HIGH AND DRY

Simon Pagenaud enjoying his Milk Cocktail. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud enjoying his Milk Cocktail. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pole sitter Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet won the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Sunday afternoon under sunny skies. Just like last year, the dire weather failed to appear. This is the second year in a row that a (Penske) driver has swept both May races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the seventh closest finish at the Indy 500 – 0.2086 seconds. Pagenaud now leads the Driver Standings, by one point over his teammate, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus.

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Matamoros

It is the lucky 13th victory for Pagenaud, as well as the 18th Indy 500 win and 206th career victory for Team Penske. The last time a pole sitter won the Indy 500 was ten years ago – Helio Castroneves. Pagenaud leading the most laps as pole sitter hasn’t happened since Dario Franchitti did in 2010.

Pagenaud Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Pagenaud Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Pagenaud led 116 laps – five times was for recycling through pit stops and regaining the lead he relinquished when he pitted; and the last two were during his battle with Rossi for the victory, after the last restart. Drama. Excitement. Worth the wait.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pagenaud said “The car was just on rails. The yellows came out perfectly. The stars are aligned. It’s pretty amazing. So I’m just speechless. It’s just incredible. I never expected to be in this position, but I certainly was trying to make it as hard as I could. It’s all about achieving and executing at the end, and we did execute perfectly today. No mistakes. Here we are, Victory Lane!”

Roger Penske

Team Owner, Roger Penske said “That flight at the end, you knew we were building up to something with 15 laps and they take the cars that are not on the lead lap and put them in the back. It really sets up for an amazing run and good clean racing. You see how close it was.

“This win here today for Simon and our 50th, it goes down in the record book. But as I say, it’s not me, it’s all the people that we work with day in and day out that makes it so good.”

Alexander Rossi

The very disappointed runner-up was Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport who had battled fiercely with Pagenaud after the last restart. There were several on-track passes which led to edge-of-seat excitement until the Checkered Flag. Rossi led three times when recycling through Pit Stops, plus his two killer on-track passes of Pagenaud that were thrilling to watch – total 22 laps led. He now is third in the points standings.

Rossi said “Horsepower was the difference at the end. They did a great job. Obviously, he was on the pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.” Rossi persevered after two episodes which could have kept him further back at the finish. He had a trying time trying to pass a lapped Oriol Servia/No.77 MotoGator Stange w/Arrow SPM Honda; and when he finally did he shook his fists furiously at the Spaniard. The other problem was a fuel flow issue during his last pit stop. Again he showed some animated frustration, pounding his fists on the cockpit.

The dire weather forecasts never materialized, not even after the race was over. Although the early morning alerts warned of possible severe weather and lightning strikes, the warnings and threats faded. It was dry with high clouds all day, with sun breaking through on the last 50 laps of the race. That’s when the race woke up, after being somewhat lulling.

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda finished third, but felt like it was a win. “The last 15 laps were great excitement. It’s always challenging. It’s always difficult. We just kept our heads down, did our job and made the most of it.”

Santino Ferrucci

The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished seventh overall. He led once for a lap, and got up to second place at another point. And he made the most on-track passes of any driver, according to his team. And he wowed the crowd with his on-the-grass evasive maneuver he made during the five-car incident which caused a Red Flag. “My spotter says don’t go high, just don’t go high. Then I see everybody starting to wreck, and I’m just like, middle of the track, and then I floored it because I thought that was the smart thing to do. Then I saw the grass, which to me was the only hole, and that looked like the most intelligent place to go. So we mowed the lawn in retrospect, and we came out just fine.”

The 20-year old was still pumped after the race, ready to run another 500 race tomorrow. He said the race was “surprisingly longer than it looks, and the racing with other drivers was actually a lot more fun than I had evr hoped it to be. I got to battle it out almost the entire race with Hunter-Reay, who’s a champion here, and I can’t thank him enough because the experience that you get racing someone like that and the enjoyment and the excitement of racing around other competitors like him, it was just a blast. I think that was probably some of the best parts. It feels like a victory. We started 23rd, man.”

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Photo by

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Photo by

The first 150 laps were relatively drama free, with the most excitement happening in the pits. There was one crash – Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet got loose and spun out on his own, crashing hard in Turn 4. He was not hurt, and was cleared to drive. Close to the 150-lap mark, Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun coming into the pit lane, hit the wall and stalled. He had to be towed, which brought out a ten-lap caution. It was at the same time as Rossi was enduring his fuel flow failure. The caution was lucky for Rossi as he was able to move up during subsequent pit stops by others. Ericsson said he locked up his rears. He continued to race, and finished 23rd, two laps down.

There were three speeding tickets, and three cited for ‘Service in a Closed Pit.’ Two drivers-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda were given drive-thru penalties for hitting their respective crews during pit stops. JR Hildebrand/No.48 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet and Sato were fined for Pit Safety infractions. Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda came into his pit box too hot and hit a tire which hit his right front tire guy – Chris Minot, who was taken to IU Methodist Hospital for a leg injury. King received a fine.

Jessica Mace, #25 Tire Changer. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Jessica Mace, #25 Tire Changer. Photo by Nico Matamoros

After the restart from the pit lane incidents, there was maneuvering and jostling for position behind Pagenaud. Then there was the first on-track pass for the lead – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet passed his Penske teammate, who hung onto Newgarden’s tailpipe. This is where Rossi was trying to catch up and being thwarted by Servia. Rossi continued his passing, including his Andretti teammate, Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Honda, who had quietly been moving up and racing in the top ten and then top five. Pagenaud and Rossi pitted, and came back 16th and 17th. Then Newgarden pitted, and Rookie Ferrucci took the lead. Various leaders led and pitted, recycling leaders, including Penske teammate Will Power/No 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet and Sato. Rossi passed Pagenaud. In the end Daly finished tenth although he ran as high as fourth. It was his best Indy 500 finish. His pit stops went well. Daly said “Our car was fast enough to be in the top five, for sure. It felt nice to be in the lead group and fighting. I’m bummed to be 10th, but it’s still a career best and i think that the whole U.S. Air Force team can still be proud of what we did here this month.” Daly had the only female over-the-wall crew member, Jessica Mace, his right-rear tire changer.

Just as the race was getting exciting, there was an accident on Lap 178 which ultimately caught out five cars. Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Sebastien Bourdais/No.19 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda touched. Rahal was inside Bourdais, came up along side, there was contact. Rahal spun off inside and stopped and Bourdais fishtailed down track, spun into wall hard, and then was hit by Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet were also involved. Kimball was the only one who was able to continue. Four of the five drivers were unhurt and cleared to drive. Veach was not cleared – right knee. Veach said “I think that was the biggest hit I have ever had on an oval. My knee came up and hit the steering wheel where I backed in. I got my right knee pretty bad – I think it is okay. Luckily, they did x-rays, but it is just really bruised.”

Rahal was obviously frustrated and disappointed afterwards. He went over to check on Bourdais, who had to have help from the AMR Response team to get out of his car. Rahal said “I respect Bourdais, but I don’t respect that move. At those speeds that’s how you kill people.” Bourdais said “I thought he was going to back off, and we were going to be OK. He didn’t. It’s that stage of the race where nobody wants to give up. It’s just bad timing.” After a Steward’s Review, Bourdais was assessed a 30-second penalty for Avoidable Contact.

Red Flag Lineup. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Red Flag Lineup. Photo by Nico Matamoros

This accident caused a caution, which became a Red Flag situation for 3.17 minutes. The race restarted on Lap 180 under caution, with the lapped cars at the rear of the field as per rules governing a restart with 20 or fewer laps to go. The race went Green on Lap 187. Rossi was the leader. Pagenaud went high and passed Rossi at the Start-Finish line. One lap later Rossi retook the lead, and then Pagenaud repassed Rossi another lap later. Rossi made passing attempt but didn’t complete. Then on Lap 197 Rossi passed Pagenaud, Pagenaud tried a repass attempt but failed. He tried one more pass on Rossi and was succssful. He kept his lead and won.

Colton Herta. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Colton Herta. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda had a sad day, lasting only three laps. His car had gearbox problems, he couldn’t get sixth, so he stuck it in fifth gear. He was resigned to running in fifth, making it a long day. But he lost gear pressure, couldn’t change gears and the engine was dying. He limped to Pit Entry where he stalled and had to be towed, bringing out the first caution. “It’s just really sad. The guys have been working really hard, through Mother’s Day and every weekend. We’ve been quick everywhere and haven’t qualified outside the top 10 yet. I know we’ll be back next week.”

The crowd count was not released, but IMS President, Doug Boles, acknowledged earlier that the troubling weather forecast could affect the walk-up crowd.

Kissing the Bricks. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Kissing the Bricks. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

1. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running

2. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running

3. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running

4. (8) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running

5. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running

6. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running

7. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 200, Running

8. (22) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running

9. (16) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running

10. (11) Conor Daly, Honda, 200, Running

11. (32) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 200, Running

12. (15) James Davison, Honda, 200, Running

13. (4) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 200, Running

14. (3) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 200, Running

15. (24) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running

16. (30) Pippa Mann, Chevrolet, 200, Running

17. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running

18. (12) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 199, Running

19. (31) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 199, Running

20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 199, Running

21. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running

22. (19) Oriol Servia, Honda, 199, Running

23. (13) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 198, Running

24. (26) Jordan King, Honda, 198, Running

25. (20) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 196, Running

26. (10) Marco Andretti, Honda, 195, Running

27. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 176, Contact

28. (29) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 176, Contact

29. (28) Zach Veach, Honda, 176, Contact

30. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 176, Contact

31. (33) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 71, Contact

32. (27) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 54, Mechanical

33. (5) Colton Herta, Honda, 3, Mechanical

SUNDAY AM

Pagoda

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway cannon went off on schedule at 6am Sunday to let the fans in for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. There was no visible cannon smoke in the air this time. The sunrise 24 minutes later was a non-event – too many clouds in the East for anything but a gradual over-all lightening of the skies. The lightning warnings had disappeared from the monitors, and all the big screens showed racing logos, endless loops of driver bios and photos, and a wide variety of other race-related notices… until live TV took over for extended pre-race shows. Occasionally the radar map would show. Didn’t look promising. A few scattered people were already getting settled in the front straight grandstands by 6:30am.

The temperature started out at 75 degrees F at 4am, dropped to 65F a couple of hours later, and then started slowly warming again. Humidity up and down, wind up and down. The weather continued to clear. Sunglasses and sunscreen were in order.One thing about Indianapolis, you’ll get weather.

Indy 500 Logo

In Gasoline Alley and garages, the teams were putting the final touches on the racecars, and from the looks of it, might extensive handiwork is in play. The NTT IndyCar Tech Team held its morning meeting, while the teams waited patiently in the queue for their turn in the Tech Tent and Garage.

Tech Team Morning Meeting

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Tech Officials waiting to start

Jessica Mace

Jessica Mace of Avon IN is the only female over-the-wall team crew member this year. This is her third time at the Indy 500 as over-the-wall tire changer, and one of those two other times she crewed for Conor Daly, the driver she is supporting this race weekend. He drives No.25 United States Air Force Andretti Autosport Honda, and she is the right rear tire changer. Although the rear tires are a bit heavier, and bigger than the fronts, Mace prefers the rears as they are easier to grab/pull. She works full-time for Andretti in the Indy Lights program where she is a mechanic, which she really likes. Mace enjoys working with young drivers, and she can also ‘have a life.’ She and the team have been using the Andretti ‘Pit’ Car for Pit Stop practice this week. As she is only a part-time crew for over-the-wall duties, she doesn’t have an extensive work-out regimen; but she does do shoulder work and relies on her muscle memory.

Jessica Mace at work

Mace comes from a family of racers, including her grandfather. She has an extensive background in race officiating, which she cultivated and honed in Northern California, before being called back to work Race Control with Pro Series such as Grand Am. She has been a mechanic for some years, and has been over-the-wall in more than a few other races, including Le Mans with the Ganassi Ford program.

Sarah Fisher

The IndyCar Observers had their morning meeting in the garages, and then Race Control had its meeting. Included in that was Sarah Fisher, who is the Official Pace Car Driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive the 2019 Corvette Long Beach Red Grand Sport Pace Car to start the race. Once he peels off, Fisher will take over for the race duration.

Firestone Tires will be with IndyCar through 2025. This race weekend will mark the 70th Indy 500 victory for Firestone.

Firestone Team Lineup

Drivers and their helmets. They each have their own style and providers. What they all have in common is deflectors – the thin plastic across the top used to deflect wind flow and keep the helmet from buffeting. It steadies the driver’s head. With the advent of the new AFP (Advanced Frontal Protection) device it changed the air flow onto the drivers. Different drivers utilize the device in different ways. It is integral to the helmet, and the driver works with his helmet provider to get suitable preferences.

Fernando Alonso's helmet

Josef Newgarden's helmet

Scott Dixon's helmet

Scott Dixon's helmet

Oriol Servia's helmet

Jack Harvey's helmet

James Hinchcliffe's helmet

Alexander Rossi's helmet

Zach Veach's helmet

Colton Herta's helmet

Pippa Man's helmet

Ben Hanley's helmet

IMS Sunrise

LEGENDARY DAY

Autograph Lines

Saturday was Legends day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The day started out hot and humid, sunny with an unpredictable breeze. The weather forecast was for afternoon thunderstorm, right about the time of the Festival Parade downtown Indianapolis. It did rain, hard in mid-afternoon; but as it’s Indy, it came, it poured, and it left. The sun came back out. And the temperatures rose.

At the track there were huge queues for the morning NTT IndyCar driver autograph sessions. And then the fans all found grandstand seats for the public/open Drivers’ Meeting, where all the drivers were introduced and received their Starter Rings. Will Power, as defending Indianpolis 500 winner, received his winner’s trophy from the American Dairy Association; and along with Team Penske owner, Roger Penske, received his Baby Borg trophy for winning last year’s race.There were various and sundry other presentations and speeches. Before and after these festivities, the Historic indycars did Exhibition Laps.

Roger Penske & Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies.

Will Power receiving 'Winners Drink Milk' Plaque

Will Power receiving his Starter Ring

Left to Right: Roger Penske and Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies for their 2018 Indy 500 win; Will Power receives his ‘Winners Drink Milk’ Plaque from American Dairy Association CEO, Jenni Browning; and Will Power receives his 2019 Indy 500 starter Ring. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.

At the Drivers’ Meeting, all 33 drivers were present and accounted for. They sat in grid order in a mini-grandstand facing the grandstands, and stood when called to come down to receive their starter rings.

Pole Sitter Simon Pagenaud receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Ed Carpenter receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Spencer Pigot receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Kyle Kaiser received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

James Hinchcliffe receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Sage Karam received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Left to right, receiving their 2019 Indy 500 Starter Rings are: Front Row – Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter & Spencer Pigot; Last Row – Kyle Kaiser, James Hinchcliffe, and Sage Karem. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Saturday night is when the track makes its Sunday race decisions and plans based on its best weather information. The track has a weather station at the Speedway, plus a partnership with a local TV weather station. Its information is about as current and correct as it can get. Stay tuned.

Seb on a Scooter

Sato on a Scooter
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RHR Golf Cart

Scott Dixon's Scooter

Alexander Rossi's Golf Cart

At the track, there are a variety of ways drivers get around besides walking or rental cars. There are scooters, and watch out – those drivers don’t have a rev limiter on their scooters. There are customized golf carts, fancy motorcycles, and to get to the parade – fancy busses waiting for them right beside the Public Driver’s Meeting grandstand.

Garage Motorcycles

Garage Golf cart lineup

Parade Busses

Many groups took advantage of the relative calm of the day to lead tours around the track and various facilities. Victory Circle had a queue of tours waiting for their chance to visit the iconic podium.

Eric Prill, Doug Boles & Deanna Flanagan at IMS Announcement

One very small group on the Podium Saturday morning was SCCA. Eric Prill, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, along with Deanna Flanagan, Director, Road Racing live-streamed an announcement on the SCCA Facebook page, which was billed as a ‘Major Announcement from a Secret Location.’ Joining them was Doug Boles, President of IMS, to tell the SCCA folks that the SCCA National Runoffs are coming back to IMS in 2021. The Runoffs were first held at the Speedway in 2017 and were so popular, the entry was 969, highest ever for SCCA. Now, as part of the rotation around the country, SCCA is bringing the event back to the Brickyard, with the three-day races being held Oct 1-3, 2021.

After the big announcement, IMS Radio asked Prill to talk about competing at the Runoffs and winning his first-ever National Championship, at IMS.

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

CARB DAY!

Carb Day Crowd

Friday’s Carb Day had a full schedule, with the Historic Cars Exhibition Laps, Indy Lights Autograph Session, NTT IndyCar Series final Indianapolis 500 practice, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights Race, and the IndyCar Pit Stop Competition. Things started out on hold due to a torrential downpour at 8:30am. But it ended less than an hour later, the track was dried, and things got mostly back on schedule. The morning weather was warm and muggy, windy, at 68-74 degrees F with 81 percent humidity, right after the storm.

The media enjoyed a string of indoor press conferences and award presentations, while fans took shelter in various locations, waiting out the storm. They queued up in the rain for autograph or book-signing sessions, which were then held in the hazy dry sunlight. The Indy 500 Drivers/Team Managers/Spotters had their indoor meeting, Indy Lights Series had its Drivers’ Meeting, PR Reps had a meeting, and some awards were presented. Late afternoon, at the Chevrolet Display near Pagoda Plaza, the Team Penske drivers and Ed Carpenter handed out ice cream bars to the fans.

Aeroscreen Press Conference

Left to Right: Scott Dixon, Jay Frye, Ed Collings, and Andy Damerum.

A very important media presser was held to announce the NTT IndyCar Series partnership with Red Bull Advanced technologies to design an Aeroscreen for enhanced driver cockpit protection. Alongside IndyCar President, Jay Frye and NTT IndyCar Series driver, Scott Dixon, were Red Bull Racing business development engineer, Andy Damerum; and Red Bull Advanced Technologies head of composites and structures, Ed Collings.

The Aeroscreen is in the works and will be used starting at the outset of next year’s season. Frye had promised when the ATP (Advanced Frontal Protection) device was introduced for the Indy 500 and going forward, it was just the first step in enhanced driver cockpit protection, and more evolutions would be forthcoming. Deflecting debris away from the cockpit area and the driver is the intent and design of the ATP. The Aeroscreen is basically a very strong windscreen, constructed using state-of-the-art technology and high-tech very high-strength composite materials, very high-strength carbon fiber, epoxy and titanium.

The polycarbonate laminated screen will have an anti-reflective coating on the interior of the screen, an anti-fogging device through an integral heating element, and possibly tear-offs, all of which will be produced by integrated third-party components. Johnny Rutherford asked about the tearoffs, and was told they would have to be removed during a pit stop. Rutherford didn’t seem to like that.

The prototype is close to being built, with the plan for testing by selected IndyCar drivers this summer, after ballistic tests and certifications by the factory in England, so each team can have one by off-season.

The conference was interrupted and cut short by another announcement.

The 90-minute final/Carb Day Indy 500 practice, scheduled for 11am, actually started at 11:18am after the track had dried. It was cut short 18 minutes, as Carb Day schedule was ‘Time Certain,” and had to end at 12:30pm. The ambient temperature was 84 degrees F, and track temps were 110 F.

Tony Kanaan No.14 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan No.14 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet led the most laps and for the longest time. His best lap was 225.517 mph on Lap 17 of his 40.
Kanaan said “Yeah, a good day for us. Obviously, conditions look like pretty similar to what we’re going to see on Sunday hopefully, so you know, it was a pretty easy day for us. I wasn’t really happy with my car on Monday, and I was extremely vocal about it, and I think my engineers heard me, so we made it better today. It’s the most competitive field I’ve ever seen in my 18 years here. Qualifying was extremely hard, and it’s really tight. So yeah, I think it’s going to be a difficult race. I do strongly believe that everybody, every single guy is starting this race, and girl, they think they can win this race, which is true.”

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Near the end, Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda moved up to second, running 225.486 mph on Lap 60 of his 64 laps. Third and fourth were Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda teammates, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic and Rookie Jordan King/No.42. Fifth was James Davison/No.33 Dale Coyne with Byrd and Belardi Honda. All five led at one point. Other leaders included JR Hildebrand/No.48 DRR Salesforce Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. There were three Rookies in the top nine, with Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda coming in ninth. All 33 cars were on track and all turned double-digit laps. A total of 1755 laps were turned in the 75-minute session.

Colton Herta No.88 Honda

Graham Rahal No.15 Honda

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Colton Herta/No.88 Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda; and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda grazed the wall mid-session, but continued on and there was no caution. “The car was OK and then all of a sudden it just took off with understeer and brushed the wall. I had it one other time and I was actually leading a pack at that point and the front just gave up. With the wind like this, it gets a little bit gusty. I was behind two or three cars and if you get a crosswind and hit the wake, it’s going to go. I had one close call but the rest of the time the United Rentals car was really good.”

Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet has some signage on his formerly naked car. Congratulations! He said “We’ll see how the weather compares (to today), but overall really happy with this team continuing to work hard and put together a good package for us. Having 250oK, NFP, GMR, and Hagerty as sponsors on the car is amazing.”

Time wasn’t the ultimate outcome for this practice – it was for seeing and experiencing things for the first time, as they would be for the race. After qualifying, the pit spaces were reassigned, based on grid spots. So the drivers had to familiarize themselves with new pit stalls and locations, practice coming in and out in traffic, and also ensure they slowed sufficiently for pit entry.

The Annual Pit Stop Challenge took place after the Freedom 100 Indy Lights Race, which was won in a photo-finish by Oliver Askew/No.28 Andretti Autosport ahead of Ryan Norman/No.49. A first lap crash eliminated Dave Malkus/No.79 and Chris Windom/No.17. Malkus spun and Windom couldn’t avoid hitting him. Windom landed on top of Malkus and rode the fence and wall quite a distance down track before coming to a halt. Both drivers walked away and were cleared by the Medical Center. Brian Belardi is the team owner for both cars. The race was red-flagged.

No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda Pit Crew

Rookie Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda defeated several-time winner, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the Pit Stop Challenge Competition. Ericsson said “No, I’ve never done anything like this before, but it was really cool. It’s such a cool event. This whole month has been amazing, and today was a really cool day, and to finish it off by winning made it even better.”

Marcus Ericsson No.7 Pit Crew

No.7 Pit Crew Listing

Marcus Ericsson
Left to Right: No.7 Pit Crew, No.7 Pit Crew Listing, and Victorious Marcus Ericsson. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

Mark Miles presenting Robin Miller with his Award

The first annual Robin Miller Award was presented to Robin Miller, who is working his 50th Indianapolis 500. Its tenets: ‘Honoring an unheralded individual who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to IndyCar racing while bringing unbridled passion and unrelenting work ethic to enrich the sport.’ Among those there to share in the occasion: Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, AJ Foyt, Paul Page, and Mario. Mark Miles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, made the presentation. That speech and those of the other notables amounted to a mild roast of the motorsports maven, who is undoubtedly a legend in his own mind. And, as Helio Castroneves said in the RACER Robin Miller Roast/Tribute video, “The man has no filter.”

Special event Tee shirts were presented to a rare few. Miller said “These guys were my heroes growing up – AJ beat me up in 1981 but we became friends again – and now we’re all buddies.

“When you’ve spent your whole life doing this… obviously you’re not very intelligent – look at the company surrounding me; they’ve been upside-down, they’ve been dead a few times – but the great thing about this sport is these guys, and the people who gravitate towards them. You can never get enough of them.

“Anyway, very nice of you guys to show up for this. They usually give you these when you’re dead. Thank you, guys. It’s a fun day to be Robin Miller.”

Robin Miller & Friends

MEDIA THURSDAY

Media Show Car & Borg Warmer Trophy

It was Media Day all over Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The NBC Sports broadcast team met with the Media, Team Penske & Shell had a big Media function, Dreyer Reinbold had a media function with AJ Foyt, and it was time for the annual IndyCar Drivers Media Day, where every driver had to make an hour-long appearance to meet with the credentialed media for open Q&A and photo ops. And this was after said drivers had been dispatched around the country on Tuesday/Wednesday to make appearances in various media market, on behalf of the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Andretti Pit Stop practice

No.30 RHLL Honda in Tech

Meanwhile, while the drivers and handlers were making the rounds, back in the garages, the teams were practicing pit stops on their ‘pit stop cars’ and tweaking their final tweaks before going through the Tech line. But no engines were fired. The sounds of racing came from the Indy Lights teams who were on track practicing and qualifying for their Freedom 100 race on Carb Day, and the Historic Indy Cars doing Exhibition Laps.

Retro Rebel & Paul Tracy

Retro Rebel & Paul Tracy

Watch out mainstream media – here comes Retro Rebel, the youngest media star at age 11. She is working with NBC Sports. Olivia, who has a YouTube video following for her Retro Rebel features, interviewed all the TV broadcasters. You’ll notice her Retro Rebel microphone with Paul Tracy. When she was interviewing drivers later on, such as James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, she had a NBCSN microphone. NBC Sports is doing a video on her which will be used on NBC “On Her Turf”, showingcasing what women can do (Be the best version of yourself, both on and off the field,) as well on various Social Media outlets including Instagram, NBCSN and IndyCar. Olivia was first spotted by NBC Sports at the St. Pete race this year. She is a huge Star Wars Fan, especially of the character Rebel. Olivia combined that with her love of retro in racing, the history and such. Thus, Retro Rebel was born.

Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dr. Geoff Billows, IndyCar Medical Director met with the media to go over some logistics for the weekend. The Elephant In The Room – thunderstorm forecast for race day Sunday – was on everyone’s mind. Boles reminded everyone that last year’s race day forecast was for rain and it didn’t materialize. It was one hot day. Thursday was a mixed bag of weather, starting with a horrendous thunderstorm with lightning. Rain lasted until 9am or so. And then it dried up, was overcast but not cold. It turned out to be warm and muggy hot for the rest of the day. Currently the forecast is for Thunderstorms through Monday. However, Boles reminded everyone, this is Indiana. Weather is changeable. The track has its own weather forecasting systems in place at the track, and work with a local TV station on weather forecasting. There will be no working on Plan B – in case of rain on the race – until Saturday night. Putting the race off until Monday has been discussed, but is something Boles wants to avoid if at all possible. The race can be started Sunday up until 6pm. Sunset is set for 9:02pm or so, and it only takes 101 laps for the race to be complete and legal.

The 1986 Indy 500 was rained out on Sunday and Monday, and run on Saturday 31 May. It was won by Bobby Rahal, running for Jim Truman, who died 11 days later. The 1997 Indy 500 was rained out completely Sunday, and Monday after 15 laps, and ran full length Tuesday 27 May. It was won by Arie Luyendyk.

Regarding threats and warnings, Boles said that when it’s just rain, the fans can stay or move. When there’s thunder or lightning, the warnings go out to vacate the grandstand and follow your own personal safety plan. He explained that a personal plan can vary depending on where a person is located and where their transport is. Some involve more distance than others, so warnings can’t be more specific on time frame. So have a Personal Safety Plan in mind ahead of time.

On a medical note, Dr. Billows indicated that there has been some concerns about measles, so there will be a limited number of free measles vaccines available Carb Day in the Medical Center.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Here Thursday and for the weekend is Damon Hill, who is experiencing his first-ever Indy 500. His father, the late Graham Hill won the Indy500 in 1986, and was the only driver to win the ‘Triple Crown – Indy 500 – Le Mans 24 – and Monaco. This is the feat to which Fernando Alonso aspired when he entered this year’s (and the 2017) Indy 500.

Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt and Danica Patrick will be providing color commentary for the Indy 500, for perspective and what they’re seeing and experiencing. For Earnhardt, this is his first Indy 500 as a broadcaster. He said he didn’t want to learn too much about it ahead of time, over- learn about it, since NBC wanted his first-time experience outlook … “to share my experience.”

Earnhardt said “I want to sit in a real Indy 500 car, not a show car; and I can’t wait to talk to some drivers, pick their brains a bit. I got a lot to learn. At 9’clock I got to hop around, to six or seven locations for the Pre Race. I’ll probably check them out a bit the next couple of days, so I have sort of an idea of what I’m walking into. But I don’t want to know everything. I want to be surprised, to have a reaction to it. I’m a fish outa water, and they’re trying to capture my reaction to it, as seeing it for the very first time. So it’s about finding out a little bit but not too much. I don’t need to know the background and history of every driver. That’s for the guys in the booth. I’m not going to be playing that role in this race. I’ll be on the pit box, and they’ll come to us to explain my reaction on how it’s playing out. That’s more tricky to do. You gotta find things that pull you, intrigue you. Such as an underdog. I love an underdog. So I’ll be trying to find the guy that plateaued out, or doing things really good. So they’ll come to us, for our reaction, not anything technical. But here I’m coming in as a fan. I would be here whether I was working for NBC or not. Something they told me at the beginning. We’re not going to put you in a situation where you fail.”

Danica Patrick & DeDe Service Dog

Patrick was the most relaxed and open as I’ve seen her, and she admitted she liked “having makeup and hair.”

In terms of what she did for her preparation for this weekend’s TV coverage: “Fourteen years, starting out in 2005 at the Indy 500. That’s what I’m here for, not to be someone like Marty Snyder directing and throwing to the other on air talent. That’s not my role. That’s what they do and they’re very good at it. I have the information, so I guess, essentially we’re all professionals in our own little way. I’m enjoying this new role. It’s a lot more fun and less stressful than driving a car. It doesn’t mean it’s not a little challenging at some points in time, but you know, you want to do a good job. I think the hardest thing is that when you’re doing an interview, you realize you’ve got all kinds of time and the more I say the better. But when you’re on air and you’re transitioning from everything from an interview on pit road to the booth to a pit road reporter or to a commercial, there’s a clock on. So you need to get very concise with your thoughts because you don’t have a lot of time and they’re in your ears telling you to hurry up. So that’s a little bit of the challenge. But other than that, it’s stuff I know. It’s a little bit different, transitioning to that kind of editing. You realize you’re part of a production, instead of making a story of whatever you say, you’re working on a team a little bit more when it comes to what you say. So it’s just speaking in sound bites.”

Mixologists Josef Newgarden & Helio Castroneves

ONE AND DONE – PAGENAUD ON POLE & ALONSO GOES HOME

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

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

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

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

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

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

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

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

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

Sage Karem

James Hinchcliffe

Kyle Kaiser

Sage Karem No.24 DRR Chevrolet

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Arrow Honda

Kyle Kaiser's No.32 Juncos Chevrolet

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

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

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

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

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

Gil de Ferran & Fernando Alonso

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

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

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

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 Carlin Chevrolet

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

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

UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOGGY SUNDAY – QUALIFYING?

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

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

Jet Dryers

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

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

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

Tony Kanaan's Feet

Pagoda roof

Max Chilton's feet

Fernando Alonso's feet

Starter Stand

Ryan Hunter-Reay's feet

SPEED BUMP

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

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

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

Juncos Racing Garage

Juncos Racing Garage

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

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

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

Townsend Bell & #39 crew

Max Chilton

Aerodynamic Car Panels.

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

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

Fernando Alonso's McLaren Crew working on car.

No.66 McLaren Chevrolet off to work

McLaren Crew packing up pit equipment

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

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

Firestone Award Winners

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

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

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

Firestone Garage Grid Display

DAILY DRAMA

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

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

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

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

188A2663

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

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

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

Spencer Pigot.

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden

Colton Herta

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

Ed Carpenter

Alex Rossi & No.27 Andretti Honda Crew.

Sebastien Bourdais & No.18 Coyne Honda Crew

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

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

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

Pippa Mann. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pippa Mann. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

CHARLIE KIMBALL & NO.23 CARLIN CREW

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

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

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

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

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

Qualifying Pit Lanes 1 & 2. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Qualifying Pit Lanes 1 & 2. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Qually Crowd.

Qually Crowd.. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

INDIANAPOLIS 500 DAY 1 QUALIFYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING READY

IMS Sunrise. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

IMS Sunrise. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view seen by the Juncos crew Saturday morning

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