FREAKY FAST FURIOUS FRANTIC FINAL FIFTEEN FRIDAY

Friday was hot and bothered. The temperatures at Indianapolis Motor Speedway reached 78 F ambient, with track temps as high as 107 F, with wind of 5mph. Earlier the wind had increased, but then slowed. The Indy 500 drivers went faster Friday, as they were given 30 more horsepower for the day. The session was stopped for two hours mid-afternoon for “lightning in the area.” The protocol dictates that the half-hour clock starts every time there is a lightning strike within ten miles. There are apps which can show/indicate just how far the strikes are from IMS. The clock counts down, and if another strike hits within ten miles, (such as the 4.2-mile strike which occurred after the clock was nearly wound down), the clock starts over. People were advised of the situation via the PA and many exited the metal grandstands; and then they were advised when the warning had lifted. By then the track temperatures ramped up to 117F.

Conor Daly

Conor Daly/No.25 United States Air Force Andretti Autosport Honda ended up fastest overall Friday afternoon after The Fast and Furious Final Fifteen. A late-session caution for track inspection after tires were cut brought everyone to the pits. Once activity resumed, a mob of drivers went out for one last chance to better times. That’s when Daly ran 231.704 mph on Lap 54 of his 57, and pipped his Andretti teammate, who had been leading most of the day. Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda had held the top slot at 230.851 mph, set on his second of 26 laps. The four drivers behind him varied a bit, but not so much. It was most mostly were the same drivers … until the last half hour, when it got fast, furious and frantic. Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda was the first to break into the top five, jumping into second place, and then joined by another Andretti driver – Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.DHL Honda. At one point, all three of the Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets were in the top five, and two of them took turns having the fastest No Tow time.

Daly attended a post-session Media Conference. He was so excited he was trying to do an Instagram story, and Marco kept calling him, so Daly put him on Facetime to join the conference. Daly said “I’m just super thankful to be here, honestly. It’s incredible to be a part of this team. Obviously super successful here. The U.S. Air Force, that’s the group that made it happen for me, and that’s awesome. We’ve just been working away at it. It’s certainly interesting tomorrow to see what’s going to happen. I think no-tow wise, everyone is closer than we expected really manufacturer wise. I think there’s a little bit of a difference there for sure, but the Honda guys are working super hard, and I’ve been super happy with my group and our engine and our car. We’re just step by step, one change at a time, trying to make this thing go as fast as possible, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow, obviously.”

During the conference, Daly got the news that he was first out of the box Saturday for Qualifying. The order draw took place during the conference. There are 68 cars, including all the T/backup cars.

No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda

Crew Chief Ziggy Harcus & Team Owner Michael Andretti

Conor Daly No.25 Andretti Autosport Honda

Left to Right: Conor Daly No.25 Honda; Crew Chief Paul ‘Ziggy’ Harcus & Team Owner Micheal Andretti; and Conor Daly No.25 Honda.

At the end of the day, the top five overall were Daly, Andretti, Sato, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Sixth through tenth were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, and Ed Jones/No.63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet. The top Rookie was Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in nineteenth place.

Mario Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti/No.98 Honda

No.30 Takuma Sato RHLL Honda

No.28 RHR Andretti Autosport Honda

Left to Right: Mario Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti; Takuma Sato No.30 Honda; and Ryan Hunter-Reay No.28 Honda.

The top drivers with No Tow speeds were Jones, Carpenter, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, 2018 Indy 500 Winner-Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, and Pagenaud. Sixth through tenth were: Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Andretti, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Newgarden, and Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.

Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda has been playing chicken with the wall this week, narrowly missing it by micro-measurements. He finally grazed it Friday afternoon with about an hour plus left in the session. He kept going and pitted, finishing 22nd, with a best lap of 229.449 on Lap 8 of his 41.

Sage Karam’s No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet got a workout Friday. Both DRR drivers had a go in it, with JR Hildebrand shaking it down for for five laps. Karam ending up thirteenth overall at 229.932 mph on his last of 43 laps.

Juncos Garage

Juncos  Salvage Yard

Not surprising that every drive, save one, turned his/her fastest times Friday. The one exception was Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, who only turned one lap.

Kaiser hit the Turn Three wall and performed an aerobatic spin and flip, similar to that of yesterday’s crash by Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. Kaiser was unhurt and cleared to drive. His car was not, and after assessment, the team decided to rebuild its backup car, the one Kaiser drove at COTA earlier this year. It is a painted, not wrapped car. After being checked out in the Medical Center, he said “I’m fine. I’m grateful for the technology and safety that’s built into these cars – that was a big hit; I felt it.” He was 26th overall at the time of the accident. The car gouged the track, which needed quick fix. No doubt a more lasting repair will be done overnight.

Team Owner Ricardo Juncos said “We are very grateful that our driver Kyle (Kaiser) was not injured and safely walked away from the massive hit he experienced today at IMS. As everyone knows this has been a very intense month for our NTT IndyCar Series program. Despite off track set backs, that has not stopped this team from going out and performing during practice this week. We have been up to the Top-5 in no tow speeds and have consistently improved our times each day. Now we are faced with the challenge of getting our back-up car on track and set for qualifying tomorrow, but I am completely confident in this amazing group we have here at Juncos Racing to make it happen. This group will not stop working until we get our #32 back on track. We want to thank all of the teams who are willing to help out with parts, Chevrolet, and the fans who have stopped by to express their well wishes. We will be working hard all day and night.”

Nearly all the NTT IndyCar Series teams have offered help and parts, said a team spokesperson. “That’s what is so nice about the IndyCar family.”

McLaren Garage

Another rebuilt car which is painted, not wrapped, is the No.66 McLaren Chevrolet for Fernando Alonso. The team admitted the paint was still wet when they bolted on parts this morning. Alonso was one of the first cars on course Friday morning, after missing all day Thursday while the team built/rebuilt its backup car. Alonso was 24th overall, with 77 laps, with his fastest speed of 228.328 mph on his last lap. He was 30th for No Tow, at 226.869 mph. He turned the second most laps of any driver, right behind Rookie Ben Hanley/No.81 10 Star Dragon Speed Chevrolet, who ran 81 laps. He finished last.

Frnando Alonso

Gil de Ferran

Fernando Alonso

Left to Right: Fernando Alonso; Gil de Ferran; and Fernando Alonso.

Alonso attended the post-session conference, along with McLaren Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran. Alonso made light of having so many tires at his disposal. “Yeah, it was frustrating”, not being able to get out at all on Thursday. But yeah, nothing we could do at that point; yeah, having that extra time to check everything and to be ready. It was frustrating, but at the same time, as I said before, we saved a lot of tires that we were able to set up the car today maybe in a more — in a better way.

“It was a positive day for us (Friday), and we were able to put the car on track and try different directions on the setup and learn a little bit about the track and the day. Obviously, the boost was up today, so the speeds were higher, and it was more a qually (qualifying) preparation than race setups. But we had a lot of new tires from the last couple of days. So, we were able to do a lot of runs, and hopefully, that information will give us tomorrow a little bit of confidence into qualifying.”

De Ferran said ” I think certainly yesterday, as you said, was a difficult day for everyone. Like I said earlier, we’re a new crew. We respect this place a lot. So we wanted to make sure that we put the car together the best way possible. Obviously that took longer than we expected, and I guess having been here before, I’m very aware — I was very aware of the importance of being out on the racetrack, both from Fernando’s perspective and for the development of the car. We had a few guys in the crew that have done Indy car before. Dallara was very helpful throughout. But still, there’s a lot of things that we had to learn, and we’re still learning. Certainly not being a team that does this full-time, we’re in a very steep learning curve despite all the support that we’ve been getting from many different places.”

De Ferran was non-committal about plans going forward, such as what would happen to the IndyCar. “We haven’t made that decision yet.”

This year’s Double Duty will be performed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The retired NASCAR driver and current NBC Sports motorsports analyst will drive the 2019 Grand Sport Official Pace Car for the start of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. He will drive the Pace Car and then be in the booth for the television broadcast, being aired by NBC for the first time. Earnhardt has practice on the track, as a Cup driver in the Brickyard 400 and last year as Pace Car for said race. It will be his first time in the booth for an Indycar race. Corvette has been the Indy 500 Pace Car fifteen times, more than any other brand or vehicle.

2019 Corvette Pace Car

103rd INDIANAPOLIS 500 presented by Gainbridge Qualifying Order
Driver
#25 Daly
#21 Pigot
#27 Rossi
#30T Sato
#20 Carpenter
#18 Bourdais
#22T Pagenaud
#77T Servia
#14 Kanaan
#98 Andretti
#23 Kimball
#32T Kaiser
#12 Power
#88T Herta
#5T Hinchcliffe
#81 Hanley
#59 Chilton
#19T Ferrucci
#48T Hildebrand
#60 Harvey
#2T Newgarden
#19 Ferrucci
#21T Pigot
#66T Alonso
#60T Harvey
#7 Ericsson
#33 Davison
#18T Bourdais
#25T Daly
#33T Davison
#4T Leist
#9T Dixon
#63 Jones
#30 Sato
#22 Pagenaud
#14T Kanaan
#39 Mann
#24T Karam
#66 Alonso
#7T Ericsson
#24 Karam
#26T Veach
#42 King
#3 Castroneves
#2 Newgarden
#77 Servia
#9 Dixon
#81T Hanley
#5 Hinchcliffe
#31 O’Ward
#39T Mann
#15 Rahal
#10T Rosenqvist
#4 Leist
#48 Hildebrand
#28T Hunter-Reay
#15T Rahal
#12T Power
#3T Castroneves
#20T Carpenter
#28 Hunter-Reay
#32 Kaiser
#10 Rosenqvist
#98T Andretti
#27T Rossi
#88 Herta
#63T Jones
#26 Veach

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

Thursday was off to a warm and sunny start. There was a thin opaque haze everywhere, but it was 71F ambient and 91F on the track. The breeze was just waking up. As the afternoon progressed, it got darker and windier. The temps reached 79F ambient, with 100F on track. At 4:29pm the Lightning alert came and everyone was told to evacuate and excute one’s own personal plan. Ten minutes later the rain came down. At 5:26pm power went out in the Media Center. Fortunately, not for long. Welcome to Indiana – all four seasons in one day.

Patricio O'Ward's backup car

Patricio O’Ward’s backup car

Track wise, an hour and 17 minutes into the seven-hour practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there was yet another crash, in Turn 2. Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet is unhurt, but the rookie will probably have some down time while the Carlin crew goes to work on the backup (road course) car. O’Ward said he’s OK, a bit sore and really disappointed. He has been cleared to drive, as have the other two/Wednesday accident victims. The 19-year old was quite shaken when the TV crew showed him the crash video for the first time.

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 Carlin Chevrolet - BEFORE

Patricio O’Ward’s No.31 Carlin Chevrolet – BEFORE

The accident was spectacular, with him spinning and hitting the right side concrete wall hard left side and flipping up. He was air borne and teetered in the air balancing on the left front wheel, before the car landed hard on all four wheels. It didn’t do a complete flip, but nearly. The good news is that the well-build IndyCar held up and did all that it was designed to do, safety-wise. The team quickly went to work preparing teammate Max Chilton’s road course car for Pato.

McLaren Garage

Scott Goodyear

Meanwhile, back in the garages, the McLaren Racing team were working away on their backup car. At 1:10pm, McLaren Team Owner, Zach Brown, it would be another two hours or so. He said driver, Fernando Alonso, is in great spirits. Earlier in the day, seven-time NASCAR Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson, visited with his buddy Alonso, and they did some filming. Scott Goodyear, former IndyCar driver and TV motorsports broadcaster, is working with the team this month as a consultant. Goodyear said Alonso seemed quite fit and fine this morning – not sore. Goodyear will spot for Alonso. Spotters are used in Practice, in Turn One and in Turn Three.

McLaren Garage - mid afternoon

Later, Tim Bampton, Group Communications Director for McLaren Technology Group, said that the car was still being prepped, and the plan was to get out today, although he wasn’t sure when. The team doesn’t have a US base, per se, and are working out of a shop in Brownsburg IN and the track garage. The team brought over crew from England and hired locals, so it’s about a 50-50 mix at this point, with team members coming from England, New Zealand and America. Bampton did draw a connection to his (one-off British-based) team to the full season, Indianapolis-based Ganassi team working on the damaged car of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Honda, saying it wasn’t as easy for his team as Ganassi’s team to repair in a timely fashion.

The No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Rookie Felix Rosenqvist was repaired after Wednesday’s crash. The crew worked long into the night and it was ready Thursday for track time. He turned 41 laps and was thirty-fourth overall out of 35 drivers, and his best lap was near the end of his run.

Ed Jones

Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was fastest most of the day. His best speed was 227.843 mph on Lap 8 of the 37 he ran. He also had the fastest No Tow speed of 224.957 mph. He said it was different driving on a team where the owner is also a driver. He said “It was a great day! To be quickest in overall and no-tow is a goal. More importantly, I think we made more gains with the handling of the car. As the conditions have changed, we’ve been able to keep up. We just have to keep adapting to the track changes for tomorrow and for qualifying. With the rain, the grip level may come down a bit, so it’s all about optimizing the car for the track conditions.”

Thirty-five of 36 drivers were on course. Alonso was the only one who missed the Thursday session.O’Ward has turned the fewest laps of all drivers-94. Having run only two (one 1/2) days of the three, Alonso’s total is 96.Those two were the only drivers with double digit totals. Everyone else reached triple digit numbers. Spencer Pigot/No/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 302.

The overall top five drivers were Jones, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, and Top Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Honda. Of those, Sato and Bourdais had led very early on, for a short while, before Jones took the top slot.

Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet remains the top driver overall, with a speed of 229.745 mph. The overall top Rookie is Santino Ferruci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Power sad “We tried some qualifying stuff, so we’re definitely narrowing in on what we need for setup. We still need to make the racecar a bit better. We’re going to go completely for qualifying stuff tomorrow and see how we run.”

There were four cautions, two for drivers and two for track inspections/debris. Total yellow time was . 40.57 minutes. The day effectively ended when the last caution was called for lightning near the track at 4:29pm. O’Ward’s caution was and the one for Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2 Save Lives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet was so brief ithardly counted. She stalled on course but restarted before the emergency crew reached her. She experienced a vibration and was concerned. The team was still diagnosing but was hoping it was just a bad wheel weight.

Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing Honda narrowly avoided any aftermath from Rosenqvist’s accident. Despite graphic TV footage showing debris heading his way, Harvey was able to avoid the flying missiles. Only one piece hit a rear panel, making a small dent.

AFP on No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet

AFP on No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

According to NTT IndyCar Series Technical Director, Kevin Blanch, aka ‘Rocket’- no driver has had his or her AFP tested since they were first installed on the race cars at the Open Test last month. The Advanced Frontal Protection device is now mandated on all cars, until the next iteration of driver safety has evolved. IndyCar has promised the AFP is just in its first stages, and something new is coming soon. Maybe we’ll have some news on Carb Day. The mission of the AFP is to protect the driver from low, broadside projectiles. The current device is a 3 inch tall titanium deflector built by Dallara and bolted onto the leading edge of the chassis. It’s thinner than the Halo, which is mandated in F1 and FE. The Halo wouldn’t work on the current IndyCar. All IndyCar teams buy their deflectors from Dallara, who makes them according to IndyCar specs.

AFP

Max Chilton No.59 AFP

Zach Veach No.26 AFP

It’s been great to see IndyCar driver Robert Wickens whipping around in his manually-operated wheelchair.

Robert Wickens

Robert Wickens
He’s quite often seen in the Pit Lane, with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team. Sometimes he hitches a ride with a traveling golf cart. He said he’s up at 5am for rehab and then goes to the track in time for practice, which is getting a bit tiring. He’s helping out his four teammates.

Robert Wickens hitchin' a ride

WELCOME TO INDIANAPOLIS! FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY.

Thunderstorm

WONKY WEDNESDAY

Felix Rosenqvist No.10 Honda - before

Felix Rosenqvist No.10 Honda – BEFORE

Is crashing contagious? First former F1 phenom – Fernando Alonso crashed the No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet at noonish. He was on a fairly clear track, and hit three times on both sides of the track, knocking all four corners. Then just at the start of Happy Hour, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda crashed in Turn 2. He is unhurt, but the car is not. He spun around and hit the concrete wall on the right and bounced spinning across to the SAFER barrier. The drivers behind him evaded and avoided quite skillfully. Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet missed the spinning Honda by inches. Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM was on the receiving end of flying carbon fiber debris. Rosenqvist lost a whole wheel assembly which went flying down the track. The track was down for 17-18 minutes. The car will require major work and the team may go to its backup car – the road course car he drove last weekend. Rosenqvist said “I was behind Colton (Herta) and just trying to run in traffic, and I felt just a very sudden change of having a bit of push and it went very loose, very fast. I couldn’t react to it. A shame, but that’s how it is.”

With the two crashes causing about 42 minutes of down time, the other four cautions for track inspections and debris brought the total of caution time to 1:18.42 hours. Rookie Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda turned the most laps – 132. Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet ran the least, with 37 laps. The team noticed something in the vitals that it felt would jeopardize the health of the DRR engine, so opted to change the engine proactively. The total numbers of laps turned Wednesday was 3219.

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Basically two drivers led the charts all day – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet led the last half of the session at 228.856 mph. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was fastest in the morning and into the early afternoon wth a lap of 228.835 mph.

Josef Newgarden No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden No.2 Team Penske Chevrolet

Newgarden brushed it off that it was a big deal, saying “It didn’t really anything to have his number at the top of the trylon. “It’s really nothing. It was an OK day, for us at least. You saw it’s not easy. A coupe of wrecks today. I think that shows that it’s not super straightforward to try and get around here even on a practice day.”

Dixon was second; with Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet third; the top Rookie, Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda; in fourth and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penkse Chevrolet.

Spencer Pigot No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Santino Ferrucci No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Helio Castroneves No.3 Team Penske Chevrolet

Left to Right: Spencer Pigot; Santino Ferruci; and Helio Castroneves.

Overall for the two days combined, the defending Indy 500 winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet is still fastest overall at 229.745 mph. The fast five overall are Power, two of his three Penske Chevrolet teammates-Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards and Newgarden, with Dixon and Pigot fourth and fifth overall.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi

The 2017 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, was the fastest in the No Tow category, despite being thirty-fourth overall. He agreed with Newgarden that the times and rankings this early on in the week weren’t significant in the long scheme of things. He didn’t go out in the late afternoon as he’d already accomplished all the items on the team’s checklist – “We were really efficient in the first two days of our specific checklist on the 27 car.” There was nothing to be learned from running at 5pm in the afternoon when the Indy 500 would be over by 3pm. Rossi only turned 46 laps. He spent time on the stand of teammate Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda. But it wasn’t to help Marco, it was to learn from him. But that’s not as crass as it sounds. The Andretti drivers gather daily for debriefing around the round table and share all their ideas and experiences. Rossi said this took getting used to at first, because it wasn’t the way they did it in Europe. “Just running through a checklist of things to try ad understand everything we learned over the offseason and applying it to kind of all five cars in different ways and compiling as much information as we can. That’s the advantage about being on a big team for this event When you have this much practice, you can really kind of divide and conquer, and I think we’re doing that well so far. It’s an open book. We share everything.”

MCLAREN GARAGE

The McLaren Racing team will be changing engines and cars overnight after all. They will be ‘building’ the Carlin backup car, which was built to McLaren specs. The McLaren Primary car will be rebuilt as a backup car. “When the engine cooled after the incident, the cam cover cracked, which is not uncommon with that sort of impact. McLaren is changing engines this evening due to crash damage.”

Chauffeured Patricio O'Ward

Patricio O'Ward No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet

Empty #88Pit

Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet passed all three levels of his Rookie Orientation Program in his early-morning track session, so it’s all systems go for all 36 drivers from here on out. O’Ward’s afternoon went so smoothly, the team packed up and called it a day early on. He turned 70 laps for the day.

The speeds are picking up, but they can be deceptive as there are two variables – with a tow and running alone. Tuesday the teams were busy working on setups, so they were in and out of the pits and garage. Wednesday the drivers spent more time on the track, and in the pits with crews working on tweaks and fine tuning.

Yellow Shirts Crossing Patrol

Yellow Shirts Crossing Patrol

OOPS!

NO.66 MCLAREN

Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet had the first accident during practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. He hit the Turn Three walls at 12:34pm while he was running sixteenth of 36 drivers, behind Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Linage Racing Honda. Alonso is not hurt, he got out of the car on his own power, with a smile; but, as per protocol for anyone who hits the wall, he was checked out at the Medical Center. The car came back on the rollback truck, looking worse for the wear.

Alonso said “It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero. The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully we will come back stronger tomorrow. I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys.

“We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake. We will learn from this and hopefully tomorrow we’re back on track and back stronger.”

Alonso said the car wasn’t loose. “No, I think it was just pure understeer that I didn’t expect. I was running a bit close to another car and suddenly mid-corner I lost completely the front grip. I tried to lift off and avoid the wall.”

After the car was parked in the garage, McLaren Sporting Director Gil de Ferran said that the team would make a decision in an hour or so as to rebuilding their primary McLaren-built car or go to a backup car from Carlin, which isn’t finished yet.

It took less than an hour for the team to indicate they would be rebuilding their car.

The ongoing track session stopped for cleanup, and there was a mass exodus from the pit lane to the garages. It was a natural break for lunch. The track was down for 25 minutes. It was about 70 degreesF with track temperature of over 100. There wasn’t much of a breeze.

Alonso said his Wednesday progress “felt much better than yesterday. Definitely we were moving in the right direction. Small steps that we learned today that hopefully we can bring for next time. I’m sorry for the guys.”

Alonso was philosophical about his mindset now that there was a lot of work to be done. “Nothing you can do. These things happen in motorsport. Better today than on the 26th. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.” He had run 46 laps before the accident.

Garage Crowd Control

NTT IndyCar Tech Crew observing

It was a crowd scene in the garages, even before the tow truck arrived. People started running to the McLaren garage as soon as the accident occurred. Many media hot-footed it through Gasoline Alley, and all the TV folks arrived on their golf carts. The ubiquitous Yellow Shirts with whistles showed up to direct traffic, keeping everyone on the opposite side of the garages. In true F1-fashion, as soon as the race car was off-loaded, the garage doors immediately came down. McLaren is the only team with a privacy screen, which is so common in F1. Meanwhile, down the road from McLaren, all the NTT IndyCar Scrutineers were closely observing the whole scene.

Perhaps it was a bit ironic that a loose dangling body panel said “A whiter smile faster.”

MCLAREN LOGO

TUESDAY

IMS Sign

It was a glorious day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the opening day of practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. There are 36 NTT IndyCar Series drivers entered for this year’s race, so there will be bumping in qualifications this weekend. The weather was wonderfully warm – not too hot, just right with only a slight breeze. It was 64 degrees F at noon, but it felt warmer. The track temperature was 90 degrees F. It warmed up to 70 degrees F by 4pm, with track temp of 103 F, and then clouds started appearing. The wind increased a bit eventually to 7 mph. Then the clouds mostly blew away and the sun came out brightly at days end. Mid-day there were lots of school kids in groups, evidently on field trips.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Tuesday’s practice was divided into three segments: Oval Veterans, Rookies & Refreshers, and All Cars. There were 31 times recorded in the first two-hour segment, which included all the NTT IndyCar Series ‘regulars’ plus those one-offs who have already completed their Rookie or Refresher sessions. Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was the fastest in this session, at 228.653 mph. Other than the open IndyCar test at IMS, Carpenter, who only races ovals, hasn’t been in the race car since last year. He said “There is always more you can get done, but today was a really good start. The baseline setup was good and we were able to work through everything that we wanted to try today not only on my car, but the other two as well. There will be a lot of data to go through tonight. Certainly there are areas for improvement. All things considered, where we are starting Day 1, speed-wise and race setup-wise, we are in a decent place. We tried a couple of different things today that were interesting and still need to be explored, but I am excited for the rest of the week.”

In these sessions, team drivers are allowed to get into each other cars for shakedowns. An example of this was James Hinchcliffe getting into the all three of his teammates Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Hondas. Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet shook down the No.31 Chevrolet of his Rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward.

Seven drivers were in cars for the for Rookies & Refreshers. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet was the fastest, at 223.344 mph. In the overall group of the second session

Patricio O'Ward No.31 Carlin Chevrolet

By the end of the day, all 36 Indy 500 drivers were on course during one or more session, and some drivers in more than one car. If my calculations are correct, more than 3,000 laps were turned Tuesday. One driver who didn’t run in the last open session for all cars was Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet. He was experiencing car trouble … still, and hasn’t passed all levels of his Rookie Orientation Program. He will be allowed to practice Wednesday morning at 10:20am, prior to the open session at 11am. In the meantime, his Carlin teammate, Max Chilton, drove 13 laps in the car in the last session, coming in 35th of the 39 times posted. O’Ward said “We were hoping for a better start to our month of May, but unfortunately, we had a gearbox issue early in the rookie practice that took us back to the garage for the rest of the ROP (Rookie Orientation Program). The team was able to fix the issue, but we just didn’t have enough time for me to make it back out and get through everything we needed to for me to join the rest of the field in the final practice this afternoon.”

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Colton Herta

Simon Pagenaud No.22 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Helio Castroneves/No.3 Chevrolet; Carlton Herta/No.88 Honda; and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

In the All session, Ed Carpenter was fastest from the start, based on his morning fast lap. That lasted until 4:35pm, when Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet pipped his time, at 229.745 mph. The top four drivers remained the same for much of the session: Carpenter, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda & Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda. And then, before Power topped the charts, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet worked his way into this small group.

The final top five lineup was: Power, Pagenaud, Carpenter, Castroneves and Herta – who was the top Rookie and the top Honda. Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 128.

Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Chevrolet

One car looks different than originally planned. The No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet is all white, with no sponsor livery. Unfortunately, the team has lost its two main sponsors, which have “withdrawn. Kaiser said the team is actively looking for sponsors and whatever they can get will go on the car. If nothing materializes, they will do something fun with the car. “Yeah, from my mindset, it doesn’t change no matter what’s on the car, if there’s nothing on the car, if the car is covered in sponsors, which obviously is what we’d love. But for now, I go out there and I drive the car as best I can and put the car at the front every chance we can, and hopefully, if we perform the way we’re supposed to perform, then we’ll have people coming in to get on the side of the car.

“Actively we are looking for sponsors to be on the side of the car, because that’s what keeps the car going the track, obviously, but, regardless, the cars, if we qualify for the race, we’ll be in the race. I don’t feel like my confidence is contingent on what the car says or what the car looks like. If that was the case, I wouldn’t be a very good driver if my driving depended on what color the car was. So I go out there, I do my job, I drive the car as fast as it can go, and I let the business end take care of itself.”

Another somewhat naked white car is No.81 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet driven by Ben Hanley of England. And the No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, driven by Rookie Jordan King of England could use more livery.

Those three drivers turned the fewest laps of the last session: Kaiser-10; Hanley-14, and King-42. They all turned more laps in the ROP/Refresher session: Kaiser-49, King-82, and and Hanley-44.

No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet

Ben Hanley's No.81 Chevrolet

Jordan King No.42  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda

There was three cautions for debris, and one for Herta, when he spun at Pit Exit and stopped on course with a flat tire. He said “It was not fun. I guess just bit off a little bit more than I could chew. Was just trying to creep up to pit exit and pushed a little too hard and caught me out. We also did a front wing change which I don’t think had anything to do with it, but yeah, just carried a little bit more speed than I had been and spun out. The Total down time was 28.40 minutes.

Will Power

Kyle Kaiser

Colton Herta

Power, Herta and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet met with the media at day’s end. Power was asked about the speeds being higher. “The speeds — I think the speeds are — yeah, maybe a little quicker by yourself. All the big speeds came from big tows. The tire that — what INDYCAR wanted Firestone to do with the tire is exactly what it has done, which is help that front work off the corner so you can follow closer, and you’ve just to obviously get your car to work around that.

“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to judge the true speeds of cars right now by themselves. You don’t know what aero configuration people are running, whether they’re doing qualifying sims or they’re in race trim. We don’t know where we stack up, honestly, as far as true speed.”

Kaiser was pleased to breeze through his Refresher program this morning.”It went exactly how we hoped it would be for the most part. I mean, we went out, had to do the 210 (phase), the 215 (phase). Obviously initially we had to make sure everything was working properly. We hadn’t been out here since last year. Make sure everything feels right, obviously the new tire compounds and everything.

“We went through that, we got to try some different aero pieces and wanted to make sure they all read the same, and it went really smoothly. I was just overall happy with how the car felt. It felt very similar to last year, and last year we had a lot of pace, so I think it’s all feeling really positive going into the rest of the week.”

Herta said “I think today we were more towards trying to figure out the race car, and that’s how I want to kind of go, because if we can — I think we have a good qualifying car already. We were kind of fast on our own. I was really struggling in traffic, though, and that’s when it’s going to count, in the race. I think we have a good enough car to make the show and then to compete in the race is another thing.

“Just focusing on the race car mostly and getting some qualifying runs in in the morning and then the rest of the morning, all afternoon trying to work on the race car.”

While the Indy Lights Series is struggling to fill the fields, it’s quality not quantity. The series still remains the best stepping stone to IndyCar. Patricio O’Ward is the latest Indy Lights Scholarship Winner, utilizing his 2018 Championship to help fund his partial IndyCar season. Twenty-four of this year’s Indy 500 drivers are graduates of the Indy Lights Series. They are:

Indy Lights logo

Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, Kyle Kaiser, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Matheus Leist, Pippa Mann, Josef Newgarden, Patricio O’Ward, Spencer Pigot, Felix Rosenqvist, Oriol Servia, and Zach Veach.

The track opens officially at 11am Wednesday morning for an open session for all drivers. Rookie O’Ward will get extra time to complete his ROP, starting at 10:20am.

Tire Display

SIMON SAYS!

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo MatamorosSimon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet put on a passing clinic for all to see Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he won the sixth annual IndyCar Grand Prix. He made smooth move after smooth move in the rain, passing the cars who were in front of him after the last restart. Pagenaud, who started eighth, lived up to his words said after qualifying “I enjoy driving in the rain, so we will put on a good show tomorrow.” After the race, he said “I love racing in the rain. I grew up on it in racing. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Simon Pagenaud

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Simon Pagenaud

Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Simon Pagenaud

This is the third IndyCar Grand Prix win for Pagenaud, and his 12th IndyCar victory. His last win was 22 races ago at the Sonoma season finale. Todays victory marks the fifth straight IndyCar Grand Prix win for Team Penske, and its 205th IndyCar win. Pagenaud won the first one racing for Schmidt Motorsports. Pagenaud said “It was amazing the whole race. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I thought everyone was saving fuel; I was just so fast. Chevy did a fantastic job giving us the horsepower. Third time – I’m equal with Will (Power). That’s awesome; we kept it in the Penske family. I can’t believe it; it’s awesome. What a race!” He led twice, for five laps.

Scott Dixon

Runner up for the third straight year was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who lost the lead to Pagenaud on Lap 84 of the 85-lap race. Dixon led three times for 39 laps – the most of any leader. This is the third straight runner-up position for Dixon this season, and third consecutive time time he’s finished runner up in this race. ” It was a tricky race. It sucks to obviously lead that many laps and come up short, but again, congrats to Simon (Pagenaud), he drove a hell of a race and it’s nice to see him back in Victory Lane.”

Jack Harvey

Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda came in third, his first podium and highest IndyCar finish. This was Harvey’s first time running the road course race. “It wasn’t an easy race, but we put on a great show for everyone. It’s my first podium in IndyCar and I can’t wait to keep this momentum going for the 500. You can see how happy these guys are about getting a podium, imagine how happy they will be when we finally get a win!”

Podium. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud & Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Podium. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud & Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Weather was the concern all afternoon. The race started in the dry, which then segued into drizzle and finally into rain, causing drivers to scramble to put on wets. This was one of the more exciting races this season, with 11 lead changes among six leaders. Most lead changes were during pit stops, except for the final one which provided drama and suspense. Would Pagenaud be able to overtake Harvey and Dixon for a much needed victory? He did, smoothly for the most part and with a little rubbing with Dixon for the final pass. The Margin of Victory was 2.0469 seconds.

Matheus Leist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Matheus Leist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Also having his best IndyCar finish was Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, coming in fourth, after starting 21st. He gained the most positions-17-of any driver in the race. Leist had been running third near the end of the race, having made some smooth passing moves on veterans. Then Pagenaud put the move on him after the last restart, and Leist finished fourth. “Just finished our best result here in IndyCar. It’s an awesome place to have my best finish in IndyCar. And about the race, it was just another tough one. We started from 21st and it had been a pretty tough weekend here until the race. But the good thing about this team is that we never gave up and we always kept going, we always kept working hard and trying to improve as much as we could. Today before the race I was like ‘Man, today I want the rain to come so we might have a shot here.’ I was probably the only one on the team who wanted it to rain, and when it started raining and I was restarting the race in P4 I knew we had a shot. I knew we could stay there and finish up there and that’s exactly what happened. Just so glad for the team.”

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot/No.21 Autogeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet finished fifth. He started 12th, gaining seven positions in the results. “It was a really tricky race that threw everything at us. I had a lot of fun as I was able to pass a lot of guys in the dry and I thought our pace was really strong. The rain was teasing us the whole race. The team made a great call to go on the wets when we did as we were able to jump a handful of cars. I’m happy with fifth and it was a good, strong finish for me. Ed Carpenter Racing has done a great job and I want to thank ECR, Autogeek and Chevy for all their hard work.”

Felix Rosenqvist

Felix Rosenqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda led the first fifteen laps before being passed by Dixon. He finished eighth, the top placing Rookie of five in the race. He said “It was a tough race, with a lot of things happening. It was kind of bad timing on some things, we had some bad luck and we had some errors here and there. I think the main point for us was we were still having issues with degradation in the front on red (Firestone alternate) tires mainly. I don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s something we are looking into. We came out toward the back on the wet tires, and I think we managed to get four or five guys in the end and ended up P8.”

Colton Herta incident

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

There was the expected scuffle in Turn One on the first lap. Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the unlucky victim of the fracas, and he required rescue. He apologized to his crew for the short run. “Today was another disappointing day on the racetrack. The No. 88 GESS International guys can keep their heads up high because it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The guys worked flawlessly all weekend again and provided me a great car for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. I’m tired of not finishing a race, so hopefully, we get a good finish for the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month.”

Patricio O'Ward in traffic

Patricio O’Ward in traffic. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet received a Drive-Thru penalty for avoidable contact on Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti, which caused Rossi to limp to pits for repairs. Rossi finished 21st, four laps down, and O’Ward finished 19th, the last car running. He ran as high as second at one point.

Marcus Ericsson

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun and hit the wall in Turn 14 on Lap 11, bringing out the first caution. Ericsson retired, uninjured. “We were struggling a bit to get close on the straights, so we were trying to get as close as possible through (Turn) 14, and I think I just got a bit too close and lost a bit of front downforce, understeer then snapped into oversteer and I just couldn’t catch it.

Ryan Hunter-reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

The second caution was again in Turn One, this time for Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who was hit by James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. RHR was rescued and Hinch had to serve a Drive Thru penalty for avoidable contact. O’Ward got caught out in this also, but continued on. Hinchcliffe came in 16th and Hunter-Reay finished 17th.

The last caution was for Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. He spun on cold slicks on a wet track in Turn One. He finished 21st, two laps down.

The race was scheduled for 85 laps or two hours – whichever came first. It ran for 85 laps and lasted 2:00.28.1166 hours. Other leaders were Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet, who led twice for 20 laps, and remains the Points Leader; Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda. There was periods of heavier rain, and a mad scramble of drivers pitting for rain tires. Rooster tails could be seen on the straights.

Rooster Tails. Photo by Pablo MatamorosRooster Tails. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rooster Tails. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The grass is really as lush and green as it appeared on TV, thanks to all that Indiana rain.

OFFICIAL RESULTS

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

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

3. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running

4. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running

5. (12) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running

6. (5) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 85, Running

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

8. (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running

9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running

10. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running

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

12. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running

13. (23) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running

14. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running

15. (13) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

16. (18) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

17. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running

18. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running

19. (19) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running

20. (24) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running

21. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 83, Running

22. (17) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 81, Running

23. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 15, Contact

24. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 11, Contact

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

WARMING UP

This is May Wall Art

“This is May” Wall Art. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Although it was only 57 degrees F at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday mid-morning, it seemed warmer than Frigid Friday … at first. Then the wind kicked it up a notch. With the sun full out and shining brightly, it was deceptive. By the time for the half-hour NTT IndyCar Series warm-up on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, there were clouds moving in over the front straight grand stands. One popular place in the sunshine was posing in front of the big “This is May” wall art hanging at the base of the Pagoda, near Victory Circle.

Rookie Colin Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the fastest in the morning warmup session, at 1:09.2003/126.884 mph. He was among several leaders, but held the position the longest and to the end. Other fast drivers included Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, and Max Chilton/No.59 Carlin Chevrolet. All drivers were faster in the second practice than Saturday’s warmup.

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda teammates-Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic and Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Graham Rahal

Max Chilton

Sebastien Bourdais

Left to Right: Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, and Max Chilton. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Carlin Racing cars, No.31 Patricio O'Ward and No.59 Max Chilton Chevrolet

All but one of the drivers went out. Chilton’s Rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet was suited up in the pits but didn’t go out. He has consistently turned the fewest laps. The team said there were alternator issues, they were being fixed and O’Ward would able to race. O’Ward told NBC TV “It’s been a crappy weekend.” His Carlin teammate has been out for every session, turned more laps, and was fastest for a bit Saturday. For the Indy 500 there will be a third driver joining Carlin – another part-timer like O’Ward. That would be Charlie Kimball, who will drive No.23 Flasp Carlin Chevrolet.

O’Ward has joined the Red Bull Junior Team, a driver development team formed in 2001. From it have come several F1 drivers including Pierre Gasly, Christian Klein, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Riccardo, Max Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull sponsors the drivers in lower formula series. There currently are ten drivers on the team. O’Ward will continue out his partial IndyCar season with Carlin Racing. He said he joined the RBJT with “the intention of keeping the possibilities open to expand his racing portfolio in the future.” Reportedly, Christian Horner, principal for Red Bull F1 Racing team, confirmed O’Ward has enough points to qualify for a FIA Super Licence, which is required to race F1. Carlin said O’Ward earned 15 of the required 40 points by winning the 2018 Indy Lights Championship. The whole handling of Super Licences is governed by Appendix L of the FIA Sporting Code, and Supplement 1. Stay tuned.

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport has been battling an awful case of food poisoning this weekend. However, he was well enough to run as high as second before finishing 12th in the session. He said he was feeling a lot better.

Robert Wickens

Robert Wickens and friend

A welcome sight in the garages was Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver, Robert Wickens, who was in a wheelchair. He was engrossed in a convo, so I was unable to ask him about the special exo suit he was using in his rehabilitation.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Garage

Chip Ganassi Racing Garage

A.J. Foyt Racing Garage

This year another team has adopted the sideways garage format for the race cars, emulating the style started by Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports last year. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now is using it. They also are adopting what all the F1 teams have been doing for awhile – decorating the back wall of the garage mural style. Other teams doing it are Chip Ganassi Racing and AJ Foyt Racing, as well as Clauson-Marshall Racing.

One of the busiest garages Saturday morning, in the bright sunshine, was Firestone’s. They were busy prepping rain tires for the teams.

Firestone Garage

Firestone Rain Tires

Most of the Gasoline Alley garages have their signage up and displaying. However, Garages 14 and 15 are noticeably bare, for the time being. They belong to Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who have one more driver to announce, for No.77 Honda. That announcement is scheduled for 5pm Monday at Gate One at the track. Some people reckon it might be Oriol Servia, who was seen at the recent Honda test at IMS, in a team suit. As they say – film at 11.

Garage 14

Inside Garage 14

The weather started changing early afternoon, with a total cloud cover in place before the afternoon festivities started. Maybe the weather is responsible for the Internet poltergeists who have been jijacking bandwidth, leaving folks without email for hours on end and otherwise disrupting valuable media functions.

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

FAST FELIX POLES INDY GP

Felix Rosenvqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Felix Rosenvqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda earned his first-ever NTT IndyCar pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Frigid Friday. His fast lap was 108.2785/128.597 mph. His previous best start was third at St. Pete. This is the 90th IndyCar pole position for Chip Ganassi Racing. “We’ve been up there all day. The NTT Honda car has been amazing. The first two laps I didn’t really feel like I had a grip and the the final ap there was just something switching on and I was like ‘OK, this could be good’ Bt honestly I didn’t think it was going to be. It is so tight and I looked up at the screen and we were P1 and I just prayed it was going to hold but, yeah, fantastic day. Thanks to my team.”

Felix Rosenqvist

Chip Ganassi & Barry Wanser

Felix Rosenqvist & Firestone Firehawk

Left to Right: Felix Rosenqvist; Team Owner Chip Ganassi & Team Manager Barry Wanser; and Felix Rosenqvist. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Making it a Ganassi front row was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Honda, who was just 0.0194 seconds behind.

Third through sixth were Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda; Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda; Ed Jones/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet; and the defending race winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Felix Rosenqvist

Scott Dixon

Jack Harvey

Colin Herta

Ed Jones

Will Powero

Left to Right: Felix Rosenqvist-Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, Colin Herta, Ed Jones and Will Power.

The Firestone Fast Six represent five different race teams. The top three Fast Six times were less than Herta’s top time in the second practice. The qualifying track record remains 1:07.7044/129.687 mph set in May 2017 by Will Power.

The weather remained overcast and cold – 53 degrees with a wind chill factor. It never warmed up all day.

The rain forecast remains a topic. IndyCar can declare the race to be a Rain Race. Also, if three cars from three different teams put on rain tires, the rest of the field may also use rain tires. They aren’t required to do so, but the rules requiring the use of Primary and Alternative tires are not in play.

Some takeaways from Friday’s qualifying session: Only one Penske Chevy driver – Power – made the cut into the Fast Six; and two didn’t make it past the first round – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske starts eighth. Team Penske has dominated all five of this road course race, with Power winning three times from the pole; and Pagenaud winning twice, once from the pole. Herta was the only Andretti driver of four to make it past the first round.

Josef Newgarden

Helio Castroneves

Simon Pagenaud

Power said “I think we’ve been on the back foot all day, honestly. But man, I wasn’t even close in the final session and I was killing myself out there for position six. But that is what we’re dealing with now. It is so competitive out there and if you are a little bit out of the window, you are going to struggle. I’m not sure where we are missing it. But I can promise you we are going to go to work and figure it out” Castroneves said “Going out on reds twice was the strategy that we decided early on to see if we were going to e able to make the next ro nd. We’re not in the points or anything. We are just looking to make the Indy500, so it was a good gamble to find out what we could do. Plus, it collects information for our teammates for the setups on the reds. Unfortunately, it did not work out.” Newgarden said “I am not sure where we are missing it. But I can promise you, we are going to work and try and figure out where you can do better. And it might rain, so it could be a crapshoot either way.” Pagenaud said “This was the best lap I could have done, we just need to find a little bit more. And if it rains tomorrow, you just have to adapt. It’s the same for everyone. I enjoy driving in the rain, so we will put on a good show.”

Zach Veach

Marco Andretti

Alexander Rossi

Left to Right: Zach Veach, Marco Andretti, and Alexander Rossi. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda said “It was a confusing qualifying today. I think as a team we’re kind of struggling a bit. But we’re all back there, my teams are there, we’re sharing the back half of the grid, so we just have to figure out what’s going on for tomorrow.” Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda said “We have some homework to do overnight.” Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda said “It was a strange qualifying effort today. Pair our starting position with the food poisoning I’m battling, and it’s not an afternoon to remember.” Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda said “Really disappointing qualifying today for the team.”

Pagoda

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

Rank Car Driver Name C/E/T Time Speed Session

1….. 10. Rosenqvist, Felix. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.2785. 128.597. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
2….. 9. Dixon, Scott. D/H/F. 01:08.2979. 128.560. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
3….. 60. Harvey, Jack. D/H/F. 01:08.3238. 128.512. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
4….. 88. Herta, Colton. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.3743. 128.417. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
5….. 20. Jones, Ed. D/C/F. 01:08.4609. 128.254. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
6….. 12. Power, Will. D/C/F. 01:08.7901. 127.640. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
7….. 15. Rahal, Graham. D/H/F. 01:08.2153. 128.716. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8….. 22. Pagenaud, Simon. D/C/F. 01:08.2445. 128.661. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9….. 7. Ericsson, Marcus. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.2497. 128.651. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10….. 18. Bourdais, Sebastien. D/H/F 01:08.2998 128.557 Elim.ination Round 2 / Top 12
11 …. 30 Sato, Takuma D/H/F 01:08.3300 128.500 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12….. 21 Pigot, Spencer D/C/F 01:08.4697 128.238 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13….. 2 Newgarden, Josef D/C/F 01:08.6240 127.949 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 …. 19 Ferrucci, Santino (R) D/H/F 01:08.4499 128.275 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15….. 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/F 01:08.6497 127.902 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16….. 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/F 01:08.6235 127.950 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17….. 27 Rossi, Alexander D/H/F 01:08.6994 127.809 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18….. 5 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/F 01:08.7710 127.676 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19….. 31 O’Ward, Patricio (R) D/C/F 01:08.7487 127.717 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20….. 26 Veach, Zach D/H/F 01:08.8170 127.591 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21….. 4 Leist, Matheus D/C/F 01:08.7751 127.668 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
22….. 59 Chilton, Max D/C/F 01:08.9572 127.331 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
23….. 98 Andretti, Marco D/H/F 01:08.8995 127.438 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
24….. 14 Kanaan, Tony D/C/F 01:09.1230 127.026 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

(R) Rookie

ROOKIES RULE!

Colin Herta. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Colin Herta. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Colin Herta/No.98 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda grabbed the top spot for the second NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday noon for the IndyCar Grand Prix, turning a 1:08.0393 for 129.049 mph. He said “I’m super happy!” And again it was breezy and cold-53 degrees F. Ask any photographer who was out for the 45-minute session. Brrr.

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest, followed by Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.All but Dixon led the laps at once time or another, with Herta holding on the longest. Also fastest at one point early on was Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Sebastien Bourdais

Scott Dixon

Takuma Sato

Left to Right: Sebastien Bourdais; Scott Dixon; and Takuma Sato. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

All but two of the drivers eclipsed the morning fastest time, and all 24 were fastest in the second practice than the first. Again, it was double-digit laps, from 13-23. Rosenqvist turned the most laps in each session, for a total of 46.

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Marcus Ericsson

Santino Ferrucci

There was one brief Red Flag for Ed Jones/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet when he ran out of gas and didn’t quite make Pit Row. Otherwise the session was uneventful.

Four of the five Rookies were in the top 11 drivers: Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was ninth, and Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda was eleventh.

Helio CastronevesToday is the big 44 for Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Happy Birthday, Helio!

Next up is qualifying and the Firestone Fast Six.

OFF TO A POWERFUL START

Will Power.  Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is building on his IndyCar Grand Prix momentum to grab the top spot seconds away from the Checkered Flag for the first practice of this year’s NTT IndyCar Series road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Looking to make it a third consecutive GP victory, he’s off to a good start at 1:09.2890. Second fastest was Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Third through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Top Rookie Felix Rosenquist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet. All but Newgarden took turns leading the pack. Also on top, for the longest time, was the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who finished ninth.

Spencer Pigot

Felix Rosenqvist

Josf Newgarden

Left to right: Spencer Pigot; Felix Rosenqvist; and Josef Newgarden. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

All 24 entries were on track, with double-digit laps turned – between 15 and 23 laps. There are five Rookies, ten Chevrolets and 14 Hondas.

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The weather was 51 degrees F, overcast, breezy and cold. But the track was dry after the aftermath of Thursday night’s rain storm. Not so the grass which was soggy. Rosenquist made it to the grass, but was able to get out alright. Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet spun and stalled in Turn Three. Otherwise, the session was drama-free.

Leadership Conference: Stephen Starks; Allison Melangton; Doug Boles & Jay Frye.

Leadership Conference: Stephen Starks; Allison Melangton; Doug Boles & Jay Frye.

The powers that be for the IndyCar Grand Prix met the media Friday morning to talk about the two events at the track and all that goes with in Indianapolis: IMS President, Doug Boles; IndyCar President Jay Frye; Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President, Allison Melangton, and IndyCar Vice President Stephen Starks. This year’s GP is the sixth annual road race, which runs clockwise on the Brickyard 2.439-mile, 14-turn course.

Frye said “We’ve had four different winners for the first four races, so we feel like we’re off to a really good start. One of the things we’ve worked hard on is a car count. For our first race we had 12 teams and 24 counts. So, a byproduct of that is here at the 500 we’ve got 36 cars.” He was asked about additional engine suppliers, and said “There’s nothing imminent to be announced, but we’re encouraged by the conversations we’re having.We’re encouraged by what they’re telling us. A lot of it is just timing. We’re confident that something is going to happen sooner than later.”

Boles was optimistic about this year’s GP turnout,and even more so about the Indy 500, saying “In terms of our attendance, things are trending up for tomorrow’s IndyCar Grand Prix. The numbers will be up this year. That says a lot about people getting used to this race being the kickoff for the month of May. It brings us more media attention, and it puts us on television two weeks out from the Indy 500, which is another opportunity to promote the Indianapolis 500 in this market. For us it it was never about cannibalizing. I think it was always about a way to elevate. And it’s a very easy weekend to get introduced to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.” And at the end of racing, when the track is cold, there is Track Invasion, when the fans can walk the track and stand on the Yard of Bricks.

“The Indy 500 is going to be up again, I think, for 2019. I think you attribute that to the excitement of the NTT IndyCar Series and the product that they put on a display in the Indy 500 has been some of the best racing in our 103 years. We have somebody that comes from every state in the United States, and almost 30 plus countries from around the world.”

Regarding the dire weather forecast for Saturday, i.e. rain, Boles said “The beauty of it is that it’s on a road course. Unless there’s electrical, we’ll run Saturday in the rain. Some of the most spectacular racing in the world is an IndyCar on wet pavement, the rooster tails, you really see the talent of the drivers, and when you think about the rain, they’re going slower, it’s unbelievable how fast they are in the rain. It’s frightening how fast they are in the rain. Right now the forecast is for maybe a little bit of rain. And just let me remind everybody, it is Indiana, and I know we say that a lot. Until tomorrow abut 2:30, I won’t start worrying too much about the weather because I think we’ll be able to get this in. We have a full team helping us monitor the weather five days out, really going forward, and then minute by minute as events are going on. Weather should not deter you from coming to the track.”

For the GP weekend, Firestone tires supplies five sets of rains per entry, along with seven Primary sets and four Alternate sets. The alternates are only available at road or street courses. They’re higher grip but less durable than the Primarys.

Starts spoke about the new network partner. “NBC has just been a tremendous media partner already. NBC ran Indianapolis teasers and spots in the NFL playoff rounds, and it continued at The Derby. It goes well with the cross-integration that NBC has promised and delivered on. It continued through the NHL playoffs. Race-to-race promotion has been great.”

IndyCar has a second practice session, prior to qualifying.

INDY