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

GOOD MORNING LONG BEACH! JONES WINS LIGHTS RACE

EJ Viso

The day started early Sunday at the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with the first race for the SPEED Energy Off-Road Series. This is the series which started at Long Beach two years ago and has continued to grow. This year the series was invited to run at the Clipsal V8 race in Adelaide, Australia and proved so popular the series has already been invited back for the 2016 Clipsal. One of the occasional drivers in the series is EJ Viso, who is enjoying the truck series but would really like to get back into the Verizon Indy Car Series.

The weather continues to be sunny, warm with clear blue skies and a breeze to temper the heat. Couldn’t have been better had the Chamber of Commerce ordered it.

Sunday is a good people-watching day – to see and be seen. Scene Seen.

Gordon Kirby & Katie Brennan

Kevin Kalkhoven

Robin Miller & Beaux Barfield

Bob Varsha

Mike Hull

Mark Miles

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire Series was the next race Sunday morning – this time starting at 8:30am PDT, earlier than ever before. The packed LBGP schedule has something going every single moment.

Jack Harvey/No.42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports had the Indy Lights pole after a hard fight with several other contenders, swapping the lead lap after lap. Harvey’s time was 1:12.0405/98.345 mph. Others pushing him were Rookie Spencer Pigot/No.12 Juncos Racing; Rookie Ed Jones/No.11 Carlin, making its first foray into American motorsports; Kyle Kaiser/No.18 Juncos Racing; and Rookie Max Chilton/No.14 Carlin.

The top five on the grid were Harvey, Pigot, Kaiser, Jones and Rookie Felix Serrales/No.4 Belardi Auto Racing.

The race didn’t get off to the best start. Two cars hit in the first turn Kaiser and Harvey hit. Neither car finished. Then Juan Piedrahita/No.5 Belardi Auto Racing spun bringing out the first full course yellow. Not to be outdone, Jones spun a series of neat doughnuts before continuing – and then worked back up to first place. Scott Anderson/No.77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian spun and continued while running fifth. Another full course yellow came out when Piedrahita and Harvey drove off into the Turn 11 tire walls. they had to be towed and were out.The race was scheduled for 45 laps or one hour.

Jones won the race which ended being timed, with 42 laps of the scheduled 45. Second through fifth were Pigot, Serralles, Rookie RC Enerson/No.7Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian; and Chilton. Nine of the 12 starters finished the race. Matthew Brabham/No.83 Andretti Autosport DNF with mechanical problems.

The Verizon Indy Car Series has its thirty-minute warm up mid-morning, which will be followed by the Mothers Exotic Car Parade, and another SPEED Truck race.

After the noon break all the pomp, circumstance and pre-race festivities begin for the IndyCars. That race is 80 laps or two hours. But the day won’t be over. There will then be a Drifting Demonstration and the Pirelli World Challenge Race. Something for everyone, and there seems like a lot of everyones are filling the grandstands and on the ground all around the circuit.

DIXON’S ON TARGET

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon put his No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet top of the charts Friday noon with a time of 1:08.6458/103.208 mph. The weather was mid-seventies with the harbor breezes starting to pickup the pace.

The qualifying lap record of 1:06.902/108.898mph around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course was set by Justin Wilson in 2008.

Second and third were Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan/N.10, and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Honda – both who had led earlier on. Fourth through seventh drivers all were in the 1:08’s. They were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet; 2014 IndyCar Champion, Will Power/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.11 Team Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing Chevrolet; and Juan Paul Montoya/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Simon Pagenaud

Stefano Coletti

The top IndyCar Rookie, of four, was Stefano Coletti/No.4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, in fourteenth place. Sebastian Saavedra/No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was seventeenth overall in his first IndyCar on-track session this year. Rocky Moran, Jr./No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda was twenty-second. Moran is the first American driver for Dale Coyne Racing since 2003, when the driver was Geoff Boss.

Sebastien Bourdais going through Tech

Afterwards, the IndyCar scrutineers had to forgot sitting and looking pretty, so several cars could go through the technical equipment checks.

In the first practice for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Series, all twelve cars were on course. Rookie Spencer Pigot/No.12 was leading for awhile; but when the Red Flag came out to retrieve Rookie Ethan Ringel/No.71 who drove into a tire barrier, Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.18 was ahead. Ringel walked to the ambulance while the Cal Club SCCA course marshals rearranged the tire barriers. At the checkered flag, Rookie Max Chilton/No.14 was fastest, at 1:14.4110. He, however, didn’t quite make it all the way back to Pit Lane at the Checkered Flag. In case you noticed a pattern there, yes – eight of the twelve drivers are Rookies.

During the Indy Lights practice, fans were swarming the IndyCar paddock queued up for driver autograph sessions.

Autograph fans

41 … BUT WHO’S COUNTING

Welcome LBGP

This weekend marks the forty-first running of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, long considered the grandfather of American street races. The event started out with a FIA qualifying F5000 race and then moved to Formula One. Thirty-two years ago indycars began, under various banners … CART, Champ Car and now IndyCar.

The schedule, as always, is full with something for most everyone. In addition to the Verizon IndyCars, also racing this three-day weekend are the IMSA sanctioned TUDOR Championship Series, SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge Series, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series, ToyotaPro/Celebrity Race, KMC Wheels Super Drift Drift Challenge Series, and Robby Gordon’s SPEED Energy Off-Road Series.

Robby Gordon

Robby Gordon, along with Bryan Herta, was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Thursday. This is the tenth year of honoring those who have made legendary contributions to the sport. Gordon has raced in four different series at Long Beach – IndyCar, Indy Lights Trans-Am, and last year for debut of the Formula Off Road Series. At Long Beach, he won in Indy Lights, Trans-Am and Off-Road, and finished third in IndyCar. In two more – different – series away from Long Beach, Gordon has won three victories each in NASCAR and the Baja 1000 Off Road race.

Herta has raced IndyCars and Indy Lights at Long Beach, winning the 1993 Lights Championship. He ran five Indianapolis 500 races, coming in third in 2005. As an IndyCar team owner, Herta’s driver, the late Dan Wheldon, won the 100th Anniversary running of the Indy 500.

Twenty-three drivers are entered for the Long Beach IndyCar race, with some new faces after the first two races of the season – at St. Petersburg and New Orleans.

Rocky Moran Jr of Pasadena CA is replacing Carlos Huertas in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Huertas raced the first two races with Dale Coyne Racing. That announcement came Friday morning. Little was known about the change, other than a Tweet by Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, saying that “Coyne told me that Huertas is a possibility for the Indianapolis 500. Carlos isn’t racing here ‘for business reasons.’

Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia is making his first appearance this year, driving No.8 AFS Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. Rookie Sage Karam, Ganassi’s development driver, raced the car in the first two races this year, and will race again at the Barber race, the Indianapolis 500 and all the remaining race until the season’s finale at Sonoma Raceway in August. Karam is the 2014 Indy Lights Champion.

Missing this weekend is Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland, who had raced the first two races in No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda, finishing fourth at New Orleans and eighteenth at St. Pete. She is expected back for the Indianapolis 500.

Empty IndyCar Tech

In the IndyCar paddock all the teams were beavering away while their drivers and Crew Chiefs were at the obligatory morning meeting. All the IndyCars had gone through the IndyCar scrutineering process on Thursday, so Friday the Tech Crew were “just sitting and looking pretty.” During the weekend, sometimes after on-track sessions, the teams will bring back a car to be checked. Otherwise, it’s all good.

The first IndyCar practice is 12:30pm PDT, with the second session at 3:45pm local time. Each session is 45 minutes.

SHAKY SUNDAY

IndyCar Paddock

Well, the good news that Sonoma Raceway in Northern California’s Wine Country survived the early morning 6.0/6.1 magnitude earthquake centered a few miles away. The track has surveyed the facilities and it’s all systems go, as planned.

Some spectators may have a bit of a detour getting to the track as some roads are closed, such as parts of #37 and #121, both major arteries to the track.

Nearby Napa, Vallejo and American Canyon suffered physical damage including broken water and gas mains resulting in fires and no way to put them out, lots of things falling and breaking, and a few injuries in facilities.

Many of the teams and drivers and other race participants were staying on the Vallejo/Napa side of the track and felt the quake much more. Team Penske gathered in its parking lot after everything including a well-stocked bar off-loaded to the ground. For some of the non-locals, this was their first earthquake, and quite unsettling to say the least.

The United States Geological Survey said this earthquake is first big one in the Bay Area since the really big 6.9 Loma Prieto Earthquake in Oakland in 1989. That explains why this is the first earthquake I’ve felt since that fateful day.

Sunday’s Sonoma Raceway’s schedule calls for Warm-Ups for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and Verizon IndyCar Series, followed by the second Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma Race, the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar Race, and the second SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge Race.

Saturday saw the season’s finale for two of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series – Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires. Both series had exciting races to the finish for the championship.

RC Enerson leading Florian Latorre. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

RC Enerson leading Florian Latorre. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

RC Enerson No.7 Team E Racing won the USF2000 Race #1, while title contender Florian Latorre No.10 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing had contact while the two were dicing. Enerson continued and Latorre retired.

Latorre had a comback in Race #2 by winning, ahead of Enerson, and collected the title championship as well. The races were much more exciting than I have time to elaborate.

Jack Harvey of England won the Indy Lights race, his third in four races. He races for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and is now second by 12 points behind Championship leader, Gabby Chaves, who finished second in that race.

Spencer Pigot

Spencer Pigot

The most exciting series to follow was the Pro Mazda Series, which had two contenders going for the brass ring and that goes with including incentives to facilitate graduation to the Indy Lights Series, the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy. Spencer Pigot No.7 Juncos Racing was leading the points ahead of Rookie Scott Hargrove No.3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

In Mazda Race #1 Pigot and Hargrove were racing/dicing, with Hargrove leading and Pigot second, until they had body contact. Hargrove continued, Pigot, who led a lap, did not and retired.

Spencer Pigot's No.7

Spencer Pigot’s No.7

Pigot made an amazing comeback in Race #2. He started second, had yet another contact on the first lap, involving five other cars, leading him stranded. He got restarted at the back and charged his way to fifth place. Meanwhile Leader Hargrove had mechanical problems starting on Lap 15, and he fell back and retired. Pigot’s Juncos Racing teammate, Jose Gutierrez won the race, and Pigot won the championship.

The fog mostly lifted by the time the first race cars, Indy Lights, and the clouds parted to make room for the welcome sun.

It’s going to be another great day.

IndyCar Paddock