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

LONG REIGN THE KING

HRH Helio Castroneves

HRH Helio Castroneves/No.3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet continued his reign at Phoenix International Raceway by topping night practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series with a lap of 186.298 mph. He has the pole for Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix.

Chevrolet continued its dominance throughout the session – at one point all eleven Chevrolet twin-turbocharged V-6 cars on top. At the end Honda broke through to eleventh position, first with Graham Rahal/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. The final order was Chevrolet 1-10, with RHR, Hinchcliffe and Rahal ahead of Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut Chevrolet running 11-14 in that order.

The session had but one short caution for track inspection, and the session was extended five minutes for accommodation.

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Devilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet ran the most laps – 64, and finished fifth.

Despite having crashed hard in the morning session, Hinchcliffe’s team put the car back together and he got nine laps of practice. Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda did not get out for the session as the team is still working on his car from the morning’s crash.

Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet again was top of the Rookie class. Conor Daly/No.18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Dale Coyne Racing Honda was seventeenth, and Alexander Rossi/No.98 Castrol Edge/Curb AHA with Curb-Agajanian Honda was eighteenth.

Friday was a mostly cloudless day, and the rosy desert sunset came with the last checkered flag on the shiny Indycars.

Kyle Kaiser

Kyle Kaiser/No.18 Juncos Racing has the pole for Saturday’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Phoenix race with a lap of 167.872 mph. This is his second pole this season, as he had one of the two at St. Pete. With Friday’s pole point he is now tied for the points lead with Felix Serralles/No.4 Carlin, who had the other St. Pete Pole and won the first race and was fourth in the second. Kaiser finished second and third in those two races.

This is Kaiser’s second season with Indy Lights. His 2015 teammate was Spencer Piggott, who was the 2015 Indy Lights Champion and will run selected 2016 IndyCar races – including the Indianapolis 500 – with Rahal Letterman Racing. Kaiser said that year of experience gives him a different mind set and a whole lot more confidence. He said the Phoenix track is hard to pass on, so the start is key, and lapped traffic will be a factor.

Second through fifth were Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin, Rookie Santiago Urrutia/No.55 and RC Enerson/No 7-Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian, and Serralles.

Zach Veach/No.5 Belardi Auto Racing crashed in the afternoon practice and was a non-starter for qualifying, relegating him to the rear of the grid.

Townsend Bell

Townsend Bell was confirmed as the fifth (and last) Indianapolis 500 driver for Andretti Autosport. Team owner, Michael Andretti, said the deal just came together recently and everything fell together in a week. “We’ve run five cars at the Indy 500 for a long time now. This will be the tenth time for Townsend, and his ninth consecutive start. If you look at his record at Indianapolis, he does very well there. I feel like if we can put a good car under him, he has a good shot at winning the race.”

Bell said “I think I’ll benefit from being part of a strong, multi-car team with a winning pedigree at Indy. They won recently (Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014).”

The NBCSN TV Analyst said he was unconcerned about the lack of time he would have in the car before running the race. “It will take a day or two to shake off the rust. I will need extra energy that week. But, I have good teammates. I come with experience, but also with an open ear.”

Michael AndrettiTeam Owner Michael Andretti said sponsorship information could be announced at the Long Beach race in two weeks.

Bell was quick to point out, after joshing from Mario Andretti, that while he knew that Mario might still have one last Indy 500 in him, he-Bell-was cognizant of today’s date – April 1 – that “I’m coming back tomorrow to make sure it’s real that I have this ride.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Contrary to his bragging on Facebook that he was winging his way to Bahrain after a call from Ron, Oriol Servia was hanging with his race buddies at PIR.

Michael Andretti, Oriol Servia & Bryan Herta

HRH HELIO

HRH Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves/No.3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet has the pole for Saturday night’s Verizon IndyCar Series Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, with a qualifying lap of 19.0997 seconds/192.631 mph- a single lap track record. He was one of six drivers who broke the existing track record of 19.608 seconds set by Arie Luyendyk on 23 March 1996. When measuring track records, IndyCar goes by time rather than speed. At PIR when the track record was set by Luyendyk, the track measured one mile. It now measures 1.022 miles.

This was the 46th pole position for Castroneves, his second at PIR, his 28th pole on an oval track, and the 236th pole position for Team Penske.

“It’s great to be breaking the record, which has been around 20 years. Arie said he was happy to give me the crown.That was cool. It’s great to see him again.

“We definitely pushed the limit. Now we gotta focus for tomorrow. I’m really excited for tomorrow night, but we’ve got to continue working because qualifying is one thing, racing is another. ”

HRH Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves with Verizon P1 Award

Arie Luyendyk & Helio Castroneves

Tony Kanaan/No.10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Teams was second fastest. Third was Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, who has more experience at PIR than any other driver due to all of his NASCAR experience. Fourth and fifth were Charlie Kimball/No.84 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Of the eleven Chevrolet drivers in the field, ten are in the top ten, with the other in P15.

The top Honda driver was Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data/Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda coming in eleventh.

The drivers went out in single file, with the qualifying order set by the drivers drawing their position as they entered the Friday morning Driver’s Meeting. The drivers had two laps with the average being his qualifying time.

Tony Kanaan

Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was again the fastest Rookie, running eighth. Kanaan has been working closely with Chilton, and said “He’s the most mature rookie I’ve worked with. I’m not surprised he’s that good. He’s very capable, so I know he’s going to be good. We have a pretty good chemistry in the team as far as sharing information. But he’s a very mature rookie, so I would say he’s going to give us a hard time pretty soon.”

Carlos Munoz No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda crashed on his qualifying lap. He rear ended the wall in Turn One. He was the second car out – the first Honda. His lap was 185.689 mph, and he will start twenty-first based on entrant points. He was seen in the Infield Care Center and underwent further evaluation for soft tissue injuries to his legs, before he was cleared and released for driving. Munoz said “It’s my first really big crash. My legs are OK.”

The two drivers who crashed in the morning practice session did not qualify. Based on entrant points, Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda will start twentieth and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Racing Honda will start last in twenty-second.

Kyle Kaiser/18 Juncos Racing was the fastest Indy Lights driver in the second practice session, at 165.546 mph/0.22.2247 seconds. Second through fifth were Rookie Zachery Claman De Melo/No.13 Juncos Racing, RC Enerson/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian, Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin, and Rookie Neil Alberico/No.22 Carlin. Overall Felix Serralles/No.4 Carlin is still fastest overall for the day at 166.0617 mph/0.22.0617 seconds.

Indy Lights drivers qualify Friday afternoon for their Saturday afternoon race; and IndyCar drivers will get a half-hour night practice starting at 6:15pm local time, replicating race conditions.

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS

Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Qualifying Results

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 192.324
2. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 191.511
3. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 191.366
4. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 191.220
5. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 190.780
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 190.376
7. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 190.094
8. (8) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 189.972
9. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 189.749
10. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 189.654
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 189.071
12. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 188.966
13. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 187.998
14. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 186.939
15. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 186.544
16. (19) Luca Filippi, Honda, 185.814
17. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 185.046
18. (18) Conor Daly, Honda, 184.261
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 179.770
20. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, no speed
21. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, no speed
22. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, no speed

GOOD MORNING, RACE FANS!

Friday Morning Garage Scene

Things are bustling at Phoenix International Raceway for the Verizon IndyCar Series, which is returning to the desert tri-oval for the first time since 2005. This weekend is the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, set for Saturday night. Twenty-two season’s regulars are entered, including four drivers who raced in the last Indy Car race at PIR – Helio Castroneves/No.3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet; Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet; Tony Kanaan/No.10 GE LED Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Chevrolet; and Ed Carpenter/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Both Castroneves and Kanaan are previous PIR winners: Castroneves in 2002, and Kanaan in 2003 and 2004. Kanaan is the only active Indy Car driver who won at PIR and went on to win the championship – in 2004.

Helio Castroneves' carSebastien Bourdais car in Tech Inspection

Ed Carpenter's car

This is the second IndyCar race of the eighteen-race 2016 season and things are seemingly going smoothly Friday morning. Cars are going through Technical Inspections, drivers, team managers and spotters have their obligatory morning meeting, and the sixteen Indy Lights cars were on track for their first (45-minute) practice. The temperature is a mild 64F degrees, and the track is a warmer 75F.

Felix Serrales/No.4 Carlin Racing, winner at the season’s opener race at St. Petersburg, ended up the fastest Indy Lights driver, at 166.769 mph. He was followed by Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin Racing; Rookie Dean Stoneman/No.27 Andretti Autosport – who led much of the session; Kyle Kaiser/No.18 Juncos Racing; and Rookie Zachary Clan De Melo/No.13 Juncos Racing.

Indy Lights have another early afternoon 45-minute practice, followed by qualifying at 4:30pm local time.

IndyCar has its first practice at 10am local time, followed by qualifying at 2pm, and a night practice at 6:15pm.

Stay tuned! We’re just getting started.

Firestone Garage

CARB DAY: SUNNY, SAFE AND CROWDED

Will Power

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Dixon

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

Juan Pablo Montoya No.2 Chevrolet

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

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

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

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

Tristan Vautier

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

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

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

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

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

IMS Grandstand Crowd