RINGS, TROPHIES & AUTOGRAPHS

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The fan gates don’t open until 8am at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Legends Day, but from somewhere came hordes of fans queueing up for the 9am Indy 500 Driver Autograph Session. The lines were eventually cut off, as the Drivers had their obligatory meeting.

Autograph Sign

Conor Daly & Alexander Rossi

Autograph queues

LEFT TO RIGHT: Autograph Sign, Conor Daly & Alexander Rossi, and Autograph Queues. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The Indy 500 Drivers Meeting is held out in front of the Start-Finish Grand Stands, so the public can enjoy. It is also shown on the Big Screen and live streamed. Many opportunities for viewing.

The Drivers individually receive their Indy 500 Starter Rings.

Joel Wiegert, Vice President of Borg-Warner presented their Baby Borg trophies to the 2017 Indy 500 winning Driver, Takuma Sato and to the winning Team Owner, Michael Andretti of Andretti Autosport.

Vic Oladipo, NBA All Star from the Indiana Pacers, was introduced.

Kyle Novak, IndyCar Race Director talked to the drivers about what to expect Sunday.

Various other introductions and presentations were made. Most of it is at least somewhat serious and proper. But boys will be boys, and a few of her compatriots teased Danica Patrick.

Joel Wiegert, Michael Andretti  & Takuma Sato

Victor Oladipo

Drivers teasing Danica. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

LEFT TO RIGHT: Joel Wiegert, Michael Andretti & Takuma Sato; Pace Car Driver Victor Oladipo; and Drivers Teasing Danica. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Several awards were presented Saturday. Dr. Jerry Punch, a medical doctor and veteran television broadcaster was presented with the 2018 Bob Russo Founders Award by previous winner and Russo Award Chairman, Paul Page. This award is presented “to an individual who has demonstrated profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo throughout his career. Dr. Punch will be a pit reporter for Sunday’s live Indy 500 ABC TV broadcast. He’s been a driver, mechanic, radio and TV broadcaster.He is an emergency room specialist doctor and revived Rusty Wallace at Bristol after a 1988 crash.

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The fun never ends for James Hinchcliffe. He has the dubious honor of being the 2018 recipient of the infamous Jigger Award, presented by AARWBA – American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. This award goes to an Indy 500 competitor who experiences misfortune/bad luck. Hinch failed to qualify for the 2018 Indy 500. The award is named after Jigger Sirois, who missed being the pole winner in 1969 when his crew waved him off on a lap right before rain stopped qualifying, a lap which would have given him the pole. Sirois accepted the award for Hinch.

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

CARB DAY

Pagoda Plaza

There’s good and bad news. Carb Day is crowded! It’s so great so many people are here – everywhere. The Alphabet Letter of the Day is Q, for queue. There are lines everywhere for everything, in addition to the milling crowds filling every nook and cranny. The bad news is trying to negotiate through it.

Carb Day Pit Lane. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Carb Day Pit Lane. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Carb Day for the Indy 500 teams means it’s time to check everything. Most if not all cars have fresh engines. This session is for finding all actual and potential problems, trying out things, running race setups, doing installation laps, practicing pit stops, scuffing tires, etc. If something goes wrong, fix it and be glad it happened Friday and not Sunday. The weather was in the high eighties with low humidity (for Indianapolis) and little wind. Track temperature was 120+.

Danica Patrick

Tony Kanaan

Marco Andretti

LEFT TO RIGHT: Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, and Marco Andretti. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

An example of that was the electrical issues experienced by Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. The crew took the car back to the garage for diagnosis and repair, and she was able to get back out near the end of the hour-long session. She turned the fewest laps – 15.

Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was the fastest at 227.791 mph. He said “I think this is the closest that we’re going to get as far as weather for Sunday, so we tried to optimize that and run in the heat conditions and see what are we going to do. But really, if you haven’t figured it out by today, you’re in trouble.”

Second was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, at 225.684 mph. Friday wasn’t about fastest overall speed. It was for making sure everything works well. He said “I’m not really sure what you can learn from the times today. There were a lot of people throwing tires at it out there. Overall, the car felt good and we were comfortable. You just never know exactly what you’re going to have until you get into the race.”

Third through fifth were Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete Andretti Autosport Honda, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet.

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Pole Winner, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was fourteenth. He said “”We ran through a couple of things we wanted to try after looking at the data from Monday’s practice. Carb Days are hard, though. It’s only one hour, then you have a couple more days to agonize over exactly how we start the race. The conditions are pretty similar right now to what we’ll have come race time, so the session was good for that. ”

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

The top Rookie was Kyle Kaiser/No.32 NFP/Juncos Racing Chevrolet, in twenty-second position. He said “Our last day of practice went very well. We got to improve the car a little bit and get a better idea of the conditions for race day on Sunday. I think we ended with a pretty good car. I still think we have a few more changes to make before the race. I am really happy with the team. We brought the car back clean for the end of the day and I am ready to go racing now.”

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda ran the most laps – 41. He finished twenty-first for the day. He said “We just ran used tires from the start and I know a lot of guys were running stickers (new tires), but we wanted to save a lot of stickers for the race and I think we just ran them too long, initially, and probably made our lives a little tough, but for sure we got the car much better in the end.”

Overall for nine practice sessions, Andretti continued his claim as fastest driver at 231.801 mph turned in Practice 5. Twenty-six of the thirty-five drivers were fastest in Practice 5. All but one of the remainder were fastest in Practice 7. The one exception was Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, who was fastest in Practice 6.

Matheus Leist

Matheus Leist

Castroneves also turned the most laps – 515. Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet turned the fewest – 212 (of those who ran or who were eligible to run all the sessions.) Leist said his car had issues of one kind or another including electrical which was finally diagnosed and fixed. He missed the first Indy 500 practice session.

Pippa Mann/No.63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing Honda only ran 211 laps, but she didn’t run the two post-qualifying practice sessions.

Ganassi Winning Pit Stop Crew

LEFT TO RIGHT: Mike Le Gallic, Blair Julian, Alphonse Girard, Scott Dixon, Dave Pena (air Jack), Kyle Clark and Jason Beck.

Dixon and his Wolf Pack crew won the Pit Stop Competition. He won two out of three Finals against James Hinchcliffe. “It’s a big deal to show just how much of a team sport this is. It’s never just one single person. It’s many trying to achieve the same objective. Some days I’m able to make a couple passes on track, but most of the time these guys are able to make it a lot easier for me and the team by gaining places in these pit stops.”

Beck said “Biggest thing we do best. We’re not always the quickest, but most consistent. Last year we won seven of the pit stop awards during races, more on consistency than it was just trying to be outright fast all the time. I think we constantly make spots up in the pits nine out of ten times. We’ve had a few issues here and there.”

Pit Stop Competition Results

James Hinchcliffe & Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe & Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Semi Finals – Race 1
James Hinchcliffe 13.545
Will Power 14.100

Semi Finals – Race 2
Scott Dixon 12.658
Alexander Rossi 13.670

Finals – Race 1
Scott Dixon 11.717
James Hinchcliffe 13.067

Finals – Race 2
James Hinchcliffe 12.198
Scott Dixon 12.686

Finals – Race 3
Scott Dixon 11.943
James Hinchcliffe 12.495

Hinchcliffe & Dixon Crews Competition

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

During Carb Day Practice, Hinchcliffe was on the Pit Box of teammate, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. Wickens said “He was just listening, nothing crazy. It’s not like he’s coaching me from in there. He was giving his opinion and talking with the engineers, just trying to lend a hand in any way he can.”

Chip Ganassi, Scott Dixon & Emma Dixon

Earlier in the day, Dixon, wife Emma and team owner, Chip Ganassi met with the media to promote the new documentary movie about Scott Dixon, “Born Racer.” It’s billed as a behind-the-scenes look at Dixon, his career, family, and balancing all that goes with his career and being part of a highly competitive, goal-oriented team, Indy style racing and the pressures.

Scott & Chris Supra

All around the track the Official Speedway Merchandise outlets are staffed by non-profits who use their share of the proceeds to fund their respective organizations. The booth by the Outside Media Lot is handled by the Boy Scouts of America Avon Chapter. The two lads running it for Carb Day were Scott and Chris Supra, earning a summer campership for Chris. Their best-selling shirt was the event T Shirt.

Saturday is Firestone Legends Day presented by Miller Lite. Among activities there are The Sunoco Rookie Press Conference, Driver Autograph session, the public Driver’s Meeting, where the drivers get their Indy 500 starter rings, and an hour of historic cars on course. Then the drivers go downtown to be in the Indy 500 Festival Parade. Back at the track in the afternoon is the Legends Day Concerts, with headliner Sam Hunt.

INDY 500 MEDIA DAY

Driver Golf Carts

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood – at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Media Day and Indy Lights. The Verizon IndyCar drivers spent Wednesday doing Community Outreach in various school districts. Thursday all 33 of them spent time with the Media, in two groups, arriving in a bevy of golf carts to the Pagoda Plaza, where outside savvy fans – the few that were on site – hovered anxiously awaiting a chance for autographs. The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Series had two practices and qualifying Thursday, in preparation for Friday’s Freedom 100 Race. Various announcements and press conferences were held.

For the Freedom 100 Race, three of Andretti Autosport’s four entries are 1-2-3 on the grid. Pole position went to Dalton Kellet/No.28 K-Line Insulators USA, Inc with an average speed of 195.027 mph. Rookie Pato O’Ward/No.27 Riverina CDMX Mexico City Mazda is second, followed by Ryan Norman/No.48 Journey Mazda.

Mike Bates, Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

Mike Bates, Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

One announcement Thursday was to advise how Race Day would be, operationally. Doug Boles, IMS President, Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar Medical Director, and Mike Bates, IMS SeniorDirector of Safety & Security, also wanted to pass on their sage words of advice. Increased health and safety awareness is key. Heightened security measures will be in place entering the track and involves multiple jurisdictions. Sunday the infield care center is the Number One-visited trauma center in the state. Sunday’s weather is expected to be quite hot and humid, so everyone is urged to start hydrating now and keep it up throughout the weekend. Leave earlier than usual for the track, and be patient with possibly slower and more thorough vehicle inspections.

Conor Daly

Conor Daly/No.17 United States Air Force Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts last in Sunday’s 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. He has a strategy. “Initially you have to be aggressive, as you’d rather be in sort of the middle of the field rather than right at the tail end.
When it comes to how important the draft, the suction effect when you’re trying to get around the track. There are two different ways to look at it, and there’s two different ways you have to approach this race. Aggression and Patience. I will have to decide at the time which it will be, and it changes every lap. For me, Patience is very important once I settles into the race, but at the beginning I would love to be very aggressive and try to jump forward, just like Alex Rossi will be as well.” As far as trusting the drivers around him, “There are some I trust and some I’d like to stay very far away from.” Daly has raced against Rossi and knows him very well. Rossi starts next to Daly in P32, the two have been roommates, and were paired together on The Amazing Race TV reality show.”I would rather him lead the way, because I know his car will probably be a little bit faster. But there’s no reason why I wouldn’t be able to follow him. There are plenty of reasons why I wouldn’t be able to follow him, but I would love to follow him forward, and I think it would be a really cool story for both of us making our way forward, like a certain television reality show.”

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda starts second to last in the Indy 500, starting next to Daly. He was asked if it was a silver lining starting next to Daly. “No, Absolutely not. The silver lining is that we have a cool opportunity. I think it will be one helluva a story if we pull it off.”

Regarding his impression of the newest racetrack to be added to this year’s VICS schedule – Portland International Raceway, Rossi said “First of all, Portland, Oregon is beautiful and it was kinda awesome landing there and seeing Mount Hood and everything. The track is great. In terms of the layout. I thought the layout was spectacular. It’s got two very long straightaways. We have two and a half passing zones, and a good mixture of mostly high-speed corners, but a couple of slow-speed corners as well. So, I’m excited about it. I think it’s good any time we can go to a new market. It’s a great opportunity for the series. I went to an event at the Wilsonville Museum of Speed Monday night, and with five days notice, we had 200 people. And the questions they asked were possibly the best fan questions I’ve ever received; so there’s a passion for IndyCar racing there. And I think the motorhome and camping sold out in an hour and a half. So any time we can go to an excited market it’s good.”

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 NFP/Juncos Racing Chevrolet, and 2017 Indy Lights Champion, starts seventeenth – midpack. “Last year it was a race of attrition. I don’t think it will be as much of that this year. There’s a race of attrition and there’s a race of survival. I think this year it’ll be a race of survival, keeping it out there, keeping it out of the wall, and it’s going to be very challenging conditions. It’s gonna be hot, lotta guys saying it’s hard to run in traffic. So I need to go out there, keep it on the track, and we’ll do pretty well. Having the experience of running in last year’s Indy Lights Freedom 100 Race will pay dividends. Running in traffic, and just knowing this track, knowing its fast speed, running laps, knowing the lines, I think will be helpful. I’ll be learning as I go in this race. It’s a lot of laps. I’ll be learning how to adapt throughout the race for sure.”

As for being on a brand new IndyCar team, with just one driver, Kaiser said “It’s been challenging. I think the lack of testing makes it more challenging than anything, because we have a lot of experienced guys. But experience doesn’t make up for the lack of testing. It’s difficult not having another driver to provide feedback. I think it’s a benefit to have experienced crew guys because they know what to expect. I was asked earlier today if I would like to have two cars, and I would say, No, because I know all the effort is going to me and towards my program. And I know it’s 100 percent on me. Yeah, there are times I’d like to see more data and have another data point to look at. But I know everything is going towards our effort and that makes me feel good. They’re giving their all for me, and I’m giving my all for them.”

William & Jack Harvey

William & Jack Harvey

William & Jack Harvey

More than a few of the VICS drivers use their visible platform to promote worthy causes. One such case is Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MST w/SPM. He spent some time several weeks ago at The Childrens TherAplay Horsepower 500 Tricycle Race, which paired Indy 500 drivers and young special needs children. Harvey’s partner was six-year old William and they bonded over Harvey helping William learning to tie shoelaces. William came as Harvey’s guest to the track Thursday for some more bonding and sharing of livery. This is Harvey’s second year with the Tricycle Race and he plans on keeping in touch with William’s family and his progress.

Harvey’s Gasoline Alley garage will be the site for a live broadcast Friday 10am-1pm by Pat McAfee on SiriusXM.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Friday is Miller Lite Carb Day and Freedom 100. There are meetings, awards presentations, the hour-long Carb Day practice for the Indy 500 drivers, immediately followed by the Indy Lights race, Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition, and the Miller Lite Concert with Train and Blues Traveler. For the drivers there are then evening receptions, sponsor dinners, and various functions. As Zach Veach said, Thursday night was his last time to have ‘personal’ time. So he and his girlfriend are going to see Deadpool 2.

QUIET TRACK & NO HINCH

IMS Front Straight

Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the most quiet I’ve ever seen the famed Brickyard. Indy 500 Pit Stop Practice was scheduled for 9am-12 noon, but not that I could see. No running engines were allowed. Most of the yellow shirts had some well-earned time off, as was the case with IMS and VICS staff, all the vendors, and just about everybody. Just the hard-core media playing catchup.

Well, the Mayor of Hinchtown has tweeted that “barring unforseen circumstances, I will not be racing in the Indy 500 this year. The decision was made to stop pursuing options to get us in the race.

James Hinchcliffe

There really aren’t words to describe how missing this race feels. At the end of the day we simply did not get the job done. No excuses. This is our reality and we will face it head on, we will use it as motivation and we will come back stronger. We have a great team, incredible partners and the best fans, all who have been so supportive through this. I’m sorry we can’t be on track for you Sunday, but we will be pushing hard for the wins in Detroit. I wish all 33 drivers a fast and safe race. I’ll be watching and cheering on my SPM teammates. See you in Detroit.”

Monday after the last final practice before Carb Day, the 33 Indy 500 drivers plus James Hinchcliffe went far and wide across the country to promote the Indy 500, upcoming VICS races, and to hit major media markets.

Four drivers are native Californians (JR Hildebrand, Kyle Kaiser, Charlie Kimball,and Alexander Rossi.) but only one made it to the West Coast. Hildebrand now lives and Denver, and there he went with Stefan Wilson. Kaiser, who now lives in Indianapolis, and two other Rookies – Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman De Mello- went to Fort Wayne IN. Kimball, who splits his time between Indianapolis and the family California avocado ranch which was torched in the recent wild fires, went to St. Louis.

Alex meet and greet

Alex podium

Alex with kid

Alex Rossi photographs by Austin Bradshaw.

The 2016 Indy 500 winner, Rossi of Grass Valley and now living in Indianapolis, went to Portland to promote the 2018 Indy 500 and the return of Verizon IndyCar Series to Portland International Raceway – The Grand Prix of Portland. He started his visit to The City of Roses Monday night when he gave a talk to and met with the public at the World of Speed Museum in Wilsonville. He was very impressed with the quality of questions he got that night. Tuesday Rossi went on a whirlwind tour of various radio and TV talk shows, before and after visiting PIR. At the city Parks & Recreation race track, which he had never seen before, Rossi met with and/or was interviewed by race fans, and gave track rides to the media and others in a Honda Civic Type-R provided by a GP of Portland race sponsor, Bob Lanphere’s Beaverton Honda.

Here’s a link to one of Rossi’s TV interviews: http://katu.com/amnw/am-northwest-special-guests/indy-500-winner-alexander-rossi.

Randy Gruenig. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Randy Gruenig. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ever wonder how IndyCar knows to throw a caution for debris. Who can see a tiny bolt on the speedway? Well, that’s why there are the IndyCar Observers. This is an invitational crew of long-time, experienced veteran corner/track workers. Some of them have been doing this for 35 years. They are stationed around the course in pairs with two landlines and big binoculars. One of them is Randy Gruenig of Arizona. They are always vigilant, constantly scanning the course for any change in track conditions including/especially moisture, unusual driver or car situations, any of which are reported to Race Control. They are on station up to an hour before the track is hot, ensuring all is OK to start. During practice and qualifying, that can be for a very long day. The pairs rotate between Primary and Backup positions to allow for respite.

For the Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course race, the Observers are USAC Corner Marshals with a full set of flags in addition to their landlines. They communicate with the drivers via the flags and with Race Control via the landline.

Another function of the Observers is to be an Escort for the IndyCars once they have had their qualifying run. The Observer crew of 35 is split in half for qualifying, with half on station and the other half in Pit Lane as Escorts. Once the driver pulls into the designated box in Pit Lane, the Observer/Escort stands by while the first IndyCar technical exams are done, such as tire checks. The Observer then stays with the car until it is back in Gasoline Alley at the Fuel Dump, where the IndyCar Scrutineers take over. Then the Observer goes back to Pit Lane and escorts another car. Half the 35-person crew works the Corners as Observers during qualifying and half work as Escorts.

Observer Randy Gruenig Observers . Observer Randy Gruenig at #60

The race car at the Fuel Dump has all its fuel drained, and a sample taken for testing. The car then proceeds to Tech for its scrutineering – first in the bay by the Tech Truck, and then in the Tech Garage where further weights and measures are taken. Then the car goes to its garage, where it can no longer have work done before the next/final practice, a la Parc Ferme. This system must work because not often, if ever, does one hear of a car failing the Scrutineering process or violating the Parc Ferme standards.

Thursday at the track, the schedule starts to pickup. The Indy Lights cars practice and qualify for their Freedom 100 race on Friday, there are historic cars on track, pit stop practice, and Indy 500 Media opportunities for the world-wide press.

Pagoda Plaza

THE MOST IMPORTANT PRACTICE

Qualifying Board

It’s Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers had their last long practice prior to the 102nd Indy500. The scheduled 3 and a half-hour session got off to a late start due to drying the track at noon when a few drops appeared. The dryers took care of that.

The weather was overcast, warm and muggy, with very little wind. The ambient temperature at 2:45pm was 79 degrees F and the track was 111 F. The rain started soon after the session was ended.

Sage Karam. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sage Karam. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

All thirty-three drivers were on the track at one time or another. For a majority of the session, Sage Karam/No.24 was on top with a lap of 226.461 mph, the only driver to top 226 mph. His overall speed was only good enough for P11 in the No Tow stats. He ran 71 laps, with his best lap set early, on Lap 10.

Second through fifth were Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet; and Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda.

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 NFP Juncos Racing Chevrolet had the final fastest No-Tow lap of 221.107 mph. He was thirteenth overall. He ran 72 laps.

The fastest Rookie overall was Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda at 224.091 mph, ninth overall. His top speed was run on Lap 7. He ran 79 laps.

For almost as long as Karam led, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet ran third and was the fastest without a tow, lapping at 220.463 mph. However, near the end Kimball fell to third in NT time behind Indy 500 Pole Sitter, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Carpenter was P14 for the day, running 100 laps.

Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete /Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda is still the fastest driver in Indy 500 practice, at 231.802 mph set in Practice 5 of eight. The majority of the overall fastest times were set in Practice 5, with eight set in Practice 7. The top five remain Andretti, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Carpenter, Huntter-Reay, and Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Servia is the oldest driver in the field, at the age of 43. And Kanaan is close behind, five months and 18 days younger.

Sage Karam

Sage Karam

Karem made a brief stop for the media, on his way to a flight to Philadelphia for his Tuesday Media appearances promoting the race.

“I ended up P1, which is cool. But we just got a big draft lap. If you put I think any car in the position that my car was at, it would have done the same lap time.

It was kind of like in the beginning of the month when you’d see guys put up big numbers, just big tows. So it doesn’t really mean too much.

I wish I was sitting at the top yesterday. Unfortunately not. Got some work to do for the race. But the main goal today was basically just work on the racecar, work on pit stops, because I haven’t done pit stops in a long time, in an IndyCar since last May. We got some pit stop practice in. Did some traffic running. Tried to make the car a bit better. It’s still difficult to pass out there if you’re third car back or worse.

I think you’re going to win this race on pit road. I think a lot of the positions you’ll make is having good pit stops or not about good pit stops. You have to capitalize in the pits.”

Karam thinks today’s practice is the most important one all month. “Today was like you took everything that you’ve already learned earlier in the week, just kept going with it today. Usually like on Carb Day, you get to run a little bit, but you don’t want to risk much. I think the last three Carb Days I’ve done, I’ve only done a total of 15 laps all combined.

You won’t really do too much running unless you have serious issues and need to fix your car. Like if your car is just not acting the way you want it to, like completely off balance, you will do more running. For the most part it’s just systems check. So this is the last real race practice you get.”

Matheus Leist Crew thrashing on car

Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet went out late to the crew thrashing to diagnose and fix an electrical problem. He did get out for 19 laps, and was eighteenth for the day.

Robert Wickens Garage

Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda hit the walls between Turn Two and three, bumping his way down the wall and then across track with right side wheels askew. He is alright, having been checked and cleared to drive. The car is another story. It was behind closed doors in the garage. A crew member said it was pretty well damaged. Yes, it was fixable, and it was good there was several days to Carb Day on Friday. He ended up in P25 for the day, with three laps.

There has been no news about any driver/car changes for Sunday’s race.

Blood Drop Mascot

Blood Drive Dsplay

Meanwhile, James Hinchcliffe made an appearance at his #HinchcliffeHundred blood drive Monday afternoon. His goal was to secure 105 blood donations during the drive from 12-6pm. Hinch partnered at this race with IU Health and the American Red Cross, with the donees getting a day pass into the garage. Hinchcliffe received 22 pints of blood when he had his horrific crash in 2015. Always the jokester, Hinch said he got two full oil changes. The typical body only holds 10-11 pints. The popular Canadian driver started an initiative earlier this year, and there will be further blood drives at Iowa Speedway and Sonoma Raceway.

Next up for the VICS drivers is the annual whirlwind trips around North America promoting the race, with the drivers often going to their home town areas or somewhere significant for a sponsor. The next on-track activity for them is Carb Day on Friday.

The Monday afternoon practice for the Indy Lights drivers was canceled due to weather.

LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD! CARPENTER HAS POLE.

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet has the Pole Position for the 102nd Indy 500, earned on Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is his third Indy 500 pole position in the last five years, fourth as a team owner, and fifth in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He also won with Josef Newgarden in Milwaukee, and one as a driver for Panther in 2010 at Kentucky. It was a popular pole indeed, as the crowd went wild for their local lad. Carpenter is one of only ten drivers who have had three Indy 500 poles.

The weather remained sunny, warm and dry all day with no weather threats at all, despite earlier forecasts.

Ed Carpenter team

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Carpenter said “I’ve just got to thank my team. That first lap blew my mind. To be able to share the top nine with Spencer – his first top nine with Preferred Freezer, and Danica with Go Daddy, we’re super happy to be here and obviously it couldn’t be possible without Fuzzy’s Vodka. It’s always nice to start up front just because you sort of control things a little bit. Of all the pole runs I’ve had here, this one, believe it pole, believe it or not, came the easiest. So, thank you.”

The Fast Nine finishers were: Carpenter; Castroneves; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – the only driver to be in the Fast Nine in every one of his Indy 500 races; Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda – the top Honda; Spencer Pigot/No.21 Preferred Freezer Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – his best VICS start; Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet; and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Carpenter’s four-lap average of of 229.618 mph was the first to top the fast 228.919 mph lap of Helio Castroneves on Fast Friday. Carpenter topped 230.088 mph on the first of his four qualifying laps. The roar from the crowd could be heard everywhere over the sound of the car. Carpenter said he could hear it in the car. “It may have came from inside the car because I don’t know that I was expecting to see that, either, but the 20 car had a lot of speed in it, and we still had a long ways to go at that point. I had seen other guys drop off a lot, especially guys picking up understeer in the middle of the run, so we were able to put down four pretty consistent laps for the time of day. It was a lot of fun.”

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud joked before getting serious. “Yeah, hell, of course I’m happy. You could say I’m the first loser, but I’m still happy. I think it’s a phenomenal job from Chevrolet, first of all.” He was on top – until Carpenter’s run. “That’s the game. That’s qualifying. It’s exciting. It’s very good for the fans. It’s four laps. You compete on the edge of everything. We tried to trim the car as much as we can to go super fast down the straightaway. I managed to go through the corners for four laps, but it’s holding your breath. Definitely the part that I hate the most is watching because you never know what the others have.”

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power starts third. “We went out and practiced after making a big change overnight, and it was completely wrong and the car was just — like I lost all my confidence because I was having so many moments, and so we had to go back on that and just kind of take — return the car to the way it was, and it did. Car was pretty stuck, could have trimmed out more. There was no way I was ever going to do the speed that Ed does. Like it’s just impossible.”

Danica Patrick. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patrick starts seventh. “You hope it’s boring (qualifying,) and it was pretty boring. So as far as a run goes, to be going as fast as you can possibly go. Yeah, it was pretty comfortable. I’m grateful for that, and I said to my engineer Don on pit road, I said, we’re pilots. We’re there in case something goes wrong, but other than that everything should be pretty predictable, pretty boring up there. You’re pilots just ready for emergencies. That’s what we’re doing in the car, we’re ready for understeers, oversteers, and you’re there for it, so luckily it was pretty good.”

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Regarding this being her final race: “Some people were asking that on pit road right after I got out of the car. I’m like, guys, I’m within minutes. I’m not really thinking about that yet. And I’m still not really. I basically sat on pit road and watched everyone qualify and sat there and said good job to everybody and went down and saw Ed and came up here. Not really putting a lot of thought into that yet.”

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Castroneves starts eighth after being fastest Friday. “It was — I mean, expectation was high for sure, and all of a sudden I got — I said, you know what, I’m going to take a chance. I have nothing to lose in this situation, just — it paid off in the past but did not pay off today. Certainly Shell-Pennzoil did everything they could, the group did everything they could, and when I was kind of following what my teammates were doing, I was like, we’ve got to take a chance because I knew I was going to be strong, and then when I was sitting in the car and when I saw the 230, I heard the 230 obviously, and I even asked the guys, do we have enough gear to do that, and they said, well, with a little help from the wind, we might.

So that was impressive. So I said, you know what, leave it as it is, we’ll take a chance and see what happens. Unfortunately the car started to lose in every corner basically, so I was just literally saving out there.”

Tony Kanaan.

Matheus Leist No.4 Chevrolet

Marco Andretti

LEFT TO RIGHT: Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist, and Marco Andretti. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Starting tenth now will be Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Filling out the row behind the Fast Nine will be Kanaan’s teammate, Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4, and Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Kanaan said “I have a brand new car for the race (as does teammate, Leist.) I told them today our pole is going to be 10th. This is pole in my books.”

Leist got his first Indy Lights victory here at the Brickyard last year. “We were just fast. I think that if qualifying was yesterday and we had this car, we would probably be in the Fast Nine. I’m just so happy for this team. Everyone deserves it. I’m looking forward to the race now.”

Andretti said “I thought it was alright. I was chasing balance end to end. I’m excited about the race that’s for sure. Yesterday wouldn’t have been enough for the top nine – I just want to be Row 4 because we can get it done from there.”

After his qualifying, Kanaan joined Dave Furst from the local ABC affiliate, Channel 6 WRTV, in Pit Lane to do live TV commentary.

The last row will be Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM Michael Shank Racing with SPM Honda; Alexander Rossi//No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda; and Conor Daly/No.17 United Air Force Dale Coyne Racing dba Thomas Burns Honda.

Jack Harvey No.60 Honda

Alexander Rossi No.27 Honda

Conor Daly No.17 Honda

LEFT TO RIGHT: Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, and Conor Daly. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

When Group One qualifying started it was 84 degrees F, 51 percent humidity and very little wind. James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Honda was first out, after being last on Saturday. He did well and will grid P19, a gain of 14 positions. Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 PaySafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda was P26 Friday but jumped to the top of the list after his qualifying run, a position he held for the next ten runs, when he was supplanted by Andretti, who gained eight positions. Clamon De Melo was a last-minute substitution in No.19 for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. Claman De Melo has run scheduled three races this season for Coyne, all road/street courses, and last weekend’s IMS Grand Prix, filling in for Fittipaldi. This is CDM’s first IC oval. “I’m super happy to end up where we are as a rookie. I believe in my ability in the race more so than qualifying, that’s something that I need to work on, so to start so far forward makes my life easier as a driver. It’s been surreal to be here as rookie.”

Matheus Leist & Tony Kanaan

Matheus Leist & Tony Kanaan

Then Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet pipped Andretti for the coveted P10 slot. He improved two positions over Friday … until his teammate Tony Kanaan/No.14 topped him. Last up Rossi, who had been tenth fastest on Friday, fell all the way down to P32.

Rossi said “It’s, for sure, frustration. I thought we were fighting for Row 4, and now we are on the last row. We had the speed to do it all month. It’s unfortunate. I think it was something pretty major. … The first lap was manageable-ish, and then it was just survival and you had to bring the car home.”

In the Best of the Rest/Group One practice session at noon Sunday, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest with a 230.507 mph lap. He ran 13 laps. Second fastest overall was Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda, who also cracked the 230 barrier at 230.263 mph. No one else was able to top the 228.919 mph Fast Friday lap set by Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet.

Third through fifth overall Sunday noon were: Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda; Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet.

The fastest No-Tow driver in the session was Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet in sixth position. Second through fifth fastest No-Tow laps were turned by Kanaan; Rookie Robert Wickens Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Andretti; and Jay Howard/No.7 One Cure SPM Honda.

The only Fast Nine drivers to go out in their 45-minute session were the four Team Penske Chevrolets. Of those, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards was the fastest with a 229.409 mph lap, good enough for fourth overall. But that was a No-Tow lap, making him the fastest in that category. The teammates were the top four in the No-Tow list, moving Leist to P5. The Penske overall order for the session was Pagenaud-P4, Castroneves-P5; Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon-P6, and Power/No.12 Verizon-P8. Dixon said he saw no reason to go out for the session. He didn’t last year and the track conditions wouldn’t equate to the afternoon qualifier.

As it was also Armed Forces Day at The Speedway, there were a variety of military observances in the Pagoda Patio area and displays around the track.

Monday’s schedule calls for VICS practice 12:30-4pm, along with other obligatory activities including photo shoots and autograph sessions. The Indy Lights cars come in Sunday night and are on track 4:30-6pm Monday. Then the VICS drivers get a two-day hiatus from on-track/at track activities, as they all will on whirlwind appearances around North America promoting The Biggest Spectacle In Racing. Wednesday morning the teams will participate in the Pit Stop Practice

OFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:36.7818 (229.618 mph)
2. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:37.3696 (228.761)
3. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.4757 (228.607)
4. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.6151 (228.405)
5. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.7965 (228.142)
6. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:37.8208 (228.107)
7. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 2:37.8326 (228.090)
8. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.9924 (227.859)
9. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:38.4076 (227.262)
10. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:38.1278 (227.664)
11. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.1922 (227.571)
12. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:38.3894 (227.288)
13. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 2:38.5908 (226.999)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:38.7389 (226.788)
15. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:38.8304 (226.657)
16. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:38.9003 (226.557)
17. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:39.0119 (226.398)
18. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 2:39.0835 (226.296)
19. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 2:39.1128 (226.255)
20. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 2:39.1430 (226.212)
21. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 2:39.2585 (226.048)
22. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 2:39.2874 (226.007)
23. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 2:39.3889 (225.863)
24. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:39.4171 (225.823)
25. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:39.4696 (225.748)
26. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:39.5044 (225.699)
27. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:39.7032 (225.418)
28. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 2:39.7245 (225.388)
29. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 2:39.7433 (225.362)
30. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:39.7679 (225.327)
31. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:39.8193 (225.254)
32. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:40.0462 (224.935)
33. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:40.4073 (224.429)

Qualifying Queue Day Two

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

CASTRONEVES, HINCH & MANN – BUMPING HIGHS AND LOWS

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

At the end of a long Pole Day, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest at 228.919 mph. He was only challenged once – by local driver, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. And Carpenter was the last driver to make a first run.

When the 50-minute Happy Hour was done, the top nine drivers were Castroneves, Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Cherolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Spencer Pigot/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet – the Fastest Female.

Simon Pagenaud

Sebastien Bourdais

Spencer Pigot

Josef Newgarden

Scott Dixon

Danica Patrick

LEFT TO RIGHT: Simon Pagenaud; Sebastien Bourdais; Spencer Pigot; Josef Newgarden; Scott Dixon; and Danica Patrick. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The top Rookie was Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet, who was twelfth fastest.

Carlos Munoz/No.29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest one-off driver, coming in fifteenth.

The last driver on the grid was James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet.

At the other end of the spectrum, time ran out – literally – for Pippa Mann/No.63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing Honda and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. They failed to make the show.

Matheus Leist

Carlos Munoz

James Davison

LEFT TO RIGHT: Matheus Leist; Carlos Munoz; and James Davison. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Helio Castroneves. Photo byPablo Matamoros.

Helio Castroneves. Photo byPablo Matamoros.

Castroneves said “When I saw the 229, I thought it was 228. I had to compose myself. It’s amazing how the car became so sensitive by the last lap. You don’t want to do anything too aggressive. I think I can do a 230 tomorrow. It will be a tough 500 race for the drivers, but an exciting race for the fans.”

On bumping, he said “It’s tough but that’s why this race is so important.”

Ed Carpenter's No.20 Chevrolet

Ed Carpenter’s No.20 Chevrolet

Carpenter said “Being the last car to go in the regular line, you get to see a lot of people go, see what people are doing, some of their struggles. I was really just trying to do the best I could to have the best four laps, which I had too big of a spread over my four laps. Hopefully we can get that rectified tomorrow or at least be in more similar conditions to everyone else in the Shootout. It’s definitely going to be fun. I haven’t been a part of this format in the past. It is a lot of fun.

“I think in a lot of ways today is the most pressure because you’ve got to get in there today. There’s a lot less pressure and risk tomorrow in a lot of ways, knowing there’s 35 cars here this year, when you’re putting in a lot out there to get in the Fast Nine, you’re also putting yourself in a position to maybe not be a part of this race, which you also don’t want to do. It’s really tough.

“You’re trying to find that balance. So tomorrow should just be a fun day to have all three of our cars.

On bumping, Carpenter said “I’m a traditionalist. While I really feel for them (that didn’t make the field), it’s part of the lore of Indianapolis. It’s happened to great teams.”

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud said “I’m super excited we managed to get into the Fast Nine, especially towards the end of tomorrow where the track is going to be the best. Ed just had a super fast lap at the end there, super impressive. Helio, myself, Josef, Will, we all have good cars at Team Penske. A pretty good sign for tomorrow. It’s been a great day. What an emotional day.”

Patrick said “I have high expectations for doing well here. That’s why I was fortunate enough to be able to drive for Ed. They always have great cars, especially here at Indy. They’re always very strong. But to think that I was going to come back and be in the Fast Nine right off the bat. I mean, I’m going to tell you, I was doing 208 at the test the first day and thought, I might not be able to do this. 228 is much better.”

All 35 cars had a at least one run by Happy Hour. Thirty-four had qualified and one – Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – waived off.

The qualifying session, starting on time at 11am with ambient temperature at 72 degrees F and 84 percent humidity.Track temperature was 99 degrees F. The afternoon was punctuated by two cautions, one at 11:52pm for 79 minutes and the second starting at 3:14pm, lasting for 54 minutes. When qualifying resumed, it was 79 degrees F with 68 percent humidity. Track temperature was 99 degrees F.

At 4:55pm, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet became the thirty-third car to qualify; and the bumping began with Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet the last driver to attempt a run. And he went straight to the top…albeit briefly, before settling for second, bumping Conor Daly/No.17 United States Air Force Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Oriol Servia. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Oriol Servia. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Servia then tried again, but the Race Director waived him off as his speeds weren’t faster than 220 mph. Then Daly tried again, and bumped teammate, Pippa Mann/No.63 Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda, who had qualified thirtieth, went for another run from Lane No.2, meaning if he was slower, he keeps his fastest time. There was no one was in Lane No.1. He withdrew that attempt and kept his P30 time. Next up was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who tried to better his P13 time, but he retired his attempt.

Servia tried again for the third time, from Lane No.1, and qualified thirty-first. Then Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing tried to better his P9 slot, and moved up to P8.

Conor Daly. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Conor Daly. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Daly then made his third attempt. Team owner, Dale Coyne, felt he had time to make two more attempts for Daly and Mann, to get back into the field. Daly bumped into P32, bumping out James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Mann then made her second attempt, which her owner then waived off. This put Davison on the bubble and Hinchcliffe made his second attempt, from Lane No.1. But he felt “a wicked vibration” and didn’t take the Green Flag. He said later that the team found a tire pressure sensor rattling around in the tire.

Rahal then attempted to improve his P30 position, from Lane 2, but didn’t improve. Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda ran again and improved to P10. Mann made her third attempt. She didn’t make it, the clock ran out, Checkered Flag and she did not make the field.

James Davison

Davison met with the media, as the last qualifying driver. “Obviously it’s been a stressful 24 hours. Yesterday I guess is the kind of Bump Day simulation for everyone. Everyone is doing qualifying sims. On the no tow speeds, we were at risk. We acted accordingly. We had to try to go quicker. In doing so, we found ourselves going over the limit, ending up having a big accident which was the biggest in my career.

It was actually very painful. Initially I got out of the car and I could feel I bumped my leg. Once I got in the safety truck, it was excruciating pain for 10 minutes. Overnight found out where else I hurt myself in various other places, my foot, my ribs, my thigh.It was the biggest crash of my career. I’m a soldier. I kind of tough it out. I was excited to get back in the car.

Of course, while all this was happening, my crew was working hard all night to get the car turned around. We owe this to them immensely. These crew guys, their job is already tough enough. When something happens like that, yeah, it’s even tougher for them.

It was an incredible 24 hours, something that I think all of us on the team didn’t expect that we were going to place. It’s a life experience, making it into the Indy 500, actually earning it. The three times I’ve done this race, there were 33 cars and 24 teams. I didn’t qualify in 2015 and ’17 due to the circumstances that were around, but I started this race. This time we had to earn it in there.

Yeah, as stressful as it was, it’s something that I think we’ll all go to our graves with, kind of be pleased in a way that we experienced it.”

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Hinchcliffe met with the media post-qualifying, and refused to play the blame game. “I just want to first start off by saying, I haven’t been on the Internet, heard anything myself, but heard some stuff from other people. This is in no way Pippa Mann’s fault. This is our fault. If there’s anybody out there that has anything bad to say about that, you don’t know motorsports. Keep your mouth shut.

“The track kept getting a little bit quicker, so we were pretty optimistic, to be honest. As soon as I left pit lane, I felt a horrible vibration. Called it in. Weirdly, it started to go away. I thought I had some pickup on my tires or something. I called into the team, I think it’s all right, I’m going to keep going. Turn three, it all came back again. It was violent.

“Came in, we have since diagnosed a tire pressure sensor failure, kind of broke off the rim, was rattling around inside the car, which at 200 plus miles an hour doesn’t feel good. I think we had to come in. If we had to stay out, good chance we would have gotten tire failure, you would not be in the show, have a broken race car.

James Hinchcliffe

It worked out timing-wise, not enough seconds in the day to get our last run in. For sure the car had speed to be in the show. I mean, not the fastest car by any stretch this month, but we weren’t expecting that. But certainly enough to be comfortable in the show. Personally I thought it was 6 (Checkered Flag.) I guess a few years ago it changed to 5:50 for TV. They got their drama. So that worked. But, yeah, I mean, Pippa and I were both running to get back into Lane 1 there. I mean, man, you can play Monday morning quarterback all you want, try to look at things that could have been done differently, decisions made my certain people to maybe help the cause. They weren’t.

Regarding other options, such as purchasing a car from another owner as has been done in the past. “I mean, I’m here to race at the end of the day. I work for Sam and Rick. Whatever Sam and Rick tell me to do I’ll do. I believe there’s some options being investigated. At this point I don’t know any more than you do.

At the end of the day everybody got a run, which is the rule. Our run wasn’t good enough, so… Blame the weather, blame other cars in line, you can blame whatever you want, but just didn’t happen today.

We win as a team; we lose as a team. It’s crazy to be here after where we were two years ago (on pole.) But we’ll put our heads down, we’ll take a look at it, and we’ll learn from this experience. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. I’m disappointed. The Arrow car is fast enough to be in the show, no doubt about it. We’ve got one of the best crews on pit lane. It’s a big blow, for sure.”

On Bumping-“Everybody has been hoping for a Bump Day since 2012. It’s part of the tradition of this race, the excitement of about this race. 33 cars start, that’s the deal. It always has been. Barring extenuating circumstances, I’m all for it. It sucks to be sitting up here saying that at this point. The purist in me, the motorsport enthusiast in me thinks this is good for the sport. That’s more important than what’s good for James Hinchcliffe today, so…”

Pippa Mann

Pippa Mann

Mann met with the media post-qualifying. For me it was painful to listen. She was in a world of hurt.

“Coming into this May, I knew things were going to be tough. I normally get time in an IndyCar once a year. With a new aero package, not getting to do any of the testing ahead of time because we don’t have a budget that allows for that. All of the people who have supported me to be here, Dale Coyne Racing, the entire crew on my car, worked so hard to turn that car over from a road course car to an oval car so we could shake it down, get me through my refresher on Tuesday.

Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll be honest with you, we thought things were going pretty well. The car handled great. It was really good. It was pretty good in traffic. We thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. The no tow reports, they looked fine.

Then yesterday morning, I rolled out, 226 out of the box. Great, this isn’t bad. Now let’s trim the car. Went through it again, nothing. That’s when we started to realize we might really be in trouble. We tried everything we could think of yesterday. The boys stayed really, really late last night. We pulled the rack off the car, we resanded the car, resanded the floor. We went through all the brakes again because we thought we had some brakes that were dragging a little bit out.

I knew if everything we did last night still hadn’t made us go faster, we were going to be in trouble today. But you have to try and get out there anyway. When we got back in line for the last run, we took every single trim we could possibly could to the racecar, we did everything.

Obviously it wasn’t enough. What’s worse, it was slower than our time before. Once you pulled your time, if the car is still functioning, you kind of have to finish the run because what if somebody in front of me just didn’t get through tech and I withdrew and didn’t complete my run and pulled off the racetrack?

It’s the worst feeling in the world. The team worked so hard. Earlier today I really thought we were going to get it done. Then we went out, again, for the first run and I knew we were in the fight in final trim. We took it further than any of our cars have gone. Big stats.

If we understood what was going on, we wouldn’t be here.”

Qualifying Queue. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Qualifying Queue. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Early on in the day, the question was: Which would come faster on Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a full 102nd Indy 500 field or rain delay for qualifying? Saturday morning the schedule started out on a rain delay, to dry the track from Friday night’s heavy rainfall. At least it held off until the end of Friday’s Happy Hour. But by the time the Qualifying Draw was completed, the rain came – and hard for a couple of hours. Saturday’s morning practice was delayed and rescheduled due to track drying efforts.

The Qualifying Draw was broken into two Groups, with each group getting an equal amount of track time with a guaranteed amount of green flag time. Practice was delayed 45 minutes. The two half hour sessions were reduced to 20 minutes and the half-hour session for all cars was canceled.

Very few cars went out for morning practice. Seven Group 1 cars tried a few laps, and four went out in Group II. The majority of the cars were Chevrolets – eight, with three Hondas. None of the big Honda teams went out. With so few cars almost all were able to get No-Tow laps. Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet did one lap.

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest at 229.505 mph. Second through fifth were Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, JR Hildebrand/No.66 Safeforce Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Group Chevrolet, and Sage Karam/No.24 WIX Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet. The top Honda was Servia in sixth.

Davison went out for 14 laps, the most of any driver. He was eighth fastest. His crew worked through the night to put his damaged car together after he hit the wall Friday. He said “The car was back to normal, but the speed is not there. I really need to find a mile per hour.” After the accident, he said “I felt absolutely nothing and then I was backwards. It was not ideal but we had to try something. No regrets there.”

Team co-owner, David Byrd, described all the team had to do to be ready for Saturday morning practice. “We had to rebuild all the left side bodywork. Nose, front wing, rear wing, undertray, suspension, uprights, gearbox; I think that’s everything. Yesterday we crashed around 2 (p.m.). We got the car back to the garage and started collecting parts. It took a while to get all of the parts collected. We went to work on the rebuild around 6:30, 7 in earnest last night. We fired the engine around 1 (a.m.), put the car on the setup pad at 2 (a.m.), and about 4 (a.m.) is when we were really done with the rebuild. We had it in the tech line just before 5 (a.m.). We were the first ones in line for tech. It’s been a long night. All of our guys and gals are working on no sleep, me included. I think we’ve got the right direction today for our setup, and we’ll see how it goes.” (About the process of collecting parts): “Bob (Lazier) came by and offered if we needed something – he said he had a gearbox. We’re a Foyt program, so all the parts came from Foyt, and that’s where we sourced it from – gearbox, uprights, bodywork, everything. That’s the way we work together.” (About this being part of the drama of the month of May): “It wouldn’t be quite as sweet and satisfying if it was drama-free, right?”

Sunday is Armed Forces Day at the Speedway and is the second day of qualifying. All the cars from position 10-33 will have an 45-minute open practice starting at noon ET. The Fast Nine will have their 45-minute practice at 1:15pm ET. The rest of the field will have its qualifying for two hours starting at 2:45pm ET, running in reverse order of Saturday times. The Fast Nine Shootout starts at 5pm ET, single-car runs, in reverse order, for Pole Position. ABC TV will provide live coverage 4-6pm.

UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.2607 (228.919 mph)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:37.4167 (228.692)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:37.6845 (228.304)
4. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.7604 (228.194)
5. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.8322 (228.090)
6. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:37.8588 (228.052)
7. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.8608 (228.049)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:38.0457 (227.782)
9. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 2:38.1654 (227.610)
10. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:38.1996 (227.561)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:38.2363 (227.508)
12. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.2826 (227.441)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 2:38.5941 (226.995)
14. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:38.6238 (226.952)
15. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 2:38.8702 (226.600)
16. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:38.9409 (226.499)
17. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:39.1837 (226.154)
18. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 2:39.2233 (226.098)
19. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:39.2459 (226.065)
20. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 2:39.3241 (225.955)
21. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:39.3388 (225.934)
22. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 2:39.3561 (225.909)
23. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 2:39.4273 (225.808)
24. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:39.4298 (225.805)
25. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:39.4673 (225.752)
26. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 2:39.4881 (225.722)
27. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:39.4894 (225.720)
28. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 2:39.5275 (225.666)
29. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:39.6362 (225.513)
30. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:39.7114 (225.407)
31. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:39.9953 (225.007)
32. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:40.0897 (224.874)
33. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 2:40.1439 (224.798)

Did Not Qualify:
34. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 2:40.1547 (224.784)
35. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 2:40.4565 (224.360)

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

FASTER FRIDAY

This is May!

Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t as busy on track for the Verizon IndyCar drivers as perhaps had been expected. Happy Hour was only sparsely utilized. The weather was cloudy all day, never getting warmer than 75 degrees F or 81 degrees F on the track. There was one caution at 4:17pm for 18 minutes for sprinkles which came and went quite rapidly. The wind was light, but the humidity was high – almost double from Thursday.

Fast Friday is the day IndyCar allows 50 more hp to the drivers, and Friday drivers topped the 230 mph mark for the first time this week. They all turned their fastest times of the week Friday.

Marco Andretti/No.98 United Concrete Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Friday driver and for the week. He topped the charts for most of the day as his time was set in the morning. He wasn’t on track much of the afternoon. His top speed was 231.802 mph, but his No-Tow speed was only 227.817 mph – 12th fastest. He earned $10,000 from the Harding Group for the top Friday lap.

Andretti said “We’ve been feeling good actually, pretty good in traffic, which obviously the tow time shows that, and the car is close in race trim. I don’t know how much better we can get it. But qual trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the Top Nine to be honest. And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them, and I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in. Hopefully we can.”

Marco Andretti

Andretti, who often appears serious, had a nice smile when he came to the Media Center, and was asked if he had to kind of cheer up his father this week, who seemed to be a little concerned about how the car would react in qualifying and the race. Marco said “No, that’s not my job. I’m just focused on trying to be quickest every time out, and I’ll smile when I’m quickest every time out.”

Robert Wickens

Second was Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, who was the top Rookie.He said “Well, first off, I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here. I mean, Fast Friday is for qualifying and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me, and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am. Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re okay by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”

Third through fifth fastest were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc RLL Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power

Power was the top driver with No-Tow, and he set his lap earlier in the day – 229.780 mph. Second through fifth fastest with No-Tow were Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet; Carpenter, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Wickens was the Top Rookie in the group, placing tenth. All the top five set their fastest NT laps early on.

Andretti was the fastest for the week. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda turned the most laps for the week – 343. The fewest laps were run by Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – 150.

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet

Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps Friday at 62, while Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest – 11.

Happy Hour was lonely. The last quarter hour no cars were on track while the clock ticked down, and there weren’t that many cars before.

The Qualifying Draw was held immediately after Happy Hour, with noted motorsports broadcaster, Bob Jenkins, conducting the drawing. With all the T (backup) Cars included, there were 70 draws. The first non-T car/driver will be Rookie Claman de Melo. The last qualifying spot was drawn by Carpenter.

Alexander Rossi Time Card

Saturday when Qualifying starts, the times will be posted on a big board at the front of the Media Center, near the Interview Area. Getting all prepared for this has taken Calligrapher Julie Cordes the past three days getting the signs ready. This year’s signs have more detail options including space for logos, and indications of past Indy 500 Winners with year.

Qualifying Board

This is the third year for Cordes making and organizing the visual Qualification process. She was ‘drafted’ by Bill York. She hails from Indianapolis, and is between gigs with her full-time job as organizer of PGA Tours. Cordes enjoys this job and will be here during the weekend. Then she’s done and can enjoy the race atmosphere before she goes back to work.

The track was never busy much of the day, with only a few going out at a time. There were some times when it was empty. What was busy was Gasoline Alley, with teams working on their race cars, trimming and dialing. Then the cars would be off to Tech and then back to the garage or to the Pit Lane.

Graham Rahal No.15 Honda

Zach Veach No.26 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

The drivers had time to make public appearances with sponsors around various track venues, hang out near their garages and meet the public.

Takuma Sato with Flat Stanley

Jay Howard

Sebastien Bourdais

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet - before

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet – before

James Davison

The drama of the day was provided by James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet. He lost it on the low groove and drifted up and banged the wall rear and front, causing signifiant damage including gearbox. It probably can be repaired overnight, but it will be a thrash. Davison is OK. He had turned 37 laps for the day and was 34th overall, and 35th with No-Tow. Earlier he had whizzed to the Pit Lane on his electric skate board.

Five Hundred Fashion Friday Fashionista

Friday was also #500FashionFridays. It’s a city-wide initiative and fans are encouraged to show their race fervor at the track, and around town, at work and such by wearing black and white/checkered flag attire. Maybe it was the weather, but at the track I didn’t see much of that going on.

Saturday’s activities start early, with 8am practice for the VICS drivers, and qualifying starts at 11am. The weather forecast isn’t cheery – showers 8-11am turning to scattered thunderstorms the rest of the afternoon. However, on the bright side – the forecast hasn’t always been right so far.

FAST FRIDAY!

Pagoda & Indy sign

Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is perhaps the busiest day of the Indy 500 experience. Although the Verizon IndyCars don’t take to the track until 11am, there are activities starting early on. In the Media Center there are back-to-back press conferences, with various teams, for announcements and awards presentations.

In the garages the teams are beavering away trying to get the last little inch of performance into the car so the drivers can work on speed today, in preparation for Saturday’s Qualifying. IndyCar will give the teams a turbocharge increase for Fast Friday.

Weather is a concern. At 10am it was 65 degrees F and cloudy, 68 percent humidity and 10 mph winds. By 11am, it 66 degrees F and the rain chances moved from 2-3pm. Forecast is for 73 F as a Friday high, But the rain chances are less than 100 percent and vary hour by hour. Showers could hit and run and not cause too much of a disruption. With Indianapolis, you won’t know until five minutes after it’s happened.

Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda missed his Friday morning presser as he’s a bit under the weather.

Zachary Claman De Melo

Monday Dale Coyne announced that Zachary Clamon De Melo would replace the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in the No.19 PaySafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda. And De Melo’s flag is hanging outside the grandstands, replacing Fittipaldi’s flag which hung during the GP week. Fittipaldi broke his left leg and right ankle. He’s in Indianapolis being treated by Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar medical consultant. Fittipaldi is undergoing rigorous rehab now and was at the track Thursday. Fittipaldi is staying in his motorhome at the track, so he can be with the team and involved with the race, and is also close to Dr Trammel and the medical center.

Dale Coyne

When I spoke with Coyne last week about the outreach he received regarding the open seat, he said his phone rang off the hook. He had at least 35 different drivers/teams wanting a chance for the ride. It is hoped Fittipaldi will be back in the car for the Mid-Ohio race and perhaps finish the season. Coyne is moving around races with Claman De Melo, who will probably do the Texas race.

The full field of 35 cars has been practicing three days already, with only one driver not going out Tuesday afternoon – Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. He was on track for the rest of the sessions and turned a total of 118 laps for the week so far – the fewest of any driver.

Turning the most laps overall so far was Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda.

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Overall, Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Autosport Honda has been the fastest driver at 227.053 mph and he’s run 260 laps. He turned his fastest lap time on Wednesday and it’s held. Second through fifth overall were Dixon; Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, who was the top Rookie; and Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Tuesday’s fastest overall driver was Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet at 225.787 mph. Second through fifth were Helio Castroneves/No.3 PennzoilTeam Penske Chevrolet; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Jay Howard/No.7 One Cure SPM Honda; and Dixon. Wickens was the top Rookie.

Tuesday there was a two-hour morning session for Rookie Orientation Program, which Claman De Melo passed. It also served as a Refresher Course for James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt w/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet, Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc w/RHL Honda, and Stefan Wilson/No.25 #Driven2SaveLives Andretti Autosport Honda. Carpenter turned the fastest No-Tow time at 221.564 mph. The day was run without incident, despite stopping for 71 minutes due to light rain and lightning.

Wednesday’s fastest five drivers was Andretti, Dixon, Sato, Wickens, and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Racing Chevrolet. Wickens was the top Rookie. Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was the fastest driver without a tow, at 223.048 mph. There was no drama, just the usual cautions for debris on track. The weather was beautiful.

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Thursday’s fastest driver was Rahal at 226.047 mph. Second through fifth were Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; Andretti; Carpenter and Sage Karam/No.24WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet. Top Rookie was Claman De Melo. Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the top driver without a tow, at 223.971 mph.

Thursday was the first time a caution was thrown for an on-track incident – within the last twenty minutes of Happy Hour. JR Hildebrand/No.66 Salesforce DRR Chevrolet had a problem with the car in Turn Three. He skimmed the SAFER Barrier, then slid along the wall and stopped in Turn Four. JR was afraid he would go down the track in the groove, so he drove the car into the wall to stay there for most of the time. Then it slid down to the apron, where the front wings got under the tub. The damage was limited to front wings which got under the tub and minor left side damage. Hildebrand was unhurt and was cleared to drive. He said “We weren’t that deep into the run and we had something happen in Turn 3 with the car. We are still analyzing what might have happened. The car felt out of the ordinary. I didn’t feel like I was losing the car at all. I thought for sure I could save the car, which is why I’m a little confused on what happened.”

JR Hildebrand No.66 Chevrolet

The fastest speeds so far this week were set in traffic with a tow. It’s a decidedly different scenario when a driver is running without a tow – as they will be for Qualifying. Drivers tried hard to get into track positions for a solo run, but it wasn’t easy. Rahal said Thursday “Stefan Wilson came out in front of me. He was at the end of the back straight as I was going out of (Turn) 2. I thought, for once I’m just going to stay in it (on the accelerator). Not normally my M.O., but I thought I might as well put a good one up there, at least lower my dad’s blood pressure for the night.”

The Indycar Race Control Live Streaming T&S on a laptop shows the tow and no-tow speeds, unlike most of the T&S screens seen in various other platforms. The No-Tow speed doesn’t appear in the IndyCar-released results.

The teams are hoping for a full afternoon Friday of track time.

VICS Banners

PENSKE POWER!

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Indianapolis Grant Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the pole position for the third time. It was his 33rd win, 30 of which have been with Penske. He led three times for 56 laps, the most of the record-breaking seven leaders. Many of the lead changes were courtesy of pit stop recycling.

This was the fifth Indy Grand Prix, and all have been won by Penske drivers – three for Power and two for teammate, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menard’s Team Penske Chevrolet. And four of those five victories have been from the pole position. For Team Penske, Saturday was its 200th IndyCar victory. Roger Penske said “”What a great day for the team. The greatest drivers have performed for us. IMS is the most special place to secure our 200th win. I could not think of a better setting. The most important win now is No. 201.”

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power said “I’ve never driven so hard for an entire race. I’m so exhausted. It was very hot, and I didn’t drink enough before the race, and when you’re racing so hard during the race you forget to drink, and you get to the end, and suddenly you’re like, man, I don’t feel good. While you’re racing you’re fine, but as soon as I stopped, I was like, ooh. It was a pretty hard day. I wasn’t feeling it. In the car, man, it doesn’t even register. You know when you start to hear your heartbeat in your ears is when you hear that — that’s when you know you’re starting to struggle a little, which I actually did hear; but that’s what you do all the fitness for. Like I do some pretty high intense fitness, and it’s no different to that. That’s why you do it. You’ve got to be able to pump it out all the way through the race. Who cares how you feel after?”

“I can’t thank Roger Penske enough for the opportunity he’s given me. It’s a real pleasure to drive for him.”

When asked how he saved tires, fuel and patience, he said “Yeah, it was an amazing race actually. Obviously, Wickens (Robert) came out on reds and I was on blacks and man, I’ve never driven so hard to watch a gap grow. But, obviously when I went to the reds, then I had to try to pass him back. And then, he had to save a lot of fuel at the end and go fast; because I knew how good (Scott) Dixon is at saving fuel and going fast. But the Chevy had great fuel mileage, and I’ve never driven so hard for an entire race. Like I was 100 percent the whole time. I’m exhausted.”

“We’ve noticed that Honda had been getting good fuel mileage. I got the number, and I got it pretty much every lap.”

In the waning laps, Power kept stretching is lead over Dixon, going from 2.3162 seconds on Lap 78 to 2.7840 seconds by Lap 83. Dixon gave it the old college try and the Margin of Victory was whittled to 2.2443 seconds.

Power turned a couple of fastest race laps, including the fastest leader lap of 123.231 mph/1:10.5687 on Lap 9; but the overall fastest lap was turned by runner-up Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, whose fastest lap of 124.423 mph/1:10.5687 was turned on Lap 15.

Robert Wickens.

Robert Wickens.

Third and top Rookie was Wickens who had started second and led once for 20 laps. He had been running second on Lap 63, when third place Dixon made a smooth move on Wickens at the end of the front straight on Lap 64, which got the crowd’s attention.

Wickens said “I thought it wasn’t that interesting. I stayed off Push-to-Pass to try to save fuel, and I saw that he was on it, and I thought, oh, maybe I can keep him on the outside and hang on, but he kind of already had me cleared on the outside before braking, and I thought I’d try to keep in there and see what happens, but obviously it just — he’s a very talented guy. It’s not his first rodeo, he made it stick and everything was good, but it was good hard racing from everyone today. I had a couple fights with Will, with Scott, with Alex, and it was all just good, hard, fair fun, to be honest, so I thought it was pretty exciting.That was the first race where I kind of felt like a true rookie there in that final stint because I’ve never had to save fuel before. We’ve kind of practiced it a little bit in warmup where you do like one lap of fuel save. But the amount of fuel that we were having to save to make that work was something that I didn’t even think was possible.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon said “I just was hoping that he was maybe concentrating on saving fuel because I knew it was going to be fairly difficult to get the mileage that we needed to, and I thought I’d try it early to be aggressive and try and get the fuel mileage later if we needed to, so that was basically the strategy. It’s very hard to defend if someone behind you is on overtake and you’re not, just the rate of speed, especially on long straights like this it’s almost impossible. Yeah, it was a pretty basic one. That’s what it was.

Dixon said “It was definitely a rough weekend. The heat really seemed to affect our car a lot. Happy with today. 18th, my worst qualifying without crashing or having a technical issue, to second. Obviously we come here to win, but congratulations to Will, and obviously Penske’s 200th IndyCar win is definitely a big milestone, and it was good to see him get it.”

Fourth and fifth were Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda.

Bourdais said “The guys (other drivers) were really aggressive at the start of that last run and I didn’t know whether I should say screw the fuel number and go with them. I was already not making the number and under a lot of pressure from behind, so I thought maybe we just don’t have the pace and had to give up some positions. After that I was kind of a lonely wolf out there doing my thing and trying to make the fuel number a bit better. Next thing you know the leaders are backing up big time to us. Wickens didn’t want to give up on Rossi and Rossi was being aggressive, so by the end of that stint we had saved enough fuel to use the push-to-pass and he couldn’t and we recovered fourth.”

All 24 drivers finished, 21 of them on the lead lap.

Race Start!  Photo by Pablo Mataoros

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Mataoros

There were two cautions. The first lasted three laps on the start when two cars came together in Turn Two. Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet had been having such a good weekend up until this point until he and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet came together. Pagenaud powered through the contact in the grass and kept on going. King had to be helped by the Emergency Crew and restarted, allowing him to continue, albeit two laps down. He finished last, and Pagenaud salvaged an eighth place finish after starting seventh.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Mataoros

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Mataoros

The other caution was on Lap 56 for four laps when Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske spun while trying to pass Bourdais. They touched, Bourdais continued, and Newgarden stalled in Turn 12. The responding Emergency Crew started Newgarden. He had started sixth and was running fourth when he had the spin, which dropped him to twenty-first. He made several smooth moves and finished eleventh. No action was taken by the Stewards for this incident, or another one involving Newgarden and Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Sato finished tenth.Afterwards, Newgarden said “We had a podium car, for sure. It’s tough to throw it away. I think I got too greedy. I had two or three runs on (Sebastien) Bourdais. I just got frustrated and too greedy. I thought he was going to give me a little more room. He gave me some, but it wasn’t enough. It is my fault.”

MAY MADNESS!

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The only Steward’s action was a Drive-through penalty for Spencer Pigot/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet for avoidable contact in his incident with Sato in Turn Six. It was a eye-catching contact, with Pigot going four-wheels in the air over the berm, coming down with quite a bounce. Sato continued, as did Pigot, who finished fifteenth.

There were a number of incidents over which the Stewards took No Action. Gaby Chaves/No.88 Harding Group Chevrolet and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet; and Kimball and Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn One.

A record number of lead changes occurred during the first half of the race, mostly due to Pit Stops. The second caution on Lap 56 for a spin by Josef Newgarden brought on mass stopping in the pits, leading to fuel conservation mode so drivers could last til the finish with no more pit stops. As it happened, three cars littered the landscape on the cool-off lap, after running out of fuel – Rahal, James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics SPM Honda, and King.

Showers flashed all around north of the track, but stayed away … until Lap 72 when rain drops supposedly were detected around various parts of the 2.439-mile road course. No one pitted for tire changes. The sun came out.

The speedway now closes for two days to convert the track back to its original oval configuration, with the first Indy 500 practice starting on Tuesday.

OFFICIAL INDYCAR RESULTS

1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (2) Robert Wickens, Honda, 85, Running
4. (3) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
5. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
6. (10) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
11. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
12. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 85, Running
13. (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
14. (12) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
15. (9) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (16) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
19. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 85, Running
20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
22. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 84, Running
23. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running
24. (5) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 83, Running

UNOFFICIAL POINTS:
1 – Joseph Newgarden – 178
2 – Alexander Rossi – 176
3 – Sebastien Bourdais – 152
4 – Scott Dixon – 147
5 – James Hinchcliffe – 144
6 – Graham Rahal – 142
7 – Will Power – 135
8 – Robert Wickens – 133
9 – Ryan Hunter-Reay – 125
10 – Marco Andretti – 105