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

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.