RHR & DIXON WIN!

RHR Champagne shower/Nico

Confetti:Cup:Champion/Pablo

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda won the race, and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing won the Championship. It was 18th career win for RHR. It was the fifth career Championship for Dixon. It was the 14th and last Verizon IndyCar Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

Scott Dixon & Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Scott Dixon & Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Neither driver was seriously challenged for his particular victory, and both only lost their particular positions when cycling through pit stops. Pole sitter Hunter-Reay never ran lower than third overall. Dixon ran comfortably in second for most of the race, save for a brief spell early on when he ran fourth, and for several laps when he ran ninth after a pit stop 25 laps from the end.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay

RHR led three times for 80 of the 85 lap race. He said “To end this way is unreal. I dedicate this win to Robby Wickens. We’re all with him. We wish he were here today. He would have made my race harder for sure. Today was great. I felt like the race just didn’t want to end. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the whole day out front. Any time I needed the pace to put it down, we leaped out to a lead. I was able to maintain that. Hats off to this team.”

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

Dixon has won all five championships for Chip Ganassi Racing and with Mike Hull as his strategist. He said “It’s all about the people. I’m just the lucky one who got to carry the car across the line today. I can’t believe that it’s actually happened. I can’t thank everybody enough for this, it’s so cool! This doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. We had a lot of grit. We had a lot of things that could’ve gone wrong today.”

Chip Ganassi

Chip Ganassi

Chip Ganassi said “He’s the guy on the track, off the track. If you take a piece of stone, inject some brains into it, chisel it out, it’s Scott Dixon. He’s just the man.”

“I’m so, so lucky to have the group of people I get to work with every day, show up on the weekends, be a part of this team. I can’t tell you what the team means to me, what it means to be a part of a team.”

“When you talk about records – A.J., Mario, all these guys – obviously Scott’s name is in that group now.”

Mike Hull

Mike Hull

Mike Hull said “When you win a race, it validates who you are. When you win a championship, it defines the culture of not only the people that all of you saw today at the racetrack, both for the 9 and 10 car team, they fully support each other, but all the people in the building, then all the partners.

“That culture continues to grow. It never gets old. It just feeds on itself. As you go through time, we’ve gone through 12 of these championships now, there’s very few of us left that were here in 1996 at Laguna Seca when we won our first championship. But some of us still are. Now the millennial group that’s coming in to work for us are well-mentored. We had a few of them working for us today on the 9 car. That’s really gratifying.”

Alexander Rossi and pack. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi and pack. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The start didn’t go well for Contender Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, who had the best chance of beating Dixon for the Championship. Rossi was running behind teammate, Marco Andretti/No.93 U.S. Concrete/Curb, who appeared to brake check. Rossi rear-ended him, damaging his front wing and punctured a tire. Rossi shortcut the course at Turn 7 on his way back to the pits, where his crew changed his wing and tires. He said “I don’t know what happened on the first lap. After the mistake I made the crew worked hard to get me on my way.” He rejoined the race in last place, and worked his way back onto the lead lap. This started his slow path and then accelerated charge through the field. Rossi ran as high as fifth near the end of the race, before his worn tires slowed him. He finished seventh overall, 53 points behind Dixon for second place in the standings.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

Rossi said “It’s very unfortunate what happened in Turn 1 on Lap 1. It’s a situation I’m sure we’ll all replay a lot of times but, at the end of the day, it’s been a good 2018 and I am very appreciative for all the support we’ve had this year. We came pretty close and we’ll work on the things we need to be better on and come back stronger next year.”

Andretti said ” I would’ve liked it to have gone a bit better. Rossi was amazingly quick and we tried to make it easy on him out of the pits and give him a shot. It was pretty cool of them; they knew I gave them the position, and they gave it back there at the end, so we were able to come out with a top five.”

Dixon’s reaction to the the Rossi-Andretti incident – “I don’t know. With IndyCar racing, you think somebody that has a problem in the first corner, they tend to go on and win the race. (as Dixon did at the last race in Portland.) I’m like, Oh, no. I’ve been in that situation. I’m like, Please, let that not be today.”

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Contender Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet started seventh and worked his way up to first by Lap 17 when the leaders pitted. He fell back when pitting, never further than sixth, and mostly ran third-fifth overall. Power led twice, for four laps. He finished third overall. He said “”It was a really good race for the No. 12 Verizon team. We had a really, really fast car. I think if we would have started farther up front, we would have had a chance to win. It was a good year though. Roger (Penske) got his 500th win today. (Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski/No.2 Autotrader Ford won the NASCAR Cup Playoffs race in Las Vegas.) We won the Indy 500. We won the 200th INDYCAR race for Team Penske. We won the Brickyard 400. Just couldn’t get the championship here. But overall, it was a good year for Team Penske.”

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Contender/Defending Champion Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet didn’t fare as well as is fellow Contender/teammate. He started third, and led once for a lap, but mostly ran between seventh and ninth. Newgarden finished the race in eighth position. He said “”It was not a great day. It really all started with the first pit stop. We just had a mistake in trying to get out and I stalled it. It kind of ruined the whole day from that point there on. It was tough to recover after that. I think we had a lot of potential today and we could have contended for the win, but it was too hard to come back.”

Finishing fourth through sixth were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, Andretti, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Patricio O'Ward

Patricio O’Ward

Patricio O'Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Patricio O’Ward/No.8 Harding Group Chevrolet, in ninth place. He started fifth, but fell back early on, which he said was due to tires. “It’s just really hard when you first go on those reds, they’re so soft, you really have to know how to manage them. For the second reds that I got, I did a way better job. Like I say, it’s just things that you have to learn in the moment. I learned a lot of things today. I know a lot more than what I came into the weekend with.” The young Mexican driver slowly worked his way back to the top ten by Lap 60, where he ran for the rest of the race.

There was only one five-lap caution to retrieve a stranded Graham Rahal/No.15 TOTAL Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. “The car just quite on me” he said. The battery exploded. Once towed to the pits, the team determined it was battery-related and got him back on course. He finished twenty-third, 19 laps down.

Two drivers retired with mechanical problems – Rahal’s RLL teammate, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack Panasonic Honda – mechanical failure; and Spencer Pigot/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet with gearbox issues. Both Sato and Pigot have re-signed with their respective teams.

Four drivers were assessed penalties. Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet got a Drive Through penalty for avoidable contact with Carlos Munoz/No.6 Arrows SPM Honda in Turn 11. Rookie Zach Veach/No.26 Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda had to yield a position to Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing. Two drivers will receive post race monetary fines for Pit Safety infractions – Carlin Racing teammates, Matt Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Chevrolet and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Tresiba Chevrolet. Chilton hit equipment.

There had been a “brief delay” to the IndyCar start, due to the NASCAR race in Las Vegas still running its final laps. Then, the IndyCar coverage started on CNBC while NASCAR finally finished its beleaguered playoffs race. Once NASCAR was done, IndyCar reverted back to NBCSN. Must have wreaked havoc for those recording one or both, and/or keep watch both.

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS

1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running

2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running

3. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running

4. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running

5. (4) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running

6. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running

7. (6) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running

8. (3) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

9. (5) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running

10. (14) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running

11. (20) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running

12. (18) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running

13. (25) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 85, Running

14. (10) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running

15. (15) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

16. (13) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 85, Running

17. (16) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running

18. (22) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 85, Running

19. (23) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running

20. (19) Colton Herta, Chevrolet, 85, Running

21. (21) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running

22. (24) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 76, Running

23. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 66, Running

24. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 38, Mechanical

25. (12) Takuma Sato, Honda, 15, Mechanical

Ryan Hunter-Reay & Scott Dixon

Top photo of Ryan Hunter-Reay by Pablo Matamoros. Top photo of Scott Dixon by Nico Matamoros. Bottom photo of RHR and Dixon by Nico Matamoros.

SONOMA SUNDAY SCENE SEEN

Sonoma Thank You Sign

It’s another beautiful day for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma, the season finale for the Verizon IndyCar Series. It’s a nostalgic day as it’s the last race of the 2018 season, the last race for Verizon as series title sponsor, and the last of 14 IndyCar races at Sonoma Raceway. Next season IndyCar moves south in Northern California to Monterey and WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca for the season finale.

Sunday started out warmer than the previous two days, with temps in the mid to high 70’s degrees F, with but a gentle breeze. The day’s activities are ceremonial, warming and racing-related. The Historic Trans-Am Series had a fifteen-minute warmup, and the three support series all had their second/final races of the weekend – Historic Trans-Am, IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, and Formula Car Challenge. Something for everyone.

Top Three Sunday Trans Am winners

No.49 Gray Ghose 1964 Pontiac Tempest

JR & John Hildebrand

Left to Right: Sunday Trans Am winners, Ken Epsman, Brian Ferrin and John Hildebrand; The Gray Ghost; and Father and son, JR Hildebrand an John Hildebrand.

Noted motorsports broadcaster, Mike Joy, was slated to drive the No.89 1966 Ford Mustang, but was instead back home trying to save his house from Hurricane Florence. Car owner Ken Epsman took his place for the warm-up. However, come race time, Kenny pulled one of his usual car swaps, and raced his No.2 1972 American Motors Javelin, and Richard Goldsmith drove the 1970 slime green 1970 Dodge Challenger that Epsman just sold him. John Hildebrand, father of race car driver, JR Hildebrand, drove his own No.49 1964 Pontiac Tempest (Gray Ghost) to victory, after swapping the lead with several other drivers, so typical of this lively, frisky group.

Second and third in the race were Brian Ferrin/No.45 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and Ken Epsman/No.2 1972 American Motors Javelin.

One sponsorship not going away is ABC Supply, for AJ Foyt Racing. It is 14-years strong, the longest running team sponsor in Indycar. This weekend there will be 600 guests watching its driver, Tony Kanaan/No.14 Chevrolet start his 300th consecutive indycar race. He’s actually run 360 such races. He won the first IndyCar race at Sonoma in 2005.

Champagne & Cider Ceremony

Within the Formula Car Challenge 28-car field, there are four separate classes: F4, FM, FS, and PFM (Pro FM), all competing for their own separate championships. On the podium, there were distinct age groups, with the PFM group having the most veteran racers, F4 which is a FIA class and the none of the drivers are old enough to drink champagne, FM and FS – other classes with mostly teenagers.

FCC Winner, Patrick O'Neill

Saturday FS Winner, Courtney Crone

Sunday FS Winner, Rayce Dykstra

Left to Right: PFM and Overall Winner Saturday and Sunday, Patrick O’Neill; Saturday FS Winner, Courtney Crone; Sunday FS Winner, Rayce Dykstra.

Local driver, Patrick O’Neill/No.64 PFM again won overall and PFM, as he did yesterday. Quite handily yesterday, closer today. He turned the fastest race lap both days. Seventeen-year old Scott Huffaker/No.09 F4 won the F4 Class both days, and sprayed Cider. Bryce Cornet/No.1 FM won his class both days. Fifteen-year old Rayce Dykstra won the FS Class Sunday, and seventeen-year old Courtney Crone won it Saturday.

James Hinchcliffe

Graham Rahal

Simon Pagenaud

Takuma Sato

Scott Dixon

Alexander Rossi

Left to Right: James Hinchcliffe, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

In the paddock, knowing fans congregated outside the IndyCar Drivers’ Meeting, seeking autographs or a chat. The drivers were most obliging. It was nice to see so many young fans seeking and being granted their requests.

Juan Piedrahita's IndyCar Honda

Kyle Kaiser's IndyCar Honda

Davey Hamilton's  IndyCar Honda

Left to Right: Juan Piedrahita’s Honda; Kyle Kaiser’s Honda; and Davey Hamilton’s Honda.

The IndyCar Experience two-seater cars this weekend had five drivers. Mario Andretti, Davey Hamilton, Juan Piedrahita, Kyle Kaiser, and Matt Brabham. The first three handled the duties for VIP rides on Thursday and Friday. Saturday Kaiser joined them, and Sunday there were five cars with Brabham.

MC Hammer

MC Hammer

MC Hammer is the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s IndyCar race. As such, he will give the “Drivers Start Your Engine” Command. He will also ride with Mario Andretti in the IndyCar two-seater and lead the field to the Green Flag. Hammer met with the media and regaled them with humorous anecdotes and opinions on a variety of subjects. He’s a local lad, growing up in Oakland, and loves motorsports and local sports.

In the IMSA Porsche Race, Pole sitter Zacharie Robichon/No.19 Porsche 991/2017 won overall and the GT3P class, and turned the fastest lap of 1:37.827/87.766 mph. Second and third were Trenton Estep/No.3 Porsche 991/2018 and Roman De Angelis/No.1 Porsche 991/2018. Victor Gomez/No.25 991/2016 won the GT3G class, and turn the fastest class lap of 1:40.318/85.587 mph. Second and third were Mark Kvamme/No.43 Porsche 991/2017 and Kurt Fazekas/No.52 Porsche 991/2016. There were 18 starters, and sixteen finishers, with 14 of them on the lead lap.

Sunday IndyCar Rookie of the Year, Robert Wickens tweeted from his Rehab Facility bed to wish everyone good luck and promise that he was going to rehab as fast and as hard as he could. Better! Stronger! Faster! That’s the mantra in the IndyCar paddock, and on the stickers seen everywhere and on race cars.

Get Well Wicky!

RHR SPOILER

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda played spoiler for the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship Contenders by taking the Verizon Pole Position at Sonoma Raceway Saturday afternoon. His fast lap was 1:17.6277/110.605 mph. None of the contenders gained a pole point, so all still have the same points spread going into Sunday’s race.

This was RHR’s first pole position since Long Beach in 2014, and his seventh career pole. For Andretti Autosport, it was Pole 39 in IndyCar competition, and the first pole at Sonoma Raceway since Dario Franchitti in 2007.

Hunter-Reay said “We were trying to figure out what tires to go with at the last minute. It’s nice to finally get that pole at Sonoma. I’ve been knocking on that door for a long while. I’m certainly doing my part to help (teammate) Rossi – keeping Dixon from the pole. Big focus trying to win this thing tomorrow. Finished second and third here in the past. Would love to get that big bottle of red wine. That’s the ultimate goal for us right now. We’ll be concentrating on that.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Second was Contender Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He looked about to get a pole point, when he pushed his limits too far in Turn 7 and drove wide on his last lap. RHR was also on his flyer lap and took the pole on that lap which was in progress after the Checkered Flag flew. Dion said “This is a big race for us, obviously. Frustrating, thought we had the pole there. I think front row is a good start. Huge driver error there. Just needed to get through a right and left, it would have been looking pretty decent. I’m happy how we’ve been this weekend. Obviously tomorrow is what really counts. It was nice to improve our speed as a team in this scenario. Just came up short. Maybe another driver in that car would have got it on the pole.”

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Third was Contender Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. He said “Yeah, it (third) was okay. Disappointed with third. I think we had a little bit more to challenge for the pole. We just fell short. Now we have to work on our race car and try to capitalize for tomorrow.

“I was most excited for the Fast Six. I thought that would be where we would shine the most. Third is not always what you want. I mean, if you’re in the Fast Six, you hope to get the pole. I think we had some potential on it. We were on a pretty good lap. Rossi just layered Turn Nine with dust. We lost some time. I think we were tight on Hunter-Reay’s time. A low six, high five. I think Dixon was on a five at one point, too. You don’t know what it would have been. It wasn’t enough.”

Marco Andretti. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Autosport Honda was fourth, his first Fast Six, and his best qualifying position since his pole at Detroit in June – in group qualifying, not Fast Six. Andretti won the 2006 Sonoma IndyCar race. He said “”I think this U.S. Concrete team did a really good job with staying with the track. We learned a really tough lesson on (Firestone alternate red tires) yesterday; we were 16th. We were able to get within a tenth-and-a-half, but that’s not good enough. When (Scott) Dixon sent it off (during the Firestone Fast Six), I thought that was my shot at pole because he would’ve lost his laps, but that wasn’t in the cards. Luckily Ryan (Hunter-Reay) stole the point from (Dixon).”

Patricio O'Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

O’Ward was the top Rookie. This was the first run in the Fast Six for him, in his first-ever IndyCar start, and a first for his team. He was fifth fastest despite his wild ride in Turn 2. “I was just trying to find the limit of the tire, I guess. I went a little deep. I locked up I think front left. When you do that, you just overshoot a little bit.”

Otherwise, O’Ward was like a kid about making Fast Six. “It’s so cool. I honestly don’t know what to think about it . When I saw that I moved into the Fast Six, I thought Newgarden, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, Rossi, such big names, you’ve been looking at them for years and years and years, since I was a kid. Scott has been racing for a long time. I think even before I started my open-wheel career, Josef was already in IndyCar. Basically everybody here was already in IndyCar.

“It’s just something unique. It’s something that you have to start believing that you can be like them, that you can beat them, that you can give them a run for their money. It’s a new feeling. I really don’t know what to think about it.

“I couldn’t be more stoked for the team. I’m really happy I got to give them their first Fast Six. Harding and Team Chevy have given me an awesome opportunity so far. The focus this weekend has been obviously to do a good job. My objective was always just to be in the top 10, so it was an objective succeeded.”

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda was sixth. He was the only driver who went out on Blacks. He pitted but didn’t change tires … he stayed in the pits. “I think we made good steps forward from yesterday and this morning again to be pretty competitive this afternoon. We tried something a little different in hopes it would pay off, did the Firestone blacks for the Fast Six. But at the end of the day it clearly, as Will will attest to, is probably not the right decision.

“At this point we’re trying to hit some home runs and get it done. It wasn’t meant to be. We knew the farthest we could fall down was sixth. That’s what happened.

“Eighty-five laps tomorrow of chaos. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully we can move forward to the spot we need to.”

Track conditions were nice except for the 20 mph stiff breeze … bright and sunny, with no clouds. The temperature was 76 degrees F ambient and 104 degrees F on the track. But the wind direction changed from the morning session, not to the better. Wind and tire drop-off/degradation was an issue for everyone.

Hunter-Reay said ” It’s definitely strange that way. From a.m. to p.m., it’s two different racetracks. Especially with the wind we have now, less downforce than we had last year, you don’t know what you’re going to get lap to lap. It’s really hard to push in qualifying, especially on the first lap.

“You don’t know where to brake. Kind of a crapshoot. With tire deg it’s going to be very difficult tomorrow for anybody to make mistakes, doesn’t matter how good your car is. Haven’t looked at the wind forecast, but that’s a big one.

“It makes it very, very difficult. Should make it for an interesting race tomorrow, for that reason.”

Newgarden said ” I think we’d agree on a couple things here. Tire deg is really difficult. Wind direction is really difficult. Those are two big things.”

O’Ward said ” Tire deg is pretty big, especially on the reds. The rear tires, they go off. Not in the first five, seven laps, but afterwards it’s a pretty steep downhill. It’s a track where the degradation is known to be there. The tires just go down a little bit more.”

In the first half of Round One, most drivers of the 12 went out on Blacks- primary tires. Then several pitted and switched to Reds – optional tires. At the checkered flag at the end of the ten-minute session, all drivers were on Reds.

IndyCar issued a new points possibility chart for Sunday’s race.

INDYCAR Points Possibility Chart

In the first half of Round One, the top six were Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, Rossi, Power, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, Andretti, and Graham Rahal/No.15 TOTAL Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. Most started out on Blacks – primary tires and changed to Reds – optional tires.

In the second half of Round One, most of the 13 drivers went out on Blacks. At the end, all but Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet were on Reds. Those making the cuts were Hunter-Reay, Dixon, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Zach Veach/No.26 Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda, O’Ward, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

For Round Two, all drivers ended up on Reds, after many started on Blacks. The shock in that session was that Power didn’t make the cut. He was sixth fastest, 0.0682 seconds behind Andretti. That’s one point he won’t get – for pole position. It’s not even a small consolation that his 2017 qualifying track record of 1:15.5205/113.691 mph wasn’t broken – not even close.

Will Power

Will Power

Power said “I unfortunately should have gone another lap. It was a bad call on my part. I was pushing for one lap. Like, we just should have been thinking of getting in the Fast Six rather than the Fast Six. Now I’m thinking about tomorrow.” Regarding Setups, he said “We had a reasonable car on long runs. It will depend on how much the tires drop off.” Seventh is Power’s lowest starting position. “I have to start back there at some time. It is what it is.”

The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. local time. It is also available on radio: XM 209 and IMS IndyCar Radio as well as online: IndyCar.com and Verizon IndyCar 15 app.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

1., (28), Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:17.6277, (110.605)

2., (9), Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:17.7599, (110.417)

3., (1), Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:17.7937, (110.369)

4., (98), Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:17.7999, (110.360)

5., (8), Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 01:17.9737, (110.114)

6., (27), Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:18.0019, (110.074)

7., (12), Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:17.6495 (110.574)

8., (22), Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:17.7489 (110.432)

9., (15), Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:17.9043 (110.212)

10., (26), Zach Veach, Honda, 01:17.9111 (110.203)

11., (18), Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:17.9242 (110.184)

12., (30), Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:17.9919 (110.088)

13., (19), Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 01:18.5281 (109.337)

14., (10), Ed Jones, Honda, 01:18.5088 (109.364)

15., (5), James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:18.5740 (109.273)

16., (60), Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:18.5892 (109.252)

17., (21), Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:18.6687 (109.141)

18., (14), Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 01:18.5966 (109.241)

19., (88), Colton Herta, Chevrolet, 01:18.6823 (109.122)

20., (39), Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 01:18.6172 (109.213)

21., (59), Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 01:18.7536 (109.024)

22., (6), Carlos Munoz, Honda, 01:18.7211 (109.069)

23., (4), Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 01:18.9665 (108.730)

24., (23), Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 01:18.8495 (108.891)

25., (20), Jordan King, Chevrolet, 01:19.1519 (108.475)

ICEMAN RULES!

Scott Dixon.Photo by  Nico Matamoros.

Scott Dixon.Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Saturday morning for the third/final practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway was sunny, bright and breezy. It was crystal-clear visibility, with nary a cloud in the sky, compared to Friday afternoon when so many whispy clouds floated and covered that it was a spectacular sunset. The ambient temperature Saturday morning was climbing towards 70 degrees.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Nico Mataoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Mataoros

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Left to Right: Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, and Will Power. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

The four Contenders for the 2018 Championship are Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda; Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. In that order. And all were in the Top Five at the Checkered Flag.

Dixon was the final fastest driver at 1:17.9697/110.120 mph. Second through fifth were Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; Rossi and Newgarden.

Overall time-wise, Dixon and Power were fastest in the first session, Newgarden in the second, and Rossi in the third.

Rossi and Dixon each topped the charts, pitted for front and rear adjustments and went out to run faster. Rossi said “The team made big steps today.” Dixon said “We’re just trying different spring settings for this afternoon (qualifying.) This is extreme competition and we all want to win. It’s not going to be easy. It will be an interesting race, strategy-wise.”

Zach Veach.  Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach/No.26 Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Rookie, in seventh position.

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Overall, for the weekend, Ryan Hunter-Reay is still the fastest at 1:17.5742/110.681 mph. The qualifying track record of 1:15.5205/113.691 mph was set last year by Newgarden.

It was almost a full Green Flag session, until a Turn 9 spin and stall brought out the Red Flag. Carlos Munoz/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda was quickly retrieved, and the down time was only 1:59 minute. The session restarted, and the drivers got another lap or two.

Someone said Friday, in terms of race strategy, “Four drivers have everything to lose, and 20 drivers have nothing to lose.” Actually, it would be 21 as there are 25 drivers in the final field for 2018.

Santino Ferrucci

Santino Ferrucci. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Among those who led during the session were: Rossi, who led twice; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet;
Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.39 Cly-Del Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Dixon.

Defending Series Champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet had to sit out the final ten minutes of the 45-minute session, for hitting personnel during the Friday Pit Stop Practice. He will also be assessed a post-race monetary fine.

Sebastien Bourdais.Photo by Nico Mataoros

Sebastien Bourdais.Photo by Nico Mataoros

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda had a mechanical problem and ended his session with 12 minutes remaining. He was 25th in practice.

Trans-Am Paddock

There is a lot of spectator interest in the Historic Trans-Am. Those devout IndyCar fans who went to the Long Beach race saw this group of ground-pounders, which calls itself the closest racing series in the world. The Pre-Grid Saturday morning for the practice session was lined on both sides with fans with cameras and phones taking videos and photos.

Jimmy Hague, driving the iconic red/white/blue No.2 1972 American Motors Javelin had the pole position for Saturday afternoon’s Historic Trans-Am race. His qualifying lap was 1:55.845. Twenty-one of the 23 entries qualified.

The race was exciting, with the lead changing almost lap by lap. There was an ongoing battle between Hague, John Hildebrand/No.49 1964 Pontiac Tempest, Jim Halsey/61 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and Ken Adams/No.45 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302. All four led at least once during the 10-lap race. In the end, it was a photo finish, with Adams taking the win, a mere 0.074 seconds ahead of Hague. Halsey was third, with Hildebrand in fourth and Drew Alcazar/No.70 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 coming in fifth. This group will have a second race Sunday right before the IndyCar Pre-Race Ceremonies.

First thing Saturday morning the IndyCar drivers had its autograph session, and fans queued up in the chilly morning sunshine.

IndyCar Autograph Session

NEWGARDEN FAST AFTER ALL

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet recovered enough from his food poisoning and missing the entire first session to top the charts Friday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway in the hour-long practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The 2017 IndyCar champion was able to bounce back from his illness and fuel management problem in the morning to quick-step around the course at 1:17.8156 – not quite as fast as the morning time set by Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, but fast enough.

Newgarden said “I think we were okay. We tested here last week, so we were pretty ready to go. It was difficult this afternoon to be honest. When I first went out I wasn’t very happy the first run, and then we made really good progress the second run, and seemed pretty decent compared to last week. We were happy with our cars when we tested here last Thursday, so we felt optimistic coming into the weekend, and now we’re just trying to go through the motions and make the right steps all the way up through the end of Sunday. That’s kind of what you do on a race weekend. You try and make the right decisions every day.”

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing; Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.8 Harding Group Honda; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda.

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda had a brief moment of testing track limits, as did Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn 7. His off caused a Red Flag of 2.14 minutes. Rossi ended up sixth, and Jones was seventh for the session.

Tires seemed to be on the minds of drivers interviewed Friday. Rossi said the low downforce definitely played into tire degradation. “Very bad. Terrible for tire wear. Yeah, it’s something that we’re all thinking about, we’re all concerned about. Fortunately it’s the same for everyone, right? So it’s just about kind of finding a way to hopefully make the tires last. It’s difficult without a warmup for sure so you’re kind of going through practice sessions trying to do both things, work on the qualifying car and the race car at the same time. But no, it’s definitely going to be a challenge on Sunday for sure.”

Among other leaders during the session were Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.39 Cly-Del Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda; and O’Ward.

Patricio O'Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

O’Ward was the top Rookie of the session, and also top Rookie for the day. He is the current Indy Lights Champion, winning that title after his ninth series victory in Portland, from the pole. As Champion he will receive $1 million towards an IndyCar ride, including the Indianapolis 500. This weekend he and his Lights teammate, Colton Herta, are racing Chevrolets with Harding Group Racing. Herta was Lights runner-up in a tightly-contested season.

The hour-long practice session was followed by a 15-minute Pit Stop practice session. The drivers would do slow laps around the course and come in for the practice pit stops. This is not to be confused with the Pit Stop Challenge competition held prior to the Indianapolis 500 race.

James Hincliffe

Graham Rahal

Sebastien Bourdais

Left to Right: James Hinchcliffe/No.5 SPM Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 RHL Honda; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

Art St. Cyr

Art St. Cyr

Art St. Cyr, President of Honda Performance Development, met with the media and showed off the 2018 Manufacturer’s Championship Trophy that Honda won this year. Overall, the moderator said it was a pretty successful season. St. Cyr said “I can’t say it’s ultimately successful because we did not win the Indy 500 this year. Winning 10 of the first 16 races has been really good. It was nice to have clinched the manufacturer’s championship at Gateway, so it’s allowed us to really focus on the driver championship, which for yet another year is coming down to the last race here in Sonoma. It should be pretty exciting.

“We have two horses in the race, right, with Scott and Alexander fighting against Will and Josef. I definitely like our position better than their position for this one. You definitely want to be in front coming into the last race. Still have to execute.

“This is a difficult, difficult track. From what I hear, especially with the lower downforce this year, the tires are wearing off, if possible, even quicker than they have in the past. It’s going to be a very interesting run on Sunday.”

FINALE FRIDAY

IndyCar Paddock Crowd Scene

Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan

The season finale race for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway is also the last IndyCar race, at least for now, for the wine country race track. Next year the season finale race will be held at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, and Sonoma will not be on the schedule. This ends a run of 14 years for the 2.385-mile IndyCar-configured elevated road course. The first race in 2005 was won by Tony Kanaan. This weekend Kanaan, who admits to being nearly 44 years old, is Kanaan’s 300th consecutive indycar race. He said he’s growing a beard this weekend, to show people that “so people can see that I’ve got some gray on my 300th start.” Two current IndyCar drivers in that inaugural 2005 IndyCar race were Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter. That race also included Bryan Herta, whose son Colton Herta is racing here this weekend as a Rookie for Harding Group Racing in No.88 Honda. Kanaan used to be racing teammates with Bryan Herta and Kanaan was Colton first sponsor when he started go-kart racing.

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Verizon IndyCar Series driver Friday morning at Sonoma Raceway. His lap was 1:17.5742. Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet; and Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Andretti Autosport Chevrolet.

Zach Veach/No.26 1001 Group Andretti Autosport Honda was the top Rookie, in ninth place, with a time of 1:18.3541. He set that time in the morning ‘Rookie’ practice, ahead of six others in that session.

The Rookie drivers who were ‘auditioning’ acquitted themselves nicely, staying out of trouble. The two Dale Coyne Honda drivers – Pietro Fittipaldi/No.19 and Santino Ferrucci/No.39 – were 11th and 12th, respectively. The two Harding Group Honda drivers – Colton Herta/No.88 and Patricio O’Ward/No.8 – were 16th and 24th, respectively.

Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz is driving the No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, filling in for the recovering Robert Wickens. The Canadian driver was injured in a horrific accident during the Pocono weekend, suffering massive injuries, and is currently rehabbing in Indianapolis. We all wish him a speedy recovery. Wickens was declared the Sunoco Rookie of the Year after the last (Portland) race despite competing in only 14 of 16 races to that point. He amassed so many points, there was no way the other two full-time Rookies – Veach and Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – could catch him.

One driver didn’t go out, but not for lack of trying. Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was in Pit Lane, but the car wouldn’t start … fuel pickup problem. The team said it was “a minor non-engine mechanical issue.” It took longer to remedy than that, but all’s well…with the car. Not with Newgarden. He has food poisoning and is not feeling well at all.

Newgarden is one of four drivers mathematically able to win the 2018 Championship this weekend, a double points race – he and Penske teammate, Will Power/No.12 have to basically win their race from the pole, lead the most laps, and for the two top contenders to have a bad weekend. Newgarden concedes this will be a difficult scenario.

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon is the current leader in the Driver Standings, 29 points ahead of Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda. They are basically the contenders for this year’s championship. Rossi spun out over the rumble strips in Turn 10, saved it and pitted. Rossi was eighth in the session.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Kanaan did a couple of short cuts across dirt, sort of agricultural racing. He was nineteenth for the session.

Hinchcliffe went off in Turn Two, into the tire wall right side. It wasn’t a hard hit and once pulled out and the tires cleaned off car checked by AMR IndyCar crew, he drove it in, scrubbing the tires at first and then stepping quite quickly to the pits. The accident was similar to an earlier Formula Car incident by Bill Weaver/No.67. Both drivers were alright and suffered only minimal body damage; but both incidents caused a session-stoppage. In Hinchcliffe’s situation, it was a Red Flag for 4:13 minutes.

Other leaders in the session included Graham Rahal/No.15 TOTAL Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

IndyCar has a second practice session Friday afternoon.

Also on the weekend schedule are the IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Series, Formula Car Challenge Series, and Historic Trans-Am Series.

POWERFUL VICTORY!

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet started third, on the front row, and won the 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Oil. No one seemed more surprised than Power. At 37 years old “I was wondering if I would ever win it. And, thoughts went through my mind during the month, I guess. My career, I’ve had so many wins and so many poles. But everyone always talked about the 500 and I just couldn’t imagine winning a race in front of a crowd like this. This many people is just amazing. What an event. I love it. This is the last box to tick, to be considered as a very successful driver. I’m not done. Like, I still have plenty of time left to win more 500s and championships and races. To be the first Australian to win the Indy 500, that’s very special. Maybe they might recognize me down there now.

Sunday’s victory was the 34th IndyCar win for Power, which ties him with Al Unser Jr in P8 for the list of all-time wins. It was his seventh oval win and his biggest, and it was long in coming. He took eight years for his first oval victory. For Team Penske, it was the 17th IndyCar victory, and number 201 overall. For Power and Penske, it was the Merry Month of May as Power and Penske won the earlier Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course, making it the first Verizon IndyCar Series double/sweep for the month of May. For Chevrolet, it was its tenth IndyCar victory at IMS.

Team Owner, Roger Penske said “He won this race today because he was the best. This closes the book for what he wanted to accomplish in INDYCAR: win a championship (2014), now is tied for winning the most races as an Indy driver for the team (31) and the Indy 500 is something that he wanted to do from the very beginning. … He’s in a different world right now, which is important.”

The Indy 500 pays double race points, which put Power to the top the VICS Driver’s Championship Points. He leads Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda by two points, and is ten points ahead of his Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Chevrolet. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing is 25 points back.

Will Power.

Will & Liz Power

Will Power & Roger Penske

LEFT TO RIGHT: Will Power; Will & Liz Power; Liz & Will Power and Roger Penske. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Power started third and led four times for 59 laps – the second most laps in the race. He took the lead for the final time on Lap 196, soon after the seventh and last caution of the race. “I’m just like, I have to get these guys. I don’t know how much fuel they’ve got. But this is the restart of my life. And then, I go on, and two (cars ahead of him – Stefan Wilson/No.25 #Driven2SaveLives Andretti Autosport Honda and Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR Honda) pit, and I’m like man, I think I’m going to win this. With one to go I was like screaming. Like man, I’ve got this. Unbelievable.”

Will & Liz Power and the Milk.

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power was one of the few VICS drivers who failed to register a milk preference. Winning is “Good with any kind of milk. I knew you drink milk here. Believe me. I’ve seen a few of my competitors do it. Yeah, no, I just hesitated a bit because I’m not supposed to eat dairy, but I didn’t care. I just drank it.” And he sprayed it – drenching the Indy 500 Festival Queen.

Heather & Ed Carpenter

Heather & Ed Carpenter

Second was pole sitter Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Despite three pole positions at the Indy 500, Sunday’s runner-up finish is his best Indy 500 result. “I’ll feel pretty good about this in a couple of days, I think. The team really did a great job all month long, all day long really. Pit stops were really good. It was almost like being out front early probably hurt us a little bit just because guys started saving fuel a little earlier. We got behind on the fuel save.” D

It was really hard to pass anybody if they had clean air in front of them.” Carpenter, the only only VICS Owner-Driver, led six times for 65 laps, the most of the 15 different leaders. “It was just really tough to pass another strong competitor today without having lap traffic in the pit or something else that was a mistake. Track position was hugely important. I was hoping we could make something happen on that last green flag pit exchange, maybe cycle through in front of him (Power.) I was praying on that white flag lap that he was going to do a JR and I could coast home. Just didn’t happen. It was his day and not mine.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Third was Dixon. “We really struggled on restarts today. The first and second gear just seemed to be way out of sync to the pace of what everybody was restarting. First to be on a limiter, second I was like a sitting duck, wouldn’t accelerate, gear was way too long.”

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Fourth was Rossi, who started thirty-second. It was as he predicted – a story to tell if he could pull it off. And he almost did. He worked his way up through the pack and led on Lap 173 for a lap. “Babygirl morphed into a rocket ship today. We said we’d pass a lot of cars, but wow – 32 to fourth. I feel like we did what we could, and we maximized what we had. The NAPA Know How Andretti Honda team did everything right. I don’t look back on anything and wish we’d done anything different. Despite, it was a good day from a championship perspective. We didn’t have enough to win, but congrats to Will (Power) for the fantastic win!”

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Fifth was Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda. He said “It was a good race all day. When we were all mixed up in traffic, the No. 28 car was really strong, but once it started stringing out, we just didn’t have it. We really fought hard, but we just didn’t have the speed in the end. But the bigger problem was the lapped traffic. We really had a good race car until we had to deal with guys that were doing 200 mph out there, like Jay Howard. Then (Zach Claman De Melo) came out right at the end in the mix of the top five – I don’t know what teams were thinking. The DHL boys did a great job today, just a little bit too short at the end. But, congrats to Will Power, he definitely has a well-rounded career now.”

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Canadian Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. He started eighteenth, finished ninth, and led once for two laps. Indianapolis was everything he expected, and then some. “In some ways, I was hoping for more. In other ways it surpassed everything I ever could have imagined. It was one hell of a race. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

To be the top Rookie is pretty cool. I didn’t enter the race to be the top rookie, I was trying to be in the top 10 all day long. We got in the end, but unfortunately we only cracked the top 10 for the last couple laps.”

It was almost the hottest Indy 500 on record, nearly reaching the record high of 93 set in 1937. Officially Sunday’s temperature was 91 degrees. Humidity had been as high as 90 percent earlier in the day, but lowered by checkered flag to a mere 41 percent.

There were 30 lead changes among 15 drivers, tying the record set last year for the most different Indy 500 leading drivers.

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was a race of attrition, with seven cautions for seven accidents totaling 41 of the 500 laps, and one driver transported for observation. Kyle Kaiser had said on Media Day Thursday that “Last year it was a race of attrition. I don’t think it will be as much of that this year. There’s a race of attrition and there’s a race of survival. I think this year it’ll be a race of survival, keeping it out there, keeping it out of the wall, and it’s going to be very challenging conditions.” There were nine retirements, six of which were for hitting the wall, and two for hitting each other. Eighteen of the 24 finishers were on the lead lap. Ironically the only mechanical retirement was Kaiser. He said “We are not 100 percent sure what put us out of the race, but we know that it was out of our control.”

The first accident occurred early on, when James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet slowed and was unavoidably hit by Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Both drivers are alright but they retired with damaged cars.

Jones crashed hard in Turn Two. He was awake and alert, but complained of head and neck pains, and was transported to nearby IU Health Methodist Hospital. He later was checked and released, and will be re-examined before competing in Detroit next weekend.

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was competing in her last race before retiring from the sport. She started seventh and was running well until she spun and hit the Turn Two wall. She was alright but her her car had severe front end damage. She was not happy, but did make a brief appearance in the Media Center. “I don’t even want to be here.” She preferred an open dialogue rather than responding to moderator’s questions. “Let me just talk. Definitely not a great ending. I feel like it’s a complete disaster – complete like as in not in the ball park at all, people will remember that. If I win, people will remember that. But probably anything in between might just be a little part of a big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is, you know.

Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I don’t even want to be here because I’m pretty sad. I guess I’ll stop there.”

I am for sure grateful for everybody and to be able to finish it up like I wanted to. There were a lot of great moments this month, lot of great moments this year.

Before the race on the grid, “I had all my people around me so I was in good spirits. I’ll miss you (media) some of the time.”

Regarding the crash, Patrick said “It was pretty unexpected. It just swung around as soon as I recommitted back to the throttle again. I felt a little bit of understeer in the middle of the corner, and I wasn’t expecting it by any means, but I think it just goes to show you that these cars are tough to drive. The car was a little bit positive today and turning more than I wanted it to. I was just having to chase it a lot. Turn Two did seem a little bit more edgy than the other corners, but I can’t say that in that point in time that I was on edge or felt like I was.I wouldn’t want to end any year like that. I won’t forget all the fans. They’ve made it a lot more special.

Thank you, guys. Appreciate everything. I’ll miss you, most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda brought out yet another caution on Lap 138 when he was attempting a pass on Rossi in the short chute between Turns Three and Four, and then took a couple of wild spins before hitting the wall hard. He is alright, and retired with a damaged car. Bourdais led once for four laps, making him the only VICS driver to have led laps in every race this season.

Helio Castroneves No.3 ChevroletHelio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet crashed.Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet crashed.

Helio Castroneves and medic

Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Racing Chevrolet spun twice and hit the Pit entrance wall.”I probably went wide in Turn Three and probably was a little of dust in the tires; and then as soon as I came into Three and I tried to pass Simon (Pagenaud) but the rear just gave out. I was not expecting. I never had a sign. The car was good. It was definitely tough out there. Please, Roger, let me go back.”

All the way to the Medical Center he was walking and talking … with TV Pit Reporters, his team. He was escorted by a Medic, IndyCar PR, and Yellow Shirts, as more and more media tried to talk with him on the way to the Medical Center.

Sage Karam/No.24 WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet spun straight into the T4 wall which ripped off the rear tire and sent it flying across the track. Everyone was able to avoid him. He was alright, but the damaged car retired. He said “I really don’t know what happened because the race car was stable in the rear end all day. Then all of a sudden, the car just snapped around without any notice. It is extremely puzzling. I love Indy so much and now my race ends like this. I know I want to come back here next year and race hard again.”

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.


Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet spun, didn’t catch it and hit the Turn Two wall hard. He was alright, but the damaged car retired. “We had a great day going and then we had a puncture that put us behind all day long, so I was playing catchup. I made a mistake trying, and that for me, in my book, it’s totally fine. I’m looking forward to the future with this team.”

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach/No.26 Relay Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda had a challenging day, with pit fires, one of which took place as he was fueling and took off ablaze. It blew itself out, but was scary. “It was a long day in general for us to end up where we did – two pit fires and the balance of the car wasn’t where we would’ve liked it to be, so we had to work on it the entire time. We finally got it close the last couple stops but, just my mistake. I took us in a direction on a setup that I thought was going to be good, but I think that’s what hurt us come race day.”

Vic Oladipo

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The 34th driver at the start was Vic Oladipo, who drove the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Pace Car, a car more powerful than the IndyCars he led. He had his Rookie Orientation and Test Saturday at IMS, with Driver Coach, Corvette driver Ron Fellows. The Indiana Pacers basketball star said Fellows first taught him the course, how to meet his markers, and where to go. Oladipo said driving a race car was similar to playing basketball – the eyes tell you where to go. He also said the Corvette is so fast it drives itself.

The VICS next travels to Belle Isle in Detroit for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, the only double-header race on the schedule. The weekend afternoon races will be shown live on ABC TV at 3:30pm Saturday and Sunday.

Pace Lap

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

1. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (1) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
4. (32) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
5. (14) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
6. (2) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (21) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
8. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (18) Robert Wickens, Honda, 200, Running
10. (30) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
11. (27) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
13. (11) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 200, Running
14. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (23) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 200, Running
16. (31) Jack Harvey, Honda, 200, Running
17. (26) Oriol Servia, Honda, 200, Running
18. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
19. (13) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 199, Running
20. (6) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 199, Running
21. (33) Conor Daly, Honda, 199, Running
22. (20) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 198, Running
23. (25) Zach Veach, Honda, 198, Running
24. (28) Jay Howard, Honda, 193, Running
25. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 187, Contact
26. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 154, Contact
27. (8) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 145, Contact
28. (5) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 137, Contact
29. (17) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 110, Mechanical
30. (7) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 67, Contact
31. (29) Ed Jones, Honda, 57, Contact
32. (16) Takuma Sato, Honda, 46, Contact
33. (19) James Davison, Chevrolet, 45, Contact

POINTS:
Will Power 243
Alexander Rossi 241
Josef Newgarden 233
Scott Dixon 218
Ryan Hunter-Reay 186
Graham Rahal 183
Robert Wickens 178
Sebastien Bourdais 168
Simon Pagenaud 155
James Hinchcliffe 144

SUNDAY!

IMS PAGODA ALIT

Good Morning Race Fans! At 5am Sunday the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is bustling, with people everywhere already going about making ready for the day and the 102nd Indy 500 presented by PennGrade Oil. Food is cooking, beverages are already being consumed, merchandise outlets are opening for business, and the multiplicity of workers of all kinds are hurrying to or are already on the job. The famous Yellow Shirts have been on site since 2am, and will have a very long shift. Radio and TV stations are set up and broadcasting already.

Radio Station broadcasting

TV Station setting up

The weather is forecast for upwards of 94 degrees F, with 90 percent humidity and almost no wind. And today is National Sunscreen Day! Heed the advice and cover up and slather sunscreen. The news says the UV rating is 9, which means one will burn in 15 minutes.

Sun Rising with Cannon Smoke in Air

Sun Rise!

The cannon went off at 6am, and then the sun rose over the Turn Three area, over all those cute little Tiny Homes and Glampers – who paid the big bucks to stay where they area. I think the Glampers – fancy camp tents are $1000 for four days. The Tiny Houses sold out very quickly, They rent for $3000 for four days, and come in two sizes – two persons or four persons.

Over in the Snake Pit, at $40 a pop, there are thousands of people. Last year it was 30,000. Who knows how many it will be this year.

In Gasoline Alley the teams are scurrying around, golf karts at top speed. The cars are being pushed through Scrutineering queues. On the back fence, the line of motorcycles grows by the hours – all kinds of fancy two and three-wheel motorcycles.

No.1 being wheeled through Tech

Tech Queue

No.60 being pushed back to Garage Bay

Motorcycles on display

There are all sorts of traditional pre-race festivities scheduled before the 12:19pm Green Flag. Let’s Go Racing!

Indy 500 Pre-Race Time Line

TALE OF TWO SPOTTERS

Seated spotters in Spotters Stand T1

In the past IndyCar required the the Indy 500 teams to have two spotters on Carb Day and Race Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This year, it’s mandatory every time a driver is on track with traffic. So there have always been 66 spotters at the Indy 500. This year the spotters were at the track seven days in a row, plus Carb Day and then for the upcoming race. They are stationed on top of the grandstands in Turns One and Three – the very top, with no shade. They stand the entire time. There are chairs on which to sit during cautions or when a driver is in the pits or garage. That also would be the only opportunity to swig some water or make a pit stop. Otherwise it’s on your feet any time there’s Green Flag running. IndyCar only requires spotters on ovals, and there’s no other IndyCar race track which requires two spotters. Many teams use spotters on road courses, and sometimes at Sonoma two positions are utilized for spotters.

View from the Penhouse

Up in the Spotters Stand, IndyCar has a ‘WagonMaster’ overseeing the lot. It’s a privileged area, and I was not allowed up on the Stand itself. I spent Carb Day Practice right below the Spotters Stand in Turn One, in the ‘Penthouse’ area with race fans. I was amazed that spotters could see as much as they could. The cars come by very fast and the front view of the car is not always the easiest to spot in traffic. And when the color is more neutral and less splashy, the difficulty is compounded. I envied the ease for those spotting for Danica Patrick/No.13 Go Daddy Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet or Zach Veach/No.26 Relay Group 1001 Andretti Autosport Honda – with their vivid, bright, in-your face primary colors, and pitied the other two Penske spotters. The two silver Verizon Chevrolets blend right in with the track.

For the past seven years, Damon Hill from Melbourne Australia has come over to work as a Spotter for Andretti Autosport. Last year he was one of two Spotters for race-winning Takuma Sato, working in Turn Three. This year Hill is again paired with Carlos Munoz/No.29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda. He spotted for Munoz in 2015 and 2016.

Damon Hill

In spotting for Sato, Hill said it’s key to give him the bare minimum information in clear and concise terms. Hill has to edit out what is important to relay. High atop the Turn Three Grandstand, Hill can see from the Turn Two Apex to the Apex of Turn Four. He can keep talking if necessary, such as in 2016 when Munoz’s fuel light went on three laps to the finish. For Hill, there are 18 seconds between seeing his driver.

Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Hill wears a headset with two separate radio feeds – one to Sato and Pit Box, and the other monitors Race Control. Hill, an Aussie, hails from a country known for its colorful colloquialisms and abbreviated patois. Munoz and Sato hail from countries where English is not the first language. Hill and his driver develop their own lingo. There are 20 or so common words which get used over and over. Hill goes over the words with the other spotter, Sato’s long-time primary spotter, Roger Yasukawa. Then in debriefings, Hill goes over the lingo with his driver and Yasukawa. Last year Team Manager, Ziggy, aka Paul Harcus, was on the Pit Box calling the race for Sato. Team Owner Michael Andretti is on the radio also, but he is very quiet.

Damon Hill's Indy 500 ring

Last year Hill said even as Sato took the lead, he wasn’t as excited as he thought he might be … until the last corner. Then and only then did he feel comfortable. Hill said he was calm and just talked to Sato as he would on every other lap. Then, when Sato came through Turn Three and headed to Turn Four, Hill got excited. When he won, Hill threw his radio/headsets to a fellow spotter, got pushy and ran down the stairs and all the way to Victory Circle to be there in time for the ceremonies. And now he has the ring to prove it. Hill wears the ring a lot, as it brings back memories. And he had to get up at the crack of dawn Monday with the driver and crew for the obligatory Kissing the Bricks photo shoot.

Both Hill and Yasukawa have racing experience. Hill raced karts 14 years. Yasukawa is a former IndyCar driver. Sato believes it very much helps that a spotter has driving experience, because he knows what it takes to be in the cockpit. “It certainly helped me a lot.” And Sato thought the pairing of Hill and Yasukawa was fantastic. Regarding having the spotters, “The rules say we have to have two spotters, and if there is a lack of communications we have to go back to the pits. Yes, we can drive the cars without spotters, but the spotter is a very important part for the safety. Without spotters, I believe it would be very difficult to do the race.” Sato said he “talks to his spotters more during practice, about the lines. It’s really more like driver coaching. The spotter has to completely understand what it takes to be driving. I want to know anything that’s happening, and I can cut out any information which is not necessary to me. So yes, I want them talking to me. It’s helpful”

Munoz says the spotters talking to him helps, but he doesn’t depend on it.

Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford is the Turn One Spotter for Pole Sitter Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Crawford has been spotting since 2003 when he started spotting at Rookie Tests for Sam Schmidt in the Indy Lights Series, and getting familiar with the concept of spotting on ovals. His first IndyCar spotting job was with Nelson Phillippe.

Crawford expounded on what it takes to be a Spotter. “Not everyone on the Spotters Stand is a former driver. But what is needed, clearly, is an awareness of the sport, awareness of the subtleties of the sport. You almost have to have the ability to see if the car is pushing or loose, which is something that could take years to develop. The ability to see how a car is handling. You want to have the acumen to understand different lines and if they’re working for different drivers. And the awareness of changing conditions. And most of all, a calming temperament when it comes to an accident. You want to quickly relay that information without overwhelming the driver. So there’s elements of strategy, elements of observation, elements of safety. What it takes is someone who’s been around the sport and understand it and keep the driver safe, and hopefully help him move forward. Spotting is hours of boredom punctuated by moments of chaos. Focus is vitally important, and it is so captivating.

People have been offered opportunities to spot, and have turned it down as they don’t want that responsibility. I’ve never seen it as a responsibility. I see it as an opportunity to help. It can be pretty important. We can affect the driver, but I’m not holding the steering wheel, I’m not touching the pedals with my feet. At the end of the day Ed Carpenter needs to react to his environment. I’m there to paint a picture of what is happening around him. If I can spot an accident ahead of him, then yes, I’ve improved his likelihood of a good outcome. But I don’t see myself maybe as responsible for his life; but I can help him be safer. There is concern of reacting poorly. But then again, a really good spotter will spot an event happening before it happens. You want to be looking ahead of the car to see if there’s an accident, and behind the car to see what’s coming next, as well as the car all at the same time. It’s hard to look at three places at once.

Ed Carpenter No.20

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed’s car is challenging to spot. It’s all-black with white logos, with his black suit and black and white helmet, and looks like six or seven other cars out there. It disappears to Crawford. Looking at it head-on coming out of Turn Four with no distinguishing colors. The most wonderful thing that happened to me last Sunday will help me this Sunday – Ed is starting up front. It’s not easy spotting for a car that’s starting 26th or back. There’s a mass of cars coming at you, the dust is swirling, the hot dog wrappers are flying, and you’re trying to find the one car that is yours. There’s cars inside, outside, in front of you, and you’re just trying to find the car. It boils down to that Ed is out of my vision for about 12 seconds and I count 12 every single lap. And then I find him again. For as little physical activity there is, it’s exhausting. It’s pretty intense.” During practice there can be down time. Crawford finished three books during the first week of practice.

Crawford listens to the car with his right ear, and to Race Control with his left ear. “That way I’m not scanning one over the other. I listen to Race Control because they give directions, telling us something we’re supposed to be doing, and I listen to direct contact with the car. The only people on the car are the car itself (driver), Pit Stand, Turn Three Spotter (primary Lee Bentham, former open wheel racer in Atlantics and Indy Lights) and myself. I would love to hear the Crew Channel to sort of get an idea, but our particular setup I’m very comfortable being focused with my two ears on two separate topics. I don’t think I’m as good as some of the TV talent which have a producer and others talking into their ears while speaking to someone else. They’re processing information while sharing other information, so clearly it’s a skill. Standing up on the Spotter Stand isn’t a whole lot different, meaning I can be listening to Race Control while watching what’s going on down on the track and interjecting some information all at the same time. But it’s not usually overwhelming. Usually things are happening once at a time. Every once in awhile things are in chaos. I consider myself a partner with the Spotter in Turn Three. Bentham is a former open wheel racer in Atlantics and Indy Lights. Crawford said Bentham has incredible race craft. I consider my job to be handing off the driver to that other spotter. And there’s actually an audible handoff, where we know where we can see and it overlaps a little bit. So I can see the car entering Turn four and I can see it exiting Turn Two. The Turn Three Spotter can see the entrance to Turn Two and he can see through the exit of Turn Four. So we have these overlaps. So when Ed comes out of the pits, he’ll be in the Warm-up Lane, and I’ll call out to Turn Three, ‘we’ll be in the short chute, and he’ll be the next car to you. While I’m sharing that, I’m also sharing who’s on the track at speed, so that when Ed gets to the back Turn Three can see Ed, can see the cars on the race track, and help Ed blend into traffic. Ed hears it and knows I’m also saying it to him. And it gives Turn Three a picture of what’s about to happen and Turn Three does the same thing for Ed and I when Ed is going through Turn Four. When Ed is on the front stretch, I have very little depth perception as they’re coming right at me. Turn Three gives me that expectation, of a driver having a good run. We don’t hand it over every lap, because if Ed is running by himself there’s no need. But we tell them if someone is going to pit. The spotters talk to each other up there.”

Ed Carpenter said about spotters: “They can talk as much or as little as they need, so long as it’s information that is pertinent to what I need in the car. We have those conversations over the course of the month, leading into the race. Depending on what’s going on in the race restart, that can mean talking a lot or other parts of the race not talking much at all.”

Pole Sitter Ed will be doing something extra on his Indy 500 Parade Lap Sunday. “Now I try to use the first parade lap to do a crowd check for Doug Boles, IMS. Once the green flag drops, all the other stuff and the people and the colors disappear. You’re focusing on what’s in front of you.”

Pit Lane Viewed from Penthouse Stands

RINGS, TROPHIES & AUTOGRAPHS

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy 500 Drivers Meeting. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Autograph Sign

Conor Daly & Alexander Rossi

Autograph queues

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

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

The Drivers individually receive their Indy 500 Starter Rings.

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

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

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

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

Joel Wiegert, Michael Andretti  & Takuma Sato

Victor Oladipo

Drivers teasing Danica. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dr. Jerry Punch. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

James Hinchcliffe. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Indy Logo. Pagoda Plaza. Photo by Pablo Matamoros