RINGS, TROPHIES & AUTOGRAPHS

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Autograph Sign

Conor Daly & Alexander Rossi

Autograph queues

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

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

The Drivers individually receive their Indy 500 Starter Rings.

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

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

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

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

Joel Wiegert, Michael Andretti  & Takuma Sato

Victor Oladipo

Drivers teasing Danica. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

CARB DAY

Pagoda Plaza

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

Carb Day Pit Lane. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Carb Day Pit Lane. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Danica Patrick

Tony Kanaan

Marco Andretti

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Ed Carpenter. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

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

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

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

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

Matheus Leist

Matheus Leist

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

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

Ganassi Winning Pit Stop Crew

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

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

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

Pit Stop Competition Results

James Hinchcliffe & Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe & Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Semi Finals – Race 1
James Hinchcliffe 13.545
Will Power 14.100

Semi Finals – Race 2
Scott Dixon 12.658
Alexander Rossi 13.670

Finals – Race 1
Scott Dixon 11.717
James Hinchcliffe 13.067

Finals – Race 2
James Hinchcliffe 12.198
Scott Dixon 12.686

Finals – Race 3
Scott Dixon 11.943
James Hinchcliffe 12.495

Hinchcliffe & Dixon Crews Competition

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Chip Ganassi, Scott Dixon & Emma Dixon

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

Scott & Chris Supra

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

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

INDY 500 MEDIA DAY

Driver Golf Carts

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

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

Mike Bates, Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

Mike Bates, Doug Boles & Dr. Geoffrey Billows

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

Conor Daly

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

Alexander Rossi

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

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

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

William & Jack Harvey

William & Jack Harvey

William & Jack Harvey

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

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

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

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

WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was the fastest Verizon IndyCar driver Saturday noon for the warmup leading to the IndyCar GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His lap was 1.10.8157

Max Chilton. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Max Chilton. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was second fastest, followed by Ryan Hunter-Ready/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet.

Other leaders were Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and King.

All 24 cars were on course. The weather was overcast, 78 degrees F and wind 12 mph.

Marco Andretti Crew changing engine

Marco Andretti/No.98 Honda pulled off into Turn One with a smoking engine on Lap Three, bringing out a Red Flag. His car visibly slowed going down the front straight. He blew his engine, which the crew changed as soon as he got back to the pits. The clock kept ticking during the incident, and the Red Flag time was 7.33 minutes. Race Control added five minutes to the end of the session. Andretti only had two laps and finished last. The loss of warmup laps put him at the bottom of list of laps completed for the weekend – 35.

Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda continued to lead the charts in terms of laps completed. He ran 57 for the weekend.

A second Red Flag was called a minute later for wildlife in Turn 12. Rescue trucks were dispatched to shoo a small flock of geese. But they just landed on another track section, where they danced and cavorted around. The cameramen had a field day portraying the antics. On the ground, that would be a gaggle. In the air they would be a skein. The gaggle became a skein. This Red Flag lasted 3.83 minutes.

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Gaham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda tested the grass and continued. He finished fourteenth.

It was all stop or go racing, with no cautions for the session.

Castroneves sat out the final five minutes of the half-hour session, as he took the Checkered Flag twice in qualifying.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

This GP will be the 288th consecutive race for Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet ranking him second overall behind the 329 consecutive races for Scott Dixon.

For Race Day, the mobile TV personnel on the ground get an assigned Security Guard, who facilitates a clear path to wherever the broadcaster has to go. I confirmed with one well-known ABC TV pit reporter that the Guards are invaluable in ensuring the shortest/safest path is maneuvered, and that the governors on their golf carts are removed to speed the transit.

The weather continued to be a concern. The predicted afternoon thunderstorms moved northward and the track was dry for Saturday racing.The predictions were for high heat, but the wind – which felt stronger than the listed 1 mph – tempered the heat considerably. It was only been mid seventies all morning, with track temperatures in the mid eighties.

The Mazda Road To Indy support series had qualifying and races Saturday morning.

Alex Baron/No.19 started on the front row and won the first USF2000 Royal Purple GP of Indy He took over the lead from Pole sitter, Rookie Kyle Kirkwood/No.12 , who led the first eight laps. Kirkwood came in second, followed by two more Rookies – Jose Sierra/No.15 and Jamie Caroline/No.28. Finishing fifth was Kory Enders/No.11. There were two cautions for five laps for accidents: Lucas Kohl/No.22 in Turn Four, and Rookies Oscar DeLuzuriaga/No.38 and Michael d’Orlando in Turn Eight. Twenty-three of the 26 starters finished the race, twenty of them on the lead lap.

Rookie Scott Harrison/No.10 RP Motorsport Racing started third and took the lead in Lap 16 to go on to win the 25-lap Pro Mazda Royal Purple GP of Indy. Pole Sitter/Rookie Oliver Askew/No.3 came in second, but never led any laps. Rookie VeeKay Rinus, who started on the front row, led twice for 13 laps and finished third. The other driver who led laps, Rookie David Malukas/No.79 BN Racing led for two laps after starting fourth. He finished seventh, and turned the fastest race lap of 107.876 mph/1.21.3931. Fourteen drivers started and 11 finished, all on the lead lap. Three drivers retired – one for contact – Sting Ray Robb/No.82 Team Pelfrey; and two for mechanical woes – Rookie Andres Gutierrez/No.81 Team Pelfrey and Rookie Megennis/No.9 Juncos Racing. There were two cautions for five laps to tow the wounded cars.

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series had an exciting first race. The Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America has to be one of the longer race titles I’ve covered lately. The race may have lacked quantity of drivers, but it had quality of exciting racing. Andif you wonder where all the Lights teams are – check out the Indy 500 Entry List. Every team in Lights has a car or more running this year. Talk about Development Series – Indy Lights is the epitome of the concept.

Colin Herta

Colin Herta

Aaron Telitz

Aaron Telitz

Two of the seven drivers were Rookies – Pole sitter Pato O’Ward/No.27 Andretti Autosport and Victor Franzoni/No.23 Juncos Racing. Ward had the pole with Colton Herta/No.98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing beside him on the front row and Franzoni behind in third. There was a battle going into the first turn with a couple of cars going wide of the mark. Santi Urrutia/No.5 Belardi Auto Racing prevailed and led for the first half of the race, while Herta and O’Ward playing catchup. There were no cautions so it was Green Flag racing for 30 laps. Herta took over the lead on Lap 16 and held on for the finish. He also turned the fastest lap of 113.214 mph/77.5557).

Urrutia finished second and Aaron Telitz/No.9 Belardi Auto Racing was third. O’Ward finished fourth. All cars finished on the lead lap.

There must be mega media interest in the IMS events this weekend, as the WiFi just keeps getting slower and slower, making electronic transmissions of material problematical.

After the IndyCar GP there will be an authorized Track Invasion, with ten designated entry points.

VICS Driver Banners. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

VICS Driver Banners. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

POWERFUL PENSKE

INDYCARS headed to Pit Lane

Friday morning the Verizon INDYCAR Series race cars queued up and paraded out through Gasoline Alley to Pit Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first session of the month – practice for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. This is the fourth year for the road course race, utilizing various infield portions of the Speedway, making it a 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit. The weather was mostly cloudy for the 9:15am session, chilly, breezy, a wind chill factor of 55 degrees F. The session got off to an inauspicious start with a very early red flag for debris. The field has 13 Hondas and nine Chevrolets.

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet led the field Friday in the first practice. He turned his fastest lap of 1:09.3172 / 126.670 mph on his last lap as the checkered flag about to fly, rising to the top for the first time in the 45-minute session. Power edged past Joseph Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who had been leading and led two other times; and Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who was running third and had led twice earlier.

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The qualifying track record is 1:08.6746 / 127.855 mph set last year by Power in the first round of knockout qualifying. Last year’s pole was 1:08.7696/127.832 mph, set by Simon Pagenaud, who went on to win the race. He also won the inaugural GP in 2014, with Will Power the 2015 winner.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Juan Pablo Montoya. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Kits Team Penske was seventh fastest, in his first INDYCAR race of the season, since he left Penske after the end of last season. “I got an idea this morning of what we needed out of the car, and I think it helps. Even though we screwed up in the first session.” Later, JPM joked that he had to come back and lighten things up for the team, as they were getting too serious.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was twelfth. This weekend he is running the silver Verizon livery on the road course chassis. For the Indianapolis 500 he will run a new gold livery for Shell Fuel Rewards on the Speedway chassis. Travis Law, the Chief Mechanic for Castroneves’ car said that livery changes are labor intensive. The No.3 car has six different primary sponsors, which means six complete graphics changes for the driver, crew, and all equipment as well as the car. Everything changes. The Verizon car is a wrap, which takes about eight hours. Four of the guys in the Paint Shop help out with some specialized outside hired help. The special gold livery for the Indy 500 is painted on, with PPG help. PPG is one of the team’s sponsor and has been a great help with the technology as well as color design. It takes days to complete.

This weekend there also are three support races from the Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America Series: Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda; Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires; and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Indy Lights has a field of 14 drivers, from six countries and the US. Half the drivers are Rookies.

The Pro Mazda field is 15, with three countries and mostly US drivers represented. Ten are Rookies, and four are in the National Class – which means the driver either has an older spec car, or is older than a kid.

The largest support race group is the USF2000 field, with 23 drivers, including two women – the only group with female drivers. Ten countries are represented, plus the US, and 17 are Rookies. What fun! Five of those foreign drivers commute from home or another country, while the others have more local addresses.

Thursday was a test day for the Mazda Road to Indy Series, the three support races this weekend. Their sessions were run under cool, heavily-overcast skies. The track was wet from the Wednesday late night rain, but it dried quickly.

Friday’s schedule called for practice and qualifying for all four groups and races for the three support groups.

Mega delay in posting due to WiFi problems. So sorry. Universal Frustration.

WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

Indy Lights Second Start Attempt

Indy Lights Second Attempt at Start

Sunday was a very busy day, with seven back to back Mazda Road To Indy races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The day got off to a late start due to a two-hour fog delay. Lunch was abbreviated, to help make up time, but at least the SFR SCCA volunteer marshals and race officials got to come in for lunch and have a breather to sit down, after starting their day at 7am in the fog and ending at 5:40pm as the fog rolled back in.

There was a lot of driving talent to be seen, with these development/ladder series races, and somewhat sad there weren’t more fans to enjoy the racing and the racers. The paddock was wide open. They could have seen a future Indy 500 or Le Mans winner.

I spotted at least two talent scouts in the paddock, including IndyCar team owner Dale Coyne. Also on site and taking a turn at being interviewed on the PA was IndyCar driver, Max Chilton.

The Sunday afternoon Indy Lights Soul Red race got off to a rocky start and ended with what some consider a controversy. Title contender, Ed Jones of Dubai in No.11 Carlin had the pole position, and title contender, Rookie Santiago Urrutia of Uruguay in No.55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian started third behind Saturday’s race winner, Kyle Kaiser in No.18 Juncos Racing. Zach Veach of OH started fourth in No.5 Belardi Auto Racing and Jones’ teammate, Felix Serralles of Puerto Rico, started fifth in No.4 Carlin. The first attempted start was ragged with the second row jumping the gun, so the starter waved them off. The 15-car field finally took the green flag on their fourth go-around, after two pace laps.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Jones led the first lap, but was soon overtaken by a charging Veach who seemingly came out of nowhere, moved right up the line to grab the lead on Lap Two. The dimunitive driver then continued to lead the parade for the remainder of the 38-lap race. Veach admitted afterwards that he used Jones championship against him, saying he knew Jones wouldn’t do anything to risk it (the championship), so “I made myself present and got by.” Jones and Urrutia were side by side until Urrutia got by Jones and then Kaiser, while Jones fell back to fifth, behind his teammate, Serralles. Veach said post race that he has to thank Michael Andretti, who taught him to be the fastest out of the pits. “I was pretty lucky to make that move.”

Rookie Garrett Gris of Canada in No.3 Team Pelfrey spun out on Lap Two in Turn Four, bringing out a one-lap Caution

The top five positions remained in lock-step for most of the race – Veach; Urrutia, and the two Carlin drivers, Serralles and Jones. The Carlin boys raced hard in the final laps, until the last lap. At that point the championship was on the line. Urrutia would win the championship over Ed Jones, despite their equal points because Urrutia had more 2016 wins – four, and that would be the tie-breaker.

Ed Jones No.11

Ed Jones No.11

Then on the last lap going into Turn Two, Serralles did an “After you, Alfonse” move, Jones passed and won the Championship from fourth place. Urruttia finished second, sans championship.

Veach won the race, led the most laps and turned the fastest lap of 103.749 mph/77.6563 sec on Lap 5. It was his third Indy Lights victory this season, and second in two weeks.

It was painful to watch the podium ceremonies. There were some boos, and not a lot of joy – except for race winner Veach who was all smiles. Jones won the 2016 Indy Lights Championship and with it the $1 million for a guaranteed three-races in the 2017 IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500 race.

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Afterwards Jones was low-key in his Media Center appearance, saying he was glad to win the championship, as he has been struggling with his budget. “It was a tough weekend, and I’m disappointed not to have won more races.” He teased Veach about “his ambitious move.”

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Veach said he’s had three years in Indy Lights and as he’s not a paying driver, and still without the necessary funding to go IndyCar racing, that’s still his goal and he’s hopeful. If he can’t race IndyCar next year, he wouldn’t mind another year in Indy Lights, and a second year with the Belardi team; as this year he was on a learning curve. Veach drove No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet at the IndyCar Sonoma Raceway Thursday, and reportedly was the fastest of the Indy Lights drivers testing that day.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is located on Highway 68 between Del Ray Oaks, Monterey and Salinas. The nearby area is still dealing with the Soberanes Fire, with one area still under evacuation and another evac order put out Saturday night, which was expanded Sunday afternoon. The wide-spread forest fire has been going on for 52 days, with wind and heat causing flareups in the rugged, inaccessible regions.

MRLS Firefighters Thank you

FOG

Foggy Paddock

Sunday morning’s heavy dense coastal fog in Monterey delayed the start by two hours for the third and final day of the Mazda Road To Indy races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With practiced tweaking by the mob of involved Stewards, Race Officials and Track staff, the schedule was adjusted, keeping the announced order of races for the five series. The series retained most if not all of their promised track time, with the day slated to end 55 minutes late.

Again the SFR SCCA volunteer race marshals gave up their lunch hour for another, now familiar, Grab and Go drill. The sun broke the fog at 11 am, with the help of a languid breeze. The temperatures were in the low sixties.

Sunday’s schedule called for seven races, with at least one race per series; and two series have two races, morning and afternoon.

The races, in order, are: Pro Mazda Series Presented by Cooper Tires – Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Allied Building Products; IMSA Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires; Global MX-5 Cup Invitational; Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda – Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Monterey Powered by Mazda; Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires; and then the second race of the day for Pro Mazda Championship and IMSA Prototype Lites. Now that’s a mouthful!

One of the amazing things about this weekend is that there is such a plethora of young talent, drivers honing their skills and doing some incredible racing. All this talent and energy, which will develop and rise to higher levels. The sad thing, to me, is that the better they get and higher up they go, the fewer the chances become of getting a good ride. All dressed up and no place to go. Forty-two of the 82 drivers (mostly young and mostly male) are Americans, and the rest hail from 22 other countries far and wide. Let’s wish them luck and opportunities.

Foggy Sunday

CAN YOU SAY MAZDA?

2016 MRLS Mazda Drivers

Mazda is busting out all over at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey CA, for the Mazda Road to Indy races, featuring five professional race series all running Mazda Engines in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder as well as the Mazda Road to 24 level. Those series bring 82 drivers from 21 countries including the US. This unique Mazda develoopment program provides more than $2 million in racing scholarships available to the champions in several series: Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda, Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires, Mazda MX-5 Cup and Indy Lights Powered by Cooper, as well as the IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires Series. This whole program spans across three sanctioning bodies – IndyCar, IMSA, and SCCA Pro Racing.

Thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy and the Mazda Road to 24, Mazda has 82 drivers from 21 countries racing this weekend at our home track of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Five series are in action with 100 percent powered by Mazda, with more than $2 million in Mazda scholarships available to series champions. For those too far away to join us in Monterey, you can watch most of the weekend’s 12 races at MazdaLive.com.

Saturday’s National Anthem was sung by Mazda MX-5 Cup driver, Aurora Straus of New York, who races No.17 for McCumbee McAleer Racing. Her car number is her age, a high school senior, who advantageously utilizes her race trips with visits to prospective colleges. This trip she visited nearby Stanford University where she wants to major in English and Mechanical Engineering.

Foggy Friday

Friday’s practice day got off to an inauspicious start – one hour and 45-minutes late due to a seasonal fog delay. Talk about Foggy Mountain Breakdown. But all’s well that ends well. The crackerjack San Francisco Region Sports Car Club of America volunteer race officials and marshals worked closely with the officials from the three series and the race track to put it to right, and with a well-orchestrated Grab and Go Lunch for the workers, all drivers got their track time and the day only ended a few minutes late.

Once the sun came out Friday and Saturday the weather was picture-perfect beautiful: sunny and warm with cloudless blue skies and gentle breezes. Saturday’s morning fog delay was only an hour, and the time was made up to with shortening the generously long lunch hour and nice breaks between sessions.

Kyle Kaiser

Kyle Kaiser

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Kyle Kaiser of Santa Clara CA, driving No.18 Juncos Racing has the pole for the Saturday Indy Lights race, with a lap of 1:15.2733/107.034 mph. He currently is fifth in the standings with 279 points, 41 points behind Rookie Santiago Urrutia of Uruguay in No.55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian. Urrutia qualified third, behind Ed Jones of Dubai, UAE in No. 11 Carlin. Jones currently is second in the standings, with 318 points, just one behind Urrutia. All cars have a Dallara chassis with Mazda engine and run Cooper Tires.

Kaiser said “I think I have everything to lose, so I’m just going for the win today. The grip changed today, car was faster.”

Jones was fastest in the first practice and Rookie Dean Stoneman of England was fastest in No.27 Andretti Autosport in the second practice on new tires, second fastest in the first practice and fastest overall.

In the IMSA Prototype Series, Clark Toppe of TX has the pole for Race One in No.10 JDC Motorsports, with a lap of 1:24.504/95.3 mph. Second and third were his teammate Austin Versteeg of Utah in No.7 and Kyle Masson of FL in No.18 Performance Tech Motorsports. In the Masters Class, the top driver was Michael Chlumecky of Canada in No.31 Eurosport Racing. He will start sixth.
All cars have a Elan DP02 chassis with Mazda engines, on Cooper Tires.

Mark Drennan

Mark Drennan

John Dean II of FL was fastest in the second practice for the Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, in No.16 Sick Sideways Racing. Teammate Nathanial Sparks of AL got the pole position for the first race, in No.8, with a lap of 1:41.737/79.192 mph. Second and third were Robby Foley of NJ in No.63 Atlanta Motorsports Group and Rookie Mark Drennan of San Jose CA in No.50 Winding Road Racing TFB.

Rookie Aaron Telitz of WI in No.82 Team Pelfrey has the pole for Race One in the Pro Mazda Series, with a time of 1:23.2863/96.736 mph, turning his time on his last flying lap before the checkered flag in the 12-car field. Eight of the drivers are Rookies. Second and third fastest were Pato O’Ward of Monterrey Mexico in No.80 Team Pelfrey and Rookie Nicolas Dapero of Argentina in No.33 Juncos Racing. Telitz had been fastest in the second practice, while Will Owen of TX was fastest in Practice One in No.23 Juncos Racing.

Aaron Telitz No.82

Aaron Telitz No.82

Telitz is the current points leader with 345 points to O’Ward’s 331. He has six poles and five victories. O’Ward has six victories and five poles. Third in the points and the only other driver to have won races (2) and poles (2) is Rookie Nico Jamin of France in No.2 Cape Motorsports w/Wayne Taylor Racing. He will start the race from fifth position on the grid.

Victor Franzoni of Brazil was fastest in all sessions for the USF2000 Series, taking the pole with a lap of 1:26.3066/93.351 mph in No.9 ArmsUp Motorsports. Second and third were teammates Anthony Martin of Australia in No.8 and Parker Thompson of Canada in No.2. They race for Cape Motorsports w/Wayne Taylor Racing. Thompson was second in both practices followed by Martin. All cars run a Mazda engine in a Van Diemen chassis on Cooper Tires.

All the series have a race on Saturday afternoon, and another race on Sunday. Two groups – the Pro Mazda Championship Series and the IMSA Prorotype Lites have a third race Sunday afternoon. It’s a full, full weekend. And many of the races can be followed live by streaming from Mazdalive.com.

Mazda has a Zoom-Zoom radar speed trap high atop the Start-Finish Cross-Over bridge, which measures the speed of the cars on the front straight and headed up into Turn One. The top speed I’ve observed so far this weekend was an Indy Lights car at 148 mph. Zoom-Zoom!

Zoom-Zoom

IT’S RACE DAY!

PIR Trylon

It’s sunny Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway for the Double Header – the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix and the Indy Lights Grand Prix of Phoenix. It’s warm with a nice breeze tempering the eighties temperature. The IndyCar race is scheduled to start at 5:30pm local time and run for 250 laps on the tri-oval measuring 1.022 miles. It’s being televised live on NBCSN.

Kyle Kaiser

Kyle Kaiser/No.18 Juncos Racing won the Indy Lights race, leading flag to flag. He also picked up all the Bonus points – fastest lap and most laps led. Going into the race, Kaiser was tied for the lead with Felix Serrales/No.4 Carlin. Now Kaiser is alone at the top of the standings, with 78 points.

Second in the race was Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin; followed by RC Enerson/No.7 and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian teammate, Rookie Santiago Urrutia/No.55; and Dean Stoneman/No.27 Andretti Autosport. The battle for third was the drama in the race, with the Schmidt Peterson teammates battling, acing out Serralles who finished seventh after starting fifth.

Serralles is second in the standings with 64 points, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.14 Belardi Auto Racing (who finished fifteenth is third with 53 points, and Jones is fourth with 50 points.

Takuma Sato's car

In the IndyCar garage the ABC Supply A.J. Foyt team beavered away on the No.14 Honda of Takuma Sato, repairing the damage suffered when Sato crashed in Turn Two during the first Friday practice. He was unhurt, but the car hit rear/sidewise and required major work.

James Hinchcliffe's car

The No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crashed by James Hinchcliffe in the first Friday practice was repaired in time for Hinch to get in a few laps during night practice, and it’s ready to go.

Carlos Munoz crashed in qualifying so will join Hinchcliffe and Sato at the back end of the grid. Munoz made it out for the full night practice with 44 laps on the repaired car.

All the IndyCars had an in-out Systems Check Lap mid-afternoon. Sato got an additional five minutes to test his car.

When I went for my Saturday morning Chevrolet Event Car ride with Larry Foyt as driver, I could see the skid marks on the track from all the accidents; but the SAFER Barriers had been painted overnight and were pristine. And glad we all are that PIR has installed them circuit-wide.

Helio Castroneves won the Verizon P1 Pole Position Award for Saturday night’s race. He won the PIR race from the pole in 2002 and is going for a repeat.

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros