FASTER FRIDAY

This is May!

Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway wasn’t as busy on track for the Verizon IndyCar drivers as perhaps had been expected. Happy Hour was only sparsely utilized. The weather was cloudy all day, never getting warmer than 75 degrees F or 81 degrees F on the track. There was one caution at 4:17pm for 18 minutes for sprinkles which came and went quite rapidly. The wind was light, but the humidity was high – almost double from Thursday.

Fast Friday is the day IndyCar allows 50 more hp to the drivers, and Friday drivers topped the 230 mph mark for the first time this week. They all turned their fastest times of the week Friday.

Marco Andretti/No.98 United Concrete Andretti Autosport Honda was the fastest Friday driver and for the week. He topped the charts for most of the day as his time was set in the morning. He wasn’t on track much of the afternoon. His top speed was 231.802 mph, but his No-Tow speed was only 227.817 mph – 12th fastest. He earned $10,000 from the Harding Group for the top Friday lap.

Andretti said “We’ve been feeling good actually, pretty good in traffic, which obviously the tow time shows that, and the car is close in race trim. I don’t know how much better we can get it. But qual trim alone, I’m not pleased with the car speed right now. I think we’re right on the bubble of the Top Nine to be honest. And I think it’s going to take us to nail it to get it in, as with probably five or six other guys, we’re going to be right there with them, and I think it’s going to be all about a third and fourth lap, and we’re just going to have to nail it and do everything right to get it in. Hopefully we can.”

Marco Andretti

Andretti, who often appears serious, had a nice smile when he came to the Media Center, and was asked if he had to kind of cheer up his father this week, who seemed to be a little concerned about how the car would react in qualifying and the race. Marco said “No, that’s not my job. I’m just focused on trying to be quickest every time out, and I’ll smile when I’m quickest every time out.”

Robert Wickens

Second was Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, who was the top Rookie.He said “Well, first off, I feel like I don’t fully deserve to be here. I mean, Fast Friday is for qualifying and all that stuff, but my very first lap of the day, two people came out of the pits in front of me, and I just got like this insane tow that got me to where I am. Honestly, we have a lot of work to do. I think we’re okay by ourselves here on Fast Friday, but we’re definitely, in my opinion, on the outskirts of the Fast Nine, which is my goal for tomorrow.”

Third through fifth fastest were Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc RLL Honda; and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power

Power was the top driver with No-Tow, and he set his lap earlier in the day – 229.780 mph. Second through fifth fastest with No-Tow were Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet; Carpenter, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Wickens was the Top Rookie in the group, placing tenth. All the top five set their fastest NT laps early on.

Andretti was the fastest for the week. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda turned the most laps for the week – 343. The fewest laps were run by Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet – 150.

Kyle Kaiser No.32 Chevrolet

Rookie Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps Friday at 62, while Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda turned the fewest – 11.

Happy Hour was lonely. The last quarter hour no cars were on track while the clock ticked down, and there weren’t that many cars before.

The Qualifying Draw was held immediately after Happy Hour, with noted motorsports broadcaster, Bob Jenkins, conducting the drawing. With all the T (backup) Cars included, there were 70 draws. The first non-T car/driver will be Rookie Claman de Melo. The last qualifying spot was drawn by Carpenter.

Alexander Rossi Time Card

Saturday when Qualifying starts, the times will be posted on a big board at the front of the Media Center, near the Interview Area. Getting all prepared for this has taken Calligrapher Julie Cordes the past three days getting the signs ready. This year’s signs have more detail options including space for logos, and indications of past Indy 500 Winners with year.

Qualifying Board

This is the third year for Cordes making and organizing the visual Qualification process. She was ‘drafted’ by Bill York. She hails from Indianapolis, and is between gigs with her full-time job as organizer of PGA Tours. Cordes enjoys this job and will be here during the weekend. Then she’s done and can enjoy the race atmosphere before she goes back to work.

The track was never busy much of the day, with only a few going out at a time. There were some times when it was empty. What was busy was Gasoline Alley, with teams working on their race cars, trimming and dialing. Then the cars would be off to Tech and then back to the garage or to the Pit Lane.

Graham Rahal No.15 Honda

Zach Veach No.26 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

The drivers had time to make public appearances with sponsors around various track venues, hang out near their garages and meet the public.

Takuma Sato with Flat Stanley

Jay Howard

Sebastien Bourdais

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet - before

James Davison No.33 Chevrolet – before

James Davison

The drama of the day was provided by James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt with Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet. He lost it on the low groove and drifted up and banged the wall rear and front, causing signifiant damage including gearbox. It probably can be repaired overnight, but it will be a thrash. Davison is OK. He had turned 37 laps for the day and was 34th overall, and 35th with No-Tow. Earlier he had whizzed to the Pit Lane on his electric skate board.

Five Hundred Fashion Friday Fashionista

Friday was also #500FashionFridays. It’s a city-wide initiative and fans are encouraged to show their race fervor at the track, and around town, at work and such by wearing black and white/checkered flag attire. Maybe it was the weather, but at the track I didn’t see much of that going on.

Saturday’s activities start early, with 8am practice for the VICS drivers, and qualifying starts at 11am. The weather forecast isn’t cheery – showers 8-11am turning to scattered thunderstorms the rest of the afternoon. However, on the bright side – the forecast hasn’t always been right so far.

FAST FRIDAY!

Pagoda & Indy sign

Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is perhaps the busiest day of the Indy 500 experience. Although the Verizon IndyCars don’t take to the track until 11am, there are activities starting early on. In the Media Center there are back-to-back press conferences, with various teams, for announcements and awards presentations.

In the garages the teams are beavering away trying to get the last little inch of performance into the car so the drivers can work on speed today, in preparation for Saturday’s Qualifying. IndyCar will give the teams a turbocharge increase for Fast Friday.

Weather is a concern. At 10am it was 65 degrees F and cloudy, 68 percent humidity and 10 mph winds. By 11am, it 66 degrees F and the rain chances moved from 2-3pm. Forecast is for 73 F as a Friday high, But the rain chances are less than 100 percent and vary hour by hour. Showers could hit and run and not cause too much of a disruption. With Indianapolis, you won’t know until five minutes after it’s happened.

Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda missed his Friday morning presser as he’s a bit under the weather.

Zachary Claman De Melo

Monday Dale Coyne announced that Zachary Clamon De Melo would replace the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in the No.19 PaySafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda. And De Melo’s flag is hanging outside the grandstands, replacing Fittipaldi’s flag which hung during the GP week. Fittipaldi broke his left leg and right ankle. He’s in Indianapolis being treated by Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar medical consultant. Fittipaldi is undergoing rigorous rehab now and was at the track Thursday. Fittipaldi is staying in his motorhome at the track, so he can be with the team and involved with the race, and is also close to Dr Trammel and the medical center.

Dale Coyne

When I spoke with Coyne last week about the outreach he received regarding the open seat, he said his phone rang off the hook. He had at least 35 different drivers/teams wanting a chance for the ride. It is hoped Fittipaldi will be back in the car for the Mid-Ohio race and perhaps finish the season. Coyne is moving around races with Claman De Melo, who will probably do the Texas race.

The full field of 35 cars has been practicing three days already, with only one driver not going out Tuesday afternoon – Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. He was on track for the rest of the sessions and turned a total of 118 laps for the week so far – the fewest of any driver.

Turning the most laps overall so far was Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda.

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marco Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Overall, Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Autosport Honda has been the fastest driver at 227.053 mph and he’s run 260 laps. He turned his fastest lap time on Wednesday and it’s held. Second through fifth overall were Dixon; Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, who was the top Rookie; and Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Tuesday’s fastest overall driver was Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet at 225.787 mph. Second through fifth were Helio Castroneves/No.3 PennzoilTeam Penske Chevrolet; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Jay Howard/No.7 One Cure SPM Honda; and Dixon. Wickens was the top Rookie.

Tuesday there was a two-hour morning session for Rookie Orientation Program, which Claman De Melo passed. It also served as a Refresher Course for James Davison/No.33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Foyt w/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi Chevrolet, Oriol Servia/No.64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc w/RHL Honda, and Stefan Wilson/No.25 #Driven2SaveLives Andretti Autosport Honda. Carpenter turned the fastest No-Tow time at 221.564 mph. The day was run without incident, despite stopping for 71 minutes due to light rain and lightning.

Wednesday’s fastest five drivers was Andretti, Dixon, Sato, Wickens, and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Racing Chevrolet. Wickens was the top Rookie. Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet was the fastest driver without a tow, at 223.048 mph. There was no drama, just the usual cautions for debris on track. The weather was beautiful.

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zachary Claman De Melo. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Thursday’s fastest driver was Rahal at 226.047 mph. Second through fifth were Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; Andretti; Carpenter and Sage Karam/No.24WIX Filters DRR Chevrolet. Top Rookie was Claman De Melo. Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the top driver without a tow, at 223.971 mph.

Thursday was the first time a caution was thrown for an on-track incident – within the last twenty minutes of Happy Hour. JR Hildebrand/No.66 Salesforce DRR Chevrolet had a problem with the car in Turn Three. He skimmed the SAFER Barrier, then slid along the wall and stopped in Turn Four. JR was afraid he would go down the track in the groove, so he drove the car into the wall to stay there for most of the time. Then it slid down to the apron, where the front wings got under the tub. The damage was limited to front wings which got under the tub and minor left side damage. Hildebrand was unhurt and was cleared to drive. He said “We weren’t that deep into the run and we had something happen in Turn 3 with the car. We are still analyzing what might have happened. The car felt out of the ordinary. I didn’t feel like I was losing the car at all. I thought for sure I could save the car, which is why I’m a little confused on what happened.”

JR Hildebrand No.66 Chevrolet

The fastest speeds so far this week were set in traffic with a tow. It’s a decidedly different scenario when a driver is running without a tow – as they will be for Qualifying. Drivers tried hard to get into track positions for a solo run, but it wasn’t easy. Rahal said Thursday “Stefan Wilson came out in front of me. He was at the end of the back straight as I was going out of (Turn) 2. I thought, for once I’m just going to stay in it (on the accelerator). Not normally my M.O., but I thought I might as well put a good one up there, at least lower my dad’s blood pressure for the night.”

The Indycar Race Control Live Streaming T&S on a laptop shows the tow and no-tow speeds, unlike most of the T&S screens seen in various other platforms. The No-Tow speed doesn’t appear in the IndyCar-released results.

The teams are hoping for a full afternoon Friday of track time.

VICS Banners

WHISTLIN’ DIXIE

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was the fastest Verizon IndyCar driver Saturday noon for the warmup leading to the IndyCar GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His lap was 1.10.8157

Max Chilton. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Max Chilton. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was second fastest, followed by Ryan Hunter-Ready/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet.

Other leaders were Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and King.

All 24 cars were on course. The weather was overcast, 78 degrees F and wind 12 mph.

Marco Andretti Crew changing engine

Marco Andretti/No.98 Honda pulled off into Turn One with a smoking engine on Lap Three, bringing out a Red Flag. His car visibly slowed going down the front straight. He blew his engine, which the crew changed as soon as he got back to the pits. The clock kept ticking during the incident, and the Red Flag time was 7.33 minutes. Race Control added five minutes to the end of the session. Andretti only had two laps and finished last. The loss of warmup laps put him at the bottom of list of laps completed for the weekend – 35.

Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda continued to lead the charts in terms of laps completed. He ran 57 for the weekend.

A second Red Flag was called a minute later for wildlife in Turn 12. Rescue trucks were dispatched to shoo a small flock of geese. But they just landed on another track section, where they danced and cavorted around. The cameramen had a field day portraying the antics. On the ground, that would be a gaggle. In the air they would be a skein. The gaggle became a skein. This Red Flag lasted 3.83 minutes.

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Graham Rahal. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Gaham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda tested the grass and continued. He finished fourteenth.

It was all stop or go racing, with no cautions for the session.

Castroneves sat out the final five minutes of the half-hour session, as he took the Checkered Flag twice in qualifying.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

This GP will be the 288th consecutive race for Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet ranking him second overall behind the 329 consecutive races for Scott Dixon.

For Race Day, the mobile TV personnel on the ground get an assigned Security Guard, who facilitates a clear path to wherever the broadcaster has to go. I confirmed with one well-known ABC TV pit reporter that the Guards are invaluable in ensuring the shortest/safest path is maneuvered, and that the governors on their golf carts are removed to speed the transit.

The weather continued to be a concern. The predicted afternoon thunderstorms moved northward and the track was dry for Saturday racing.The predictions were for high heat, but the wind – which felt stronger than the listed 1 mph – tempered the heat considerably. It was only been mid seventies all morning, with track temperatures in the mid eighties.

The Mazda Road To Indy support series had qualifying and races Saturday morning.

Alex Baron/No.19 started on the front row and won the first USF2000 Royal Purple GP of Indy He took over the lead from Pole sitter, Rookie Kyle Kirkwood/No.12 , who led the first eight laps. Kirkwood came in second, followed by two more Rookies – Jose Sierra/No.15 and Jamie Caroline/No.28. Finishing fifth was Kory Enders/No.11. There were two cautions for five laps for accidents: Lucas Kohl/No.22 in Turn Four, and Rookies Oscar DeLuzuriaga/No.38 and Michael d’Orlando in Turn Eight. Twenty-three of the 26 starters finished the race, twenty of them on the lead lap.

Rookie Scott Harrison/No.10 RP Motorsport Racing started third and took the lead in Lap 16 to go on to win the 25-lap Pro Mazda Royal Purple GP of Indy. Pole Sitter/Rookie Oliver Askew/No.3 came in second, but never led any laps. Rookie VeeKay Rinus, who started on the front row, led twice for 13 laps and finished third. The other driver who led laps, Rookie David Malukas/No.79 BN Racing led for two laps after starting fourth. He finished seventh, and turned the fastest race lap of 107.876 mph/1.21.3931. Fourteen drivers started and 11 finished, all on the lead lap. Three drivers retired – one for contact – Sting Ray Robb/No.82 Team Pelfrey; and two for mechanical woes – Rookie Andres Gutierrez/No.81 Team Pelfrey and Rookie Megennis/No.9 Juncos Racing. There were two cautions for five laps to tow the wounded cars.

The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series had an exciting first race. The Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America has to be one of the longer race titles I’ve covered lately. The race may have lacked quantity of drivers, but it had quality of exciting racing. Andif you wonder where all the Lights teams are – check out the Indy 500 Entry List. Every team in Lights has a car or more running this year. Talk about Development Series – Indy Lights is the epitome of the concept.

Colin Herta

Colin Herta

Aaron Telitz

Aaron Telitz

Two of the seven drivers were Rookies – Pole sitter Pato O’Ward/No.27 Andretti Autosport and Victor Franzoni/No.23 Juncos Racing. Ward had the pole with Colton Herta/No.98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing beside him on the front row and Franzoni behind in third. There was a battle going into the first turn with a couple of cars going wide of the mark. Santi Urrutia/No.5 Belardi Auto Racing prevailed and led for the first half of the race, while Herta and O’Ward playing catchup. There were no cautions so it was Green Flag racing for 30 laps. Herta took over the lead on Lap 16 and held on for the finish. He also turned the fastest lap of 113.214 mph/77.5557).

Urrutia finished second and Aaron Telitz/No.9 Belardi Auto Racing was third. O’Ward finished fourth. All cars finished on the lead lap.

There must be mega media interest in the IMS events this weekend, as the WiFi just keeps getting slower and slower, making electronic transmissions of material problematical.

After the IndyCar GP there will be an authorized Track Invasion, with ten designated entry points.

VICS Driver Banners. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

VICS Driver Banners. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

POWER TO THE POLE … AGAIN

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by 

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet earned his third IndyCar Grand Prix pole position Friday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a lap of 1:09.8182/125.761 mph. The two previous times Power went on to win the race – in 2015 and last year. This is his 51st Verizon P1 pole position, breaking the tie he had with teammate Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet for third place in all-time poles. It’s only 16 to go to catch all-tie leader Mario Andretti at 67 poles. AJ Foyt has 53. Today marked the 258th pole position for Team Penske.

Power said he did have to dig deep on the last lap. “That was everything I had. We made a downforce adjustment after the first round when we saw how fast the other guys were, and kind of got close to them. Then, on used tires the car was really good. I’m stoked, really stoked.Good stuff.” Power only ran two laps in the Fast Six session – one on each set of tires. “That was the plan. I felt like that would give me the best chance because I think if you went two laps on one set, you’d probably lose out on the second lap, but yeah, the tire hung on really well. It felt as good as a new.”

During the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying Session, Power led at first, before Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda pipped him. Then just as quickly, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda took over the lead. Power grabbed it back at the end as the clocked ticked off.

Wickens and Bourdais finished second and third, respectively, with Wickens as the top Rookie. Fourth through sixth were James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, and Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The entire field of 24 cars was covered by 0.9212 seconds.The fastest car went 125.761 mph, while the slowest one was 124.123 mph. That’s only a difference of 1.638 mph. Pretty competitive bunch! Power said “I’m not surprised at all. You look at the competition, the guys that are up here, it’s totally expected. Young guys are coming in, rookies are really fast, and obviously guys that have been around a long time and won championships. I mean, it’s just the tightest field there’s ever been in IndyCar, and the level of the teams is the best it’s ever been, so it’s no surprise the way it is right now.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

For the first time in three years, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda failed to advance out of the first qualifying round. He will start 18th. “The PNC Bank car actually wasn’t too bad earlier this morning in cooler conditions. We took a pretty hefty swing at it for qualifying, but the car didn’t feel like it had speed – it was just sort of on top of the track. That condition got worse as it got hotter and hotter, unfortunately. We’ll get back to a setup we know and then try and take it from there. Today, it just seemed like the heat made everything worse for us.”

IndyCar GP Fast Six

In the Fast Six conference, it was difficult getting them to take themselves seriously – at least the five veterans-which included Wickens in this instance as he’s been around racetracks and for awhile. Rookie King was more serious, while the others were about as jolly as anyone has seen all of them together in a long time.(Except when someone tried to photograph them laughing.)

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais said he was “I had a really good run and was P1 for a portion. That was about as good of a lap as I was going to get. … It was a good run and just made a small mistake in the last run. The car was okay but just kind of average, and then we put the Firestone red tires on, and it definitely came to life. The car was perfect to begin with. I made a mistake in Q2; and in Q3 I made a little mistake. We’re a very limited-resource team, so good results means a lot. Hats off to the team, they did a great job. I’m looking forward to a trouble-free race.”

Robert Wickens/ Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickens/ Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Wickens, explaining how he and teammate Hinchcliffe get anything done when they joke around so much: “We normally get kicked out of the engineering office. Yeah, I think that they’re calling us the productivity sponge, kind of what’s going on when we joined the room. But I think there’s times to joke around and there’s times to work. I mean, we’re both professionals, even though we clown around a lot. We do okay. We get it done. It takes longer, but we get it done.” He added, “Great job by the SPM guys – we got both cars in the Firestone Fast Six. I’m a bit gutted with P2… We’re obviously in the front row, but when you lead the whole qualifying, you want to finish like that. It was close. I ended up losing a few hundredths (of a second) in the end, but I can see why – it wasn’t the tidiest lap. You have to do the perfect job to get the pole here, but I’m happy to be back in the Fast Six.”

King has made the Fast Six twice in his first four races, but was’t surprised. “I wouldn’t say I’ve surprised myself. I’m more just focusing on doing my own job and doing it at my own speed, and it’s proven to work. It’s not so much that I’m constantly looking at the timing and scoring and seeing where I am, I’m just getting on with it, and where I end up is where I end up.” He waited until (almost) the last minute to go out. “I was quite confident.”

James Hinchfliffe.Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

James Hinchfliffe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Hinchcliffe defended his agricultural maneuvers in the first session, saying “That was the plan. We were just practicing for if you get spun out in the race. I was just spinning out a lot to make sure my style was working.” But seriously folks … “It was a bad day to have a bad day with the compressed schedule, and we had a really bad Practice 2. We had some braking problems… we couldn’t develop the car at all. Luckily, we have a solid teammate in Robbie (Wickens), and he was quick in that second session. We were really able to lean on him and it shows.”

Joseph Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Joseph Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Newgarden said ” I think the big thing was getting in the Fast Six for us. Unfortunately that was kind of my goal. We’d been in the top 10, just kind of hovering in it. We haven’t been super strong this weekend, been kind of tentative throughout. So he put in a good lap, so congrats to him. That was a good lap he did at the end. I think we would have been okay.We ran out the one lap, had a huge lockup in Turn 1 with the rear, and then just didn’t really get to finish it. Not ultimately where we would have landed, but I think we were in that third or fourth range, so happy to be in the Fast Six.”

Sunday’s 85-lap race will be telecast live on ABC at 3:30pm ET/12;30pm PT.

Garage Sign

Photo by Nico Matamoros

OFFICIAL INDYCAR GP QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:09.8182 (125.761 mph)
2. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:09.9052 (125.604)
3. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:09.9449 (125.533)
4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:10.0858 (125.281)
5. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:10.1326 (125.197)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:10.7276 (124.144)
7. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:10.0382 (125.366)
8. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:10.1062 (125.244)
9. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:10.1601 (125.148)
10. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 1:10.1847 (125.104)
11. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:10.1979 (125.081)
12. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:10.3592 (124.794)
13. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:10.0985 (125.258)
14. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:10.1044 (125.247)
15. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:10.2859 (124.924)
16. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:10.2113 (125.057)
17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:10.3605 (124.792)
18. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:10.3221 (124.860)
19. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:10.5064 (124.533)
20. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:10.3371 (124.833)
21. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:10.6425 (124.293)
22. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:10.5066 (124.533)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:10.7784 (124.055)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 1:10.7394 (124.123)

WILL-INGLY

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet continued his powerful performance in the second Verizon IndyCar Series practice session Friday noon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His time of 1:09.8759/125.657 mph was faster than his morning time. All but four of the 24 VICS drivers were faster in the midday session.

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet was second, making him top Rookie again. Third through fifth were Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

The 45-minute session on the 14-turn road course was quite lively, with at least ten lead changes. It was all Green Flag racing with no drama. Among those who topped the charts were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi, and Wickens. Several leaders led more than once. Power led four times, and Rossi led twice, as did Wickens.

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda

Zachary Clamon De Melo No.19 Honda

Ed Jones/No.20 Honda

LEFT TO RIGHT: Ryan Hunter Reay/No.28 Honda, Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda, and Ed Jones/No.10 Honda. Photos by Nico Matamoros.

Turning the most laps in the second session was again Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing with 21 laps, which was also the number run by reigning champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. The fewest laps were turned by Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 PaySafe Dale Coyne Racing Honda with ten laps. Overall, Jones has the most laps at 42, with De Melo the fewest at 26.

More sponsorship announcements were made.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced an expansion of its current sponsorship with United Rentals and the team program – Turns For Troops. In the past United Rentals – the official equipment rental supplier to the Verizon IndyCar Series – donated $50 for each lap completed by RLL driver, Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda. The donations went to SoldierStrong, an organization utilizing advanced technologies for helping the rehabilitation of wounded veterans. For the month of May United Rentals will be the primary sponsor for Rahal’s racecar. And in May, the donations will
include Rahal’s teammate, Takuma Sato in both May races, and Oriol Servia in the Indy 500.

RLL Group Photo

LEFT TO RIGHT: Mike Lanigan, RLL owner; Stephanie Turzanski, SoldierStrong executive director; Chris Hummel, chief marketing officer, United Rentals; Graham Rahal, driver; David Letterman, owner; and Bobby Rahal, owner.

IndyCar announced it’s very first official charity partnership – with SeriousFun Children’s Networks, which started out as The Hole In The Wall Gang camp network founded by the late Paul Newman. It has now expanded worldwide to include 30 camps. The partnership is all about raising awareness about the camps and raising funding to continue its good works. Included in raising awareness will be PSA’s which are already running at the Speedway: texting KIDS to 900900. Josef Newgarden is an ambassador to SeriousFun Children’s Network and hosted some children at the Long Beach IndyCar Race. Graham Rahal grew up knowing Paul Newman and raced for his IndyCar team.

SeriousFun Children's Networks group

LEFT TO RIGHT: Josef Newgarden, ambassador; Clea Newman, ambassador; Graham Rahal, driver; Blake Maher, CEO SeriousFun Children’s Network; and CJ O’Donnell, chief marketing officer for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Adam Carolla has ten of Paul Newman’s race cars, including his 1987 SCCA C Production Datsun, which he loaned to the Network to display at the Speedway. Clea Newman said she rode in the car on one of her Dad’s victory laps, but she’s never raced as her mother would never let her.

PLN 1987 SCCA CP Datsun

WILLFUL POWER

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet grabbed the top spot from Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda at the last minute of the first open practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Saturday’s IndyCar Grand Prix. Power’s time was 1.10.0866/125.279 mph, ahead of Rossi’s 1:10.1198/125.220 mph. Rossi led twice.

Third fastest was Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing/Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. King also had led during the session, being the top rookie during the session.

Alexander Rossi

Jordan King

Sebastien Bourdais

LEFT TO RIGHT: Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda, Jordan King/No.20 Chevrolet; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Honda. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Fourth fastest was Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who was the last driver to take to the 2.439-mile course. Fifth overall was last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Takuma Sato

castroneves5760

The other driver to lead the pack during the 45-minute session was Helio Castroneves/No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Rossi led twice during the session.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Takuma Sato/No.30 Honda; and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

The weather was hazy sunshine, 70 degrees F with a 10 mph breeze. There were no interruptions or cautions in the session, with just a couple of drivers testing the track limits. No harm. No foul.

Conor Daly will be racing in the Indianapolis 500 this year, driving No.17 Honda with Dale Coyne Racing in partnership with Thomas Burns. Friday he also announced another racing opportunity – his debut in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Road America. He will be teammates with Ryan Reed and Ty Majeski in Roush Fenway Racing Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustangs. Both Reed and Daly have Type 1 Diabetes and have learned to manage their disease and race. Majeski’s grandfather has Type 2 diabetes. Conor will be the first and only person with type 1 diabetes to race in both NASCAR and IndyCar in the same year.

IndyCar with Conor Daly & Ryan Reed

Ryan Reed and Conor Daly

Xfinity No.6 Ford

In the small but very competitive field of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the battle was down to the wire for pole position. It went back and forth between Colton Herta/No.98 Andretti Steinbrenner Racing and Rookie Pato O’Ward. In the end, O’Ward prevailed for the Friday afternoon race with a lap of 1:15.4255. The qualifying track record of 1:14.6743/117.583 mph was set in 2016 by Ed Jones. There are seven drivers this weekend.

Rookie Oliver Askew/No.3 Cape Motorsports has the pole for the Pro Mazda Series presented by Cooper Tires. His lap was 1:20.1683. The existing qualifying track record off 1:22.8800/105.41 mph was set in 2016 by Pato O’Ward. There are 14 drivers.

Rookie Kyle Kirkwood/No.8 Cape Motorsports is on pole for the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda race, with a lap of 1:25.0252. The existing track record of 1:24.6831/103.685 mph was set last year by Oliver Askew. There are 26 drivers.

Between their first and second practice sessions, the VICS drivers spent an hour signing autographs in The Fan Village. The place was packed.

IndyCar Autograph Session

THIS IS INDY! THIS IS MAY!

This is May!

This is May! The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is ensuring that folks for miles around are aware that the Brickyard is the Racing Capital of the World. Signage is everywhere, in town and at the track. The month officially opened Thursday at the track with all the Mazda Road To Indy support series practicing, while the Verizon IndyCar series was in setup mode.

Jordan King Garage Sign

Danica Patrick Garage Sig

Spencer Pigot Garage Sign

The garage signage wasn’t all up, but it was a work-in-progress. The Ed Carpenter three-car team had three-dimensional signs.

Pietro Fittipaldi Grandstand Sign

Zachary Claman De Melo car name

Over in the Dale Coyne Racing garages the signage was not up yet, but the name of the replacement driver for No.19 PaySafe Honda was already on the car. Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo was tapped Wednesday to drive for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi, who suffered severe fractures after a crash during WEC qualifying at Spa last weekend. De Melo has already run three races with DCR, and Fittipaldo ran the Phoenix race.

SPM garage

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is again decking their halls with garage art. They have large photo-quality art murals plastered over every available wall space in their garages. The theme this year is honoring garage mechanics, and it is a fortunate coincidence that a new sponsor was just signed – Gear Wrench – to provide tools for the team. The opportune timing allowed the sponsor to be incorporated into the wall art. It took about two weeks to completely install the decals, and a time-lapse video showing the installation will be released this weekend. This is the third year for the art, and the third year for the teams displaying their cars horizontally in the garages – the only team to do so. So when onlookers are viewing from outside the garage in Gasoline Alley, they see the side view of the race car, not the rear end as with the other teams. The SPM mechanics tell me they easily got used to working in the new configuration and it’s no more difficult than the previous position. The SPM cars are noticeable for their colorful and shiny chrome-like decal livery which glistens in sunlight.

Robert Wickens & James Hinchcliffe

v=Will Power & Derrick Walker

Simon Pagenaud & Will Power

Thursday was a casual day for most of the VICS drivers, with some at the track for media appearances and/or just hanging out with friends.

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda was asked if it was difficult to concentrate on the IndyCar Grand Prix when he knows he’s got the big race coming up in a couple of weeks. “Yes and no. I mean, at the end of the day, we don’t need 10 days to concentrate for the 500. You know, the Grand Prix is a two-day event Friday and Saturday. It’s just hard for the teams more than for us really, just turning the equipment around. Obviously the car configuration is very different. For the smaller guys, it’s always a big challenge to get a 500 car set aside, especially this year with the new kit and all the parts that you have to get. It’s been a bit of a challenge. But for sure it’s much harder for the teams than for us, I think.”

The VICS teams were prepping their cars and getting them through Scrutineering.

Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

Out in Pit Lane, all the VICS teams had set up their Pit Lane equipment, and the MRTI series were utilizing the area without encroaching.

Friday the 24 IndyCar drivers practice and qualify for Saturday’s road course race, while the MRTI series qualify and race.

Pit Lane

ROSSI WINS LONG BEACH

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Verizon IndyCar Series driver/Pole Sitter Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda won the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. His Margin of Victory was 1.2413 seconds ahead of Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Finishing third was Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. It was in front of what appeared to be a massive crowd, perhaps exceeding last year’s crowd of 183,000. GPALB President Jim Michealian had predicted on Thursday that the event was on target for exceeding last year’s numbers. And the crowd was so big even the drivers were commenting on the turnout.

Will Power, Alexander Rossi & Ed Jones in Victory Circle

Will Power, Alexander Rossi & Ed Jones in Victory Circle. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alexander Rossi celebrating in Victory Circle

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi in Victory Circle

Photos by Nico and Pablo Matamoros.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Fourth was Top Rookie Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda – who started sixteenth. He said “(Fourth) feels like a win, to be honest. The crew was pushing me pretty hard at the end to try to get on the podium but… after St. Pete, after Phoenix, we’ve just been chipping away on it and we took a big swing at it today.”

Finishing fifth was Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Reigning IndyCar Champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet finished seventh overall, and set a new race lap record of 104.881 mph/1:07.5511 on Lap 30 of the 85-lap race.

The weather became cloudy an hour before the start. It was 70 F with 8 mph breeze.

Rossi was the third different winner in three races, and it is his third victory. This win makes 58 indycar wins for Andretti Autosport. He is the first pole winner since 2007, and the fifth pole winner in the Long Beach history. Rossi continues to lead the standings with 126 points. Second is reigning series champion, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet with 104 points. He finished seventh.

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

Rossi said “It’s Hard to put into words what the victory means. Such a welcoming, special race. Turn Eleven is the most important corner in the track, so we put emphasis on that. I was happy with the gap (between himself and Power,) but I had enough PTP if needed. Having friends and family here doesn’t change my way of driving, but it’s nice. It doesn’t cross my mind when I’m in the race car. The new aero kit car you can really play with the limits on it. It’s a lotta fun. From a physicality level, it’s down, but you’re holding your breath a lot. We all had a smile on our face at Phoenix. Indycar came as close to perfection as they could with this car. I certainly hope I haven’t peaked too early. I hit a lot on the wish list with WGI, Indy and LB for victories. Global CEO was on the podium with Rossi. It was fantastic for all of us. For sure the competition level is high, the most competitive championship in which I’ve competed. And these Rookies are making an impression.

There were six lead changes among five race leaders. Rossi led three times for 71 laps in the 85-lap race, the most he’s ever led in a race. Other leaders were: Power-six laps; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda-one lap; Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Sealmaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan-four laps; and Newgarden-three laps.

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power said “it’s like qualifying every lap for both of us there at the end. Rossi was just too fast all day. The cloud cover helped track temperature go down, so that certainly helped. There wasn’t that much tire degradation. Looking at the crowd today was pretty impressive. Good momentum going into Indy. It’s a cool, historic race, and you would say it’s second to Indianapolis as far as wanting to win. If you look at the series and everything as a whole, it’s at a great level as far as teams and drivers go, and it’s on the upward slope. Yes, I would say right now is the most competitive, talented group of drivers that the series has seen. When you look at how Rossi has come on and the rookies that are here this year, guys like Wickens and so on, it just gets harder. It gets harder and harder, and the common body kit I think was a really, really good idea. Yeah, great, great, honestly. To win and be on pole these days, you’ve just got to get it so right. The new car definitely needs more driver input. It’s not so physically hard, but there’s a lot more sliding. I’m just enjoying the car. Reminds me of Champ Car. Alex had a perfect weekend. I had one going for a Barber weekend last year. It’s pretty great when you can dominate the weekend. He’s going to be tough to beat in the championship. He’s definitely a road course standout, and you saw him at Phoenix oval as well.”

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jones said it was good today after the disappointment of Phoenix. Jones agreed with Power on tire wear.Degradation wasn’t really much of a factor for us. I think getting up to speed was a bit more difficult because of the cooler conditions, and for us anyway, the balance usually when it was hotter was quite different to the cooler conditions, and I think that helped us in our position quite a bit. The yellow at the beginning of the race helped. After that it was reasonable easy the way the yellows fell. The style of driving now in the new car is more like Lights. I think now the jump won’t be as difficult a transition. Being loose is the only way to be quick, similar to the Lights car.”

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet and Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Photo Sequence by Pablo Matamoros

The race got off to a rocky start with a Full Course Caution on the first lap for a car in the wall in Turn One. Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda hit Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. The incident went under Steward’s Review, with the outcome being Rahal was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” As Pagenaud’s car wasn’t towed from the corner, he was unable to make repairs. Pagenaud was not a happy camper. He said he felt like Rahal “never broke. It’s a real shame and the shame is that the car is totally repairable. We just need to change the front wing and some suspension parts and we can go back out.” Rahal said “I’m sorry about what happened to Simon (Pagenaud). That’s not how I like to do things. It’s just like St. Pete, the rears (tires) locked up and I barely made the corner.

Cars pitted during the caution, including Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, who was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Improper Exit.”

Gaby Chaves/No.98 Chevrolet & Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda

Jack Harvey/No.60 Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 Honda, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Cevrolet & Charlie Kimball/No.23 Chevrolet

Gaby Chaces/No.98 Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot/No.21 Chevrolet, Charlie Kimball/No.23 Chevrolet & Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Early on, the speeds kept increasing. Rossi set a couple of fast laps, followed by Rahal and Newgarden. Other fast laps were set by Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Rossi again, and Newgarden then set a new race record.

There were four Full Course Cautions. The first involved Pageaud being retrieved from Turn One. The second was for Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing, who was rear-ended and drove into the Turn One runoff. The third was for Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda who hit the wall. The fourth caution was for fourth was for a pile-up in Turn Eleven, with Rookie Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda, Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, and Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet. the Steward’s reviewed and assessed King a Drive’Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” That capped off the day for Wickens, who had gearbox trouble early on, sticking him in fifth gear.

Bourdais had an up and down day. Early in the race, he made a couple of smooth but gutsy passes, weaving in and out of a tight pack. It moved him into P2. However, the Stewards ruled that he must give back his position to Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, as Bourdais had used the exit of Pit Lane to make that pass. Once he relinquished his position to Dixon, he didn’t waste time in taking it back. Later he was involved with Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, for which King was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for “Avoidable Contact.” Up to that point, King had been the highest running Rookie, but he faded after that. Later, Bourdais had a run-in with Rookie Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Bourdais and Leist finished P14 and P13, but the Stewards reversed that order after the race, ruling that Leist blocked Bourdais.

More Steward’s actions: Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and RHR had contact. No action taken. Dixon was assessed a Drive-Thru Penalty for taking a service in a Closed Pit. He was running second at the time. Sato had too many crew over the wall, which will be dealt with after the race. Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet had to restart at the back of the next restart for fueling in closed pit; and he he also had an improper restart position which he had to give back. Hunter-Reay received a 15-second hold for an entering the pits by back door.

There are now thirty-five confirmed entries for the 2018 entries in the Indianapolis 500. Of those, 19 are Honda, and they are solid. Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, said Saturday that they have been approached to take on other groups, other teams. “Honda is already over it’s max capacity of 18 and one reason we can do it is because they’re all affiliated with our existing teams, so it helps us from an overall support standpoint.” Honda won’t be adding any new teams to its roster for the race.

Matthew Brabham

Cole Potts

Gavin Harlien

Left to Right: Matthew Brabham, Cole Potts and Gavin Harlien.

Matthew Brabham/No.83 put on a show on the way to taking the Checkered Flag for his win in Sunday’s Stadium Truck Series win. He came around much of the course on the two right wheels. Second was Cole Potts/No.60 and Gavin Harlien/No.55 was third. Fourth and fifth were Robby Gordon/No.7 and Paul Morris/1. It was an exciting race with lots of action, some wall-bashing and ending with stunt driving. Brabham said he’s been practicing and taking tips from Gordon on how to do it. Going into the Sunday race Brabham and Gordon were tied for the lead with 29 points, and Harlien a close second with 28.

Aerialist landing

Airplane

Pace Lap Flag

Max Chilton's Shoe

Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda

Shoreline Drive

Gallery Photos by Pablo Mataoros

ROSSI’S ON A ROLL

Toyota Bridge

PHOTO BY PABLO MATAMOROS

Sunday’s weather in Long Beach for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was just right – sunny and warm with no wind. Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda was again fastest in the morning warm-up for the Verizon IndyCar Series. His time of 1:07.5366/104.903 mph wasn’t meant to break records, but for shake down and race settings. So it’s no surprise that the fastest time all weekend for all drivers was Saturday morning in Practice Three. Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second, and had led for much of the half-hour session. Third through fifth were Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and and his Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Chevrolet.

No.9 Honda in Tech

No.6 Honda

No.12 Chevrolet

The drivers took full advantage of the session, all turning double-digit laps, ranging from 12 to 21. It was drama-free. At the end of the very narrow one-lane Pit Lane pedestrian walkway, the camerman deftly maneuvered the boom camera showing the cars entering and exiting the pits.

Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The top Rookie was Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in twelfth place.

Firestone Tires

Nine of the drivers will start the race on the Primary Tire, including the top Rookie, Robert Wickens/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda; while the majority of the 24 drivers will use the Alternates including the Fast Six starters. The Firestone tires are the same as used in St. Petersburg. Each team will have seven sets of Primary tires and four sets of Alternates. The seven Rookies will receive an extra set. In all, Firestone brought more than 1,500 tires to Long Beach.

Zach Veach

Chris Linkhous Pit Fireman

Matheus Leist

Pit Stop 1

Pit Stop 2

Pit Stop 3

IndyCar Two-seater

The IndyCar two-seater cars this weekend are being driven by Mario Andretti, Arie Luyendyk, Jr; Davey Hamilton, Jr. and Indy Lights driver, Juan Piedrahita. Luyendyk and Hamilton are also racing in the Stadium Truck Series.

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. & Gavin Harlien

Arie Luyendyk, Jr. & Gavin Harlien

Luyendyk finished second in Saturday afternoon’s USAC-sanctioned Stadium truck race, which was checkered early after a truck rolled over.No one was hurt. It appeared that the aborted finish half-way through the 20-minute race was not a popular decision with the fans or competitors, based on the boos from the grandstands and comments post-race. The winner was Gavin Harlein. Matthew Brabham is still the points leader, and he also wasn’t happy about the shortened race. They’re all looking forward to Sunday’s race after the IndyCar race.

Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

In Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sportscar Grand Prix at Long Beach, it was a General Motors sweep, winning both classes. The overall and Prototype winners were Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque in No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi. In the GTLM class, Oliver Gavin took his fiftieth Corvette victory with co-driver Tommy Milner in No.4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Filipe Albuquerque, & Joao Barbosa

Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel, Filipe Albuquerque, & Joao Barbosa

Albuquerque’s overall/Prototype Margin of Victory ahead of Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel/No.2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DP was 4.766 seconds. Third finishers in Prototypes and overall were Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande in No.10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. The Pole Sitters Juan Montoya and Dane Cameron/No.6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi finished fifth overall. Felipe Nasr/No.31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi turned the fastest Prototype and overall race lap of 1:13.492/96.402 mph.

Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner

In the GTLM Class, second and third finishers were Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in No.67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT; and GTLM Pole Sitters Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the sister No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Hand turned the fastest GTLM race lap of 1:17.640/91.251 mph.

Pit Lane Boom Photog

ROSSI POLES IT!

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Verizon IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda pulled yet another fast lap out of his pocket on the last lap of the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.He turned a 1:06.5528/106.454 mph. This was his second career pole, the first one being at Watkins Glen last year. He said every pole is precious. They’re hard to come by. It is the Andretti team’s 35th pole position. Last year Rossi started fifth, and he’s looking for redemption after last year’s 19th place finish.

He waited in the pits until late in the session. “We had been pretty good on the first laps on tires, so I just didn’t want to carry around the fuel, and we just thought that we could get it done. The team put me in a gap, and it was just about finding the space on track and making sure the tires were up, and just kind of going for it.”yy

Alexander Rossi

Verizon P1 Award

Rossi's helmet

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS.

The current qualifying track record of 1:066.2254/106.980 mph was set last year by Helio Castroneves … and still holds.

During Qualifying, it was 80 degrees F, with 11 mph winds and zero humidity.

Rossi pipped Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at the end of the ten-minute Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. Qualifying third was another Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The 2017 IndyCar Champion, Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske was a disappointing sixth after he brushed the concrete wall on the front straight.

Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda

Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda

Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda; Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet; Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda; and Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Robert Wickins/No.6 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickins/No.6 Honda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickins/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda was the top Rookie, qualifying tenth.

There are seven Rookies in this weekend’s race: Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet will start twelth; Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet starts fourteenth; Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda starts sixteenth; Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda starts seventeenth; Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts twenty-first, and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet starts last with no time after hitting the wall.

In the second group of Round One Qualifying, qualifying penalties were assessed. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet hit the wall, causing following cars to slow, assessing him the loss of his two fastest qualifying laps. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda spun, causing a local yellow and subsequent slowing for following cars, assessing him the loss of his fastest qualifying lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda received a drive-thru penalty for “improper pit exit.”

Two reviews saw Stewards take no action against Rossi or Wickins.

ALEXANDER ROSSI – Starting on pole. “Hoping for some redemption here. So to get it (pole) here was good, good start for tomorrow, but this sport has a way of humbling you pretty quick, so we have to execute against tomorrow, and hopefully we can get that redemption we’re talking about.” And for about $500, he emailed his setup sheet to Will Power. Regarding tire wear, “Definitely, I think they’ll definitely go off.That’s going to be something that we have to think about, no doubt about it. It’s just kind of — you can have an aggressive car that’s fast and uses tires, or you can kind of go the other way, so it’s finding that line because obviously you don’t want to protect them too much that you don’t get the performance out of them. It’s something that we’ll all have to figure out overnight and kind of try a few things in the warmup and then see what works and what doesn’t. The fans will be on for an amazing show.

WILL POWER – Starting second. Won three times at Long Beach. “I felt like we had a really good car. Got to the Fast Six like we needed to, and yeah, just were not fast enough basically to be on pole, but very happy to be on the front row. You know, we’ve kind of crept up all weekend and definitely made the car better and in a good window now. Yeah, that was a lot of fun.”

SIMON PAGENAUD – Starting third. Won here in 2016 and matches his best start here. “It’s a really good result, all three of us (Penske drivers) in the Fast Six. It’s not easy these days. I have to say, I just want to pull my hat off to Team Penske for obviously understanding the street course setup. It’s been difficult just because of the success we’ve had with the previous aero kits. We’ve had to rethink a little bit, and three races we’ve been able to do it. Quite impressive I have to say. I’m quite excited to see that we could get the car in such a good place, and myself, I just have to extract a little bit more out of it, but obviously it was a fun and great qualifying.”

SCOTT DIXON – Starting fourth. Won Long Beach in 2015. We had a lot of traffic. We made some pretty big fundamental changes for qualifying. Almost spun going in to (Turn) Eight, lost all that time, and that was it. Pole sitter hasn’t won here since the mid 2000’s or something crazy.Yeah, if you can start near the front, that’s going to give you the best opportunity, best opportunity to have clear pit stops, clear start, stay out of trouble, et cetera. But I think ideally the car has got some good speed. I think we can shoot on it. I think we’re in a good starting spot there with fourth, and hopefully we can make up three spots.”

GRAHAM RAHAL – Starting fifth, matching his best start here. “I didn’t have speed to be anywhere near Alex.But you know, overall, that first session I was just happy to advance. It was unbelievably slippery and pretty ugly in Group One. It’s a fine line out there. Yeah, I think you’re using — I mean, as you see, particularly in the back section, Turn 9, 10, you get off line three inches, you’re going to hit the fence, but you know, trust me, in Q3 there was several times I thought I was going to hit the fence. There’s no doubt. As Will said, you’re giving it absolutely everything you have. You’re hanging on for dear life, and obviously around here there’s not a whole lot of space, right. But risk versus reward, you give it all you’ve got, and you hope that it sticks, and tomorrow you just pull it back just a little bit.”

JOSEPH NEWGARDEN – Starting sixth. I certainly messed it up for us, on our best tires. I probably got too greedy, hit the wall in Turn Eight and bent the toe, so I had to come in. I was trying to stay out of Rossi’s way, actually, so I didn’t interfere. It’s insane, though, when it happens, you’re going down the straightaway like this, so you know that’s the end of your qualifying session. The bent toe is a simple fix. We’ll change it most likely, get our setting back and be good to go. Nothing to be concerned about. The Track temp was dropping. It was slick, especially in the first session.”

INDYCAR QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:06.5528 (106.454)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:06.9054 (105.893)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:06.9107 (105.884)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:07.0483 (105.667)
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:07.1275 (105.542)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:07.1922 (105.441)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:07.1415 (105.520)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:07.1899 (105.444)
9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:07.1943 (105.438)
10. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:07.2289 (105.383)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:07.3478 (105.197)
12. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:07.6427 (104.739)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:08.3844 (103.603)
14. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:08.1622 (103.940)
15. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:08.7167 (103.102)
16. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:08.1763 (103.919)
17. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:08.8207 (102.946)
18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:08.2739 (103.770)
19. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:08.8623 (102.884)
20. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:08.5294 (103.383)
21. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:09.1429 (102.466)
22. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:08.6340 (103.226)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:09.7481 (101.577)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)

Ed Carpenter

IndyCar Official

Max Chilton

PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS