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

CARB DAY & MORE CHANGES

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

IMG_5692

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

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

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

No.9 Chevrolet

No.29 Honda in Tech Tent

No.88 Chevrolet in Tech Tent

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

COLD DOESN’T BEGIN TO DESCRIBE

Pit Lane Jet Dryer

It’s a cold win a blowin’ at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday morning – so cold the ambient temperature was/is 48 degrees F and the track temperature is so cold there isn’t an official reading. The morning Indy Lights by practice was postponed an hour so the track can be warmed up by vehicles on track and two jet driers in Pit Lane.

Thursday’s schedule calls for Indy 500 Media Day and on track practice and qualifying for Indy Lights. Part of the Media Day activities are a couple of new Press Conferences not earlier scheduled.

The INDYCAR Media schedule is somewhat fluid, and one new press conference has been announced by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 11:30am ET. Presumably this is to detail the team’s plans going forward for this weekend, including a driver announcement to replace the injured James Hinchcliffe. The good news is that Hinchcliffe has successfully undergone surgery for his upper left thigh, he’s out of Intensive Care Unit and resting. He won’t be racing for awhile, but the word is that he will make a good recovery. That replacement driver, TBA, will be on track at 12:15pm ET for Track Familiarization.

In the SPM Garage in Gasoline Alley, the door is nearly closed in the bay where the No.5 car was being prepped. The only visible portion was the bright gold nose cone. In the other bay bits and pieces wee being worked. No one was talking, and no driver or owners were seen.

No.5 Honda being prepared

No.5 Nose Parts

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports garage

Although the driver announcement is still officially forthcoming, rumours swirled and a fan who prints a Spotters Guide before each major race issued his updated Indy 500 Guide Wednesday night, showing Ryan Briscoe as the driver for No.5 Lucas Oil/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Preferred Freezer Polar Bear

MONDAY WRAP

The Monday practice session schedule at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was changed more than once for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Series. The noon Indianapolis 500 practice session was halted after the accident of James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

James Hinchcliffe

It has been confirmed by Honda that it was indeed a mechanical failure which caused Hincliffe’s crash. It was the failure of the right-front suspension rocker arm, causing Hinchcliffe to lose control of his steering. He went into the wall at a 45 degree angle. Honda said it was the hardest hit of the Indianapolis 500 sessions. Hard like accidents pre-HANS devices and carbon fiber. The cause of the mechanical failure is yet unknown.

The latest INDYCAR update on Hinchcliffe’s medical condition is that he “is in stable condition and undergoing surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital for an injury to the left upper thigh.

“Hinchcliffe was awake when he was transported by ground to the hospital following a single-car accident during practice for the 99th Indianapolis. The Canadian’s Schmidt Peter Motorsports car made heavy right-side contact with the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier. Additional updates to Hinchcliffe’s condition will be released when available.”

Meanwhile, the Monday schedule should have been written with a pencil with a good eraser. Mid-afternoon, INDYCAR announced IndyCar practice would resume at 4:15pm and run to 5pm ET, and Indy Lights practice would end at 4pm. Part way into the afternoon INDYCAR practice session, it was extended to 6pm, which tentatively moved the Indy Lights Series to a 6:15-7pm ET slot. Those schedules stuck.

Sage Karam's car

Sage Karam/No.8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet topped the charts at the end of the session, with a lap of 227.831 mph.

Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet had led most of the truncated session with a best time of 226.429 mph in traffic, until Karam pipped him.

Third through fifth were JR Hildebrand/No.6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet; James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet was the top Rookie, in twenty-third place.

Marco Andretti/No.27 Snapple Honda turned the most laps – 87, while Townsend Bell/No.24 Robert Graham Special Chevrolet opted for the other end of the spectrum, running six laps. Overall 1449 laps were run by twenty-eight drivers.

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet remains the fastest driver of all ten practice sessions at 233.474 mph, set in Practice Six. He’s run a total of 259 laps. Bryan Clauson/No.88 Jonathan Byrd’s/Cancer Treatment Centers of America Chevrolet has run the most laps overall – 460.

Those not out on track Monday were: James Jakes/No.7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Carlos Huertas/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Oriol Servia/No.32 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Conor Daly/No.43 FUELED by BACON Special Honda.

Traditionally, once a T/Backup car has qualified, the car number reverts to the primary number – no T.

Tony Kanaan

Kanaan visited the Media Center briefly after the session.

Some of the comments and questions were geared to his feelings and reactions to Hincliffe’s accident.

“First and foremost we need to understand that this is a very dangerous sport. Every time we hop in that race car, we don’t know if we’re going to come out of it, if you’re going to come out of it in one piece, if something’s going to happen to you. And that’s something we’re going to have to live with. I believe that.

“That’s what makes us different than other people. That’s why not everybody can do this. It’s never easy to see a friend of yours get hurt or lost a friend of yours. But this is the sport that we chose. And I believe … not trying to be rude to anyone in the field, but if people feel uncomfortable with that, you shouldn’t be in the race car.”

When asked if he had any safety concerns going into Sunday’s race, Kanaan didn’t hesitate. “We’re always going to have concerns. And when people crash, anything can happen I think it was four different accidents. I trust the engineers. I trust the guys who built the aero kits. Are we going to have 100 percent of all the answers that we wanted to have? No, but I don’t think we’ve ever had them and will ever have them. No, I am not concerned.

“I’m ready to put on a good show for the fans who are coming her to watch us. Accidents happen. We hate that, but it’s part of our job.”

Addressing the question many are asking: his reaction to INDYCAR’s action on the flips. Should they have reacted at all. Kanaan said “It’s tough to say. I think they talked to the engineers. That would be a question for Derrick (Walker – INDYCAR President Competition & Operations) and not to me. I just drive the race car. I trust what my engineers tell me and I trust what Chevy told me. I think my opinion is irrelevant because I would be talking about something I don’t understand. I understand that we crash, sometimes we have the risk to flip. Am I willing to take that risk. 100 percent.”

Each year one of the Coors Light Carb Day highlights is the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Contest. The 12 teams are entered based on their pit stop times since the previous year’s Indy 500. This year the teams are:
1 Will Power / Verizon Team Penske
2 Juan Pablo Montoya / Team Penske
5 James Hinchcliffe / Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 James Jakes/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon / Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
14 Takuma Sato / A.J. Foyt Enterprises
15 Graham Rahal / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
24 Townsend Bell / Dreyer and Reinbold – Kingdom Racing
27 Marco Andretti / Andretti Autosport
41 Jack Hawksworth / A.J. Foyt Enterprises
48 Alex Tagliani/ A.J. Foyt Enterprises
83 Charlie Kimball / Chip Ganassi Racing Teams

The competition is for the entire team – bragging rights as well as more tangible rewards. And no, I don’t know what is or will be the situation for the No.5 car. Watch this space.

Next up for the IndyCar drivers – Carb Day Friday 22 May 2015. That’s also the opening day for the new Paul Newman movie, “Winning.”

SAY CHEESE!

Scott Dixon & team

After winning the pole position for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, you’d think that Verizon IndyCar Series driver, Scott Dixon and his winning No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team would get to celebrate and sleep in Monday morning. But, winning such the Verizon P1 Award means you all have to get up with the chickens and be all ready for a mega photo shoot at The Brickyard. This goes for your front row companions also.

There’s variations on a theme – change the hats, smile for the photogs, pose with the trophy, add or subtract the various folks who post with you, and so on.

The front row trio aren’t the only ones who get to have photo shoots. It’s tradition that after qualifying each driver, car and team go to a designated place in Gasoline Alley and has a group photo taken, which is then part of the Firestone Indy 500 Grid Display.

Scott Dixon

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud

And, for Pagenaud, it’s a special day. It’s his birthday. Joyeaux Anniversaire, Simon! He’s 31 today. All day.

And for the front row teams, it is an especially long, busy time from the end of qualifying to the photo shoot, because of the engine changes.

For the Indy 500, teams are allowed to take out the existing engine, even if it hasn’t mileaged out. A new Indy 500 engine out of the crate can be installed for the week culminating in the race. After the race, that engine is sealed by INDYCAR and put back in the crate to be used at a later time. The previous engine – if it hasn’t mileaged out – is reinstalled and run til it’s done. Then the Indy 500 engine can be used.

The teams swap the engines Sunday night so that they can be prepped Monday morning for the Monday afternoon practice. So now you know.

Although the weather forecast is the same as it’s been all weekend – 82 and thundershowers, it’s 73 degrees F at noon and overcast. The wind measures 10 mph. Stay tuned. This is Indianapolis, after all. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.

Monday’s schedule calls for a couple of hours practice for the Indy Lights drivers – all 11 of them. This is followed by practice for the Indy 500 drivers, for three and a half hours.

Then they all pack up and head off for specific locations to promote the race far and wide for one full Tuesday.

The track is relatively quiet, and the fans are fewer. Another good day for the local schools to have field trips.

The Firestone tires folks are busy getting all the tires ready for the upcoming track days. In total, Firestone brings about 5,000 tires.

Monday is the last on-track day for the Indy 500 drivers until Friday’s Carb Day.

Firestone Indy 500 Grid Display

Lonely food court

Firestone tires

WHISTLING DIXIE & SIMON SAYS

Fast Four - Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Sxott Dixon and Will Power

After another rather processional practice session Thursday afternoon for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet posted the fastest lap – 1:10.6971/124.197 mph. Practice Two, unlike the earlier session which was dominated by Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Mistic E-Cigs KVSH Racing Chevrolet, saw several lead changes.

The weather was 88 degrees F/31/1C with only slight breezes. The track temperature was 117 degrees F/47.2C.

Scott Dixon

Graham Rahal

Will PowerOther leaders included Bourdais, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, and Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

The top six drivers were Chevrolets: Dixon, Power, Juan Pablo Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske, Bourdais, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 deVilbiss Team Penske. And five of those six were faster than the time set by Bourdais in the earlier session.

Of the twenty-five drivers on track Thursday, only five posted faster times in Practice One, including Saavedra, who was seventh overall for the day.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak n’ Shake was the top Honda in Practice Two in seventh position, at 1:11.1422. He said “It was pretty toasty out there. We get spoiled coming here because it’s so smooth. I’m glad to be leading in the Honda camp. I don’t know where a half second is going to come from, but we’re working on it.”

Takuma Sato/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing was the top Honda overall for the day, based on his morning time of 1:11.1413. He ended up eighth overall for the day, followed by Rahal.

Charlie Kimball/No.83 Nova Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was tenth overall for the day, based on his afternoon time.

Juan Pablo Montoya

The only drama during Practice Two was from two Red Flags. Power went off in the grass in Turn Eight to Ten, bringing out the Red Flag for five + minutes. And, in his case as it was in the morning with Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, it didn’t hurt Power who led on and off in the last third of the 100-minute session, before finishing second.

The other Red Flag was caused by Montoya, who ended up in the grass after Rookie Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet rear-ended him. Coletti restarted, while Montoya was restarted. Montoya was sixth at the time, while Coletti was eleventh overall. Montoya ended up third, and Coletti was eleventh – a position he held. Coletti was the top Rookie. Total Red Flag time nearly ten minutes.

Simon Pagenaud's Victory Poster

Doug Boles, President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, noted that all four of the drivers present in the Post-Practice Media Conference were instrumental in the development of the Brickyard. He then went on to say “Simon got a massive 60 pound trophy for winning last year’s inaugural Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. So now he gets a massive ring to commemorate.” Thursday afternoon Boles presented Pagenaud with his indeed massive Champion’s ring, who couldn’t wait to show it off to the other three drivers.

Simon Pagenaud, Doug Boles, and Graham Rahal

Simon Pagenaud

IMG_5366

Quotable Quotes

Power said “The IMS road course is like an European circuit in that it’s so smooth.” The Aussie was teased by his compatriots about his off-road excursion. “I definitely explored the limit, and luckily there aren’t too many things to hit. We’re trying to get everything dialed in so I can catch the Kiwi guy next to me, sneaky guy.”

Kiwi Dixon said about the track – “It’s rewarding being at Indianapolis, road course or oval. The track is pretty slippery this year, but definitely going to be fun this year.”

Rahal said “The tire degradation is one thing, but you never know what’s going to happen here. The long straight away should be a good place to pass one or two cars..

Pagenaud remarked that “The heat and the weather should be interesting this weekend. The track is quite slippery in Turn Eight and Nine – there’s a lot of grass on the track. Will is cutting the race track too much.”

The inaugural IMS IndyCar road course race had a standing start, with less than stellar results. This year it will be a rolling start, as it is in most of the IndyCar races. The drivers were asked how that would work coming out of the last turn. Power said, in reference to Castroneves jump at the Long Beach street race, “Helio will have half a straight lead for the rolling start-Power.” Dixon said “Last year’s standing start caught a few people out, with stalling; and IndyCar has had rolling starts as long as most of us can remember. Rahal agreed with Dixon. Why mess with tradition (by having a standing start). I don’t think we need to do that. It’s not like Long Beach. Obviously, that wasn’t a good one; but with this long straight it will be a good one.

Simon was the lone dissenter. “Personally, I like diversity and excitement, so I wouldn’t mind a standing start. So, it is what it is, so we just have to do the rolling starts.

Eventually, the 800 pound elephant in the room was addressed – the disparity between the Chevrolet and Honda cars.

Rahal responded that he didn’t know he was losing horsepower going down the front stretch, or if it was still the downforce issue from not having the aero kits. “I know our trap speeds. I think all the Chevys are quicker than the Hondas here on trap speeds. I think it’s probably just a bit of the drivability. I mean, these guys are over here talking about adjusting it to their driving style. I’m finding a hard time doing that.

“You know, I think at this point we just have to find a little bit everywhere. The car is pretty hard to drive. It’s pretty pitch sensitive. You find you’re sideways more than pointed straight. As I said, if you’re doing that, it’s fast, that’s okay. That’s where we’ve been this year.”

The official Starting Line Up for the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda GP of Indianapolis has Rookie Weiron Tan starting on pole. The top six on the 21-car grid are Rookie drivers.

UNSUNG HEROES

TURN 12

There are more than 300 SCCA volunteer race marshals and officials working the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Many of them have worked many of these events dating back to the F5000 and F1 days – an annual trek. They come from SCCA Regions up and down the West Coast, from across the country, and from abroad. Such is the lure of The Beach. They all pay their own way, buy their uniforms, and work long hours in a variety of specialties. Their day starts before sunrise four days in a row, and with the late night Drifting Demonstrations, some work until 10pm. All for the love of the sport.

Thank you one and all!

Bill Galey

SCCA Marshals

SCCA Pit Lane Marshals

Fire Safety Marshal

Peter West Ambulance Marshal

Pit Lane Marshals

Cal Club Tow Truck