SONOMA SUNDAY – PRE RACE STYLE

NASCAR Garage

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood – if that happens to be Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – and try saying that five times fast. It’s 71 degrees F and only predicted to have a high of 77 – quite a welcome drop from Saturday’s 101 F. The humidity is 58 percent and the wind is desultory in places, and frisky in others.

Sonoma Raceway, an elevated road course, is utilizing the 1.99-mile, ten turn NASCAR configuration. It has 160 feet (49 m) of total elevation change. The track was opened fifty years ago.

There are mobs of people everywhere. Tours are being led, gaggles and groups are clogging the byways and and there’s a lot to see. The view from the Spotters’ Stand on top of the John Cardinale Media Center is amazing, and appreciated all the more for the very steep and tall ladder one must traverse. Spotters used to go on top of the Drag Tower, but when the new, big ISM Vision TV screen was installed outside the top floor and roof, no one could see over it.

Victory Circle TV crowd

There’s a busy Pre-Race Schedule with two separate air shows – Wild Thing Airshows with ex-Romanian Military IAR-823 aircraft & Patriots Jet Team Air Show for 25 minutes with six-L-39 albatross jets; lots of pomp and circumstance with bands and grid girls, introductions, presentations, traditions, Driver Introductions and Driver’s Parade. Throw in live pre race telecast in Victory Lane and Talk With The Champ – Martin Truex, and you have a plethora of choices.

In the garages, the teams pushed their cars down to the pit lane – a veritable parade, with a variety of techniques for negotiating the pit ramp.

No.34 Chevrolet

No.10 Ford

No.88 Chevrolet

In Pit Lane it’s sensory overload with all the colors. liveries, signs, logos, and tchotchkes on the car hoods. Pit Tours, Pre-Race TV broadcasting, and crews tire marking for quick installation. So much going on.

Pit Stop Sign

Matt Yocum

Tire Marking

Drivers made their way to the stage for their introductions, wending their way in some instances past the fans.

Michael McDowell

Bubba Wallace

Denny Hamlin

The field of 38 cars is lined up in Pit Lane and covered up from the heat. The race stages will be 25 laps, 50 laps and 110 laps. The race distance is 218.9-miles/110 laps. Each driver will execute 1,210 turns during the race, so said the talking heads on the FSI Pre Race Show.

The race will be telecast live on Fox Sports 1.

Cup cars lineup

RUBBIN’ IS RACIN’ FOR RODGERS

Will Rodgers

Pole sitter Will Rodgers/No.7 KELLY Benefit Strategies Ford learned well from his teammate last year – Kevin Harvick – how to get through Turn 11 and how to handle restarts. Rodgers finished a close second last year to Harvick in the K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200 Race, and this year he won a hard fought victory, and he turned the fastest race lap of 89.424 mph. He led 35 of the 64-laps. This was is second road course victory in as many races – and back to back – East Coast and West Coast Series. And it’s a good thing he subscribes to the ‘rubbin’ is racin’ philosophy as there was some of that.

Aric Almirola

Aric almirola

Rodgers led laps and got racy with those surrounding him, falling back at one point to seventh place. But he clawed his way back and with some gutsy driving with Cup drivers Daniel Suarez/No.No.54 ARRIS Toyota and Aric Almirola/No.41 DenBeste Water Solutions Ford, he prevailed after a daring pass of Almirola in Turn 11.

William Byron

William Byron

Finishing second, 4.420 seconds behind was Almirola. Third was another Cup driver, William Byron/No.27 Liberty Chevrolet. Byron has Max Papis as his full-time driver coach.

Suarez finished fourth, and Ryan Partridge/No.9 Sunrise Ford/Eibach/Lucas Oil/Braille Ford came in fifth – taking the points lead by one point.

The race is always exciting and a crowd pleaser. This time was no exception. There were lead changes – Rodgers – Almirola – Suarez. It would be interesting to see a lap chart. There were some crashes and hurt cars, but the drivers were all OK. It was a race of attrition as several cars gave up the ghost and retired. Most made it the Pit Lane on their own, some with help.

Hailie Deegan/No.19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota was the top finishing Rookie, coming in seventh behind Cup driver Erik Jones/No.9 Dewalt Toyota. Deegan, who races with Bill McAnally Racing, had gridded third and stayed in the front pack despite the aggressive drivers of others in that group, which included most if not all the five Cup drivers at any given time. She held her own and made a killer outside pass late in the race in turn 9 – and made it stick. That was a particularly frantic lap already and Deegan at that point had already been smoking for a couple of laps. She kept on driving and pushing, gaining positions after the smoke first appeared.

Deegan now leads the Rookie standings and has moved up to fifth in the overall points.

Deegan has been racing since she was eight. Her father, Bert Deegan, is a noted dirt, motorcycle and off-road racer. They come from Temecula CA, but are building a house in Mooresville NC. She was home schooled and just graduated. During Driver Introductions, she had a ‘mini-graduation, complete with cap, gown and diploma. Deegan said she wants to race on the East Coast, and is looking at the K&N Series and the Late Model Series. She definitely wants to stay in stock cars, 100 percent. “I want to race on Sunday. That’s the goal.” Deegan was coached by Chris Cook as she’d never been on the Sonoma race track before. She drove a Trans-Am car, which was a little different and it was about a thousand pounds lighter, but it was still helpful. She also ran the NASA race in a Mazda Miata – “not the highlight of my career.” Deegan was clear that she doesn’t want to be like Danica (Patrick), whom she thinks moved up too fast. Deegan wants to take it slower and in steps.

Haile Deegan

Haile Deegan

Deegan raced a K&N race in Bakersfield against Kevin Harvick and said she learned a lot. And the two have kept in contact. To prepare for this first-ever road race, she had some coaching from Chris Cook, a Bondurant instructor and part-time NASCAR driver. He’s racing No.51 Shockwave Chevrolt in Sunday’s Cup race, and she will definitely will be around for that, perhaps on the Pit Box.

Harvick said about Deegan – “Hailie’s doing great. She’s got a lot of potential. She’s got a great feel for what she needs to be concentrating on, loves to race, comes from a great family and a family that loves to race. She’s got a lot of work to do. She’s got a great mind set of how long it’s going to take, but she’s off to a good start. She doesn’t want to rush into it and take it step by step. Kevin agreed that’s the right thing to do. If you look at our sport, there’s a tendency to rush people because they’re marketable and people like them. But in the end you can look at Danica. No matter how marketable you are in the end it’s going to come down to results.”

Team Owner Bill McAnally said what impressed him about Hailie at her first test was her feedback. She immediately was able to say what she wanted in the car to go faster, and when she got it, she went faster. Deegan came to his attention via Toyota Racing Development’s Driver Development program for young, upcoming drivers. They in turn introduced her to McAnally, along with several other young drivers, and she’s been a part of the NASCAR NEXT Development program for the past two years – the only female this season. She has her roots in off-road racing.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick

Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford is helping Jeff Motley, Vice President of Public Relations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the promotional efforts for the K&N race which will be part of the Playoffs Race weekend. The K&N race will be on dirt Thursday night, the only dirt race on the schedule – this year or recently. Motley said Harvick told him, basically whatever the track needs, he’ll help. “I’m here to help in any way I can.” This will be the first time the Las Vegas track was in the Playoffs. The schedule calls for the Truck race on Friday night, Xfinity race Saturday afternoon and the Cup race on Sunday. Harvick, having come up through the various NASCAR series, has always been a big supporter of grass roots racing. Motley said “That’s the kind of guy he is.”

Harvick said “I’m glad we’re going to Las Vegas and that city is going to embrace what we do. Sometimes you have to promote the sport correctly and do the things that it takes to promote from an event stand point. It’s not all about the cars. We’ve had some great races, but not every race is that great. Every football or baseball game is that great. It’s just a different time in how people absorb things, where they watch the race, and I think it’s time to concentrate more on the event, more on the atmosphere. Everybody used to hate to come to a road course ten years ago. But Sonoma – it’s an event, a destination event. All the sponsors show up to Sonoma, they have big events, you can bring your wife and family. It could be the best race you ever saw, it could be the worst race you ever saw, but everyone will have a great time. Really what needs to be concentrated on …. my point in all this is we’re gong to go to Las Vegas this year. I’ve seen the marketing plans, what NASCAR has planned. If we go into that market, we’re going to sell tickets, draw awareness, and work on the local TV ratings, all the local angles and what goes with that. Chicago had gone a little bit stale and the crowd wasn’t what it used to be. I think we need to show up at Las Vegas, and it’s going to be a great way to start the Playoffs. It’s a great city to do that in. What I’m saying is that you can come to this particular race and a lot of people that come to this particular race are not here for the race. They’re here for a good weekend with their husband, wife, daughter or they’re part of a group and they say ‘Man, I can go to the wine country and you go to a race and they’re gonna hear all those cars coming down the front stretch and they’re gonna drop the green flag, and they’re gonna say ‘Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this.They’re gonna see cars spinning through the dirt and running into the tire barriers. they’re going to watch five guys change the tires and fill the thing up with 20 gallons of fuel (and Mobil 1). It’s just an event like they’ve never seen before. When you go to these events – fifty percent of the crowd doesn’t care about the race because of the fact they’ve never been there. But when they leave fifty percent of those fifty percent are going to say ‘Man, when’s the next one?”And that’s what you want to leave them with. Having a great weekend. There are a lot of people that care about the race, but there are people that come to race that are coming to Sonoma for a great time.”

For those who missed the race, or want to relive all the excitement, it will be aired on NBCSN Thursday 28 June 2018 at 6 pm ET.

K&N field

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-Carneros 200 Results

(Start position in parentheses)
1. (1) Will Rodgers, Solvang, Calif., Ford, 64 laps, 58.482 mph.
2. (5) Aric Almirola, Tampa, Fla., Ford, 64.
3. (2) William Byron, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 64.
4. (6) Daniel Suarez, Monterrey, Mexico, Toyota, 64.
5. (4) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 64.
6. (13) Erik Jones, Byron, MI, Toyota, 64.
7. (3) Hailie Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Toyota, 64.
8. (9) Derek Thorn, Lakeport, Calif., Ford, 64.
9. (16) Cole Keatts, Lewiston, Idaho, Ford, 64.
10. (8) Derek Kraus, Stratford, Wisc., Toyota, 64.
11. (11) David Mayhew, Atascadero, Calif, Chevrolet, 64.
12. (14) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Toyota, 64.
13. (18) Tom Klauer, Reno, Nev., Chevrolet, 64.
14. (26) Rodd Kneeland, Sonoma, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
15. (20) Jesse Iwuji, Carrolton, Texas, Chevrolet, 63.
16. (24) Rich DeLong III, Santa Clarita, Calif., Chevrolet, 63.
17. (10) Kody Vanderwal, LaSalle, Colo, Ford, 56, engine.
18. (12) Jim Inglebright, Fairfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 46, clutch.
19. (15) Todd Souza, Aromas, Calif., Toyota, 45, engine.
20. (25) Trevor Huddleston, Agoura Hills, Calif., Ford, 44, electrical.
21. (17) Travis Milburn, Eagle, Idaho, Chevrolet, 39, electrical.
22. (19) Carlos Vieira, Atwater, Calif., Ford, 31, accident.
23. (23) Hollis Thackeray, Gridley, Calif., Toyota, 17, transmission.
24. (7) Alex Bowman, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 10, engine.
25. (21) Takuma Koga, Nagoya, Japan, Chevrolet, 9, accident.
26. (22) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Chevrolet, 1, accident.

BUSCH, AS IN KURT, FASTEST IN FINAL PRACTICE

Kurt Busch No.41 Ford

It was sunny and hot for the second/final practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Friday afternoon. The temperatures reached 101 degrees F. Kurt Busch/No.41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion led most of the 75-minute session. His top speed was 94.061 mph, faster than the earlier speed of 93.590 mph set in the noon practice by Clint Bowyer/No.14 One Cure Ford. Before Busch took over the top spot, 2017 Cup Champion, Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota was running fastest. KuBu’s little brother, points leader Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M Caramels Toyota, was nineteenth.

Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Express Toyota, Truex, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, and last year’s Sonoma race winner, Kevin Harvick/No.4 Mobil 1 Ford were the top five. And that was the way they ran for the majority of the session. William Byron/No.24 Liberty University Chevrolet was again the top Rookie, in 24th position. Several of the drivers set their fastest times and then retreated to the relative cool of their garages and watched/took notes out the windows overlooking Pit Lane and Turn Eleven.

Immediately after the session, the cars were in the garage, up on blocks, being attended to by the bustling and busy crews, and refueling.

Denny Hamlin No.11 Toyota

Martin Truex No.71 Toyota

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Left to Right: Denny Hamlin; Martin Truex, Jr; and Kevin Harvick.

Local road racer, A.J. Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet ran ninth in the first Friday session, and 12th in the final.

Early on in the session, there was a red flag interruption for two cars which ultimately pitted with heavy smoke. Kyle Larson/No.42 DC Solar Chevrolet was possibly the culprit for oil in the esses. His problem was a lose transmisson line. Byron had oil problems in his axle – a leaky hub.

Kasey Kahne/No.95 Procore Chevrolet took a wild spin but recovered nicely. He has a new Crew Chief this weekend – Jon Leonard.

Martin Truex, Jr.

Truex said that “Sonoma is the short track of road racing,” and he’s predicting “three pit stops during this year’s race.” Truex leaves it up to his Crew Chief, Cole Pearn, to determine the pit stop strategy. His first goal, as driver, is to win races, rather than stage points. Truex knows this weekend is going to be hot, and that’s one of the hardest things with which to deal in the car; “It’s difficult to stay focused in the heat. The mental focus is hard. There’s a lot to do at Sonoma – shifting 13 times a lap, left foot braking six to seven times a lap, and hitting marks around the course.” But … he still thinks “Sonoma is a blast to drive. You can really show your talent.”

Truex said he doesn’t train a lot, or hard.

Furniture Row Racing, Denver Mattress and Team Toyota are among those who are helping the Sonoma Rising program this weekend. They are donating Aspen mattresses to firehouses in Santa Rosa and Schellville, as well as making a substantial donation to the Sonoma County Parks Department.

Among the Hometown Heroes nominated for honoring this weekend were the nine Santa Rosa CityBus drivers who provided critical evacuation during the night of the fire, despite at least one of them suffering the loss of his home to the fire. They will be honored during the Sunday Pre-Race Show.

Richard Childress

Richard Childress

Richard Childress Racing with driver Ryan Newman/No.31 Chevrolet, and sponsors Grainger and the American Red Cross, packed 500 personal hygiene kits Friday for North Bay families that still are in need/those in need in future. Newman, who is running a partial schedule, finished 27th.

Eleven hundred Fire Survivors have been given race tickets provided by fans, businesses and community members.

This year’s Grand Marshal for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 will be Jonny Moseley, Olympic gold medalist and local Bay Area resident. He is a two-time Olympian and World Cup Champion in mogul skiing and has medaled in both the X Games and the Olympics. Moseley said he’s been a fan ever since his first Sonoma race at age 16 above Turn 4. “I am beyond excited to be immersed in the racing from the inside this time. What an honor and privilege to be on the track and kick off the race for these fine and talented daredevils. Let’s do this!”

Kyle Busch No.18 Toyota

POWERFUL VICTORY!

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

Will Power.

Will & Liz Power

Will Power & Roger Penske

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

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

Will & Liz Power and the Milk.

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Heather & Ed Carpenter

Heather & Ed Carpenter

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

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

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Robert Wickens. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Kyle Kaiser. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

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

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Danica Patrick. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Sebastien Bourdais. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Helio Castroneves No.3 ChevroletHelio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

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

Helio Castroneves and medic

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

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

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

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

Tony Kanaan. Photo by Nico Matamoros.


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

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Zach Veach Pit Stop. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Vic Oladipo

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

Pace Lap

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

PENSKE POWER!

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet won the Indianapolis Grant Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the pole position for the third time. It was his 33rd win, 30 of which have been with Penske. He led three times for 56 laps, the most of the record-breaking seven leaders. Many of the lead changes were courtesy of pit stop recycling.

This was the fifth Indy Grand Prix, and all have been won by Penske drivers – three for Power and two for teammate, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menard’s Team Penske Chevrolet. And four of those five victories have been from the pole position. For Team Penske, Saturday was its 200th IndyCar victory. Roger Penske said “”What a great day for the team. The greatest drivers have performed for us. IMS is the most special place to secure our 200th win. I could not think of a better setting. The most important win now is No. 201.”

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power said “I’ve never driven so hard for an entire race. I’m so exhausted. It was very hot, and I didn’t drink enough before the race, and when you’re racing so hard during the race you forget to drink, and you get to the end, and suddenly you’re like, man, I don’t feel good. While you’re racing you’re fine, but as soon as I stopped, I was like, ooh. It was a pretty hard day. I wasn’t feeling it. In the car, man, it doesn’t even register. You know when you start to hear your heartbeat in your ears is when you hear that — that’s when you know you’re starting to struggle a little, which I actually did hear; but that’s what you do all the fitness for. Like I do some pretty high intense fitness, and it’s no different to that. That’s why you do it. You’ve got to be able to pump it out all the way through the race. Who cares how you feel after?”

“I can’t thank Roger Penske enough for the opportunity he’s given me. It’s a real pleasure to drive for him.”

When asked how he saved tires, fuel and patience, he said “Yeah, it was an amazing race actually. Obviously, Wickens (Robert) came out on reds and I was on blacks and man, I’ve never driven so hard to watch a gap grow. But, obviously when I went to the reds, then I had to try to pass him back. And then, he had to save a lot of fuel at the end and go fast; because I knew how good (Scott) Dixon is at saving fuel and going fast. But the Chevy had great fuel mileage, and I’ve never driven so hard for an entire race. Like I was 100 percent the whole time. I’m exhausted.”

“We’ve noticed that Honda had been getting good fuel mileage. I got the number, and I got it pretty much every lap.”

In the waning laps, Power kept stretching is lead over Dixon, going from 2.3162 seconds on Lap 78 to 2.7840 seconds by Lap 83. Dixon gave it the old college try and the Margin of Victory was whittled to 2.2443 seconds.

Power turned a couple of fastest race laps, including the fastest leader lap of 123.231 mph/1:10.5687 on Lap 9; but the overall fastest lap was turned by runner-up Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, whose fastest lap of 124.423 mph/1:10.5687 was turned on Lap 15.

Robert Wickens.

Robert Wickens.

Third and top Rookie was Wickens who had started second and led once for 20 laps. He had been running second on Lap 63, when third place Dixon made a smooth move on Wickens at the end of the front straight on Lap 64, which got the crowd’s attention.

Wickens said “I thought it wasn’t that interesting. I stayed off Push-to-Pass to try to save fuel, and I saw that he was on it, and I thought, oh, maybe I can keep him on the outside and hang on, but he kind of already had me cleared on the outside before braking, and I thought I’d try to keep in there and see what happens, but obviously it just — he’s a very talented guy. It’s not his first rodeo, he made it stick and everything was good, but it was good hard racing from everyone today. I had a couple fights with Will, with Scott, with Alex, and it was all just good, hard, fair fun, to be honest, so I thought it was pretty exciting.That was the first race where I kind of felt like a true rookie there in that final stint because I’ve never had to save fuel before. We’ve kind of practiced it a little bit in warmup where you do like one lap of fuel save. But the amount of fuel that we were having to save to make that work was something that I didn’t even think was possible.”

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon said “I just was hoping that he was maybe concentrating on saving fuel because I knew it was going to be fairly difficult to get the mileage that we needed to, and I thought I’d try it early to be aggressive and try and get the fuel mileage later if we needed to, so that was basically the strategy. It’s very hard to defend if someone behind you is on overtake and you’re not, just the rate of speed, especially on long straights like this it’s almost impossible. Yeah, it was a pretty basic one. That’s what it was.

Dixon said “It was definitely a rough weekend. The heat really seemed to affect our car a lot. Happy with today. 18th, my worst qualifying without crashing or having a technical issue, to second. Obviously we come here to win, but congratulations to Will, and obviously Penske’s 200th IndyCar win is definitely a big milestone, and it was good to see him get it.”

Fourth and fifth were Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 Team SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda.

Bourdais said “The guys (other drivers) were really aggressive at the start of that last run and I didn’t know whether I should say screw the fuel number and go with them. I was already not making the number and under a lot of pressure from behind, so I thought maybe we just don’t have the pace and had to give up some positions. After that I was kind of a lonely wolf out there doing my thing and trying to make the fuel number a bit better. Next thing you know the leaders are backing up big time to us. Wickens didn’t want to give up on Rossi and Rossi was being aggressive, so by the end of that stint we had saved enough fuel to use the push-to-pass and he couldn’t and we recovered fourth.”

All 24 drivers finished, 21 of them on the lead lap.

Race Start!  Photo by Pablo Mataoros

Race Start! Photo by Pablo Mataoros

There were two cautions. The first lasted three laps on the start when two cars came together in Turn Two. Rookie Jordan King/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet had been having such a good weekend up until this point until he and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet came together. Pagenaud powered through the contact in the grass and kept on going. King had to be helped by the Emergency Crew and restarted, allowing him to continue, albeit two laps down. He finished last, and Pagenaud salvaged an eighth place finish after starting seventh.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Mataoros

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Mataoros

The other caution was on Lap 56 for four laps when Josef Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske spun while trying to pass Bourdais. They touched, Bourdais continued, and Newgarden stalled in Turn 12. The responding Emergency Crew started Newgarden. He had started sixth and was running fourth when he had the spin, which dropped him to twenty-first. He made several smooth moves and finished eleventh. No action was taken by the Stewards for this incident, or another one involving Newgarden and Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Sato finished tenth.Afterwards, Newgarden said “We had a podium car, for sure. It’s tough to throw it away. I think I got too greedy. I had two or three runs on (Sebastien) Bourdais. I just got frustrated and too greedy. I thought he was going to give me a little more room. He gave me some, but it wasn’t enough. It is my fault.”

MAY MADNESS!

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The only Steward’s action was a Drive-through penalty for Spencer Pigot/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet for avoidable contact in his incident with Sato in Turn Six. It was a eye-catching contact, with Pigot going four-wheels in the air over the berm, coming down with quite a bounce. Sato continued, as did Pigot, who finished fifteenth.

There were a number of incidents over which the Stewards took No Action. Gaby Chaves/No.88 Harding Group Chevrolet and Charlie Kimball/No.23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet; and Kimball and Ed Jones/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in Turn One.

A record number of lead changes occurred during the first half of the race, mostly due to Pit Stops. The second caution on Lap 56 for a spin by Josef Newgarden brought on mass stopping in the pits, leading to fuel conservation mode so drivers could last til the finish with no more pit stops. As it happened, three cars littered the landscape on the cool-off lap, after running out of fuel – Rahal, James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrows Electronics SPM Honda, and King.

Showers flashed all around north of the track, but stayed away … until Lap 72 when rain drops supposedly were detected around various parts of the 2.439-mile road course. No one pitted for tire changes. The sun came out.

The speedway now closes for two days to convert the track back to its original oval configuration, with the first Indy 500 practice starting on Tuesday.

OFFICIAL INDYCAR RESULTS

1. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (18) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
3. (2) Robert Wickens, Honda, 85, Running
4. (3) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
5. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
6. (10) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (4) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
10. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
11. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
12. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 85, Running
13. (14) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
14. (12) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
15. (9) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running
16. (16) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running
17. (22) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
18. (13) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
19. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 85, Running
20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
21. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
22. (15) Ed Jones, Honda, 84, Running
23. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running
24. (5) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 83, Running

UNOFFICIAL POINTS:
1 – Joseph Newgarden – 178
2 – Alexander Rossi – 176
3 – Sebastien Bourdais – 152
4 – Scott Dixon – 147
5 – James Hinchcliffe – 144
6 – Graham Rahal – 142
7 – Will Power – 135
8 – Robert Wickens – 133
9 – Ryan Hunter-Reay – 125
10 – Marco Andretti – 105

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