew Chief and Spotter.

One well-known road racers who has perhaps more laps on Sonoma Raceway than all the drivers is this weekend’s Pace Car Driver – Scott Pruett. The local native cut his teeth at the course in all of its many configurations, starting with SCCA FF and FA. After 50 years of racing – the most decorated road racer of the modern era, he retired after this year’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In between he raced in sports cars, GT cars, Indycars, stock cars, IROC, and Aussie V8’s. He also has written childen’s books about racing with his wife, Judy, and grows award-winning wine.

Will Rodgers/No.7 Kelly & Assoc. Insurance Group Ford led the K&N practice in 91 degree heatq. Second through fifth were Suarez, Bowman, Byron, and David Mayhew. Current points leader, Thorn, finished 12th.

Qualifying for the Carneros 200 Race is 10:15am PT Saturday, with the race at 1:30pm PT. Cup Qualifying for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 is 11:45am PT Saturday morning.

Track Vehicle

Survivor Truck

Big Red Kart

POWERFUL VICTORY!

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet started third, on the front row, and won the 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Oil. No one seemed more surprised than Power. At 37 years old “I was wondering if I would ever win it. And, thoughts went through my mind during the month, I guess. My career, I’ve had so many wins and so many poles. But everyone always talked about the 500 and I just couldn’t imagine winning a race in front of a crowd like this. This many people is just amazing. What an event. I love it. This is the last box to tick, to be considered as a very successful driver. I’m not done. Like, I still have plenty of time left to win more 500s and championships and races. To be the first Australian to win the Indy 500, that’s very special. Maybe they might recognize me down there now.

Sunday’s victory was the 34th IndyCar win for Power, which ties him with Al Unser Jr in P8 for the list of all-time wins. It was his seventh oval win and his biggest, and it was long in coming. He took eight years for his first oval victory. For Team Penske, it was the 17th IndyCar victory, and number 201 overall. For Power and Penske, it was the Merry Month of May as Power and Penske won the earlier Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course, making it the first Verizon IndyCar Series double/sweep for the month of May. For Chevrolet, it was its tenth IndyCar victory at IMS.

Team Owner, Roger Penske said “He won this race today because he was the best. This closes the book for what he wanted to accomplish in INDYCAR: win a championship (2014), now is tied for winning the most races as an Indy driver for the team (31) and the Indy 500 is something that he wanted to do from the very beginning. … He’s in a different world right now, which is important.”

The Indy 500 pays double race points, which put Power to the top the VICS Driver’s Championship Points. He leads Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda by two points, and is ten points ahead of his Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Chevrolet. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing is 25 points back.

Will Power.

Will & Liz Power

Will Power & Roger Penske

LEFT TO RIGHT: Will Power; Will & Liz Power; Liz & Will Power and Roger Penske. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Power started third and led four times for 59 laps – the second most laps in the race. He took the lead for the final time on Lap 196, soon after the seventh and last caution of the race. “I’m just like, I have to get these guys. I don’t know how much fuel they’ve got. But this is the restart of my life. And then, I go on, and two (cars ahead of him – Stefan Wilson/No.25 #Driven2SaveLives Andretti Autosport Honda and Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR Honda) pit, and I’m like man, I think I’m going to win this. With one to go I was like screaming. Like man, I’ve got this. Unbelievable.”

Will & Liz Power and the Milk.

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power was one of the few VICS drivers who failed to register a milk preference. Winning is “Good with any kind of milk. I knew you drink milk here. Believe me. I’ve seen a few of my competitors do it. Yeah, no, I just hesitated a bit because I’m not supposed to eat dairy, but I didn’t care. I just drank it.” And he sprayed it – drenching the Indy 500 Festival Queen.

Heather & Ed Carpenter

Heather & Ed Carpenter

Second was pole sitter Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Despite three pole positions at the Indy 500, Sunday’s runner-up finish is his best Indy 500 result. “I’ll feel pretty good about this in a couple of days, I think. The team really did a great job all month long, all day long really. Pit stops were really good. It was almost like being out front early probably hurt us a little bit just because guys started saving fuel a little earlier. We got behind on the fuel save.” D

It was really hard to pass anybody if they had clean air in front of them.” Carpenter, the only only VICS Owner-Driver, led six times for 65 laps, the most of the 15 different leaders. “It was just really tough to pass another strong competitor today without having lap traffic in the pit or something else that was a mistake. Track position was hugely important. I was hoping we could make something happen on that last green flag pit exchange, maybe cycle through in front of him (Power.) I was praying on that white flag lap that he was going to do a JR and I could coast home. Just didn’t happen. It was his day and not mine.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Third was Dixon. “We really struggled on restarts today. The first and second gear just seemed to be way out of sync to the pace of what everybody was restarting. First to be on a limiter, second I was like a sitting duck, wouldn’t accelerate, gear was way too long.”

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Fourth was Rossi, who started thirty-second. It was as he predicted – a story to tell if he could pull it off. And he almost did. He worked his way up through the pack and led on Lap 173 for a lap. “Babygirl morphed into a rocket ship today. We said we’d pass a lot of cars, but wow – 32 to fourth. I feel like we did what we could, and we maximized what we had. The NAPA Know How Andretti Honda team did everything right. I don’t look back on anything and wish we’d done anything different. Despite, it was a good day from a championship perspective. We didn’t have enough to win, but congrats to Will (Power) for the fantastic win!”

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Fifth was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda. He said “It was a good race all day. When we were all mixed up in traffic, the No. 28 car was really strong, but once it started stringing out, we just didn’t have it. We really fought hard, but we just didn’t have the speed in the end. But the bigger problem was the lapped traffic. We really had a good race car until we had to deal with guys that were doing 200 mph out there, like Jay Howard. Then (Zach Claman De Melo) came out right at the end in the mix of the top five – I don’t know what teams were thinking. The DHL boys did a great job today, just a little bit too short at the end. But, congrats to Will Power, he definitely has a well-rounded career now.”

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Canadian Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. He started eighteenth, finished ninth, and led once for two laps. Indianapolis was everything he expected, and then some. “In some ways, I was hoping for more. In other ways it surpassed everything I ever could have imagined. It was one hell of a race. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

To be the top Rookie is pretty cool. I didn’t enter the race to be the top rookie, I was trying to be in the top 10 all day long. We got in the end, but unfortunately we only cracked the top 10 for the last couple laps.”

It was almost the hottest Indy 500 on record, nearly reaching the record high of 93 set in 1937. Officially Sunday’s temperature was 91 degrees. Humidity had been as high as 90 percent earlier in the day, but lowered by checkered flag to a mere 41 percent.

There were 30 lead changes among 15 drivers, tying the record set last year for the most different Indy 500 leading drivers.

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was a race of attrition, with seven cautions for seven accidents totaling 41 of the 500 laps, and one driver transported for observation. Kyle Kaiser had said on Media Day Thursday that “Last year it was a race of attrition. I don’t think it will be as much of that this year. There’s a race of attrition and there’s a race of survival. I think this year it’ll be a race of survival, keeping it out there, keeping it out of the wall, and it’s going to be very challenging conditions.” There were nine retirements, six of which were for hitting the wall, and two for hitting each other. Eighteen of the 24 finishers were on the lead lap. Ironically the only mechanical retirement was Kaiser. He said “We are not 100 percent sure what put us out of the race, but we know that it was out of our control.”

The first accident occurred early on, when James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet slowed and was unavoidably hit by Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Both drivers are alright but they retired with damaged cars.

Jones crashed hard in Turn Two. He was awake and alert, but complained of head and neck pains, and was transported to nearby IU Health Methodist Hospital. He later was checked and released, and will be re-examined before competing in Detroit next weekend.

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was competing in her last race before retiring from the sport. She started seventh and was running well until she spun and hit the Turn Two wall. She was alright but her her car had severe front end damage. She was not happy, but did make a brief appearance in the Media Center. “I don’t even want to be here.” She preferred an open dialogue rather than responding to moderator’s questions. “Let me just talk. Definitely not a great ending. I feel like it’s a complete disaster – complete like as in not in the ball park at all, people will remember that. If I win, people will remember that. But probably anything in between might just be a little part of a big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is, you know.

Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I don’t even want to be here because I’m pretty sad. I guess I’ll stop there.”

I am for sure grateful for everybody and to be able to finish it up like I wanted to. There were a lot of great moments this month, lot of great moments this year.

Before the race on the grid, “I had all my people around me so I was in good spirits. I’ll miss you (media) some of the time.”

Regarding the crash, Patrick said “It was pretty unexpected. It just swung around as soon as I recommitted back to the throttle again. I felt a little bit of understeer in the middle of the corner, and I wasn’t expecting it by any means, but I think it just goes to show you that these cars are tough to drive. The car was a little bit positive today and turning more than I wanted it to. I was just having to chase it a lot. Turn Two did seem a little bit more edgy than the other corners, but I can’t say that in that point in time that I was on edge or felt like I was.I wouldn’t want to end any year like that. I won’t forget all the fans. They’ve made it a lot more special.

Thank you, guys. Appreciate everything. I’ll miss you, most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda brought out yet another caution on Lap 138 when he was attempting a pass on Rossi in the short chute between Turns Three and Four, and then took a couple of wild spins before hitting the wall hard. He is alright, and retired with a damaged car. Bourdais led once for four laps, making him the only VICS driver to have led laps in every race this season.

Helio Castroneves No.3 ChevroletHelio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet crashed.Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet crashed.

Helio Castroneves and medic

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Racing Chevrolet spun twice and hit the Pit entrance wall.”I probably went wide in Turn Three and probably was a little of dust in the tires; and then as soon as I came into Three and I tried to pass Simon (Pagenaud) but the rear just gave out. I was not expecting. I never had a sign. The car was good. It was definitely tough out there. Please, Roger, let me go back.”

All the way to the Medical Center he was walking and talking … with TV Pit Reporters, his team. He was escorted by a Medic, IndyCar PR, and Yellow Shirts, as more and more media tried to talk with him on the way to the Medical Center.

Sage Karam/No.24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet spun straight into the T4 wall which ripped off the rear tire and sent it flying across the track. Everyone was able to avoid him. He was alright, but the damaged car retired. He said “I really don’t know what happened because the race car was stable in the rear end all day. Then all of a sudden, the car just snapped around without any notice. It is extremely puzzling. I love Indy so much and now my race ends like this. I know I want to come back here next year and race hard again.”

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.


Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet spun, didn’t catch it and hit the Turn Two wall hard. He was alright, but the damaged car retired. “We had a great day going and then we had a puncture that put us behind all day long, so I was playing catchup. I made a mistake trying, and that for me, in my book, it’s totally fine. I’m looking forward to the future with this team.”

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach/No.26 Relay Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda had a challenging day, with pit fires, one of which took place as he was fueling and took off ablaze. It blew itself out, but was scary. “It was a long day in general for us to end up where we did – two pit fires and the balance of the car wasn’t where we would’ve liked it to be, so we had to work on it the entire time. We finally got it close the last couple stops but, just my mistake. I took us in a direction on a setup that I thought was going to be good, but I think that’s what hurt us come race day.”

Vic Oladipo

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The 34th driver at the start was Vic Oladipo, who drove the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Pace Car, a car more powerful than the IndyCars he led. He had his Rookie Orientation and Test Saturday at IMS, with Driver Coach, Corvette driver Ron Fellows. The Indiana Pacers basketball star said Fellows first taught him the course, how to meet his markers, and where to go. Oladipo said driving a race car was similar to playing basketball – the eyes tell you where to go. He also said the Corvette is so fast it drives itself.

The VICS next travels to Belle Isle in Detroit for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the only double-header race on the schedule. The weekend afternoon races will be shown live on ABC TV at 3:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

Pace Lap

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

1. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (1) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
4. (32) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
5. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
6. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (21) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
8. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (18) Robert Wickens, Honda, 200, Running
10. (30) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
11. (27) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
13. (11) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running
14. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (23) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 200, Running
16. (31) Jack Harvey, Honda, 200, Running
17. (26) Oriol Servia, Honda, 200, Running
18. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
19. (13) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 199, Running
20. (6) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 199, Running
21. (33) Conor Daly, Honda, 199, Running
22. (20) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 198, Running
23. (25) Zach Veach, Honda, 198, Running
24. (28) Jay Howard, Honda, 193, Running
25. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 187, Contact
26. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 154, Contact
27. (8) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 145, Contact
28. (5) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 137, Contact
29. (17) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 110, Mechanical
30. (7) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 67, Contact
31. (29) Ed Jones, Honda, 57, Contact
32. (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 46, Contact
33. (19) James Davison, Chevrolet, 45, Contact

POINTS:
Will Power 243
Alexander Rossi 241
Josef Newgarden 233
Scott Dixon 218
Ryan Hunter-Reay 186
Graham Rahal 183
Robert Wickens 178
Sebastien Bourdais 168
Simon Pagenaud 155
James Hinchcliffe 144

SUNDAY!

IMS PAGODA ALIT

Good Morning Race Fans! At 5am Sunday the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is bustling, with people everywhere already going about making ready for the day and the 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Oil. Food is cooking, beverages are already being consumed, merchandise outlets are opening for business, and the multiplicity of workers of all kinds are hurrying to or are already on the job. The famous Yellow Shirts have been on site since 2am, and will have a very long shift. Radio and TV stations are set up and broadcasting already.

Radio Station broadcasting

TV Station setting up

The weather is forecast for upwards of 94 degrees F, with 90 percent humidity and almost no wind. And today is National Sunscreen Day! Heed the advice and cover up and slather sunscreen. The news says the UV rating is 9, which means one will burn in 15 minutes.

Sun Rising with Cannon Smoke in Air

Sun Rise!

The cannon went off at 6am, and then the sun rose over the Turn Three area, over all those cute little Tiny Homes and Glampers – who paid the big bucks to stay where they area. I think the Glampers – fancy camp tents are $1000 for four days. The Tiny Houses sold out very quickly, They rent for $3000 for four days, and come in two sizes – two persons or four persons.

Over in the Snake Pit, at $40 a pop, there are thousands of people. Last year it was 30,000. Who knows how many it will be this year.

In Gasoline Alley the teams are scurrying around, golf karts at top speed. The cars are being pushed through Scrutineering queues. On the back fence, the line of motorcycles grows by the hours – all kinds of fancy two and three-wheel motorcycles.

No.1 being wheeled through Tech

Tech Queue

No.60 being pushed back to Garage Bay

Motorcycles on display

There are all sorts of traditional pre-race festivities scheduled before the 12:19pm Green Flag. Let’s Go Racing!

Indy 500 Pre-Race Time Line

TALE OF TWO SPOTTERS

Seated spotters in Spotters Stand T1

In the past IndyCar required the the Indy 500 teams to have two spotters on Carb Day and Race Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year, it’s mandatory every time a driver is on track with traffic. So there have always been 66 spotters at the Indy 500. This year the spotters were at the track seven days in a row, plus Carb Day and then for the upcoming race. They are stationed on top of the grandstands in Turns One and Three – the very top, with no shade. They stand the entire time. There are chairs on which to sit during cautions or when a driver is in the pits or garage. That also would be the only opportunity to swig some water or make a pit stop. Otherwise it’s on your feet any time there’s Green Flag running. IndyCar only requires spotters on ovals, and there’s no other IndyCar race track which requires two spotters. Many teams use spotters on road courses, and sometimes at Sonoma two positions are utilized for spotters.

View from the Penhouse

Up in the Spotters Stand, IndyCar has a ‘WagonMaster’ overseeing the lot. It’s a privileged area, and I was not allowed up on the Stand itself. I spent Carb Day Practice right below the Spotters Stand in Turn One, in the ‘Penthouse’ area with race fans. I was amazed that spotters could see as much as they could. The cars come by very fast and the front view of the car is not always the easiest to spot in traffic. And when the color is more neutral and less splashy, the difficulty is compounded. I envied the ease for those spotting for Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet or Zach Veach/No.26 Relay Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda – with their vivid, bright, in-your face primary colors, and pitied the other two Penske spotters. The two silver Verizon Chevrolets blend right in with the track.

For the past seven years, Damon Hill from Melbourne Australia has come over to work as a Spotter for Andretti Autosport. Last year he was one of two Spotters for race-winning Takuma Sato, working in Turn Three. This year Hill is again paired with Carlos Munoz/No.29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda. He spotted for Munoz in 2015 and 2016.

Damon Hill

In spotting for Sato, Hill said it’s key to give him the bare minimum information in clear and concise terms. Hill has to edit out what is important to relay. High atop the Turn Three Grandstand, Hill can see from the Turn Two Apex to the Apex of Turn Four. He can keep talking if necessary, such as in 2016 when Munoz’s fuel light went on three laps to the finish. For Hill, there are 18 seconds between seeing his driver.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Hill wears a headset with two separate radio feeds – one to Sato and Pit Box, and the other monitors Race Control. Hill, an Aussie, hails from a country known for its colorful colloquialisms and abbreviated patois. Munoz and Sato hail from countries where English is not the first language. Hill and his driver develop their own lingo. There are 20 or so common words which get used over and over. Hill goes over the words with the other spotter, Sato’s long-time primary spotter, Roger Yasukawa. Then in debriefings, Hill goes over the lingo with his driver and Yasukawa. Last year Team Manager, Ziggy, aka Paul Harcus, was on the Pit Box calling the race for Sato. Team Owner Michael Andretti is on the radio also, but he is very quiet.

Damon Hill's Indy 500 ring

Last year Hill said even as Sato took the lead, he wasn’t as excited as he thought he might be … until the last corner. Then and only then did he feel comfortable. Hill said he was calm and just talked to Sato as he would on every other lap. Then, when Sato came through Turn Three and headed to Turn Four, Hill got excited. When he won, Hill threw his radio/headsets to a fellow spotter, got pushy and ran down the stairs and all the way to Victory Circle to be there in time for the ceremonies. And now he has the ring to prove it. Hill wears the ring a lot, as it brings back memories. And he had to get up at the crack of dawn Monday with the driver and crew for the obligatory Kissing the Bricks photo shoot.

Both Hill and Yasukawa have racing experience. Hill raced karts 14 years. Yasukawa is a former IndyCar driver. Sato believes it very much helps that a spotter has driving experience, because he knows what it takes to be in the cockpit. “It certainly helped me a lot.” And Sato thought the pairing of Hill and Yasukawa was fantastic. Regarding having the spotters, “The rules say we have to have two spotters, and if there is a lack of communications we have to go back to the pits. Yes, we can drive the cars without spotters, but the spotter is a very important part for the safety. Without spotters, I believe it would be very difficult to do the race.” Sato said he “talks to his spotters more during practice, about the lines. It’s really more like driver coaching. The spotter has to completely understand what it takes to be driving. I want to know anything that’s happening, and I can cut out any information which is not necessary to me. So yes, I want them talking to me. It’s helpful”

Munoz says the spotters talking to him helps, but he doesn’t depend on it.

Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford is the Turn One Spotter for Pole Sitter Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Crawford has been spotting since 2003 when he started spotting at Rookie Tests for Sam Schmidt in the Indy Lights Series, and getting familiar with the concept of spotting on ovals. His first IndyCar spotting job was with Nelson Phillippe.

Crawford expounded on what it takes to be a Spotter. “Not everyone on the Spotters Stand is a former driver. But what is needed, clearly, is an awareness of the sport, awareness of the subtleties of the sport. You almost have to have the ability to see if the car is pushing or loose, which is something that could take years to develop. The ability to see how a car is handling. You want to have the acumen to understand different lines and if they’re working for different drivers. And the awareness of changing conditions. And most of all, a calming temperament when it comes to an accident. You want to quickly relay that information without overwhelming the driver. So there’s elements of strategy, elements of observation, elements of safety. What it takes is someone who’s been around the sport and understand it and keep the driver safe, and hopefully help him move forward. Spotting is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of chaos. Focus is vitally important, and it is so captivating.

People have been offered opportunities to spot, and have turned it down as they don’t want that responsibility. I’ve never seen it as a responsibility. I see it as an opportunity to help. It can be pretty important. We can affect the driver, but I’m not holding the steering wheel, I’m not touching the pedals with my feet. At the end of the day Ed Carpenter needs to react to his environment. I’m there to paint a picture of what is happening around him. If I can spot an accident ahead of him, then yes, I’ve improved his likelihood of a good outcome. But I don’t see myself maybe as responsible for his life; but I can help him be safer. There is concern of reacting poorly. But then again, a really good spotter will spot an event happening before it happens. You want to be looking ahead of the car to see if there’s an accident, and behind the car to see what’s coming next, as well as the car all at the same time. It’s hard to look at three places at once.

Ed Carpenter No.20

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed’s car is challenging to spot. It’s all-black with white logos, with his black suit and black and white helmet, and looks like six or seven other cars out there. It disappears to Crawford. Looking at it head-on coming out of Turn Four with no distinguishing colors. The most wonderful thing that happened to me last Sunday will help me this Sunday – Ed is starting up front. It’s not easy spotting for a car that’s starting 26th or back. There’s a mass of cars coming at you, the dust is swirling, the hot dog wrappers are flying, and you’re trying to find the one car that is yours. There’s cars inside, outside, in front of you, and you’re just trying to find the car. It boils down to that Ed is out of my vision for about 12 seconds and I count 12 every single lap. And then I find him again. For as little physical activity there is, it’s exhausting. It’s pretty intense.” During practice there can be down time. Crawford finished three books during the first week of practice.

Crawford listens to the car with his right ear, and to Race Control with his left ear. “That way I’m not scanning one over the other. I listen to Race Control because they give directions, telling us something we’re supposed to be doing, and I listen to direct contact with the car. The only people on the car are the car itself (driver), Pit Stand, Turn Three Spotter (primary Lee Bentham, former open wheel racer in Atlantics and Indy Lights) and myself. I would love to hear the Crew Channel to sort of get an idea, but our particular setup I’m very comfortable being focused with my two ears on two separate topics. I don’t think I’m as good as some of the TV talent which have a producer and others talking into their ears while speaking to someone else. They’re processing information while sharing other information, so clearly it’s a skill. Standing up on the Spotter Stand isn’t a whole lot different, meaning I can be listening to Race Control while watching what’s going on down on the track and interjecting some information all at the same time. But it’s not usually overwhelming. Usually things are happening once at a time. Every once in awhile things are in chaos. I consider myself a partner with the Spotter in Turn Three. Bentham is a former open wheel racer in Atlantics and Indy Lights. Crawford said Bentham has incredible race craft. I consider my job to be handing off the driver to that other spotter. And there’s actually an audible handoff, where we know where we can see and it overlaps a little bit. So I can see the car entering Turn four and I can see it exiting Turn Two. The Turn Three Spotter can see the entrance to Turn Two and he can see through the exit of Turn Four. So we have these overlaps. So when Ed comes out of the pits, he’ll be in the Warm-up Lane, and I’ll call out to Turn Three, ‘we’ll be in the short chute, and he’ll be the next car to you. While I’m sharing that, I’m also sharing who’s on the track at speed, so that when Ed gets to the back Turn Three can see Ed, can see the cars on the race track, and help Ed blend into traffic. Ed hears it and knows I’m also saying it to him. And it gives Turn Three a picture of what’s about to happen and Turn Three does the same thing for Ed and I when Ed is going through Turn Four. When Ed is on the front stretch, I have very little depth perception as they’re coming right at me. Turn Three gives me that expectation, of a driver having a good run. We don’t hand it over every lap, because if Ed is running by himself there’s no need. But we tell them if someone is going to pit. The spotters talk to each other up there.”

Ed Carpenter said about spotters: “They can talk as much or as little as they need, so long as it’s information that is pertinent to what I need in the car. We have those conversations over the course of the month, leading into the race. Depending on what’s going on in the race restart, that can mean talking a lot or other parts of the race not talking much at all.”

Pole Sitter Ed will be doing something extra on his Indy 500 Parade Lap Sunday. “Now I try to use the first parade lap to do a crowd check for Doug Boles, IMS. Once the green flag drops, all the other stuff and the people and the colors disappear. You’re focusing on what’s in front of you.”

Pit Lane Viewed from Penthouse Stands