ACING ALONSO AND ANDRETTI

Quiet Pit LaneAnd a great good morning to you all from lovely Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the second day of practice for the Verizon INDYCAR Series leading up to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s not even noon yet and the temperature has already reached 78 degrees F. There is an inconsistent breeze, gusty at times and otherwise not. Gasoline Alley seems pretty quiet although most activity is hidden behind closed garage doors. The Scrutineering Bays have almost no customers and the INDYCAR Scrutineers are relaxed and enjoying the lull. For the most part there’s no worry about dodging the speeding pit carts, which are always on a mission. And in Pit Lane there is no activity at all … yet.

At noon, the track will open for fifteen minutes of private time for two Rookies, Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, and Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. Both drivers have passed Phase One of their ROP and have two phases to go.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda completed all his phases Monday. This is his first Indy 500, but he’s been running the full INDYCAR Series. Veach and Harvey are ‘one-off’ Indy 500 drivers.

Oriol Servia's No.16

Completing all phases of their Refresher Sessions were Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet completed all phases of their Refresher Session, and were cleared to compete in the Indy 500.

At 12:15pm the track will open for all drivers.

Marco Andretti

Reviewing Monday’s first day of practice: Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fastest at 226.338 mph. He was pleased that he was again able to be first fastest on Opening Day – repeating last year’s accomplishment.

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

Fernando Alonso

Andretti’s teammate Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie in nineteenth position, and he was fastest in the earlier Rookie/Refresher session. He met with the media after the session ended. “Good day. I will a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd. But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, yeah, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.”

When asked what he thought would be the most difficult or dangerous, Alonso said “I think the most difficult thing will be the race itself, you know, all the things that happen in a race like this one, which are the traffic, running in traffic, and learning all the little tricks to overtake, and then to use the performance of your car in which moment of the race, why, you know, and all these little things that only with experience and with races you can learn. And I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that time, so I know that I will be weaker in some of these aspects. I need to learn as quick as I can in the next 10 days, 12 days, and apart from that, I need to try to use other things that is not experience to try to close that gap that I will have, you know.”

Alonso admitted that running in traffic is part of his program yet to be experienced. Andretti added that “I think as we do these group runs we can almost simulate a race with all the cars we have on our team, almost a fifth of the field.”

Andretti isn’t usually overly emotional, but he seemed genuinely pleased with his top status Monday.”We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the ones that took — the changes that take long. That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week on the car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.

“Obviously ran good here last year. Car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”

Holmatro Safety Truck

Monday afternoon’s two on-track sessions went almost without incident. There were twelve cautions, ten of which were for track inspection / debris. Total caution time was nine seconds short of an hour. The Cleanup vehicles probably clocked as many laps as many of the drivers.

One exception was Rookie Harvey, who had a brush with the SAFER Barrier in Turn Two. He hit with the side panel and rear wheel, and spun to the opposite side of the track. He was unhurt and after being checked in the Infield Care Center, Harvey was released and cleared for driving. The crew went to work on repairing the damage. And it was truly a team effort, with crew members from all the six Andretti Autosport teams pitching in. Harvey said “To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that. A random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”

Not exactly a drama, but causing a caution, to be cautious, was Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda who pitted with a smoke trail. He lost an engine. Third one for Honda. Saturday Bourdais and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda each lost an engine in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

t only ran six laps, and he was 32nd fastest.

Rookie Jones turned the most overall laps, counting his ROP and Open Practice – 94. He finished twenty-second.

More Indiana students are on campus for a STEAM talk by Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda in the East Chalet. Tuesday the students are all from high schools.

Energy for Another of Life’s Great Journeys

Andretti Autosport Logo

A hot but unconfirmed rumor has been circulating in the paddock at Phoenix International Raceway, scene of this weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix. Andretti Autosport has scheduled a Media Conference for Friday noon to announce plans for its fifth entry for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 race. The open secret is that it will be Townsend Bell. Andretti Autosport runs four Hondas for the entire season – Carlos Munoz/No.26, Marco Andretti/No.27, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28, and Rookie Alexander Rossi/No.98 with Brian Herta.

Andretti Team Manager, Rob Edwards, has been quoted as saying there will be no more than five Andretti entries at Indy. However, insiders say that a deal has already been done for another entry, which will be announced Saturday simultaneously in Phoenix and Martinsville, via the magic of satellite TV.

Danica Patrick, currently racing NASCAR Sprint Cup with Stewart-Haas Racing, is going to “Do The Double” on Memorial Day. She’ll run the Indianapolis 500, as well as the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Patrick will run a sixth car with her former team, Andretti Autosport – a Honda team, with sponsorship from Nature’s Bakery.

“Our involvement with NASCAR has proven successful,” Nature’s Bakery founder Dave Marson said. “Our relationship with Danica Patrick was a natural fit given her athletic lifestyle. She has proven that she has the ‘energy for life’s great journeys.’ I thought she and IndyCar could bring our brand that has an active and healthy lifestyle into a family oriented arena: this iconic race – The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Patrick is well-known for her athleticism and healthy physical training regimen, and has already increased her workouts.

Patrick, who raced indycars from 2005 through 2011, has unfinished business at the Indy 500. After starting twenty-fifth in 2011, she was leading when she ran out of fuel and finished tenth.

Patrick’s Cup team has two teammates who have already done the Memorial Day Double: boss, Tony Stewart in 1999 and 2001, and teammate, Kurt Busch, who drove for Andretti Autosport in 2014. Stewart is the only driver who has successfully completed both races (both years.) In 1999, he finished ninth at Indy-not on the lead lap, and fourth at Charlotte. In 2001, he made history by completing all 1100 miles and finished on the lead lap in each – sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Charlotte 600. Stewart is presently sidelined from his driving duties while recuperating from his off-road accident in January. He has yet to drive in what he says is his last year in NASCAR Cup racing.

Although Patrick currently drives a Chevrolet in NASCAR, and has driven Chevrolets throughout her stock car career, her SHR team is switching to Ford next season. “(Driving a Chevy my whole career) is just a matter of what happened. It’s not because I said ‘I want to drive a Chevy’ or ‘I want to drive a Ford’ or ‘I want to drive a Toyota’. It has nothing to do with that. It’s about the team and the people involved and I think that Tony’s done a great job of getting people involved that are great and that create successful teams.

“I haven’t been involved in a manufacturer change in a team before, so I don’t have experience, but I’m sure the team will do everything they can to minimize any transition time and to only improve performance.”

Patrick’s Double plans were facilitated by JMI, which has a strategic partnership with Nature’s Bakery for Patrick’s NASCAR sponsorship. JMI also has strategic partnerships with Andretti Autosport and hhgregg for sponsorship on Marco Andretti’s No.27 Honda.

Andretti Livery logo

Now, if you’ve followed this so far, and still are a believer, I have a bridge in Arizona for sale.

APRIL FOOL!

RACY!

Juan Pablo Montoya with milk and trophy

Juan Pablo Montoya with milk and trophy. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet waited 15 years to win his second Indianapolis 500, but he was obviously overjoyed. “I’m loving racing right now.” His victory hiatus was the longest in Indy 500 history.

For Montoya’s team owner, Roger Penske, he joined the exclusive Club of team owners who have won the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 in the same year. He was ‘welcomed to the club” by the other such owner – Chip Ganassi. Graceful for a man who celebrated his birthday Sunday and had hopes of one of his Chevrolet drivers winning: pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Target, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data, Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Nordisk, or young lion, Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machines Records.

It was Penske’s 16th Indy 500 victory, with 11 different drivers. All four of his drivers led laps Sunday.

The record for lead changes in the Indy 500 is 68 set in 2013. This year’s thirty-seven lead changes (among ten drivers) is second highest.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon led the most laps-11 times for 84 laps; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Aveya Team Penske Chevrolet led eight times for 35 laps; Kanaan 4/30; 2014 IndyCar Champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet 5/23; Kimball 2/10; Montoya 4/9; Carlos Munoz/No.26 AndrettiTV.com Andretti Autosport Honda 1/3; Alex Tagliani/No.48 ALFE Heat Treating Special Honda 1/2; three-time Indy 500 winner, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet 1/2; and Justin Wilson/No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda 1/2.

I misspoke previously regarding the number of leaders. There were ten leaders – eight Chevrolets and two Hondas; and the Andretti Autosport driver was Wilson, not Marco Andretti. Mea Culpa.

Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins w/Curb Honda, finishing 16th, gaining ten positions from the grid.

The Margin of Victory ahead of runner-up, a hard-charging Power, was 0.1046 second. Power led three times in the last 14 laps, twice swapping with Montoya.

Kanaan led four times, turned the fastest leader lap of 224.767 mph on lap 22, and retired after crashing by himself in Turn Four. He was not injured.

Kimball turned the fastest overall lap of 226.712 mph on lap 102.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simona de Silvestro

Simona de Silvestro. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Twenty of the 22 finishers were on the lead lap. Both female drivers finished: Simona de Silvestro/No.29 Andretti Autosport Honda started 18th and finished 19th. Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda started twenty-fifth and finished twenty-second. Each had a problem in the race, but finished.

De Silvestro rear-ended Montoya early on in the race, causing each to pit for wing repairs.

Conor Daly

Conor Daly. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Three drivers retired for mechanical reasons – Conor Daly and two of the three Dale Coyne Racing Honda drivers from a Pit Lane accident. Daly/No.43 Fueled by BACON Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda suffered a fuel leak on the Pace Lap. His car smoked and then caught fire as he was going down the back stretch, where he pulled off. It burned some key items, so “sadly, that was the end of the race before it even started. It was a real shame for sure. These things happen in racing though so all we can do is look forward.” Young, but mature and gracious.

All three of the DCR Hondas pitted during the third caution on Lap 112, for the accident with Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet and Oriol Servia/No.32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. They were lined up 1-2-3 in the pits, with Pippa Mann/No.63, Tristan Vautier/No.18 and James Davison/No.19 Always Evolving/Replay XD in that order. The team reported that Mann just left her pit box in the slow lane, side by side with another car in the fast lane. Her teammate, With the gap not as large as it appeared, Davison pulled out of his pit and hit Mann. This sent Davison into Vautier’s pit box, where the crew was still changing tires. Two tire changers were struck.

Pippa Mann. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pippa Mann

DCR Crew Chief for Vautier, Greg Senerius, was treated and released from the IU Health Emergency Medical Center, suffering “just a few aches and pains.” The team reports that Vautier’s rear tire changer, Daniel Jang, suffered a broken ankle and was having an operation performed at Methodist Hospital on that ankle.”

Mann was able to continue and finished twenty-second, with 197 laps of the 200 run.

Each of the two drivers wired with telemetry retired – Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet, and James Jakes/No.41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda. The electronics measured heart rate, respiration, calories burned, etc.

Karam crashed on the first lap after being hit by Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Honda, who was reportedly making an ‘optimistic pass’ off the first turn on the outside of Karam. Karam crashed into the wall. Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda was caught out, spinning and stalling. But he recovered after pitting and finished twelfth after starting thirty-first – gaining the most positions of any driver. Sato continued, to finish thirteenth. Karam was not a happy camper, blaming Sato. Before and during the pace laps Karam’s respiration was 20/min. No way to measure what it was after the crash.

Karem took to Twitter afterwards, “Sato thinking he can win the Indy 500 in the first turn. Thanks man. I have some of your front wing. When should I return it?” On TV Karam was a bit more restrained. “I knew going into Turn 1 he had a run, but I didn’t think he was dumb enough to go on the outside. You can race two-wide, race each other clean. Sato is a veteran. He should be better than that. Three-wide, he ruined a lot of guy’s races. He needs to clean up his act.”

Jakes was involved in the last crash, with two other cars – Rookie Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet and Sebastian Saavedra. Coletti and Jakes were checked and released, cleared to drive after visiting the IU Health Emergency Center. Jakes respiration was a bit higher, during the race, but his post-crash data was not available. Meanwhile, Saavedra suffered a contusion to his right foot, and will require further evaluation before being cleared to drive.

The next event for the INDYCAR drivers is the double race upcoming in six days in Detroit – The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

Juan Pablo Montoya kissing the bricks Juan Pablo Montoya kissing the bricks.

All photos by Pablo Matamoros

RESULTS

1. (15) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (14) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
6. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
7. (5) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (10) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (9) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (31) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 200, Running
13. (24) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
16. (26) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 200, Running
17. (20) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 200, Running
18. (19) James Jakes, Honda, 200, Running
19. (18) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 200, Running
20. (11) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
21. (6) Justin Wilson, Honda, 199, Running
22. (25) Pippa Mann, Honda, 197, Running
23. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
24. (28) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 175, Contact
25. (29) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
26. (4) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 151, Contact
27. (33) James Davison, Honda, 116, Mechanical
28. (32) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 116, Mechanical
29. (13) Oriol Servia, Honda, 112, Contact
30. (12) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 112, Contact
31. (30) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 61, Contact
32. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
33. (22) Conor Daly, Honda, 0, Mechanical

JPM WINS SECOND INDY 500!

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, after starting fifteenth. This was his second such victory. He said “It’s been 15 years since the first one.”

Second through fifth were Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet-who led 23 laps; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Noradisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Pole Sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; and the top Honda of Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake RHL Racing.

Gabby Chaves.No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth after starting twenty-sixth. He raced for Bryan Herta Association with Curb-agajanian, a single car team.

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power said “Montoya got into the lead and maybe I was to nice to him. It was a lot of fun finishing 1-2. Congrats to Juan.”

This was definitely not a parade, with many lead changes and passes. Not boring. Difficult to keep up wit the lead changes.

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ten different leaders, eight of whom were Chevrolet drivers from a big, multi-car team. Alex Tagliani/No.48 ALFE Heating System Special Honda was the first Honda to lead, on Lap 154, during pit stops during the caution brought out by the single-car crash of Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The second Honda to lead was Justin Wilson /No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda. Neither Honda, each from a multi-car team, led for long.

Eight drivers did not finish: Conor Daly/No.43 Fueled by BACON Schmidt Peterson Honda; Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet; Bryan Clauson/No.88 Jonathan Byrds/Cancer Centers of America Chevrolet; Ed Carpenter/Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet; Oriol Servia/No.32/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Tristan Vautier/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Kanaan.

There were six cautions for 47 laps of the 200 lap race. One was for debris, and the rest were for crashes.

The average race speed was 161.341 mph.

The worst incident happened in Pit Lane involving all three of the Dale Coyne Racing Hondas and two unfortunate over-the-wall crew guys- both of whom were taken away in medical vehicles. All but one driver in all the crashes are alright, physically. Several are upset and one is distraught. Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was treated in the IU Health Emergency Medical Center for a contusion to his right foot. He will require further evaluation before being cleared to drive.

Both over-the-wall crew members on No.18 Honda were transported to hospital. The right front tire changer was checked, treated and released for left foot injury. The rear tire changer is being further evaluated for right ankle injury.

Roger & Kathy Penske, Connie & Juan Pablo Montoya and children

Roger & Kathy Penske, Connie & Juan Pablo Montoya and children. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

MORE TO COME

GOOD MORNING … SUNSHINE?

IMS Sunrise

IMS Sunrise. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The sun rose on cue at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the crowds were everywhere for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. The good news is that there’s a big crowd. The unintended circumstances: It was most difficult slogging around the garage and Gasoline Alley. People everywhere.

The weather was overcast mid-morning, with the sun losing the battle to break through. The wind was up and the temperatures warmish – 65-70 degrees Farenheit.

Be prepared-No.41 Honda

There was a brief scare at 8:45am ET when a few sprinkles tried to show who’s boss, but lost. But it was a scramble for the cars lined up for the Tech Shed as they tried to run for cover.

Chuckie Lynn

Emergency Recovery Team

James Davison's new crew livery

Chuckie Lynn, the well-known, long-time bicycle newspaper vendor at IMS was honored Saturday morning by AARWBA (American Auto Race Writers & Broadcasters Association.) He was awarded this year’s Angelopolous Award for Sportsmanship.

The unlucky cars which need rescuing are handled quickly by tow trucks known as Recovery Vehicles. The drivers said their job is lots of waiting and a few minutes of quick action.

James Davison scored some last minute sponsorship from Always Evolving/Replay XD, so he and his crew have new uniforms as well as new graphics on the car.

Hincliffe Crew & T Shirts

Sighted in the Pit Lane were just two of the many crew members and fans of James Hinchcliffe, wearing supportive Tshirts for him to get well. Hinch was injured Monday in a crash during practice, driving No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

The Chevrolet Suburban which carries the Medical Doctor is driven by Gail Truess, a long-time indycar vehicle driver. Her car, parked inside Turn One, carries either Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR medical director or Dr. Terry Trammell, INDYCAR medical consultant and co-founder of the original CART Medical/Safety Team. Truess also gives great VIP Pace Car rides – very smooth and fast.

NASCAR driver/Indy 500 Pace Car driver, Jeff Gordon, and Patrick Dempsey actor/racer/Indy 500 Honorary Starter were among the celebrities walking the Red Carpet and interviewed on TV. The ensuing crowd jammed the Media Center entrance – a veritable scrum.

The 2.5-mile Brickyard oval is staffed by a cadre of 60 IMS Observers, who are positioned around the track – reporting to Race Control on what is seen. The yellow lights are managed by Race Control. The group is made up of veteran race marshals from SCCA and USAC, and includes two women. The group can also have other responsibilities, including escorting cars from Pit Lane back to Tech on Pole Day and Bump Day, a la Formula One and Park Ferme. There the INDYCAR Scrutineers perform their obligatory and mandatory post-Qualifying checks.

2015 IMS Observer Corps

2015 IMS Observer Corps. Photo by Fred Kurtz

GOOD MORNING, RACE FANS!

IMS Pagoda

IMS Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Good morning, Race Fans! at 4am at Indianapolis Motor Speedway the track is already bustling, anticipating the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. All the Yellow Shirts are in place and/or being shuttled to their posts. The TV people are in place to broadcast live feeds from their varying sites around the 2.5 paved oval. The myriads of media are schlepping in from their far-away parking sites. Teams are coming in their designated gates and breaking off towards their respective garages.

Outside the track the eager fans are lined up for blocks awaiting the track opening. The cannon goes off at 6am and the sunrises at 6:23 am.

Based on the large crowds every day, Sunday’s attendance could be better than the past few years.

Today’s prizes include the BorgWarner Trophy, the Victory Lane wreath and a bottle of milk. Everything is steeped in tradition at The Brickyard for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The BorgWarner is more than five feet tall, weighing in at 110 pounds, 80 pounds of which is sterling silver, and is worth $3.5 million (more than the figure I quoted yesterday.) It has 100 individual faces, representing 10 countries and 20 US states.

The Victory Lane Wreath has 33 white orchids, with various foliage, weighs 30 pounds and takes seven hours to assemble. The only wreath not assembled for Victory Lane was created to honor two-time Indy 500 Champion, Dan Wheldon, at is Memorial.

The bottle of milk has been off and on since 1936 and ongoing since 1956. It is presented by the American Dairy Association, which sponsor a purse for the drinking of it in Victory Lane.

The Honorary Starter for Sunday’s race will be actor/racer, Patrick Dempsey.

The Pace Lap will be driven by NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Jeff Gordon. He is on a tight schedule, coming in from Charlotte to drive the Corvette Pace Car and then flying back to Charlotte for Sunday’s Coca Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This is Gordon’s final year as a full-time active Cup driver. Next year he assumes a new full-time role as a NASCAR TV Analyst for Fox Sports. He will join Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip in the booth. He is the only Cup driver to have hosted Saturday Night Live. Gordon will be doing some in-car race reporting this season.

SATURDAY, IN THE PARK

BorgWarner Trophy

Saturday the crowds came back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Legends Day by Firestone – another lead-up for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. The weather was pcture-perfect, 75 degrees with just a few photogenic fluffy clouds and a very gentle breeze. There were fans and families everywhere, like a Saturday in the Park.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay & Mario Andretti

Ryan Hunter-Reay & Mario Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The Pit Lane grandstands were filled with eager fans to watch the public Indy 500 Drivers’ Meeting, where special awards were presented and each starting driver received his or her Starter’s Ring. Last year’s Indy 500 Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL and his Andretti Autosport team owner, Mario Andretti, received their Baby Borgs. These are smaller versions of the original Indy 500 trophy, which is now valued at $2 million.

This year, perhaps for the first time, the Last Row is filled with drivers who are in that order because they’re driving a car qualified by another driver. INDYCAR rules require cars with a driver change must start at the back despite the qualifying order. The order within that order is based on owner points. This year the Last Row drivers are James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Tristan Vautier; Tristan Vautier/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Carlos Huertas; and Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda – for James Hinchcliffe.

Ryan Briscoe

Tristan Vautier

James Davison

Left to Right: Ryan Briscoe, Tristan Vautier and James Davison. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

No.19 Honda

Speaking of Davison, he will be sporting a new livery for the race. It was finished Thursday night and was on the car for Carb Day. He was towed down to Pit Lane Saturday, where his team did an Installation Check – to check some things after changing the engine and doing some settings.

In Gasoline Alley, all was fairly quiet. Very few teams were in evidence – most were closed up tight and the teams had the day off. Takuma Sato/No.14 AbC Supply AJ Foyt Honda was the only car seen going through the Tech Tent.

Everywhere there were tour groups of one kind or another, being led through the garage area with explanations for everything.

Co-team owner, Bobby Rahal/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, was giving a radio interview in front of Firestone. Arie Luyendyk was doing likewise in the Media Center TV booth.

No.14 Honda

Bobby Rahal

Arie Luyendyk

In the Pagoda Patio area, there were mobs of fans queued up quite orderly and patiently for their turn in the Driver Autograph session, which preceded all 33 of the drivers heading downtown to be driven in the annual Indy 500 Festival Parade.

Just prior to the Drivers’ Meeting, vintage cars toured the course for an hour. The noise was quite deafening compared to the high pitched whine of the IndyCars. Afterwards, the cars were on display in the Patio.

Vintage Cars

CASTRONEVES CHALLENGED & OTHER MILE-STONES

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was the seventh win in the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Challenge for Helio Castroneves and his cracker-jack crew on No.3 V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet. His fastest time was 12.561 seconds vs runner-up Charlie Kimball at 13.017 seconds. Maybe it was some Castroneves’ new sponsor’s Shell fuel in his tank – V-Power Nitro+. This special fuel is slated to be available 1 June 2015.

It was also the fifteenth Pit Stop victory for Team Penske.

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves said “I’m glad we’ve got this one, boys. I tell you that. All jokes aside, I’ll be very quick because I’m always the one that’s talking, but these are the guys that deserve this big attention.

“First, this is a way of thanking them for everything they do. Obviously, what happened to us on Wednesday, it was a blip on the radar and these boys did not even flinch. Basically, we got back on our feet right away and got the spare car and we’re running in the afternoon. So that’s just to prove that — it’s not about the pit stop only, but without them I wouldn’t be able to do, without winning and being competitive, that’s why I’m so thankful.”

The 12 teams are in the contest based on their pit stop times for the past 12 months – dating back to last year’s Indy 500. This year there were nine teams qualified, so the other three positions were filled by “Promotor’s Options.’ Among those were the of team of Townsend Bell in the No.24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet. He races for Dreyer & Reinbold, who always want to be in the challenge even though they are an Indy-only team.

The Challenge dates back to 1977 and this year total prize money totals $100,000 including $50,000 to the winner and $15,000 to the runner-up. Last year’s winner was Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Other drivers/teams participating in the Challenge were: AJ Foyt Enterprises teammates, Alex Tagliani/No.48 Honda vs. Jack Hawksworth/No.41 Honda; Kimball vs. Takuma Sato/No.15 AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing vs Castroneves; James Jakes/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports vs. Bell; Hawksworth vs. Marco Andretti/No.27 Andretti Autosport Honda; Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kimball vs. Dixon; Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda vs. Castroneves; Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet vs. Bell; Andretti vs. Kimball; Castroneves vs. Power, and finally Kimball vs. Castroneves.

Castroneves isn’t the only one celebrating is 300th indycar race this Merry Month of May. His long-time Brazilian buddy, Tony Kanaan reaches that milestone Sunday at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan, winner of the 2013 Indy 500 said “If I win again, that would be a new story – 300th start. Obviously it would be really cool, but I’m extremely humbled already just to be able to be at 300.” This will be Kanaan’s 13th Indy 500 start.

Castroneves ran his 300th race earlier in the month, at Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Brickyard’s road course.

Justin Wilson

Justin Wilson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Justin Wilson/No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda has a brand new look for the Indy 500, with a new sponsor – the Rolling Stones. The band will play at the Brickyard on Fourth of July, as part of its summer ZIP CODE tour.

Wilson is justifiably excited. Both Wilson and the Stones are from England. “For the biggest race of the year, to have one of the biggest rock bands in history is just incredible. Listening to the Rolling Stones was a Sunday tradition in our house. We would wake up and my Dad would have the music on full blast.”

And the best milestone of all: As of Thursday before Carb Day, injured driver James Hinchcliffe was up and walking the hospital halls. I won’t embarrass him too much, but he looks so cute with that hospital attire, yellow booties and bed head. You go, Hinch!

CARB DAY: SUNNY, SAFE AND CROWDED

Will Power

Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest for Coors Light Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His lap was 229.020 mph. The hour-long session was graced with warm sunny weather, with no incidents and lots of fans. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Power has been quoted as saying he wanted to be out front for the race. He clarified that point. “Not out front, up front. You’re right, no one is going to want to lead, because you can’t get away. In the old car, you could get away, so track position was really important.

“Now you sit half throttle on the straights. Last year, no one would pass me. Leading felt like one of the biggest mistakes of the race. You had to pit earlier, you get shuffled back. Yeah, that’s the game till lap 150, literally one stop to go, you’re going to be playing that game. It’s a real pity because it used to be about car speed and driving well. I wish this big drafting fest, I mean, if you get a good car, you can actually do a good job and pull away in the old days. Now you’re a sitting duck if you’re leading basically.”

Regarding the apparent performance advantage Chevrolet has over Honda this season, Power said “I think the performance advantage is both engine and aero kit, although Honda is definitely closer here on the oval than they are on the road courses. The Hondas are difficult to draft, very clean through the air. I think they find the same with us. Just different airflow off the car, so it doesn’t draft as well. You have to draft your own manufacturer.”

Second through tenth were: Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet; Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC AJ Foyt Racing Honda; Charlie Kimball/No.83 Novo Nordisk Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; JR Hildebrand/No.6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet; Rookie Gabby Chaves/No.98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda; and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Racing – who turned the most laps, 52.

Scott Dixon

Dixon was asked if he wants to lead in the race. ” Oh, I’ll lead. The only time that it gets to be a bit of a problem is if you get too out of whack on strategy. It only takes one yellow to reset that. You don’t want to do it four stints in and you’re eight laps or ten laps out of whack with your competition. We’ll see how the pace is between the front of the pack and the slower cars. Obviously once you start getting into traffic … For us, we would probably want a lot of green-flag pit stops. One is going to stream the field out a little bit, give you room on a bit of strategy, having to save fuel, things like that.
We’ll have to see how it goes. The racing is going to be pretty tight, though.”

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Chevrolet

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet spent much of the session with his crew in the pits. Near the very end he went back out and after being last of the 33 drivers with just a few laps, he jumped up to fifteenth at 226.022 mph.

Tristan Vautier of France was confirmed as being the official driver for the remainder of the weekend in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing. He was eighteenth overall at 225.939 mph. His teammate James Davison, for whom Vautier qualified the No.18 Honda, is back in the car and he ran eleventh overall.

Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had his first real laps in the car since taking over the ride for injured driver, James Hinchcliffe. He ran 38 laps and finished thirtieth. But then, Carb Day isn’t about speed as much as getting into race mode, running in traffic and ensuring everything is set to race.

For those who have been at IMS for the month, Power said, “There was no additional pressure on work to be done. I think at that point you’re pretty set on what you’re going to run. You’re just kind of doing little tweaks here and there, pit stop practice, practicing coming into the pit off four. It’s just those type of things, getting in the groove for the race.”

Tristan Vautier

Vautier said – “It has been a roller coaster of emotions this month. qualified No.18 and now racing No.19.” He was at O’Hare Airport with 90 minutes before he board his flight to England, for the Silverstone round of the Blancpan GT Series, and had to quickly retrieve his luggage, rent a car, and drive to Indy. He thought the Team Akka ASP was very understanding, and Vautier wanted to thank them. “We just had a call and they said I could race, seize the opportunity that opened up. They would find a replacement driver so I could race in the 500. That’s really cool from them to let me do that.”

“On this one (as opposed to qualifying No.18), it’s not really the way you want to get back in the car honestly. I think Carlos deserves to be racing because he did a really good job in qualifying and on practice. Obviously you can’t help but be excited to start your second Indy 500. It’s good to work with the guys. Not a lot of prep for the race. The practice we did last week was aimed for the complete opposite in running by ourselves, setting the car up for qualifying in low trim. At one hour, we made the most of it and have a direction for the race.

“It’s tough to start at the back here because obviously being behind other cars and stuff, you’re in the dirty air, you use your tires more, you go back and forth with the balance of the car. We’ll just see. I don’t have really time to think too much about it. It’s just what I have and we have to make the most of it.’

In the Freedom 100 race for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, there were eight lead changes between pole sitter Rookie Ethan Ringel/No.71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb Agajanian and front row starter, teammate Jack Harvey/No.32. It ended up as a 1-2-3 finish for Schmidt Peterson Motorsportsw/Curb Agajanian with Harvey prevailing for the win, Ringel second and Scott Anderson/No.77 third.

Unofficially, Harvey leads the Indy Lights standings 192 points over Rookie Ed Jones with 179. Third is Rookie Spencer Pigot with 168 points. Jones finished tenth and Pigot finished ninth in the race.

IMS Grandstand Crowd

CARB DAY & MORE CHANGES

It’s Coors Light CARB Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the good weather is bringing out the crowds. It’s sunny but breezy cold but it’s early – forecast is for 75 degrees F by afternoon. In the meantime, the traffic getting into the track was heaviest it’s been all month. That’s a good sign.

IMG_5692

Carlos Huertas of Columbia won’t be racing the rest of the weekend. He has an inner ear infection, and INDCAR medical consultant Dr. Terry Trammel has not cleared Huertas to drive pending further evaluation.

Huertas was gridded eighteenth, but whomever replaces him will start at the back due to the driver change. This makes three drivers moving to the back for that very reason. The order is based on points, so this will move up Ryan Briscoe from thirty-second to thirty first, to slot in the DCR driver. James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing will remain at thirty-third, due to points.

Elsewhere in the garage area, all is really bustling. Cars are going through the Tech Barn, the Tech Tent and at the gas pumps.

No.9 Chevrolet

No.29 Honda in Tech Tent

No.88 Chevrolet in Tech Tent

Meanwhile, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires has its Freedom 100 Race upcoming Friday noon. Rookie Ethan Ringel of New York has the pole position driving No.71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian. His qualifying laps averaged 197.684 mph. There are twelve cars entered, nine of whom are Rookies.