FASTER FRIDAY

This is May!

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

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

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

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

Marco Andretti

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

Robert Wickens

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

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

Will Power

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

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

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet

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

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

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

Alexander Rossi Time Card

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

Qualifying Board

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

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

Graham Rahal No.15 Honda

Zach Veach No.26 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

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

Takuma Sato with Flat Stanley

Jay Howard

Sebastien Bourdais

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet - before

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet – before

James Davison

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

Five Hundred Fashion Friday Fashionista

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

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

FAST FRIDAY!

Pagoda & Indy sign

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

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

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

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

Zachary Claman De Melo

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

Dale Coyne

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

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

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

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

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

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

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

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

JR Hildebrand No.66 Chevrolet

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

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

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

VICS Banners

SATO SHINES!

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda held onto the past six laps of the 200-mile race to take his first win at the 101st running of Indianapolis 500 presented race. He took the lead for the second time on Lap 195 and held off the charging Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet for his first oval victory. The Margin of Victory was 0.2011, the sixth closest finish in the history of the legendary race. He said “It’s such a privilege to win here. So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn’t really matter. Winning today, it’s just superb.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves tried and tried after Sato’s last pass on him, but just couldn’t get around Sato, and finished runner-up – for the third time at the Indy 500. He said “This place is unbelievable! I really thought we had it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t do it.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

The veteran Brazilian driver, in his twentieth INDYCAR season, has finished runner-up three times. He’s won the Indy 500 three times and has been chasing his fourth victory since 2009. “It was so close. We’ve got to keep going. I take my hat off to Takuma (Sato) for having a strong car today. He really seemed to be getting better as the race went along. I say, ‘great job’ to my guys. They worked their tails off. We saw it all today. We were in the back and we led some laps. We avoided disaster and we almost got number four.”

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished third – the highest Indy 500 finish for the team. He congratulated Sato. “I didn’t really have the pace for him and Helio at the end.But we did the best we could. I think those guys were trimmed out quite a bit. Even in the draft, I was struggling to stay up with them. He was still pulling away.

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was Sato’s second career victory, the last being Long Beach 2013. Sato San, as his teammates call him, is the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Sato turned the fastest race lap of 226.190 mph on Lap 150.

Sato said “Unbelievable feeling. I cannot thank this team enough. Look at these guys. Fantastic. It was obviously a tough, tough race. But Helio really drives fair. I can trust him. I can really trust him coming from the outside. What a race. Hopefully the crowd enjoyed it.” In terms of knowing at what point he would win, “Until three laps to go, you really didn’t know. Me and Helio went side by side with three laps to go. You’ve got to go for it, run it flat. And we did it, and we pulled away. Fantastic.”

For Andretti Autosport, it was its fifth Indy 500 victory and third in the past four years. Andretti has had 65 career wins. Four of its six drivers led laps in Sunday’s race: Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28, seven times for 28 laps; Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29, four times for 27 laps; Alexander Rossi/No.98, six times for 23 laps; and race winner Sato twice for 17 laps. That’s 19 lead changes of the 35 recorded, and Andretti drivers led 95 of 200 laps.

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Team Owner, Michael Andretti said “He (Sato) is awesome! Oh, my God; I can’t believe it. We work really really hard on this race. We focus on it a lot. Having all those cars out there, gaining all that information helps a lot. And we have great people on this team, and they’re the ones who got this win, as well as Takuma. He drove unbelievable.”

The Verizon INDYCAR Series has had six different winners in six races this season. The race had a record 15 different leaders, nearly half the field. Nineteen cars finished the race, 16 on the lead lap. There were 11 cautions for 50 laps, one-fourth of the race.

Race Start

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones was the top finishing Rookie in the race, but he never led a lap. Another Rookie got the lion’s share of attention all May long. McLaren F1 driver, Fernando Alonso skipped his Monaco Grand Prix to do something he’d always wanted to do. “I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alonso was more relaxed, spontaneous, accepting of his new race environment, and willing to learn than anyone ever expected from an elite athlete from a supposedly more sophisticated and sheltered race environment. He met with the media one last time, immediately after the race – which he didn’t finish due to engine failure on Lap 180. He was credited with a P24 finish. “Obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today was not possible. anyway, it was a great experience, the last two weeks. It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking of that moment if Zak or someone from the team was taking a picture because I want that picture at home.

“Thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here.”

Fernando drinking the milk

Fernando drinking the milk

He captured the heart of the Media Sunday with his farewell. “Last thing. Thank you for all media. I didn’t won, but I will drink a little bit of milk.” With that he brought out a small carton of milk he’d been hiding and drank it all, and waving it to the media as he left. “You follow me for two weeks every single minute, but I really enjoy. Thanks for the welcoming. See you in Austin.”

The race was marred by three big accidents, both causing downtime for cleanup and track repair. All drivers were taken to the infield care center, checked and released, cleared to drive. The same could not be said for any of the race cars. There also were two minor accidents, in which no drivers were hurt; and one accident where a driver was transported.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The first accident was terrifying in its ferocity and and destruction, and it brought out the Red Flag for 19 minutes and 40 seconds. It is incredible and a testament to the safety of the race cars and the SAFER walls that pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Camping World Chip Ganassi Racing Honda wasn’t injured. On Lap 53 Dixon’s car went airborne after being hit by Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Dixon hit the catch fence and came down cockpit first on the SAFER wall before flipping away and landing on the ground. While airborne Castroneves drove under Dixon trying to escape the wreck. Castroneves said his winglet was hit by Dixon causing some damage which needed repairs. “I just shut my eyes and ended up in the grass.” Howard had hit the Turn One SAFER wall and came down the track and collected Dixon. In the history of the Indianapolis 500, there have only been nine red flags for reasons other than rain. Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was leading at the time, followed by Rossi, Sato, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon said after getting out of the infield care center: “I just got a little beaten up there. It was a bit of a rough ride. I’m bummed for the team and for Camping World. We got a little loose on the first stint there, but they dialed it in, and we started to make some progress. Overall, I think we were a little bit light on downforce but for later on in the race that would have been the right move to have. I’m just bummed for them and glad everyone is OK. It was definitely a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety of these cars. It’s tough. I was hoping Jay (Howard) would stay against the wall. I’d already picked a way to go and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. It makes you believe in the safety of these cars and the progress they’ve made.”

Max Chilton

Max Chilton. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Another big accident was multicar, on Lap 184. James Davison/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda hit, which in turn collected Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda. Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske spun to avoid them but hit the SAFER wall. Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was leading when the Pace Car came out, followed by Sato.

One of the lesser accidents involved Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, when he hit the Turn Three SAFER Wall, and Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda spun and hit the SAFER wall. Sato was leading at the Caution, followed by Rossi, RHR, Alonso, and JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Another big accident involved Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet on Lap 122. He spun on the short chute between Turns One and Two, hitting hard into the Turn Two SAFER wall and bouncing back on track. He got out of the car by himself, but was transported from the infield care center to IU Health Methodist Hospital for evaluation of chest discomfort. No further word on his condition has been received.

Pace Car leading Alonso and field

Pace Car leading Alonso and field. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

OFFICIAL INDIANAPOLIS 500 RACE RESULTS

1. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
2. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, Running
4. (15) Max Chilton, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, Running
6. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
8. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
9. (25) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (24) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (14) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
13. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (31) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (28) Pippa Mann, Honda, 199, Running
18. (29) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 194, Running
19. (22) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 186, Running
20. (33) James Davison, Honda, 183, Contact
21. (12) Oriol Servia, Honda, 183, Contact
22. (17) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 183, Contact
23. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
24. (5) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 179, Mechanical
25. (16) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 166, Mechanical
26. (32) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 155, Mechanical
27. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 136, Mechanical
28. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 125, Mechanical
29. (30) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 118, Contact
30. (26) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 65, Contact
31. (27) Jack Harvey, Honda, 65, Contact
32. (1) Scott Dixon, Honda, 52, Contact
33. (20) Jay Howard, Honda, 45, Contact

UNOFFICIAL INDYCAR POINTS
1-Helio Castroneves – 245
2-Scott Dixon-234
3-Simon Pagenaud-234
4-Takuma Sato-234
5-Alexander Rossi-190
6-Tony Kanaan-188
7-Will Power-186
8-Josef Newgarden-186
9-Ed Jones (R)-185
10-James Hinchcliffe-170
Max Chilton-170

Helio Castroneves

Photo by Nico Matamoros

SUNDAY SUNRISE SOUNDS AND SIGHTS

Pagoda

Sunday morning at 4am it was dry with a 20 percent chance of rain, 74 percent humidity and wind at 3mph. It was already starting to bustle and the queue outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 16th Avenue Gates was two blocks long. Fans were seen on the street walking to the track in the dark. Inside the track, the Pagoda was all lit and Media Center was filling up. Everyone who was awake was waiting for the 6am cannon to go off. It would be a wakeup call for the Verizon INDYCAR drivers who mostly stayed at the track in motorhomes. Welcome to The Brickyard, Fernando!

Cannon fired!

Cannon fired!

>

Fox TV Crew

Local TV Crew

Broadcast crews from the various local TV, radio stations, and networks were already setting up their vantage points to begin live broadcasting. While the locals may not get to see the race live, their local TV stations will have plenty of color and pre-race coverage. The anticipated attendance estimates for Sunday predict upward of 300,000.

Sunday Schedule

Sunday’s schedule is all about history, pomp and circumstance and tradition. There will be lots of marching bands and parade laps for Festival Princesses, drivers, Historic Cars and Military Silverado as well as the Red Carpet. By 9:30am the race cars will be moving to Pit Lane and then for at least half an hour they will be gridded. Getting around the Pagoda Plaza, Gasoline Alley or Pit Lane will become very problematic. Good luck in getting around. The congestion will be mega!

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

Friday night some lucky folks were treated to the American premiere of the new documentary, ‘McLaren.’ The producer, Matthew Metcalfe is at IMS this weekend starting his latest project, a feature-length documentary on INDYCAR driver, Scott Dixon. The movie, yet to be named, will be co-produced by GFC Films and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Group (UPHE). It will be shot in the US, New Zealand and France, directed by Bryn Evans. The expected worldwide release date is scheduled for 2018.

Matthew Metcalfe

Matthew Metcalfe

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

Metcalfe description of the project: “A powerful and inspirational story of dedication, fear and one athlete’s will to defy personal limitations, the documentary will blend cutting-edge race footage, intimate observational filming and unparalleled access to Scott, Chip Ganassi Racing and those who know the driver best to present a seminal study of one of the greatest race teams in the United States.”

Pagoda

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

SATURDAY COLLAGE

Autograph Mob

Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a day of several disparate events, strung together throughout the day. They included the on-track laps by the Indy Legends, autograph session for the Verizon INDYCAR Series drivers followed by their the open Drivers’ Meeting, two autograph sessions for the Indianapolis 500 Legends, Chevrolet Corral Laps, and three concerts: Clayton Anderson, Dustin Lynch, and Keith Urban.

Chevrolet had a fan session with six Indianapolis 500 Legends: Four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, three-time winner Helio Castroneves, two-time winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Al Unser Jr., and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. They had to have a police escort back from the downtown Indy 500 Float Parade in order to make the mid-afternoon session. The drivers were the celebs, riding in cars.

Some fans sat basking in the grandstands despite a distinct lack of on-track activity. Others wandered through Gasoline Alley as the teams do their final race preparations.

The hour-long INDYCAR drivers’ autograph session was an organized mob scene. Everyone was queued up nice and orderly according to driver preference. It was heavily monitored by IMS Yellow Shirts, IMS staff, and all the team/driver reps and handlers. Mingled in, especially in the vicinity of Fernando Alonso, were gendarmes of various ilks.

Autograph mob scene

This line is closed

Autograph queues

Tony Kanaan

Scott Goodyear & Alan Bestwick

Fernando Alonso

Brian Barnhart

Brian Barnhart. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

The Open Drivers’ Meeting was held in Pit Lane in front of the Grand Stands. There were awards presentations, giving of Starter Rings to all 33 Indy 500 Drivers, and the Race information given by Brian Barnhart.

Among the guests at the Drivers’ Meeting was this year’s Pace Car Driver, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, of TV fame. The heart throb is best known to some as Denny Duquette from Grey’s Anatomy, others remember Jason Crouse on “The Good Wife.” Others know him as the villain on The Walking Dead. He looked anything but at the meeting, in his spiffy leather Pace Car jacket. He’ll be driving the three Parade Laps and one Pace Lap in a 2017 Corvette Grand Sport. Each lap will increase by 10 mph. That should warm up cold tires.

Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti

Alexander Rossi & Milk Award

Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

JAR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso

James Davison

Left to Right: Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti with Baby Borgs; Michael Rossi with ‘Milk’ Award; Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi with Baby Borgs.

Left to Right: Pole Sitter Scott Dixon; JR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso; and James Davison.
Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda

James Hinchcliffe’s No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda made it through Tech Saturday morning after an overnight engine change. He’d lost his engine in Carb Day practice Friday afternoon.

This is the 14th time Corvette has paced the Indy 500, more than any other marque, and 28th time for a Chevrolet. Several previous Corvettes are on display in the Chevrolet display area across from The Pagoda. And I’m told that all the Pace Cars are stored in a vault below the Speedway Museum, along with a whole lot more of the Museum’s vast treasure trove of memorabilia. It takes special permission to see those exhibits.

Saturday afternoon Chevrolet hosted a fan-driven Q&A with six Indianapolis Legends: Four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, three-time winner Helio Castroneves; two-time winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Al Unser Jr., and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier. It was a lively exchange of barbs, one-liners and war stories among the six.

AJ Foyt

Buddy Lazier

Juan Pablo Montoya

Rick Mears

Al Unser Jr

Helio Castroneves

Left to Right: AJ Foyt, Buddy Lazier, and Juan Pablo Montoya
Left to Right: Rick Mears, Al Unser, Jr., and Helio Castroneves
Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Friday night had been another mixed bag of weather – warm and nice, then cooling leading up to mid-evening. Friday night, while I was blissfully enjoying the American movie premiere of the ‘McLaren’ documentary, a big thunder and lightning storm occurred. It blew away and was nice again by movie’s end. Word was a bigger storm is due to hit Saturday night. Gotta love Indianapolis weather in the month of May. Not boring.

Shameless plug here for the McLaren movie. It is wonderful and well worth a watch, so be sure and catch it when it becomes available. An added treat at the premiere was having an introduction by the film producer, Matthew Metcalfe, and then a Q&A afterwords with Metcalfe and McLaren’s daughter, Amanda. A good time was had by all.

And word comes now that Metcalfe will now make a documentary on Scott Dixon.

McLaren road car

JR Rutherford's Indy 500 car

And in the foyer of the Indiana State Museum, where the movie was shown on the really big screen – two original McLarens were on display: the very first McLaren road car, and the indycar in which JR Rutherford won the 1974 Indianapolis 500. And outside the museum were two current McLaren road cars. And how sweet they sounded when they drove off.

Security has been tightened and awareness heightened since the announcement was made that Vice President Mike Pence will attend Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Changes have been made in some entrances and traffic patterns. Pence, formerly Governor of Indiana, has no official role in the weekend.

Mark Miles

Mark Miles

Mark Miles, INDYCAR President, announced Saturday the addition of China to a list of broadcast partners. Three outlets will air The Indianapolis 500, and in some cases, other INDYCAR races, and otherwise promote the series. The agreements were aided by Mitime Group, a sports organization and subsidiary of Geely, a Chinese auto manufacturer.

Miles said “Someday we hope to race internationally, and possibly in China, which is very important to us. The signing of this partnership is a terrific first step in presenting INDYCAR racing to the Chinese people.”

Stephen Starks, INDYCAR vice president of promoter relations said “It’s a big step toward the development of the sport in China, of which we have for a long time wanted to play an important part.”

INTERNATIONAL BROADCAST LIST – live/on delay
Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands – ESPN
Austria – Sport 1
Belgium – BeTV
Brazil – BAND
Canada – Sportsnet and TVA Sports
Caribbean – ESPN
Czech Republic – Nova Sport
Finland – Elisa Viihde Sport
France – Canal +
Germany – Sport 1
Greece – Nova Sports
Hungary – Digi Sports
Israel – One Sports
Italy – Sky Sports
Japan – Gaora
Latin America (excluding Brazil) – ESPN
Netherlands – Ziggo Sports
Middle East and North Africa – OSN
Romania – Digi Sports
Portugal – Sport TV
Russia and CIS – Viasat Sport
Serbia & ex-Yugoslavia – Arena Sports
Slovakia – Nova Sport
South Africa – Supersport
Spain – Movistar
Switzerland – Sport 1
Sub-Saharan Africa – Kwese Sports
United Kingdom – BT Sport

CASTRONEVES CARB-ED OUT

NALBERICO4

It was sunny, 71 degrees F/22C for the start of Carb Day practice. The track was 82 F/28C and there was little wind.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet was first in the hour-long session. He was a happy camper. “I think today it was just a great way to finish practice like this, show that we have a good car, a good balanced car, and we’re going for the big one on Sunday.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

In answer to what he will do in the first 50 laps, starting from an unaccustomed P19, he said “Well, normally you’ve got to check those boxes that we in the past we didn’t have to. We’ve got to pay attention with the people that surround you, make sure that, you know, you control everything on your own, put yourself in a good position so that if somebody makes mistakes, you don’t be part of it. And be patient, obviously, is always a good thing at this place. And, you know, take your time. Obviously when you have a good car like that, you don’t want to rush into things because it’s a long race. That’s probably what we’re going to do.”

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Second was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, at 226.802 mph. He was all smiles. “And come to today with Carb Day, is kind of really shakedown of the car because car was spitting off all the things and put everything back together with new engine. Install and then feel it out. Car felt really good. So that was a great sign because it’s just no surprise. You don’t want to have any surprise on Carb Day because all the work you’ve done in the last week, this is the result. We have a car and be ready for Sunday.”

Third and fourth were Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip and pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Camping World.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Top Rookie, in fifth position, was Fernando Alonso/No.29 Mclaren-Honda-Andretti Honda at 226.608 mph. He was happy with the session. “It was great. I mean, it was very smooth. You know, the car felt the best so far in the last two weeks. So extremely happy with the car. I was there making some moves, some different lines, just to try what I saw in the last three or four days in different medias from different years, so I was practicing that. I also did in the simulator in the last two or three days, I was putting it in place there.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

“It was a lot of action today in a one-hour session. You have a lot of things happening. Everything is compressed on those 60 minutes. So we had some yellow flags; we had some laps to test different things on the car. And just even, you know, very normal things that for everyone else will be straightforward. For me, I don’t know where, you know, if we change something on the car, where to find it, you know, on the steering wheel and things like that. So simple things that I am still running behind a little bit, but today I think we put all the ticks in all the boxes and extremely happy.”

All thirty-three Verizon INDYCARs took to the track Friday morning for the hour-long Carb Day practice, the last opportunity to check out the car before the race. It went well for most. One exception was James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. He blew an engine.

The session was busy and who was the fastest driver changed often. Among those were: Josef Newgarden, Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi, Castroneves, Pippa Mann, Rossi again, Jones again, Conor Daly, Fernando Alonso and then a Caution – all in six minutes. Then Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Alonso again and another Caution. Then Castroneves, another caution for Daly, and quickly another Caution for Hinchcliffe.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the most laps – 41. Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran the fewest-21. What was interesting to some and amazing to others was how many drivers drove so many laps and so fast, for a Carb Day. The total laps run was 960 in a session which was only half long due to cautions.

There were four cautions, for 31.29 minutes. Two were for track inspections. One was briefly for Conor Daly/No.4 AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet having slight contact with the front straight inside wall. Shortly after the track went Green, it went Yellow again, for Hinchcliffe leaving a trail of smoke into the pits. As the car sat waiting for the tow, oil dry was put down. Hinch was P 14 at the time with 29 laps. He immediately got on his Pit Box in Pit Lane to debrief. He was upbeat, “The good news is the No. 5 car was as strong as it was all month. We are very thankful that it happened now and now 20 minutes later, because that would have been five laps into the 500,”

When Alonso was asked if he was concerned about his car after Hinchcliffe’s engine failure, he said “As long as it’s in practice, it’s OK. You know, I mean, if you put it in another way, you know, if the practice today was 10 minutes shorter, that could happen on the parade lap. So I think it’s a good thing that these things happen in practice like this. We can make sure that we learn and we save engines for the race. So no concerns, not thinking on that problem, and I’m 100 percent will be OK.”

Copious amounts of oil dry had to be laid in Hinch’s path. The track session was extended five minutes to 12:05pm due to the length caution to clean up the track.

The only penalty assessed during the session was to Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, for making contact with pit personnel.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was the fastest car without a tow, at 220.881 mph. Most drivers had a tow, but six drivers were able to get out in clean air. For a long time, Jack Harvey had the fastest NT time of 220.744 mph. Some others were James Hinchcliffe, Sebastian Saavedra and Charlie Kimball.

With Hinchcliffe’s blown engine, the total for Indy, according to Honda, is eight, including the Grand Prix. Five were lost at Long Beach, and eight at Phoenix. “It hasn’t been unexpected as we’re pushing the envelope. They’ve been for different reasons and it’s being looked into.”

Chevrolet lost an engine earlier in the year, and they’ve changed two engines at Indy due to crashes.

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Pit Stop Challenge contest, making it seventeen wins for Penske Racing. He beat Hinchcliffe in the finals. Power’s best time was 11.619 seconds and Hinchcliffe’s was 13.223, total time Green Flag to Finish Line. Crew Chief Matt Jonson has now won three times, as have three other Crew Chiefs: Chuck Sprague, Rick Rinaman and Owen Snyder.

Will Power

Will Power

Power spoke highly of his crew. “These guys, all the teams, all the crews on all the cars at Team Penske work very hard in the offseason practicing pit stops, you know, and working out. They’re all fit, and they’re all ready to go. That was an example of four or five perfect pit stops, no mistakes.

“You know, when you think about the “500,” that’s what wins races. Mistakes like no mistakes on pit lane, quick pit stops under yellow, and I have absolute faith in these guys every time I pull in the pit box”

Jonsson, addressing the practice regimine, said “It varies with the schedule, obviously depending on how much we’re home and so on to get ready. We spend a great deal of time and to answer the question there, when you pick a pit crew, honestly it’s done per event. You may not be in that spot for the rest of the year if you don’t perform. We do have backup guys. If backup guys start performing better than the ordinary guy, if you so will, there will be a trade-out on that position. But that’s how we go about it.”

The lads were so quick, they fled after the presser before a nice group photo could be taken.

Other contenders were Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Partners Chevrolet: Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; James Hinchcliffe who used the Honda of his teammate, Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure, as his No.5 was having an engine change; Castroneves; Carpenter; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; and Dixon.

Other awards were presented Friday.

Adam Rovazzini, the chief mechanic of the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda driven by Jack Harvey, was named recipient of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. This honor goes to the Indy 500 chief mechanic who exemplifies the mechanical excellence, ingenuity and perseverance of its namesake, the legendary mechanic, Clint Brawner. Rovazzini received $5,000 from Firestone Racing and his name on a plaque which is in the Speedway Museum.

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

The Bob Russo Founders Award went to Holly Cain, a much-respected and popular motorsports journalist for the past 25 years, who has shown courage and provided inspiration in the face of personal adversity. Cain is the first female as an individual to receive the award in the 13-year history of the award. She has worked for several newspapers, AOL, Foxsports.com, NASCAR.com and written a book on NASCAR driver, Rusty Wallace. She has gone public with her breast cancer diagnosis and been a strong advocate and fundraiser for the disease.

Andy Hall

Andy Hall

Andy Hall received the annual Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. He currently works for ESPN and has worked for NASCAR and INDYCAR in the past.

In keeping with a new custom, IMS President, Doug Boles, unveiled the logo for next year’s Indy 500. He spoke of the design challenges, looking forward and yet incorporating parts of the existing logo. And he put in a plug for the 500 hours of Reservations – time to renew Indy 500 tickets at this year’s prices. “In an evolution from the logo for the 100th Indianapolis 500, the design for the 102nd “500” includes the iconic IMS “Wing and Wheel” logo and its spirit of speed. The “500” is underlined with a segment of the world-famous 2.5-mile oval, designed to represent the exit of Turn 4 down the main straightaway and into Turn 1. The typeface represents the athleticism, competition and cutting-edge technology that are hallmarks of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Every part of the logo leans with a 20-degree shear, symbolizing the relentless forward motion of the race’s competitors and the Indianapolis 500’s second century of competition. The color scheme features red, white, blue and steel, which together represent the American spirit and tenacity that has formed the core of the Indianapolis 500 since the inaugural race in 1911. These colors also were included in the logo for the 101st Indianapolis 500 that is taking place this Sunday, May 28, maintaining continuity between the two events.” So now you know.

INDY 500 2018 Logo

WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Dixon family

Scott Dixon and family. Photo by Anne Proffit.

Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda has the pole position for the 101st running of The 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, with a four-lap average of 232.180 mph, the fastest four-lap average since Arie Luyendyk set the record with a time of 236.986 mph in 1996. Dixon also turned the fastest one-lap average of 38.6938 seconds, fastest since Arie Luyendyk set a 37.895 seconds/237.498 mph first lap in 1996. Dixon has led more Indy 500 laps than any other driver in this year’s field – 434.

This is the third-fastest qualified field in Indianapolis 500 history, with an average speed of 228.400 mph. The fastest field average was 229.698 mph in 2014; the second-fastest field average was 228.648 in 2002.

It is Dixon’s third Indy 500 pole in 15 starts, and his 26th career pole. For his team, it’s the fifth Indy 500 pole and 88th career pole position. Dixon’s pole also marks the first pole for Honda this season. The previous five have been won by Team Penske Chevrolet.

The top spot changed almost every time one of the Fast Nine drivers went out, giving a few drivers a moment of glory and edgy anticipation as the next driver went out. And the laps just kept getting faster.

Dixon admitted he was surprised about the speeds. “I thought maybe the dash had broken on the steering wheel and brought up a fake number, but yeah, I don’t know, we seriously don’t think we expected to see the speed that we did. The whole pre-lineup for qualifying was debating with Christopher my engineer we trimmed too much, we trimmed too much, and I was basically talking myself out of it and seeing if he could maybe put some for downforce in the car, and he was like, man, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine. When I saw that first number, I was like, wow, this is impressive, so obviously a huge thanks to Honda, too. They’ve been pushing extremely hard, I think, with the engine. They’re definitely pushing it to the limit.”

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Second fastest, starting in the middle of the front row, will be Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, who was fastest Saturday. His lap time was 231.664 mph. “It actually was better than I thought it was going to be from watching some of the earlier runs. That’s all she had. Would it have been fun to win a third pole? Yes, but at the same time to be in the middle of the front row with two former ‘500’ champions, hopefully I can convert from the front row this time and earn a victory.”

Carpenter didn’t rise to any Honda-advantage baiting questions. “I don’t know. I don’t really want to get into that. I think Scott won the pole and congrats to them. You know, like I said earlier, I’m proud of the fact that we put both of our Chevrolets in the Fast Nine and gave it our best shot to win a pole for the whole group.

“But it’s certainly — the level of competition in this series from teams, drivers, engine manufacturers, it’s cut-throat, and you’ve got to be on it all the time. We’re right there, so it’s not for a lack of trying, it’s not for a lack of speed we’re on the front row. You’re not going to hear me complaining, we’re just going to keep getting ready to put the best 500 miles out there we can.”

Carpenter was pleased about the speeds. “I think it’s awesome. Driving cars fast around here is what this place is all about. I’m excited to see what the car next year is going to do. I hope it’s not a drop-off. You hear the crowd when they see those numbers, and I get as excited as they do. I think it’s awesome that we’re pushing that speed back up, and I hope it continues.”

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

Third, starting right in the front row, was last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Rossi spoke to missing out on pole position. “Yeah, I’m always disappointed if you’re not in front, but I think it’s a good effort from the team. Seeing Scott’s speed is pretty impressive. I know we couldn’t have done that. We’ve got to be content with the front row. It was something that really bothered me last year and for a year actually that we didn’t make the Fast Nine, so yesterday was a pretty big relief, and today was just about trying to go as high up as possible. Front row is good. You can win this race from anywhere, so it’s a good place to be, no dirty air, and we’ll just get the race off to a strong start and see where it goes.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie, in fifth position. “The practice felt good on the car, and then we spotted some issues with the engine. At one point in the morning we didn’t know if we were able to run in qualifying because we had to change the whole engine. But the team was amazing. I saw like 20 people around my car changing parts. They were guys from all six teams working on car 29 just to make it possible, so thanks to all that teamwork, I was able to go for qualifying. That was a truly good thing to experience today, how the teamwork plays here. I was extremely proud and happy of them.”

Rossi had an observation for Fernando which caught the F1 driver off-guard.”I’m more relaxed I think than I was last year just because I know what to expect, and I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Sunday was probably even before the end result was my favorite day of the year. I’m really looking forward to watching Fernando go through that because I think from 6:00 a.m. to noon before the race even starts –”

Fernando: “6 am?”

Rossi: “Yeah. Is probably the coolest six hours of your life. He’ll really enjoy it.”

Fernando left muttering and shaking his head.

The Fast Nine Shootout was the highlight of Armed Forces Pole Day. The weather was 76 degrees F, the track temperature was 110F, humidity 56 percent, and the winds were inconsistently windy at 16 mph or barely moving the wind sock. Mostly 2 mph for qualifying

The drivers qualified in reverse order of their finish Saturday, with the Fast Nine Shootout, as well as for the rest of the field which had a separate qualifying session. Marco Andretti/No.27 United data Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda went first in the Shootout, and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet went last.

The Fast Nine results were: Dixon; Carpenter; Rossi; Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Alonso; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet Ed Carpenter Racing; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

RHR's No.28 Honda

RHR’s No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was The Best of the Rest, slotting into tenth position – the highest he could attain, no matter how fast he went. And he went fast. His four-lap average of 231.442 mph would have placed him fourth in the line-up, based on speed alone.

Jack Harvey's No.50 Honda

Jack Harvey’s No.50 Honda

Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda tagged the Turn Two wall but kept his foot in it and qualified twenty-seventh.

Another Rookie, Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet made his first qualifying run Sunday, having missed Saturdays while his crew repaired his crash damage from Friday.

Good news from Dale Coyne Racing regarding his injured driver, Sebastien Bourdais. After his successful surgery Saturday night, Bourdais had a statement Sunday. “I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages, quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take some time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet.”

Dale Coyne Racing has announced that James Davison of Australia will drive the No.18 GEICO Honda in the Indianapolis 500. He has driven for DCR before: the 2015 Indy 500 and two races in 2013. The car won’t be ready for Pole Day Qualifying, and therefore will start last. Davison will have Monday to practice plus an hour practice on Carb Day.

The Last Row will be Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet, Veach, and James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda with No Time. In years past a bigger deal was made about the Last Row.

IMG_9788

Sebastian Saavedra No.17 Chevrolet

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

The Group Two crowd (qualifiers 10-32) had their qualification session 2:45-4:45pm. They queued up in reverse order from how they finished Saturday, with the slowest going first and so on.

The afternoon started with open practice for all the Group Two drivers – those who didn’t make the Fast Nine level. They had a shortened, 35-minute session of 35 minutes, with 30 minutes guaranteed track time. There had been a short delay to complete drying from Sunday morning’s gully washer hit and run rain storm. It bucketed with the rain coming down hard from all directions. I mean hard, so loud it could be heard.

Rainy IMS

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Only 22 drivers used Practice Seven. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda was one of the first out and he held the top spot the entire session. He was the only driver who didn’t have any No Tow laps. His speed was a whopping 233.008 mph, which he turned after he had already shot to the top with a 232.685 mph. He only ran four laps, all with a tow. All the other drivers turned a lap faster than 230 mph.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was second fastest, turned early on – 231.733 mph and with No Tow, making him number one on that NT list.

Also MIA were two Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas of Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba; all three Hondas of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7, and Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team OneCure; and Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet.

In the open practice for the Fast Nine drivers, the two Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets didn’t go out – fastest Saturday driver, Carpenter/No.20 and his teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services.

INDY 500 Factoids and Stats:

There are seven former Indianapolis 500 winners in the starting field who have ten victories amongst them: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Buddy Lazier (1996), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, 2015) and Alexander Rossi (2016). The record for most former winners in the field is 10, in 1992.

Buddy Lazier is the oldest driver in the field at the age of 48 and has the most experience – 19 starts. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet is the youngest, at 22, albeit with four Indy 500 starts; but is only three months older than Rookie Veach.

The 2017 starting field has a total of 191 previous Indy 500 starts. The record number is 260, in 1987 and 1992.

Twenty-four starters are graduates from the Indy Lights Series: Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Gabby Chaves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Jay Howard, Ed Jones, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Pippa Mann, Carlos Munoz, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Sebastian Saavedra, Oriol Servia and Zach Veach.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 02:35.0630 (232.164)
2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:35.3976 (231.664)
3. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 02:35.5163 (231.487)
4. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:35.5981 (231.365)
5. (29) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 02:35.6423 (231.300)
6. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:35.9191 (230.889)
7. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 02:35.9601 (230.828)
8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:36.1998 (230.474)
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:36.3859 (230.200)
10. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:35.5463 (231.442)
11. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 02:36.1293 (230.578)
12. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:36.3118 (230.309)
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 02:36.3377 (230.271)
14. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:36.3499 (230.253)
15. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 02:36.4758 (230.068)
16. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 02:36.5514 (229.956)
17. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 02:36.6169 (229.860)
18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:36.8180 (229.565)
19. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:36.8528 (229.515)
20. (77) Jay Howard, Honda, 02:36.9213 (229.414)
21. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:36.9447 (229.380)
22. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:37.5488 (228.501)
23. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:37.8303 (228.093)
24. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 02:37.9497 (227.921)
25. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 02:38.6458 (226.921)
26. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 02:38.9831 (226.439)
27. (50) Jack Harvey, Honda, 02:39.4741 (225.742)
28. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:39.9944 (225.008)
29. (11) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 02:40.6768 (224.052)
30. (44) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 02:41.1340 (223.417)
31. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:42.7911 (221.142)
32. (40) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 02:42.8360 (221.081)
33. (18) James Davison, Honda, no time, (no speed)

ABC OF INDY 500 – CARPENTER, BOURDAIS & ALONSO

Indy 500 Victory Podium

To quote a famous line in a Victorian novel, It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That’s what it seemed like Saturday for Pole Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Hometown Hero – Ed Carpenter of Indianapolis drove his No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet to the number one position Saturday. Carpenter’s four-lap average speed was 230.468 mph, set in the waning moments of what was certainly one of the more interesting Pole Days. Carpenter is now part of the Fast Nine Shootout taking place Sunday for the Verizon P1 Award and pole position. All the 24 other drivers will be going for tenth… unless Qualifying is rained out, at which point Saturday’s times will hold.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ/GEICO Dale Coyne Racing was on his third of his four qualifying laps and had just hit 231.534 mph, good enough to be on top when he crashed hard into the SAFER wall. He was taken by ambulance to Indiana University Methodist Hospital for further evaluation. The latest word is that the popular Frenchman will undergo surgery tonight.

The top Rookie qualifier was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, who made The Fast Nine by qualifying seventh overall with an aggregate speed of 230.034 mph. “Definitely, very happy. Obviously, now, we just finished the run. I’m really hopeful we’ll be in the Fast Nine, and tomorrow I think we will be much quicker than today.”

Carpenter was all smiles, and gave the credit to his 7-year old son, Ryder.”I think my seven-year-old son Friday when we were drawing for numbers, he was drawing. I was like, If you could pull, I told him five. Someone drew five. I was like, Let’s shoot for six. He drew 60. I was trying to be positive. Good job, son, you got one number right. He was the first person I thanked when I got out of the car because the conditions helped us there.”

Carpenter was the 27th driver of 32 to qualify, at 6:35pm, when the track was cooler. “The track temps were coming down. It was pretty ideal for us. But we’re running in the cool tomorrow night, too, so we’ll see what happens.

“It was exciting, a little surprising. I felt like we had a good car all week. I felt like JR (Hildebrand), myself and Will Power had the most speed in the Chevy camp. Last night when we did our qual sim, I was falling off a little bit. I thought I could run a 230 (mph) lap or two, but I wasn’t sure if I could run four.”

Carpenter was amazingly steady, with all four laps consistently above 230 mph. For those who understand such things, you’ll want to know that Carpenter’s rear wing assembly had no winglets. That’s how he trimmed out.

Bourdais was the nineteenth driver to make a qualifying run, and was on track to have the fastest time, until it appeared that something snapped on the car.. Bourdais bobbled and corrected, nosed in hard and fireballed it, flipping over and down the track, landing upright.

At 5:30pm the Red Flag for Bourdais’ Turn Two crash halted the session so the Holmatro Safety Crew could properly supervise and orchestrate his extraction, while the track maintenance crews worked on repairing the SAFER foam wall. He was put on the backboard, and taken by ambulance to hospital for proper tests. He was awake, alert and never lost consciousness. One journo reported that the INDYCAR T&S app showed that Bourdais had reached a peak speed of 239 mph in a speed trap.

Team Owner Dale Coyne said “Sebastien is in good hands here at IU Methodist Hospital with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover.”

ED UPDATE: Bourdais suffered multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip. He underwent successful surgery Saturday night. The surgery went well. INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Bellows met with Bourdais Sunday morning “and he was doing even better than I expected.”

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

Sebastien Bourdais’ No.18 Honda – before

Bourdais had just added a ‘new’ sponsor Saturday – GEICO. It’s been with the team before, for the past four years. The crew said they used stickers over the paint to make the last minute graphics change before Qualifying.

Alonso did make the Fast Nine Shootout. “The last lap, in Turn 1 and 2, it was lifting, shaking on the throttle. This is the hardest qualifying I’ve ever done at this place. It was very hairy on the last lap. We got in line at the right time. I think the conditions were really good. I’m sure we’re getting in the Fast Nine, so that’s really good. It was nerve racking, sitting there and wondering if we had the speed and all that. We’d been knocked out of the nine, so I am just happy to be there, honestly. I felt like we had a good car yesterday and I was kind of disappointed with that first run. It was just conditions.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

The Formula One driver was asked to compare Indy qualifying to others he’s done. “I think similar. All qualifyings are tricky, you know. I go to my go-kart place, when I have put new tires. I have 15 kids watching me with a timer on the hand. Is very tough, you know. So every qualifying you do, you go against the physics of the car and the physics of the circuit in that particular moment.

“It gets stressful. It gets difficult, tricky. But at the same time, you know, huge adrenaline when you cross the line.”

The Fast Nine Shootout contenders are: Carpenter, Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Carpenter’s teammate, JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet; last year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Alonso; Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; and Marco Andretti/No.27 United Cable & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda.

Takuma Sato

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

Will Power's Pit Cart

Tony Kanaan No.10

Marco Andretti's No.27 Honda

The sun came out, and the fleet of drying vehicles took to the track – all 16 pickups and three jet dryers. They turned more laps than any Verizon IndyCar, or so it seemed.

Drying Posse

RHR No.28 Honda going to Tech

No.15 & No.29 in Tech Bay

No.11 Chevrolet going to Tech

Down in Gasoline Alley, it was busier than a beehive. Fans everywhere trying for autographs or photos of the drivers, cars, or anything else. Most drivers were not to be seen. The poor teams trying to move about weren’t having the best of luck. There was a steady stream of packed up tire carts, supply vehicles and of course, the race cars once they’d cleared Tech. Those further back in the Qualifying draw were lined up along the fence, and the luckier ones were trying to slowly thread their way to the Scrutineering Bays for their mandated Technical Inspections.

Graham Rahal No.15 Nose stickers

Fernando Alonso No.29 Honda with nose stickers

Once the nose, which had been removed for Tech scrutiny and measuring, was re-affixed, the crews used Heliotape to cover the screws, and seams. Helicopter tape is strong enough to hold a rotor. It’s allowed to let the teams cover any possibilities of air … and they do. The stickers are either color-matched or clear. It’s all about the aerodynamics.

Zach Veach's No.40 Chevrolet & CrewINDYCAR had guaranteed all drivers would get one shot at qualifying. Rookie Zach Veach was the only driver not to queue, as his No.40 Indiana Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises Chevrolet was still being repaired.

Sunday’s schedule has practice starting at noon, and the Group One racers qualifying starting at 2:45pm. The Fast Nine Shootout is at 5:45pm, for fifteen minutes, to determine pole position.

You’ve heard of Rain Delay. Well, what we have here is a Failure to Communicate – I’ve been on my own personal Connectivity Delay. Sorry for the delays

FAST FRIDAY!

INDY Sign

It was Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon INDYCAR Series racers, and excitement was in the air. The garages and Gasoline Alley were bustling with activity, with everyone anxious and/or eager to get on track with the extra added boost in the trimmed out race cars.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

The fastest overall – and for most of the afternoon – was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda with a lap of 233.116 mph. His No Tow time was 231.192 mph, which was second fastest in that category. The Frenchman was the only driver to break 233 mph. Bourdais and team received a $10,000 check from Harding Group for Fast Friday Fastest. Team Owner Dale Coyne played coy when asked just who got to spend that big check.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Second overall and first for No Tow time was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport, with a lap of 232.132 mph, the only driver to score a lap at 232 mph. He was a happy camper. “Fast Friday was definitely fast. We had a good run today – found somethings that worked and found some things that didn’t. It was definitely one of the most on-edge couple of days this whole year. It’s nice to be done with the day and we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can put this No. 28 DHL Honda at the front.”

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato

Third was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda at 231.969 mph, and he was eighth in the No Tow class. His take on the day – “It was quite good day. Very productive, I must admit. Working quite seamlessly. So we share most of the data together.

“Obviously, oval speed is sometimes a little artificial. Some people get tow. But it was obviously good to see we all up there. Especially non-tow lap, which is a true speed.

“I’m pretty happy. It looks like I’m eighth quickest in no tow laps, I take it, concerning the conditions today. Where we are in terms of the car setup, I’m feeling better, actually enjoying the working all together with Andretti Autosport.

“Definitely this is the best situation or environment compared to past few years of my experience in Indy 500 close to the qualify. This is a good preparation. It’s nicely all coming together.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

The top Rookie was Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, in fourth position, at 231.827 mph. He was fifth in the No Tow queue at 230.966 mph, behind Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, whose NT time was 231.054 mph. But TK had no pack racing time, and he was clocked at eleventh overall for the day. He was pleased with the day. “We managed to fit another two (qualifying simulation) runs late in the day. We’re quite happy. It was another day of learning those extra speeds, and hopefully tomorrow we have a good (qualifying run).

“Tomorrow is about doing a good four laps, hopefully (qualify) in the first nine and wait for Sunday for the real final classification. Tomorrow is another day, but for me, it is another learning day. We’ll see what we can do, but there’s not much pressure for tomorrow.

Juan Pablo Montoya's No.22 Chevrolet

Juan Pablo Montoya’s No.22 Chevrolet

Fifth and top Chevrolet was Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Team Penske, turning a 231.682 mph, but his NT time of 229.348 mph was only good for P20.

There were two separate accidents, in and around the Turns One and Two area, with both drivers able to get out of their own volition. They were each seen, checked and released from the Infield Care Center, cleared to drive; and neither driver knew exactly the cause: Spencer Pigot/No.11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and Zach Veach/No.40 Indiana Women In Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet.

Pigot spun off hard into the SAFER wall in Turn One and bounced down the wall to Turn Two. “I’m not really sure what happened. I entered Turn 2. It had not been an issue for us all week. Before I knew it, I was backwards. We’ll have to go back and look and see what happened. I’m fine. The cars are really safe and it wasn’t that bad a hit. I don’t think the actual chassis is damaged, so we’ll go put some new parts on it and get back out tomorrow.”

Zach Veach's Crew

Zach Veach’s Crew

Veach hit the SAFER wall hard side and rear in Turn One and then bounced again into the Turn Two wall. He was not happy. “Overall, I’m extremely disappointed that we had the accident so close to qualifying. We’d been making such progress all day for this to happen, I feel badly for the entire crew and A.J., of course. Still trying to figure out what happened. At this point I’m thinking maybe it was a gust of wind. The entry to the middle of the corner felt perfectly fine like the runs before and then extremely late in the corner, the car just turned really suddenly. So we need to have a good look at everything to see exactly what was the cause, but with where it happened and particularly how things were feeling then, it caught me out by surprise. I had no idea this was going to be the outcome when I turned into that corner because things felt quite well by that point. So we need to look over everything. I’m just extremely disappointed.”

Alonso turned the most laps for the day – 46. Two Penske drivers, JPM and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet turned the fewest laps – 17 each. Pagenaud was 23rd overall for the day. The total number of laps for the day was 1040.

Overall for the five-day week – Rookie Alonso turned the most laps – 318. Running the fewest was Montoya at 151. Interestingly enough, Alonso was fourth overall for the week an Montoya was fifth. Not surprising, all 32 drivers who ran each day ran fastest on Friday. Lazier only ran one day and a iota, for a total of 31 laps. And Marco Andretti shows up on the time sheets twice, as he turned a few shake-down laps in Jack Harvey’s primary car – six to be precise.

Overall, there was more down time than track time – 3.13.28 hours to 2:45.31 hours, mostly due to weather concerns.

The Verizon INDYCAR teams all got their drivers out in force Friday, in a rush to get track time with the before the forecasted ‘storm’ landed at the Speedway. All 33 drivers got on course before the track shut down for threatened lightning at 1:29pm. The weather caution was the third of the session, there having been a brief one for ‘moisture’ early on, and one for the smoke trail following Jack Harvey into the pits in No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. When last seen Harvey’s crew and Honda technicians were huddled all over the car in the Andretti garages.

The most laps in the first portion were done by Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda with 32, netting him a fifth position at 231.969 mph. His No To Time was 230.966 mph. Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet got in five laps, for last place with a top speed of 214.942 mph.

The Doppler radar was quite colorful with reds, yellows and greens. Lightning was part of the forecast, so the grandstands were cleared and the big screens and PA announcements advised people “follow their own personal safety plan.’ It was much ado about nothing. Everyone scurried and sped back to garages, cover and dry places. It rained lightly. The temperatures was 74 degrees F with supposedly a 6mph wind, but the flags were hanging limply, barely protesting any breezes. Then the track maintenance vehicles began their parade laps to dry out the track. Fans were let back into the grandstand

Friday Indianapolis Motor Speedway got to show off how many weather scenarios they could produce in one day. They did sunny and warm, cloudy, heavy overcast, light rain, threatening lightning, repeat as necessary, etc.

The weather Caution started at 1:29pm and lasted until 4:05pm.

Empty Pit Lane

Holmatro Dryer Truck

Drying Truck Brigade

The Team Penske beavered away Thursday afternoon and evening, and again Friday morning to repair the crash damage to Newgarden’s Chevrolet. The team sought and received permission to remove and have INDYCAR unseal the engine, and send the unsealed engine back to Detroit for repair. INDYCAR seals all engines. The repairs were completed and the engine was flown back to the track by 8am Friday. INDYCAR was there for the uncrating, ensured what was requested was done, and re-sealed the engine, giving permission to put it back in Newgarden’s car.

IMG_9662 2

Newgarden got out for 11 laps before the “storm” hit. He turned a 227.069 mph for 26th overall. After the track went green, Newgarden turned more laps and moved up to 24th position, with a time of 228.624 mph. His No Tow aka unaided time, same as Tow Time, was good for 22nd overall.

Pippa Mann & Scott Goodyear

Pippa Mann & Scott Goodyear

Immediately after Fast Friday, the driver/team representatives drew numbers for starting order for their primary and back-up cars in Saturday Qualifying. The son of Team Owner, Robert Juncos drew the No.1 starting slot for the backup car of Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet. The first primary car will be Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Her number was drawn by Owner Coyne. During her Friday run, she surpassed the 230 mph mark, the first woman to do so at IMS.

Meanwhile, back in the Media Center, long-time IMS Volunteer and former staffer, Julie Cordes, put her calligraphy skills to work making the 33 Qualifying Run signs for the big board.

Sorry for the delay, but Connectivity Conundrums Continue to Confound.

Julie Cordes

HOWARD LOST HIS RUST AND FOUND HIS MOJO

Jay Howard

Jay Howard

It wasn’t quite so windy Thursday, but still gusty enough to blow off a hat for a major part of the day – 19 mph. It died down in the afternoon and was clocked at 2 mph by Happy Hour. It was hot all afternoon, with temperatures still high eighties at checkered flag: 87F/31C, and the track temperature was 117F/47C.

Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was the second car out of the chute at noon, right behind Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and Howard quickly took over the top spot and kept it all afternoon. He was the only driver to reach the 226 mph level. He ran 86 laps.

Howard hasn’t been in an IndyCar for the past six years. He passed his Refresher Phases early on Monday.

Howard said “It was really busy. It’s kind of like a fairy tale. This is like a dream right now. I don’t know if I’m going to wake up tomorrow and it’s all gone. Where do I start? First of all, what an amazing group of people I’ve got behind me. Team One Cure. Tony Stewart Foundation and I was fortunate enough to have Tony here today. That was fantastic having him around.”

Jay Howard in golf cart

Jay Lucas in Pit Lane

Tony Stewart & Harding Racing crew

The day Tony Stewart showed up Howard turned his fastest lap. “I’m going to chain him up in the garage. He ain’t going nowhere. He might think he’s leaving, he aint. He’s going to get out to his car, he’s got flat tires. He’s not escaping.”

Ryan Hunter Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay's No.28 Honda

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was second, a time set early on also, and he kept his position all session. He went 225.826 mph and ran 79 laps. RHR is a past Indy 500 winner – 2014. “It’s been tough work, today I guess, but the past couple days. It’s been tricky out there. We’re definitely driving the cars a lot, I can tell you that. We’re on edge. You never really know what the next lap is going to hold, what surprise is coming at the next corner with dirty air or a gust of wind or whatever.

“We’ve done quite a bit of testing. We’ve tried a lot of things. We’ve kind of bounced around a bit. But certainly it’s pretty difficult out there.

“We’ll see what the weather does over the next couple days. Hopefully we can get in some qualifying simulation runs on Fast Friday if the weather cooperates. But we’re looking forward to the next page here tomorrow.”

Third was RHR’s teammate, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Honda, with a lap of 224.709 mph. He ran 77 laps, and set his time on Lap 18 of 77. He kept it all afternoon.

Fernando Alonso's No.29 Honda

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was fourth and top rookie, at 225.619 mph. He took that spot late in the afternoon, displacing Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – the top bowtie. Newgarden had held that slot much of the afternoon, even though he only ran 35 laps. Alonso ran 96 laps and his fastest was on lap 74.

Alonso said “I was (running) behind a car just a couple of seconds in front, but we (tried some laps) without any car in front. We tested a couple of different trims and different setup options. The car felt quite OK from the very beginning of the morning, but then I think we did improve it during the day, so I’m quite happy. We worked still a lot on the race situation, keeping other guys out there and running in traffic. I think we found a good balance for traffic. I think tomorrow we will concentrate a little bit more alone on qualifying, but the priority is the race.”

Josef Newgarden and Crew

Josef Newgarden and Crew

Two or so hours into the Thursday practice session Newgarden came into Turn Two hot, and slammed the SAFER Barrier hard on his right side. He was seen, checked and released from the Infield Care Center, cleared to drive, although he has a sore foot. His car will require care.

“I’m fine. Tough break for us in the (No.) 2 car with Team Penske. It’s obviously not something you want to do, especially on a day like today – a pretty nice day out, no big issues. I’m disappointed that we ran into a problem. I just got called into the pits, so I was coming in and I didn’t want to check up too much for the guys behind me and cause a problem. It just seemed to get away from me. Until I get to look at everything, I’m not 100 percent sure what caused it. We were having a really good day. We had a good run up until that, so again I’m not sure what went on. It was probably my mistake, but until I get to look at everything it’s hard to tell. I feel bad for our guys that we’ve got extra work.”

Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet was sixth fastest, the only other Chevrolet in the top ten.

Helio Castroneves' No.3 Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves

Team Penske veterans, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Chevrolet and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet clocked the most laps. Power turned a 224.563 mph on Lap 28 of 103. Castroneves was fifteenth fastest, at 224.407 mph, which he ran on Lap Six of 117. As with many drivers, the fstest laps were set early on. “The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevrolet felt pretty good today. We were able to turn a ton of laps today after not being able to get any track time yesterday with the conditions. Today, we had a good chance to continue down our checklist and experiment with a few things. We’ll just keep worrying about our program and moving forward and not spend time and effort wondering what others are or aren’t doing.”

Buddy Lazier's No.44 Chevrolet

Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet made it through Tech mid-afternoon and made a couple of slow laps. “After our late start, today went really well. We would have liked to run more, obviously. We did two installation runs; one for the motor and one for telemetry and we are ready to go all out tomorrow. The team has obviously expanded significantly as the week has went on and we are about where we need to be right now. I know my way around this track, it’s my 20th start this year. I’m super appreciative to Chevrolet and all the partners on our effort that have brought us to this point. For a late start, we are in really great shape.”

Thirty-two cars were on track in the first hour. All during the afternoon there were spurts of activity – running in traffic, then periods of inactivity, just cautions for debris and track inspections. There even were cautions back to back with no cars on course.

The majority of the fast times were set Thursday. Seven were fastest on Monday and four were fastest Tuesday. No one was fast on Windy Wednesday. The most laps were turned Tuesday-2404.

Of the 13 Thursday Cautions, one was for a real incident, one was for smoke from a race car, and the rest were the usual Clean-up vehicle laps. The Holmatro Crew should be leading Team Points by now. The down time totaled 1.57.16 hours – nearly a third of the track time.

Zach Veach

Rookie Zach Veach/No.40 Indianapolis Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet is perhaps the only driver who has to be the one in the car for the tow to and from Pit Lane. Because of his slight frame, the crew is hard pressed to find someone small enough to fit in his cockpit. Team Owner AJ Foyt (and others) are telling Veach to eat up and gain weight.

Veach finished twenty-eighth, with 37 laps – two more than Newgarden who crashed out early on. “Pretty tough day overall, just still not much track time. We just kept making some changes, getting the car ready for race day. Had a few little gremlins come out there at the end that the crew is working extremely hard to fix, so want to thank everyone here at AJ Foyt (Racing) for working as hard as they can to make sure everything is ready for tomorrow. Still, just extremely happy to be here in the IWIT Champ car making great progress every time out. It’s just that that’s the way Indy is – sometimes it doesn’t go your way. We’re just going to keep working overnight and tomorrow will be a better day for all of us.”