SATO SHINES!

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

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

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

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

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

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

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

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

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

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

Race Start

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

Fernando drinking the milk

Fernando drinking the milk

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

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Max Chilton

Max Chilton. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

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

Pace Car leading Alonso and field

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

OFFICIAL INDIANAPOLIS 500 RACE RESULTS

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

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

Helio Castroneves

Photo by Nico Matamoros

SUNDAY SUNRISE SOUNDS AND SIGHTS

Pagoda

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

Cannon fired!

Cannon fired!

>

Fox TV Crew

Local TV Crew

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

Sunday Schedule

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

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

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

Matthew Metcalfe

Matthew Metcalfe

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

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

Pagoda

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

SATURDAY COLLAGE

Autograph Mob

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

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

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

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

Autograph mob scene

This line is closed

Autograph queues

Tony Kanaan

Scott Goodyear & Alan Bestwick

Fernando Alonso

Brian Barnhart

Brian Barnhart. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

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

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

Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti

Alexander Rossi & Milk Award

Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

JAR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso

James Davison

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

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

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda

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

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

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

AJ Foyt

Buddy Lazier

Juan Pablo Montoya

Rick Mears

Al Unser Jr

Helio Castroneves

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

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

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

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

McLaren road car

JR Rutherford's Indy 500 car

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

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

Mark Miles

Mark Miles

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

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

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

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

CASTRONEVES CARB-ED OUT

NALBERICO4

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

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

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

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

Will Power

Will Power

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

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

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

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

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

Other awards were presented Friday.

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

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

Holly Cain & Bill Marvel

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

Andy Hall

Andy Hall

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

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

INDY 500 2018 Logo

WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Dixon family

Scott Dixon and family. Photo by Anne Proffit.

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

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

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

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

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

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

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

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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

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

Fernando: “6 am?”

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

Fernando left muttering and shaking his head.

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

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

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

RHR's No.28 Honda

RHR’s No.28 Honda

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

Jack Harvey's No.50 Honda

Jack Harvey’s No.50 Honda

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9788

Sebastian Saavedra No.17 Chevrolet

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

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

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

Rainy IMS

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

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

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

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

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

INDY 500 Factoids and Stats:

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

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

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

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

INDIANAPOLIS 500 QUALIFYING RESULTS

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

ABC OF INDY 500 – CARPENTER, BOURDAIS & ALONSO

Indy 500 Victory Podium

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

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

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

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

Sebastien Bourdais’ No.18 Honda – before

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

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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

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

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

Takuma Sato

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

Will Power's Pit Cart

Tony Kanaan No.10

Marco Andretti's No.27 Honda

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

Drying Posse

RHR No.28 Honda going to Tech

No.15 & No.29 in Tech Bay

No.11 Chevrolet going to Tech

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

Graham Rahal No.15 Nose stickers

Fernando Alonso No.29 Honda with nose stickers

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

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

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

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

HOWARD LOST HIS RUST AND FOUND HIS MOJO

Jay Howard

Jay Howard

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

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

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

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

Jay Howard in golf cart

Jay Lucas in Pit Lane

Tony Stewart & Harding Racing crew

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

Ryan Hunter Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay's No.28 Honda

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

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

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

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

Fernando Alonso's No.29 Honda

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

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

Josef Newgarden and Crew

Josef Newgarden and Crew

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

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

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

Helio Castroneves' No.3 Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves

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

Buddy Lazier's No.44 Chevrolet

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

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

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

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

Zach Veach

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

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

WINDY 500!

Official Flags A'Flyin'

If I was Dorothy I’d not be surprised to find myself blown away to the Land of Oz. It was about that windy Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Verizon INDYCAR Series practice, leading up to the 101 Running of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Firestone technology measured gusts up to 25 mph. Others reported 30-35 mph. It was inconsistent but more on than off, and in the Pit Lane the tall, spindly electronics antennas were swaying like millennials at a rock concert. Certainly no day to be wearing a press hat. NBCSN Pundit Will Buxton coined the phrase “Windy 500.”

Starter's Yellow Flag

The third day of Practice was not the most exciting day, but at least it was dry. There were five Cautions for track inspections and debris, totaling 12.40 minutes of down time. The Starter didn’t have much to do save hold the flag stick and let the wind display the flag full and proper. There was not much race activity at any given time, so the drivers didn’t have much chance for racing in traffic. No drama, mama.

When the track opened at noon, it was 84 degrees F for ambient temperature/29 C; and the track measured a high of 108F/42C. The temperature actually varied turn by turn, ranging from 94-116 degrees F. And as the afternoon progressed, the skies got grayer and grayer, with a high cloudy overcast. And then … the cloud cover dissipated somewhat and by 4pm the pit grandstands overlooking the Pit Lane were bathed in warm sunshine.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ended up fastest with a lap of 222.451 mph, and his No Tow time was also fastest – 222.894 mph. “I felt it was important to run on a day like today just because it is a challenge. The wind was very, very gusty, variable. And to me, if you can go out and get comfortable in conditions like that, I think that bodes well for the car, the race car and how comfortable you can be.”

Second and third were drivers who had also led during the afternoon – runner-up Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Jr Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Dixon said he “actually expected it to be worse. I think once you got running, obviously the car has more downforce in it and you kind of are trying some bigger items. You can’t feel the subtle stuff, but there are definitely some gusts that can catch you out, especially in Turn 2 with the wind coming from behind. Nothing too crazy for us. Tried to get through some big-ticket items and we weren’t real happy with the car yesterday across the board with all four cars. We’ve been struggling. We had some ideas we needed to try and today felt a lot better than yesterday A good improvement.”

Hildebrand agreed with his teammate, “about it being important to get out and run a little bit in these weather conditions, just because it could be like this, even whether it’s over qualifying weekend or it’s next Monday, Carb day or it’s the race.”

The drivers were slow to go on course. By 2pm, only 11 drivers had been on course, the Pit Lane wasn’t exactly bustling, and more teams seemed to be headed to rather than from their garages. At that point, the fastest drivers were JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; then Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and then Hildebrand’s Team Owner and teammate, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka, who led for a long time. Then Dixon went faster – 222.599 mph.

After Dixon had met with the Media at 4pm as the then-fastest driver, Carpenter went faster. His lap was 222.894 mph and that was with No Tow. As with most drivers who meet with the Media, their necks are craned towards the Timing & Scoring Monitor and they make no secret of what they’re doing – monitoring/measuring their competition.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

At day’s end, Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the fastest Rookie, who ran mid-pack before jumping to fourth overall in the waning moments of Happy Hour. His fastest time was 219.533 mph and that was without a tow. He has an in-car camera mounted behind his head so you can see his hands move, which isn’t a lot.

By 2:30pm, only thirteen drivers had turned a lap, but the speeds weren’t fast and not many had a tow. The fastest OA speed at that point was 221.253 mph by Carpenter. The fastest speed alone/without a tow was Hildebrand’s 220.398 mph when he was running second. No driver was faster Wednesday than the other two days. So far, 19 drivers were fastest on Monday, the rest faster on Tuesday.

Sage Karam

Sage Karam

Track wise, at least the drivers could practice pit stops. That’s what Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet had been his plan, when he dropped by the Media Center for a chat. “We pretty much wrote off today. This is going to be windiest we’ll see. You’re not going to learn much from a day like today. It would be too risky. We went out to do some pit stop practice to get the guys ready to go and make something of the day. We are set to do some good work on Thursday.” Karam ran nine laps, for a seventeenth place overall on the chart. His best lap was 151.130 mph, and with no tow, it was only 68.882 mph.

I felt a pang of sympathy for all the driver spotters high atop the grandstands in the elements, having spurts of activity interspersed with longer periods of nothing. INDYCAR mandates that all drivers have two spotters for the Indy 500 – in Turn One and in Turn Three. The Spotters Stands are high atop the grandstands in those areas, and unlike some other speedways, IMS has no escalators or elevators. It’s quite a hike up those grandstand stairs; and once on top, there’s no protection from the elements, be it wind, rain or sun.

It’s not spectating up there – it’s hard work. In addition to the two-way conversations with their drivers, the spotters are also in communication with Race Control and the Pit Box. That’s a lot to digest and keep straight. The spotters have a couple of mandatory meetings with INDYCAR officials prior to race day.

The spotters situate themselves by teams on the roof, and watch each other for hand signals. The spotters wave one arm when their driver is going to pit. This allows the other spotters to advise their drivers of the pitting driver.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Damon Hill, a Kiwi from Melbourne, Australia, has six years of experience spotting for Andretti Autosport at The Brickyard. He does just the one event a year, and he could be the only spotter coming from another country. And while he’s named for the famous British driver, he’s no relation.

This first week Hill is spotting for Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda through Friday. For Qualifying through the race, Hill will spot for Takuma Sato. Tuesday through Thursday of race week, the VICS drivers are on their North America Media Market blitz to promote the race, leaving INDYCAR spotters some downtime. In Hill’s case, on Thursday he will spot for one of the Andretti Indy Lights drivers.

It must not be that much fun, either, for the corner workers who have to staff their posts from noon to six, whether there are cars on course or not. No sheltered turn stations or protection from the elements, and standing all that time.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Those drivers that didn’t go on track much or at all had a variety of options: skate boarding, riding golf carts, signing autographs and posing for photos, hanging with their pals, debriefing and discussing stuff with their crew, eating ice cream, strolling through the Media Center, or collecting race stickers and other swag.

The INDYCAR Scrutineers had packed up shop by noon – no takers. Garage door down in the Bay and everything put away by the transporter.

Meanwhile, the INDYCAR Communications Staff is hard at work with the plans and logistics of sending 33 VICS drivers around the US and Canada to promote The Greatest Spectacle in Racing on the Tuesday-Thursday, before Carb Day. It happens within a 24-36-Hour period: In-Out and back to Indy. Maybe a driver will come to a place near you. One of the two drivers from my area, JR Hildebrand of Sausalito CA, will meet with the media in a waterfront pub near the ballpark in San Francisco. And the other, Alexander Rossi of Nevada City CA will travel to New York City with Fernando Alonso to make the rounds of the TV and Radio studios and visit with print media also. And I look forward to the nickname the Andretti Autosport boys are hoping to find for Fernando, who’s currently going by Fred.

PERFECTING POWER

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Another hot, sunny and breezy day for the Verizon INDYCAR drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second day of practice. The afternoon track session was run in mid-eighties heat, 12 mph winds, and 124 degrees F for track temperature..

The first fifteen minutes were set aside for the two Rookies who have yet to be cleared to run the Indianapolis 500, before the track was opened for all 32 drivers. Thursday, and not before, is when Buddy Lazier will be on track in No.44 Lazier Racing-In Stalk-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.

Will Power

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske led much of the afternoon, with a lap of 224.656 mph – nearly two seconds off the lap of 226.338 mph set Monday by Marco Andretti/No.27 United Data & Fiber Andretti Autosport Honda. Power’s No Tow Speed was 220.902 mph. He’s well on his way to a perfect month of May, as he wistfully discussed after his ‘perfect’ weekend at the Indianapolis Grand Prix – fastest in every session, and winning the race from the pole position.

Power agreed that the heat has definitely made the track greasy. Regarding the wind or heat contributing to top and lap speeds being down from fan’s expectations, he said “It all has to do with wether people want to practice qualifying. That’s when you start to see some bigger speeds, and we don’t get the boost until Friday that we’re running qualifying and probably not practice qualifying until Thursday. So these first three days – which being hot, yeah, it will make it slower. But we’re not in the configuration that’s going to put up a big speed anyway.”

Helio Castroneves

Second was Power’s Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet – jumping into that slot during the winding down of Happy Hour. When asked, he was coy about his having any thoughts about Honda basically sandbagging. “Not right now, and understanding – it sounds like they have issues in the past. We can only speculate. I can only speculate that they don’t want to keep blowing up engines now. They’ve got to wait until Saturday so that they can finish the qualifying and then put the race engine in, otherwise they’re going to have to do something like that.

“Right now it’s the name of the game. We’ve just got to focus on our work. We’re just trying to make sure that we feel as comfortable as possible, which whatever happens on race day, we’ll prepare as much as we can.”

Regarding Team Owner, Roger Penske, who also ‘calls’ the race for Castroneves: he said “Roger definitely just puts everything into this race. Obviously Roger is my strategy, for him to leave his day job, which is a pretty busy schedule. He’s here on Tuesday and actually staying here all week, which shows the commitment that he has and it shows what he wants. Roger would love to get No.17 (500 win) and I would absolutely love to do it for him.”

Gabby Chaves

Jumping into third position late in the day was Gabby Chaves/No.88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, who had struggled earlier with few laps. He ran a lot in the afternoon, ending up with 87 laps. He displaced Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who had led and then sat in second spot for hours. He credits Larry Curry and Al Unser Jr. “Larry has really been more of a guidance to the team rather than to me so much. He’s been really just instrumental in getting together a brand-new team, two brand-new cars. He’s kind of taken the lead on who’s going to be my engineer, my mechanics, and who’s going to be involved in the team. And I think really he’s put a kickass team for me, so I’m very happy with that.”

Al Unser, Jr.

“We’re also working with Al Unser, Jr., who’s kind of taken more of that role to work with me and give me his experience, his learning and everything that he’s learned here, try to give as much as he can of that to me so I an expedite my learning curve, go out there and get right to it.

Fifth was Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet.

All 32 drivers were on track, eventually, although James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda didn’t go on track until mid-afternoon due to adjusting electrical faults. The six-hour session was punctuated with eleven cautions, all for track inspections/debris, lasting 1:00.55 minutes. The track was empty during some of the green sessions, so not every caution was depriving drivers. There were no incidents and the session was drama-free.

The top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in fifteenth position. He ran 85 laps.

Rookie Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech Championships AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet all three ROP Phases by 1:03pm ET. “Just really happy with the progress we made today. We got a lot of laps in, which has been nice. Toward the end, we even got to run in traffic.” He ran 68 laps Tuesday, turned a 221.629 mph on Lap 43, and was twenty-second overall.

Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda upped his ante Tuesday afternoon. He turned more laps than did any other driver – 117, to finish 24th for the day. Alonso had run as high as eleventh at one point. He ran in traffic, with his Andretti teammates mostly, although he mixed it up with some others. His growing confidence was evidenced.

Two other drivers ran 100 laps or more: Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda with 106, and Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Honda with 100 laps.

Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest laps – 47. Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda ran 49 laps.

Andretti got into the No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda to shake it down. Harvey’s fastest lap was 215.716 mph, in last place, and he needed to ramp it up to complete his ROP. Andretti ran six laps, but the best he could do was 214.828 mph. Back to the drawing board. Then Harvey got back into the car and ran a whole lot of laps – 82, finishing thirty-first of 33 drivers. Harvey passed is third and final ROP phase at 5:18pm ET. Andretti, who had been fastest on Monday, was twenty-fifth Tuesday.

James Hinchcliffe

James Hinchcliffe's shoes

In his downtime, the comic Canadian spent his time, all suited up, signing autographs, posing for photos, and engaging the fans who were in Gasoline Alley. One of his trademarks is his infamous Sparco driving shoes. For years he used a Sharpie to write Stop and Go in Red and Green ink on the toes. Sparco took offense at its shoes being defaced and made to look bad, so it made special shoes for Hinch, with Stop and Go embroidered on the toes.

The eye-catching gold livery on Hinchcliffe’s car is so bright it can be seen glinting in the sun from one end of the garage to the other. It is a wrap, rather than paint job. His teammate, Mikhail Aleshin/No.7 has a similar style livery in red. Their new teammate for the month of May, Jay Howard/No.77 has a bright, glittery blue highlighted on his car.

James Hinchcliffe's Gold

Mikhail Aleshin's No.7

Jay Howard's No.77

And no, you’re not going mad. Lazier did change the number on his car, from 49 as of yesterday to 44 as of Tuesday. No reason learned so far.

ACING ALONSO AND ANDRETTI

Quiet Pit LaneAnd a great good morning to you all from lovely Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s the second day of practice for the Verizon INDYCAR Series leading up to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. It’s not even noon yet and the temperature has already reached 78 degrees F. There is an inconsistent breeze, gusty at times and otherwise not. Gasoline Alley seems pretty quiet although most activity is hidden behind closed garage doors. The Scrutineering Bays have almost no customers and the INDYCAR Scrutineers are relaxed and enjoying the lull. For the most part there’s no worry about dodging the speeding pit carts, which are always on a mission. And in Pit Lane there is no activity at all … yet.

At noon, the track will open for fifteen minutes of private time for two Rookies, Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, and Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda. Both drivers have passed Phase One of their ROP and have two phases to go.

Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda completed all his phases Monday. This is his first Indy 500, but he’s been running the full INDYCAR Series. Veach and Harvey are ‘one-off’ Indy 500 drivers.

Oriol Servia's No.16

Completing all phases of their Refresher Sessions were Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet completed all phases of their Refresher Session, and were cleared to compete in the Indy 500.

At 12:15pm the track will open for all drivers.

Marco Andretti

Reviewing Monday’s first day of practice: Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda was fastest at 226.338 mph. He was pleased that he was again able to be first fastest on Opening Day – repeating last year’s accomplishment.

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sonny’s BBQ Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

Fernando Alonso

Andretti’s teammate Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was the top Rookie in nineteenth position, and he was fastest in the earlier Rookie/Refresher session. He met with the media after the session ended. “Good day. I will a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd. But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, yeah, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.”

When asked what he thought would be the most difficult or dangerous, Alonso said “I think the most difficult thing will be the race itself, you know, all the things that happen in a race like this one, which are the traffic, running in traffic, and learning all the little tricks to overtake, and then to use the performance of your car in which moment of the race, why, you know, and all these little things that only with experience and with races you can learn. And I don’t have that experience, and I don’t have that time, so I know that I will be weaker in some of these aspects. I need to learn as quick as I can in the next 10 days, 12 days, and apart from that, I need to try to use other things that is not experience to try to close that gap that I will have, you know.”

Alonso admitted that running in traffic is part of his program yet to be experienced. Andretti added that “I think as we do these group runs we can almost simulate a race with all the cars we have on our team, almost a fifth of the field.”

Andretti isn’t usually overly emotional, but he seemed genuinely pleased with his top status Monday.”We were sort of trying to check the bigger setup item boxes today, the ones that took — the changes that take long. That’s why we were down for a lot of the day, and we got some good answers. You know, that’s all you can ask for. We’re trying to get the bigger items done now so you can start tuning mid-week and later in the week on the car on the smaller things, so we need to make big changes now, which we’ve been doing, and quite pleased with the starting car.

“Obviously ran good here last year. Car felt good when I tested for Fernando and still feels good, so that’s good. We need to keep it there, if not improve a bit more.”

Holmatro Safety Truck

Monday afternoon’s two on-track sessions went almost without incident. There were twelve cautions, ten of which were for track inspection / debris. Total caution time was nine seconds short of an hour. The Cleanup vehicles probably clocked as many laps as many of the drivers.

One exception was Rookie Harvey, who had a brush with the SAFER Barrier in Turn Two. He hit with the side panel and rear wheel, and spun to the opposite side of the track. He was unhurt and after being checked in the Infield Care Center, Harvey was released and cleared for driving. The crew went to work on repairing the damage. And it was truly a team effort, with crew members from all the six Andretti Autosport teams pitching in. Harvey said “To have that happen, and I don’t know what did happen apart from I went to turn in and it went straight. I was coming out of the pits. I wasn’t even going fast. I was probably not even going 100 mph. So bizarre. We had just done a long run and had pitted because there was a yellow flag and then had that. A random. Hopefully it’s the last time we come to the medical center.”

Not exactly a drama, but causing a caution, to be cautious, was Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda who pitted with a smoke trail. He lost an engine. Third one for Honda. Saturday Bourdais and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Honda each lost an engine in the Indianapolis Grand Prix.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand

t only ran six laps, and he was 32nd fastest.

Rookie Jones turned the most overall laps, counting his ROP and Open Practice – 94. He finished twenty-second.

More Indiana students are on campus for a STEAM talk by Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda in the East Chalet. Tuesday the students are all from high schools.