FOGGY MOUNTAIN SHAKEDOWN

Foggy Start

It started out foggy at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Day One of the annual Pre-Reunion races. The fog-delay was short-lived and the cars took to the track only 15 minutes late. The sun came out mid-morning and remained for the rest of the day, with just the smallest of wispiest clouds dotting the skies. The weather was breezy, warm in the sun and chilly in the shade. All in all, a beautiful day for racing. The fog didn’t start rolling back in until the last race, which started after 5pm.

One of the nice things about vintage racing is that the paper work comes out quickly. The practice/qualifying and Saturday race results don’t show times, just positions, and race results come out right away, as there are no protests. The Sunday results will show times.

The Pre-Reunion event has ten groups of cars with 309 entries, ranging from 1949 Sports Racing and GT Cars all the way up to 1991 FIA and IMSA cars. This is the run-up to the 8th Annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which will feature three anniversaries including the 60th for Formula Juniors, 60th for Laguna Seca as a race track, and 70th for Ferrari. Lots of history there! Mobile Museums on an iconic circuit.

There was a nice turnout of anniversary Formula Juniors at Pre-Reunion, which comprise two of the ten race groups – Group Four for 1958-1960 with drum brakes and front engines, and Group Nine for 1961-1963 with disc brakes.They came from far and wide, including Australia, Denmark, England, Scotland and all over the United States, totaling 48 cars.

Saturday morning was practice sessions, with races in the afternoon. It was a busy day from 8am until 5:30pm. The Pace Car/Safety Car driver got as many laps as some of the race cars. One car spun out on the Pace Lap and hit the wall in Turn Eleven. The driver wasn’t hurt, but the same couldn’t be said for the car. For this event there are two roll-back/flat bed tow trucks. All of the San Francisco Region Sports Car Club of America volunteer Emergency Crew and Course Marshal Crew worked long and hard retrieving historic cars which suffered from spins or a variety of mechanical woes. Many involved leaking fluids, and the Course Marshals put the sweeper truck to good use. More than 20 bags of oil dry/grease sweep were used Saturday.

Zak Brown #18 Porsche 935

Zak Brown’s #18 Porsche 935

Race Six saw the Safety Car come out after the first lap for a car which didn’t negotiate the front straight. Mike Thurlow, the pole sitter in his 1976 Corvette retired in Turn Six with mechanical problems. The race was ultimately won by local driver, Bruce Canepa in his 1979 Porsche 935, who gridded second. He was followed by Zak Brown of England in his blue with yellow 1981 Porsche 935, originally raced by Rolf Stommelen. Yes, that Zak Brown, now of McLaren. He said afterwards he always loves coming to Laguna Seca. He flies all of his team’s cars from England. They all will be back next weekend, and can be found in the small garages fronting the Pit Lane. And NO, contrary to all the Internet rumors, Brown and his F1 driver Fernando Alonso will not be skipping the Singapore F1 race to compete in the season’s finale IndyCar race at Sonoma Raceway.

Richard Dean No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Richard Dean’s No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Zak Brown No.16 1986 Porsche 962

Zak Brown’s No.16 1986 Porsche 962

Brown also ran in Group Ten, starting on pole position with his No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He led flag to flag in the ground-pounding field of 1981-1991 FIA and IMSA GTO & GTP cars. They were as fast as they were loud, with the Zoom-Zoom radar gun in Turn One recording a high of 141 mph. Finishing second was Bill Okerlund in his No.33 1991 Chevrolet Camaro and Kenneth Davis in No.8 1985 Roush Capri. Some of the cars looked like old Trans-Am cars, including Ken Epsman’s No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird, which had originally been raced by Bill Doyle with its famous teal and yellow Caterpillar livery, which the crew also wears. Epsman started and finished sixth.

Richard Dean ran Brown’s No.46 1970 Chevron B16 in Group Eight, finishing fourth. Keith Frieser from Alberta, Canada won that race in his No.27 1972 Lola T290. This group is the 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. Fellow Canadian Cal Meeker finished second in No.115 1973 Lola T294, followed by Mike Thurlow of California in No.4 1973 Lola T294.

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

Group Nine for the later Formula Jr cars, with disc brakes, was a lively group with drivers well known in vintage circles. There were two father-son combo. One was the de Silvas, who each also race locally at Laguna in SCCA – Timothy de Silva in No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV, who won the Formula Continental race two weeks ago and his father, Harindra de Silva in No.96 1963 Huffaker Mk3A. The other was the Bakers, Danny the son and Bob the father.

Timothy de Silva No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV Formula Junior

Timothy de Silva’s No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV Formula Junior

Art Hebert had the pole position in his silver No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A FJ, but he spun in the Turn Three oil dry on the first lap, and then played catchup for the rest of the race. Danny Baker, who had gridded eleventh in his No.36 1963 Lotus 27 FJ had charged to first by Lap Two. Timothy de Silva was close on his heels in second place, and eventually caught Baker and Joseph Colasacco in his No.30 1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJ. The young de Silva won, followed by Baker and Colasacco. Hebert finished ninth in a field of 31 FJs.

Some of the FJ drivers are also owners/drivers of historic Formula One Cars, which aren’t running this weekend. They include Dr. Nick Colyvas in his 1962 Lotus 22, finishing eighth; Chris Locke, who drove his F1 car in the movie ‘Rush’ finished eleventh Saturday in his 1963 Lotus 27; Bob Baker in his 1963 Lola Mk5A; and John Anderson in his 1961 Cooper T56.

According to the Zoom-Zoom scoring on the Start-Finish Bridge, the second wave of FJ’s were faster than the leaders, clocking upwards of 114 mph going over the hill in Turn One.

Sunday’s schedule calls for more morning practice, and Sunday afternoon races, with the grid set by the finishing positions in Saturday’s races.

The Run Groups for this weekend are:
1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars
1955-1962 GT Cars
1955-1961 Sports Racing cars under & over 2000cc
1958-1960 Formula Junior – front engine & drum brake cars
1961-1963 Formula Junior – disc brakes
1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc
1963-1966 GT cars over 2500cc
1970-1984 Sports Racing cars under 2100cc
1973-1981 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT
1981-1991 FIA / IMSA GTO, GTP

One of the highlights for me at the Reunion events is all the eye candy, and I don’t just mean the race entries.Back in 2000 Gill Campbell, now SCRAMP Senior Vice President of Event Operations, determined that the paddock was too full of generic rental cars parked with the race cars, and felt an upgrade was in keeping with the event. Special Parking Passes were issued for Classic Cars, which weren’t competing. And the idea grew. Now there aren’t many modern-era cars seen anywhere in the large sprawling paddock, but there certainly are some interesting, intriguing, unusual and flat-out gorgeous vehicles interspersed everywhere.

Take a look at just a small sampling.

Wolfe

Mini Convertible

Old Jag

Ferrari Testarosa

Figaro

Lancia Rallye Car

I Ain't No Balloon Foot"

HAPPY HARVICK!

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Kevin Harvick aka Happy Harvick, made it two for two in winning races this weekend, putting his No.4 Mobil 1 Ford in Victory Circle Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. He won the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Harvick was the 11th winner in the 16 Cup races so far.

Harvick, the California Kid, had never won a Cup race at Sonoma, the Cup track he considers ‘home.’ His team owner, Tony Stewart, won the race last year. This year, the Stewart Haas, owned by Stewart and Gene Haas, team switched to Ford.

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

“It’s been a lotta work, a lotta hours, and it’s paying off. This is worth the wait, to come to Sonoma for so many years. This weekend has worked out well.

“It means a ton to get this Sonoma win. To finally check this one off the list. I feel like we have been close a couple times but never put it all together. Being so close to home and having raced here so much, this was one that was on the top of the list and today we were able to check that box.”

Harvick hadn’t won a race this year, so this was his first win of the season, his 36th career victory, and his first win since his team switched to Ford for this season. The team has won twice, the other victory belonging to Kurt Busch. Ford has won seven races this season. Harvick’s win brings him up to third in the Driver points.

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Photo by Mike Burghardt

As race wore down, Harvick was slowing down to save fuel, but still maintaining a healthy lead ahead of contending SHR teammate,Clint Bowyer. Harvick led twice in the race, laps 65-66 and the last 21 laps.

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

Harvick beat Bowyer by 8.036 seconds. Harvick had slowed his pace to save on fuel, gambling on there being no late-race caution. Bowyer had some interactions with a couple of other drivers, but hung in there to finish runner-up. “You get there back in traffic and you’re so much faster than them you have to check up to save a mistake. You run over them and you don’t mean to; you get frustrated and get a little bit farther behind and a little bit farther behind. I saw the 42 (Kyle Larson) check up and I get into him and I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ll both survive this’. And then all of a sudden the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) was coming through him and I smoked him and hurt the left front. We were fast all weekend. With clean air and an long run, that’s always my strong suit. We got the long run, we just had to start dead last to get it.”

Cars 3

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Clint Bowyer No.14 FordBowyer had the CARS 3 racecar this weekend. For those who need more encouragement to go see the movie just out, which features substantial voiceovers from the late Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, here is another photo of the Pixar CARS.

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

SHR Team: Crew Chief, Rodney Childers; Co-Owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas

Third through fifth were Brad Keselowski/No.2 Freightliner Elite Support Ford; Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota; and Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota.

Dale Earnhardt No.88 Chevrolet

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. ran as high as third, but finished sixth overall. He was asked what stood out for him in his 17-race career, making him the most proud. “I think the wins and everything, are great. I enjoyed celebrating those. But, long after your career; guys come along and win races and some of your accomplishments on the track sort of get forgotten. But, who you are as a person never gets forgotten. People never forget who you were. I hope people just thought I was good and honest and represented the sport well. I hope people that work with me enjoyed working with me, whether it was in the Late Model ranks or whatever; and I hope the guys I raced against enjoyed racing with me. That’s really all that will matter. And, what people I think will remember, is always you’re alive and beyond. Hopefully I left a good impression. I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Kyle Larson

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Pole Sitter Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet led for the first nine laps before being passed by Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota. He then ran off course and fell backwards. Larson won four different races in the past week, but was lapped in the fading moments of the Cup race. He finished twenty-sixth. However, Larson maintain his points lead, 659 points, thirteen ahead of Truex.

Daniel Suarez/No.19 Stanley Toyota was the top Rookie, finishing sixteenth.

Harvick won Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race, and said then, and now, that he wanted to keep busy on weekends, wanted to get more laps on a road course, and definitely wanted to bring more attention to and work with the Western series to help them get more attention and sponsorship. The Western drivers sometimes don’t get equal representation or focus as do the Eastern series, and Harvick wants to change that.

Martin-Truex

Photo by Mike Burghardt

Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota won the first Stage, making it the eleventh stage he’s won this season, which helps him points wise. With two wins and 11 stages, he has 21 Playoff Points, more than any other Cup driver. His day didn’t end so well, however, as his engine failed and he retired on Lap 86.

Jimmie Johnson/No48 Lowe’s Chevrolet won Stage Two, his first. He already has two victories, so he’s in the Playoffs.

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford had a character-building race. She had her best start this season, sixth. Patrick had contact with Earnhardt in the first stage, and finished thirty-seventh. That brought out a caution to rearrange the tire stacks. She started Stage Two from twentieth, and had another contact with Earnhardt which included AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger Chevrolet, which spun her wherein she was then hit by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford. Patrick finished that stage in 34th. She started Stage Three from eighteenth spot and finished 17th, on the lead lap. “It definitely wasn’t the day the Code 3 Associates team was expecting, but we were able to battle back to a decent finish. The car was just awful in the final laps of the last two runs, but we made the most of it at the end.” Her boyfriend, Stenhouse, was evaluated and released from the infield care center.

Also into character-building was Allmendinger. He started fifth, led for four laps and then had encounters and excursions. He then lost power and finished thirty-fifth, six laps down. “I don’t know what happened there. I just noticed what was going to be our final pit stop I kind of looked down and just noticed the battery starting to die. From there that was it. Shutting all the switches off and everything wasn’t going to work. I’m mad at myself for not driving very well. The car was pretty good. That first stint was good. The No. 78 (Martin Truex) was pretty good, but thought we were going to be okay. I just didn’t drive very well and just bad luck again.”

Kasey Kahne/No.5 Microsoft Windows Chevrolet hit the wall hard on the last lap which brought out a caution but didn’t affect Harvick taking the victory. Kahne finished twenty-fourth, one lap down. He was evaluated and released from the infield care center. “It was a hard hit. No. 15 no clue who he is, I saw him a lot today lapping him, but he went low down the front stretch and then just, I was going to his outside and he just turned right and just hit me, put me straight in the wall getting the white flag there. No clue what he was thinking. You obviously don’t know what he’s doing either.”

There were ten leaders and thirteen lead changes. Other leaders were Truex three times for 25 laps; Hamlin twice for thirteen laps; Keselowski once for 17 laps; Johnson once for 12 laps; Kyle Busch once for three laps; JTG Daughtery Chevrolet teammates, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroeger and Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford, each once for four laps; and Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet, once for a lap. McMurray also turned the fastest lap

Harvick Cup Banner

As the race progressed, the average race speed increased to 77.710 mph, but never reached last year’s average of 80.966 mph. The three-stage race was interrupted by six cautions for 12 laps, but none for the third and final stage – 60 laps.

There were several speeding tickets, including Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and Joey Logano.

Other penalties included too many crew over wall or over wall too soon or not in contact with outside tire, and pitting before pit road open.

Post Race Tech Inspection Report: First and second place cars plus the random car, No.1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and left for the NASCAR R&D Facility in Charlotte. The third, fourth and fifth place finishing cars passed the ‘At Track’ Inspection and were released. NASCAR Tech had an issue with the No.18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota having two lug nuts not safe and secure. This means a one-race suspension for the Crew Chief and a $20,000 fine. The Kyle Busch team is already serving a Crew Chief suspension for having five lug nuts not safe and secure leaving the pits at Dover. That wheel left the car. At Sonoma, the No.18 Assistant Crew Chief was filling in. Now the No.18 team will go to the next backup Crew Chief.

The next race is 1 July 2017 at Daytona International Speedway.

Stage Three Restart!

SONOMA SUNDAY

Sunday morning at Sonoma Raceway was overcast and downright chilly. But the enthusiastic fans didn’t seem to mind.The RV field across the road and down aways from the track was very full with campers and lots of team flags. The Trackside TV show was broadcast live from Victory Circle with various drivers and notables. Remnants of colorful confetti from Saturday’s Victory Circle were strewn everywhere. Happy fans were queuing up for parade laps around the 10-turn, 1.99-mile NASCAR track configuration.

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick. Photo by Mike Burghart

Saturday’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Pro Series-West race was, as always, exciting and filled with drama. Pole sitter, Will Rodgers/No.7 Solvang Brewing Company Chevrolet led most of the race, but in the end was beaten by 2014 NASCAR Cup Champion, Kevin Harvick, who started sixth, drove No.4 Fields Ford. He turned the fastest lap of 88.302 mph/1:21.131. The Margin of Victory ahead of Rodgers, a Rookie, was 0.530. Rodgers was running his first K&N road race.

Finishing third through fifth were David Mayhew/No.17 MMI Racing Chevrolet; Michael Self/No.9 Sunrise Ford; and Rookie Derek Kraus/No.19 Carlyle Tools Toyota, who is now third in the standings.

Will Rodgers

Kevin Harvick

David Mayhew

Left to Right: Will Rodgers, Kevin Harvick, and David Mayhew.

Harvick, one of four Cup drivers entered in the race, said he wanted to run the race for fun and give back to the series which gave him his start. “It always feels good to win no matter what it is. The main objective was to come have fun, shine a little light on the series and shine a little light on how much talent is in the series. This particular series did a lot for me and to come back and be a part of it, see the health of it and see the young guys racing was the main objective.

Kevin Harvick banner

“It’s always fun to race in front of your home state fans. It’s been a long time since I raced in this particular series here, so it was a fun weekend.”

Rodgers said “For some funny reason, I had a feeling as far back as four weeks ago that it was going to be me and Kevin coming into turn 11 on the last lap. And sure enough, there we were. He ran a really good race, I learned a lot from him. We were able to lead some laps there in the beginning. It doesn’t feel too bad to finish second today.” Rodgers moved up to fourth in the standings.

Todd Gilliland/No.16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota maintained his lead in the standings, with his sixth place finish.

The other Cup drivers running the race were Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez. Blaney, driving No.88 Discount Tire Ford, ran hard and well, before his starting third and then ending up at the rear, and working his way back up the field. He unfortunately had to retire mechanical on Lap 53 of the 64-lap race. Suarez started seventh and had worked up to third near the end only to suffer mechanical issues which dropped him back to eleventh at the finish. This was his first Cup weekend on a road course, his first time at the wine country track. All the Cup drivers drove hard and well, and the K&N drivers appreciated the opportunity to race with the professionals, giving them a chance to learn from the best.

Kevin O’Connell from the Cup race was also entered, but withdrew after qualifying.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Sonoma round of the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series is one of the first race tracks to which Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won’t be returning, as he ‘retires’ from full-time Cup racing. Track President & General Manager, Steve Page and his staff set the bar high in terms of unique and memorable ways to salute NASCAR’s most popular driver for the past 14 years. Drawing on Dale and wife Amy’s love of dogs, Sonoma Raceway will sponsor the training of three service/comfort dogs who will work with children. The three puppies, named Dale, Junior and Amy were introduced to Earnhardt in a surprise ceremony Friday just prior to his scheduled media conference.

DaleEarnhardt No.88

Earnhardt was also presented with a a more traditional Sonoma Raceway (huge) wine bottle for his trophy case. There will be other highlights during the Sunday pre-race ceremonies. He starts the race from tenth position, and there will be no missing Junior’s racecar on track, with its in-your-face yellow. Way to go, Dale!

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter. Photo by Mike Burghart

Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer and Executive Producer of the movie, CARS 3, John Lasseter, is the Official Pace Car Driver for the Cup race; and Cristela Alonzo, the voice in CARS 3 of elite trainer Cruz Ramirez, is the Grand Marshal. He said he wasn’t nervous until he got his Pace Car lessons from Brett Bodine. There is no Cruise Control on the tricked-out Toyota Pace Car, so he’ll have to manually control the mandated 40 mph pace car speed. But he said “It was the thrill of a lifetime” getting his lessons

All CARS movies were directed by Sonoma County residents, and Sonoma Raceway President/General Manager, Steve Page, facilitated Lasseter’s introduction to the world of NASCAR.

The cowl area of the front engine cover has an air intake opening which teams cover up for aero reasons. The teams seem to delight in finding trick emblems to affix on these covers while the race cars are on the grid prior to the race.

No.1 Cessna

No.34 Love's Stop

No.20 Stanley

Cup Starting Grid

GANASSI FRONT ROW

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet continued his NASCAR dominance Saturday with his second straight pole position in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway. His best lap was 1:15.177 at 95.295 mph. This is his fourth start at Sonoma, and his fourth career pole in 127 Cup races.

Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Jamie McMurray/No.1 Cessna Chevrolet will start next to him, with a qualifying lap of 1:15.249/95.204 mph.

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray

Third through fifth were Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota; Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Carmel Toyota; and AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet.

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

Larson was stoked, winning the pole at his ‘home’ track with lots of family and friends. His idea of celebrating is going to nearby Calistoga Speedway to watch Saturday night short-track racing. “It feels good. This is my home track, I grew up about an hour and a half from here. So, always love coming to Sonoma. It’s a fun place and our race cars are always fast. I felt like I’ve had a shot at the pole every time I’ve qualified here and just haven’t gotten the job done. Focused on hitting my marks today and messed up a little bit there on that run. Honestly, didn’t think it was that good of a run. I felt like I had less grip there, but we were able to probably make up some time in the braking zones and stuff like that and run a good enough lap for the pole, so it was pretty cool.”

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

McMurray said “It was a really good lap. The team is on a roll and it’s awesome. On my sticker run I missed Turn 7, so I knew that I had given up a couple of tenths probably in that corner. But on my last run, I did everything I thought really well. The No. 42 just put together a really good lap and was able to have enough of a cushion, he messed up Turn 11, but he had enough of a cushion there that he was able to overcome it. It was a good day though for our organization. Our cars have been so good this year and both teams have run so well and it has just continued this weekend. Congratulations to Mike Hull at Road America (IndyCar race),) who has been with Chip for 25 years.”

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez of Mexico was the top Rookie, qualifying eleventh in No.19 Stanley Toyota. This is his first time at Sonoma Raceway, his first Cup road race.

Suarez is one of four Cup drivers who are also running Saturday afternoon’s Carneros 250 NASCAR K&N Race. The others are Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Kevin O’Connell – who withdrew at the last moment. Harvick won the race in another very exciting, fun-filled race in one of NASCAR’s exciting Home Track Series.. Harvick said he ran it to have fun and to shine attention on the young up and coming drivers. And that he did – he raced hard against pole sitter, Rookie Will Rodgers of Solvang CA, who led much of the race and finished second.

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick/No.10 Code 3 Associates Ford will start sixth, making it her third-best starting position in the Cup Series and the best start by a female at Sonoma Raceway. The previous best was her eleventh position last year and in 2014.

One of the long-time ‘Road Racing Ringers,’ Boris Said/No.33 Circle Sport Chevrolet may be the oldest driver, at the admitted age of 55. While he’s grateful to be running Cup still, at his age, he is pleased with all the young guns and said it’s time for a changing of the guard. This weekend’s crop has five drivers age 25 or younger, with the youngest two being 21, months apart – Chase Elliott and Erik Jones. Josh Bilicki/No.51 Marriott Chevrolet is 22, Ryan Blaney/No.21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford is 23, and Larson is 24. Ty Dillon/No.13 GEICO Chevrolet is 25.

Thirty-seven of the 38 entries qualified. Matt Kenseth/No.20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota eschewed making the run as he already was going to be starting at the back due to an engine change.

Sunday’s 110-lap race will start at noon local time/3pm ET and air live in FOX Sports 1 TV, the last of the FOX TV broadcasts for the season.

Goodyear Tires

SUNDAY SUNRISE SOUNDS AND SIGHTS

Pagoda

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

Cannon fired!

Cannon fired!

>

Fox TV Crew

Local TV Crew

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

Sunday Schedule

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

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

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

Matthew Metcalfe

Matthew Metcalfe

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

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

Pagoda

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

SATURDAY COLLAGE

Autograph Mob

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

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

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

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

Autograph mob scene

This line is closed

Autograph queues

Tony Kanaan

Scott Goodyear & Alan Bestwick

Fernando Alonso

Brian Barnhart

Brian Barnhart. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

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

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

Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti

Alexander Rossi & Milk Award

Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

JAR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso

James Davison

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

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

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda

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

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

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

AJ Foyt

Buddy Lazier

Juan Pablo Montoya

Rick Mears

Al Unser Jr

Helio Castroneves

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

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

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

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

McLaren road car

JR Rutherford's Indy 500 car

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

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

Mark Miles

Mark Miles

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

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

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

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

ABC OF INDY 500 – CARPENTER, BOURDAIS & ALONSO

Indy 500 Victory Podium

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

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

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

Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sebastien Bourdais' No.18 Honda - before

Sebastien Bourdais’ No.18 Honda – before

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

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

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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

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

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

Takuma Sato

Scott Dixon

JR Hildebrand

Will Power's Pit Cart

Tony Kanaan No.10

Marco Andretti's No.27 Honda

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

Drying Posse

RHR No.28 Honda going to Tech

No.15 & No.29 in Tech Bay

No.11 Chevrolet going to Tech

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

Graham Rahal No.15 Nose stickers

Fernando Alonso No.29 Honda with nose stickers

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

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

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

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

PERFECTING POWER

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

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

Will Power

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

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

Helio Castroneves

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

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

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

Gabby Chaves

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

Al Unser, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Hinchcliffe

James Hinchcliffe's shoes

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

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

James Hinchcliffe's Gold

Mikhail Aleshin's No.7

Jay Howard's No.77

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

HOT TRACK!

Start waving Yellow Flag

Opening Day for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at The Brickyard. It was sunny and hot Monday, and eager fans were in the garages aka Gasoline Alley. It was busy with the teams setting up their cars for Monday afternoon’s practice session. At noon local/ET time, all the drivers were allowed five minutes for installation laps to check out their cars and the track. Then all but a selected few parked their cars until 2pm when the track was open for all. The starter waved the Yellow Flag for the start of the Installation Laps.

The famed race track has had a full conversion, from the 2.439-mile, 14 turn road course circuit to the 2.5-mile, four-turn oval speedway. The work started with a crew of 25 immediately after the Indianapolis Grand Prix Saturday afternoon, and went until 10pm. It started up again Sunday at 8am and went until 4pm, with temperatures in the mid-eighties, and little wind for respite. It took 18 hours over the two days.The barriers, tire walls and fencing has to be removed and replaced, the track cleaned up and swept, and painting done. Lots of equipment was utilized to do the heavy lifting. Job well done!

Start waving Yellow Flag

Firestone color-coded tires

Firestone tires issues three extra sets of the Indianapolis 500 race tires to the Rookies, and two sets to the Refreshers. There is only the one tire for this race, and it has the same compound as last year, with a new rear construction. There are no rain tires for oval racing. The tires are color-coded: Left side tires have a silver rim with a white Firestone F logo; the right side tires have a bright blue rim with a red F logo.

There are but a few taking the ROP – Rookie Orientation Program, required of all rookies who haven’t previously run the Indy 500. It is also a Refresher session for those who haven’t run in a while, which could include the one-off drivers. The three Rookies who went out late were Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda; Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and Zach Veach/No.40 Indy Women in Tech Championship AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet. Those in the Refresher category include Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Andretti Autosport Honda, who passed his ROP in a private test Monday week; Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda; Sage Karam/No.24 DRR Mecum Auctions Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet; Pippa Mann/No.63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; Sebastian Saavedra/No.17 AFS Juncos Racing Chevrolet; and Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Mann indicated she wouldn’t participate in the Refresher session.

Fernando Alonso's No.29 Honda

Fernando Alonso in Pit Lane

Alonzo's Car towed back to Garage

Alonso is garnering a fair share of attention and he’s paying back. He was seen at the airport signing autographs when he landed from Sunday’s Formula One race, after flying in with Zak Brown of McLaren, in a private jet. And he stuck around after his F1 race in Spain to do the obligatory bull pen interviews, smiling and grateful to have finished a race. In the Gasoline Alley Monday morning, Alonso was again seen signing autographs.

Alonso was fastest in the Rookie/Refresher Session, at 221.634 mph, on Lap 26 of 35 laps. Then the car went back to the garage for a couple of hours.

Second through seventh during the Rookie/Refresher session were: Servia, Rookie Jones, Howard, Saavedra, Rookie Harvey, and Rookie Veach. Others on the Installation Lap were Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda; Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet; Carlos Munoz/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet; Graham Rahal/No.15 Steak N’Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Spencer Pigot/No.11 Juncos Racing Chevrolet.

Mikhail Aleshin's car in Tech

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda in Tech

Buddy Lazier's Car

All but one Verizon INDYCAR field have been through Scrutineering, at least the Safety Check portion. Drivers are allowed to have just the Safety Check portion, and waive going through the Technical Inspection until after they’ve been on track. That portion must be completed before the driver can compete.

The only driver yet to appear is Buddy Lazier/No.49 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet. He is on a ‘short-short program’ and won’t be on track until Thursday. Lazier is in stealth mode, with no garage sign installed yet.

Graham Rahal

Speedway Middle School Students

Lots of school children were on field trips Monday, ostensibly with a STEM focus. There are small groups of elementary school children with chaperones, and a huge mob of Indiana middle-school students from Speedway, practically the whole student body – 200. They and other middle school students were here with the Perdue University MSTEM3 Initiative. Verizon INDYCAR Driver Rahal spoke to the group before the track opened. Monday and Tuesday Honda’s STEM Connections Tour to promote STEAM – Science, Technology, the arts, and math behind motorsports. On Tuesday 2016 Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda will speak to high school students. After the talks the students were free to roam.

Alonso's Garage Sign

Oriol Servia's Garage Sign

Sebastian Saavedra's Garage Sign

Pippa Mann's Garage Sign

Jay Howard's Garage Sign

Jack Harvey's Garage Sign
Spencer Pigot's Garage Sign

Gaby Chaves Garage Sign

Buddy Lazier's Garage Sign

PROSAIC POWER

Trylon

Trylon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Day One of the Merry Month of May continued at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the Autonomous to the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. The theme is “The Greatest Legends in Racing!” The weather Friday was deceptively sunny, with a frigid wind chill factor, which kept all the Gasoline Alley garage doors shut. Not so much for privacy, but warmth. There wasn’t much to see as the teams were beavering away behind closed doors.

Juncos Racing

A couple of teams had just enough car parts outside their garage to pique one’s curiosity about the so-called ‘one-off’ cars which will be running the Indy 500. Examples were the bright greens and orange of the Juncos team entry for Sebastian Saavedra. Nearby blue and white livery on Harding Racing’s No.88 Chevrolet for Gabby Chaves was being set up. And one can’t miss the Pippa pink pieces outside Dale Coyne Racing.

Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Practice Two for the Verizon INDYCAR Series was early afternoon, 61 degrees F and a biting cold 12 mph wind. All cars went on course and for a brief while Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda led the field. It wasn’t long before another new track record was set by Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet – 1:07.7684. As the session progressed, only one driver was faster in the morning session – Carlos Munoz/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Perhaps it was because he spun out sideways and coasted at speed into the grass, stopping short of the tire wall.

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The 45-minute session was interrupted for a Red Flag when Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda ran out of fuel on the back stretch. Other than that, there was almost no drama in the session. To illustrate how prosaic it was, one of only a couple of talking points seemed to be the brief wheel touch by Simon Pagenaud/No.1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda. Both cars continued, and Rossi moved up to fourth position at that point. Afterwards, Rossi said “He was leaving the pits, and we were on our first lap on reds (the alternate Firestone compound tires). He stayed on my end in Turn Seven. Fortunately, it’s practice. It doesn’t matter. We always try and give each other space, but it was practice, so it doesn’t matter.”

Will Power

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power’s fast time held, so he was again on top. Second and third were teammates Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon and Juan Pablo Montoya/No.22 Fitzgerald Gilder Kits. Fourth and fifth were Rossi and another Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Verizon.

Conor Daly/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet moved up to tenth in P2, after finishing last in P1.

Sam Schmidt, Mario Andretti & Doug Boles

Sam Schmidt, Mario Andretti & Doug Boles

There was a verbal preview of Saturday’s Challenge Race between Sam Schmidt and Mario Andretti were the two, who engaged in verbal jousting in the Media Center. At previous Indy 500 weekends, Schmidt, a disabled race driver/team owner, has driven his specially modified Arrow Electronics Corvette Stingray in exhibition laps. This year he will race SAM (Semi-Autonomous Motorcar) on the IMS road course. Schmidt’s Driver Assistant the past two years has been Robby Unser. Not sure who might be with Andretti. Andretti and Schmidt have yet to clarify just what is on the line in their own personal bet – maybe has something to do with a ride in the 2018 Indy 500?

At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum there is “A.J. Foyt A Legendary Exhibition,” celebrating his 60-year involvement in the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing. The four-time Indy 500 winner, who has been involved in one form or another in every Indy 500 for the past sixty years, personifies American racing. He is perhaps the only driver who ever has or ever will start 35 consecutive Indy 500’s as a driver. He’s fielded an Indy 500 team for the past 35 years. Foyt is the only driver who has won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Dan Gurney.) In his 21-year IndyCar racing history, he won 67 races. The exhibit includes 35 of his race cars and much, much more.

I continue to have major connectivity issues which plague my posting. Sorry.