HOMETOWN HERO

Race Winner Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Pole sitter Kyle Larson won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race at Sonoma Race in dominating fashion. He swept all three stages, and led 57 of the 90 laps. He only fell behind after pit stops but wasted no time in catching up and pulling away in his No.5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. Each time Larsen pitted he fell back, and charged his way back up to the lead and stretched his gap. This was his first back-to-back race this season, his third victory this year, and his ninth career win. He now moves into second place for points with 617, behind Denny Hamlin who leads with 664. Larson’s teammate, Chase Elliot is in third place. Larsen, who hails from Elk Grove, CA first came to the track, then called Sears Point Raceway, at the age of five. He calls Sonoma his home track.

Elliott, who’s known as a good road racer, gave Larson a run for his money in the race, driving No.9 Napa Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr came in third, driving his No.19 Bass Pro Toyota. Fourth and fifth were Joey Logano in No.22 Autotrader Ford and Kyle Busch in No.18 Sport Clips Toyota.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

There was a lot of good racing behind Larson in the first big pack, with passing and maneuvers, mostly clean. The Northern California racer said he’s been working on his restarts. One thing which has helped him this last week was the team hiring American road racer, Scott Speed to work with him. Larsen said it really helped, and he got better in outbreaking this weekend. He said he had to learn the track really quickly as there were some changes since he last raced here.

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch

There were eight cautions for 18 laps, two coming in the last three laps, three within 18 laps of the finish. It seemed every time Larson got the lead and pulled away, another caution came to bunch of the field. Larson made some bold and daring passes when going for the lead after pit stops and was successful in fending off attempts to crowd or pass him in tight squeezes. The majority of problem-causing cautions came in Stage Three, involving multiple cars. Caution Six right after a Restart involved seven cars in Turn 11. William Byron went to the garage with severe body damage; Kevin Harvick pitted for removal of hood, fender and assorted parts – some of which were given to eager race fans hanging out by his pits. Corey LaJoie pitted for body work. Others were Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, and Erik Jones. Caution Seven involved a bobble by Michael McDowell, and three cars were caught out – Cody Ware, who was taken to the infield care center and released; Ryan Preece and Matt DeBenedetto. The last caution in Turn 4 involved Anthony Alfredo, Bell, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. The one incident in the first stage involved Ricky Stenhouse crashing in Turn One, bringing out the fork lift and assorted equipment.

DENNY HAMLIN

DENNY HAMLIN

Chase Briscoe, winner of Saturday’s ARCA race, was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race, driving No.14 Ford Performance School Ford. He started 25th and finished 17th, on the lead lap.

Other race stats: The race ran 3 hrs, 14 mins, 42 secs. There were thirteen lead changes among seven drivers: Kyle Larson 1-9; Denny Hamlin 10-11; Larson 12-21; Kurt Busch 22-27; William Byron 28-32; Larson 33-42; Kurt Busch 43-44; Chase Elliott 45-57; Larson 58-64; Joey Logano 65-66; Kyle Busch 67-68; Larson 69-72; Logano 73-75 and Larson 76-92. Thirty-three of the 37 starters finished the race, all on the lead lap. Two DNFs were accidents and two were mechanical. The average race speed varied from 70.430 mph to 89.755 mph.

Fox Sports broadcasters

Fox Sports broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Kyle Shanahan, Chris Myers, and Clint Bowyer

This weekend’s Cup race is the last regular Cup race for Fox Sports. After next weekend’s non-points NASCAR Cup All Star race in Texas, the TV coverage will be done by NBC. For Sonoma the booth talent was Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Mike Joy, who is also racing in the Historic Trans-Am. For the Pre-Race pit walk, Bowyer and Gordon were joined by host Chris Myers, to interview celebrities and guests. They had a good time among themselves, sometimes winding up each other and/or their guests.

Brehanna Daniels

Brehanna Daniels

During Pre-Race Ceremonies crews were making ready, warming up, putting things in place, and settling their driver. The rear tire changer on the No.52 Ford of Josh Bilicki is Brehanna Daniels, the first African American woman to work on a NASCAR Cup team. She was doing some high-stepping steps and prances to get ready for the race. She has been doing this since 2016, when she was recruited by the NASCAR Diversity program when they came to her college where she was playing basketball. NASCAR was impressed by her athletic ability and exceptional hand speed. She worked on ARCA and NASCAR Truck teams before moving up to Cup. Prior to being recruited, Daniels hadn’t followed NASCAR. When she’s not training for crew work, she’s a clothing entrepreneur, and been on TV. Maybe you’ve seen her in that Advil commercial showing her going over the wall.

Inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues. The No. 19 had one lug nut not safe and secure.

The next NASCAR Cup Series points race is Nashville Sunday 20 June 2021.

Chase Elliott & Kyle Larson

Chase Elliott & Kyle Larson. Photo by Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing

FANS IN THE STANDS

J Fanstand

It’s bright and sunny at Sonoma Raceway Sunday for the one and done Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race. The breeze tempered the heat which is forecast to reach low eighties. The sold-out crowd of fans are out and about, and the Cardboard Cutouts are already enjoying their 15 minutes of fame in the main Grandstands H, I & J overlooking the pits. Do you recognize anyone?

NASCAR Tech Station

NASCAR Tech Station

NASCAR Tech Station

The crews for the 37 Cup cars are busy putting their respective car through their pace. There are four NASCAR tech stations the cars must visit.Then they line up in Pit Lane. For the sharp-eyed who noticed that the Cup war wagons were on site Saturday morning along the Pit Lane fence, while the Cup haulers didn’t start their slow, graceful conga line into the Cup garage area at 7pm Saturday night – there is an answer. A firm called Champion hauls and installs these items as well as garage setups from race to race independent of the team haulers. After each race they collect the equipment and transports to next event.

Kyle Larson Chevrolet

Kyle Larson Chevrolet

Kyle Larson will start on pole today in No.5 Hendrick Chevrolet, with Chase Elliot next to him on the front row in No.9 NAPA Chevrolet. Cup points leader, Denny Hamlin will start fourth in the FedEx Toyota, next to William Byron in No.24 Axalta Chevrolet. There are 17 Chevrolets, 15 Fords and five Toyotas. All will start the race.

Sunday’s race will be 90 lap/226.8 miles. The three stages will be 20 / 40 / 90, with a Competition Caution on Lap 10. The estimated time of the race is 2.42.09, and the race will be broadcast on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Pit Road speed is 40 mph and Caution Car speed is 45 mph. Let’s hope they don’t have to be admonished abut overdriving the yellow flags as was the cast with F1 this morning in Baku.

Ken Esman Tour Guide

Ken Esman Tour Guide

In the Historic Trans-Am race, it was the usual- lots of fast loud ground-pounding cars chasing each other, bobbing and weaving, passing and repassing. The two leading cars , Jim Hague in No.16 1970 yellow Mustang driven originally by Peter Greg, and Ken Epsman in his red/white/blue 1972 Javelin originally raced by Roy Woods. They swapped the lead nearly every lap. Epsman said later he hoped NASCAR was watching. AT the photo finish, no one knew who won. The Series doesn’t use transponders, didn’t know where was the timing light, and frankly didn’t care as they were just having fun. Afterwards Epsman was giving fans photo ops inside the yellow Mustang. The series is fan-friendly. Their next stop are the two vintage Reunion races in Monterey in August and then on to Road America.

H Fanstand

Kyle Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan

Kyle Shanahan, Head Coach for the San Francisco 49’ers, is the Grand Marshal this weekend. He met with media and said he’s been practicing “those four words.” He’s a bit nervous, as he doesn’t feel he has a good speaking voice. He’s used to talking and giving commands behind a clipboard on the field. He joked that no one could live up to Kevin James. Shanahan was really stoked to see all the NASCAR fans, as he’s “tired of cardboard cutouts.”

Another guest celebrity Sunday was Guy Fieri, renown Chef. He’s driving the Pace Car. He had a claque of foodies following him around.

Guy Fieri

Guy Fieri

Sonoma Raceway announced today that it’s 30-year partnership with Save Mart will have another multi-year extension. The 2022 schedule has yet to be released, but track officials expect their date to be early to mid June, as usual. Executive Vice President and General Manager, Jill Gregory, said she expects next year’s race will be fully back to normal with capacity crowds. She said this NASCAR race is the last race under the current enforceable protocols. After this, there will be new rules.

I Fanstand

SMOKING HOT RACING

Briscoe Pre Race

Briscoe

It was smoking hot Saturday at Sonoma Raceway for the General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West Race. That refers to the grass fire started by Tony Toste when he pulled off on fire in Turn One on Lap 35. It refers to the hot, fast and furious race pace of the various packs of cars all vying for position. And it refers to the smoking burnouts performed by race winner Chase Briscoe, first parked at the Pit Wall on the front straight and then the smoking doughnuts performed on the Turn 11 infield. He led all 51 laps of the 50-lap race.

Chase Briscoe was the only Cup driver to enter Saturday’s ARCA race and was the leading driver for all but about two minutes of the Saturday ARCA track time. The only lap he didn’t lead in his No.14 Huffy-Parker Boats Ford was the last one in qualifying when he was pipped by Jake Drew in No.9 Sunrise Ford-Lucas Oil Ford for the pole position. Briscoe started the race third behind Todd Souza in No.13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford.

The Green Flag was delayed three laps for the Sonoma Stripe – a huge swath of oil laid down by Zane Smith’s MadoroM Wine-Best Western Sonoma Chevrolet from Turn Five all the way to Turn Seven. A wide ribbon of grease sweep aka oil dry covered the oil on the track. And then Souza was given a black flag penalty for jumping the start and had to pit. No sooner than the Green Flag was given, then the first of several cautions came out for Rod Kneeland’s Chevrolet which had to be towed after it parked unsafely with mechanical problems.

The field would bunch up for the restart, and Briscoe would take off once given the Go flag.This scenario was repeated and replayed six more time in the 50-lap race. It wasn’t a record for the Series. There was the scheduled half-time pit stop for the field. The drivers were frisky and tested their limits, against the track and with each other. Several had varying degrees of contact. There was some good close and tight racing, especially up in front.

Dylan Lupton in McAnally Toyota finished second, followed by Paul Pedroncelli Jr in his Chevrolet. Fourth was the top Rookie, Cole Moore in another McAnally Toyota, followed by Souza, who overcame his penalty push to the back.

Pole sitter Drew, one of nine Rookies, finished seventh, behind Rookie Dean Thompson’s Huddleston Ford.

Burgess Pit Stop

Burgess Chevrolet

Bridget Burgess overcame several setbacks to finish eighth, after starting ninth. She ran as high as fifth before being hit by Jesse Love’s McAnally Toyota and falling to 14th. She worked back through several restarts and got back up to tenth and then eighth. She spun out by herself, fell back and caught up. During the halftime stop, after her crew serviced her car, it went over to help out Bobby Hillis,Jr. who basically had little or no crew. After another caution she pitted while the parents checked front tires and under the hood before sending her back out. Burgess caught up again.

Ninth and tenth were Rookie Ryan Philpot’s Chevrolet and Bobby Hillis Jr’s Chevrolet.

Thirteen of the 22 drivers finished the race and all were on the lead lap. The other nine DNF. The top Rookie was Cole Moore in a McAnally Toyota.

Under NASCAR’s Covid protocols, drivers can’t interact with the media, so everything is done remotely. This means a short televised Victory ‘ceremony’ with the traditional Sonoma Wine Goblet and a brief Zoom post-race interview for the winner. Briscoe said a road course is more challenging. He definitely had more fun than he thought he would, and is looking forward to tomorrow (NASCAR Cup race.) He said Sonoma was a technical track, and he wished he could have had more practice.

In the Historic Trans-Am race with 22 starters, Jim Hague was on pole with his golden yellow 1970 Mustang. And it seems that nearly every time the field came by Start-Finish a different driver was ahead. Taking turns leading were Ken Epsman/No.2 red/white/blue 1972 Javelin; Bill Ockerland in No.6 blue 1969 Camaro, and Richard Goldsmith in No.77 green (slime) 1970 Dodge Challenger.

Richard Goldsmith #77

Jim Hague #16

Jeffrey O'Neill #15

Goldsmith squeaked by to finish first, followed by Hague, Jefrey O’Neill in No.15 red 1969 Mustang, Patrick Byrne in No.15 white 1967 Mustang, and Ockerlund. Mike Joy finished 18th in No.89 black 1966 Mustang.

Mike Joy #89

Sunday’s schedule calls for Trans-Am warmup, then half-hour race. The Pre Race Ceremonies start at noon, with Cup Driver Introductions at 1pm, followed by the three-stage race. The stages are 20/40/90 laps, for 226.8 miles.

The NASCAR garage is fairly quiet now, as the ARCA haulers move out. The NASCAR contingent comes in at 7:30pm local time.

ARCA pits

ON THE ROAD AGAIN ….

Welcome Race Fans

After 714 days, NASCAR has returned to the wine country road course known as Sonoma Raceway.It’s being called the biggest sporting event in the Bay Area, and the largest outdoor event in California since the pandemic started. Jill Gregory, the new Executive Vice President and General Manager of the track has been working with all the appropriate California and Sonoma County bureaucracies to meet the California Covid protocols.

Jill Gregory

Jill Gregory

For Sonoma Raceway, which has a 47,000 capacity, it means a 33% capacity this weekend to meet social distancing requirements. This translates to about 15-16,000 fans. Tickets sold out quickly for the one-day Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup Race on Sunday. Tickets were still available for Saturday’s General Tire 200 ARCA Menards Series West race and Historic TransAm race. Gregory said the electronic/digital aspect made ticketing easier to manage with longer deadlines. Part of the Raceway’s protocols call for touch-less and digital processes. All ticketing, electronic waivers and signatures are digital to one’s phone. All tickets are reserved, with no General Admission. There will be a new clear bag policy for items being brought into the track, and no golf carts allowed this weekend.

Five hundred fans will be campers, who have to park in a designated area – the 50 Acre Campground. They will all face forward in the same direction rather than in circular compounds. Campers are limited to their own pod or family bubble, and the showers aren’t open. In the grandstands there will be Socially distanced seating, designated by tickets. Interspersed will be 200 Cardboard Cutouts that folks were invited to purchase for placement. Afterwards, they can be picked up and it’s estimated by Cheri Plattner, Community Events Manager, that 90% of them will be picked up and the rest responsibly recycled. The effort raised $50,000 for Speedway Children’s Charities. Friday, a non-track day, Sonoma Raceway hosted Laps for Charity which raised even more money for the Speedway Charities.

The ARCA cars arrived Friday night and are using the Cup garages and pit lane. Once their event is over Saturday afternoon, they will pack up and depart, allowing for the entrance of the Cup haulers and circus. The Historic Trans Am are paddocked behind the main grandstand, near the vendor area.

Sonoma is the third road course race on the Cup schedule this year, but is the only road course with a Cup history. Daytona and COTA were first-time events.

The ARCA field has 22 drivers, including Cup regular, Chase Briscoe. This is the ARCA Menards West Series, not to be confused with the ARCA Menards Series racing as we speak at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. That race just finished, with Ty Gibbs as the winner.

Todd Souza

Chase Briscoe

Left to right: Jake Drew; Todd Souza; and Chase Briscoe.

All 22 of the ARCA drivers participated in the hour-long practice/qualifying session. For 58+ minutes of the session, the fastest car was Stewart-Haas driver, Chase Briscoe driving No.14 Huffy Boats Ford. He was going 88.688 mph for a 1.42.191 lap around the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, which includes the Carousel this year. But it’s never over until the Checkered Flag flies. Jake Drew from Fullerton CA, driving No.9 Sunrise Ford-Lucas Oil Ford for Bob Bruncati pulled out a 89.073 mph lap on the last go-around, taking 1:41.848 to complete the lap. And Todd Souza from Aromas CA pulled in second, driving No.13 Central Coast Cabinets Ford for Kelly Souza. Briscoe, who hails from Mitchel IN, ended up third.

Bridget Burgess

Bridget Burgess

The majority of the ARCA West drivers are from California, with one each from Arizona, Indiana, Japan, and Utah via Australia. The lone female driver, Bridget Burgess comes from Brisbane, Australia, and now lives in Utah, where she once dreamed of competing as a speed skater in the Olympics. Her mother Sarah and father are her crew. The two of them work on the race car, as does Bridget.

Twenty-three Trans Am drivers are entered, with many regulars in this popular series which has a whole tour this season. Included in the Sonoma field are Fox TV motorsports broadcaster Mike Joy in No.89 1966 Mustang; John Hildebrand driving the No.49 Gray Ghost 1964 Pontiac Tempest; and Ken Epsman in No.2 1972 Javelin. The Trans Am cars had a half hour practice and a half hour qualifying session in preparation for the Saturday afternoon race. Pole sitter for the half-hour race is Jim Hague in No.16 yellow 1970 Mustang

John Hildebrand

Left to right: Jim Hague’s No.16 Mustang; Mike Joy; and John Hildebrand and Gray Ghost.

The ARCA and Trans-Am races are Saturday afternoon. Trans-Am also has a second race Sunday morning before the Cup Pre Race ceremonies. This year most of the showy acts will go on, such as Parade Laps, Parachute drop and Patriots Jet Air Show. What will not happen is the Driver’s Meeting and Driver Introductions across the stage in front of the cheering fans. There will be Intros, but on camera for the big screen. The drivers are more regulated and somewhat isolated this year. They arrive at the track Sunday morning, stay within their own pods until the call to the cars. Their Video Meeting will be recorded and shared by NASCAR.

The weather was sunny and breezy all day with wisps of cloud streaks. It did not feel as warm as the low eighties showed on the thermometer. Tomorrow’s forecast is for more of the same, with fewer clouds.

ACURAS RULE!

Acura Team Penske cars

The Acura Team Penske teammates pretty much dominated the penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, starting and finishing first and second – but not in their qualifying order. The winner was Dane Cameron from Northern California, with co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya in No.7 Acura. The pole position car came in second, with Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves. Third was Philipe Derani in No.31 in Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac with Felipe Nasr. He had been chasing Ricky Taylor/No. 10 Minolta Konica Cadillac for much of the race, and passed him in the last 11 minutes. The Margin of Victory was 9.84 seconds and the leader ran 121 laps. The top six cars finished on the lead lap.

Dane Cameron

Cameron’s victory cinched the manufacturer’s championship for Acura.

The weather was clearly much milder than previous days, at 71 F degrees ambient and 84 F track temperatures. The 270-mile race race green, with no Safety Cars.

This was the 15th sports car victory for Cameron, a lucky 13 in the WeatherTech Series. For teammate JPM, it was his sixth in sports cars, and third in WeatherTech. The veteran driver was motivated, as Montoya turned the fastest DPi race lap on Lap 5 at 105.096 mph.

Cameron said “It feels pretty good to win here. It’s especially satisfying to win here after giving away that one a couple of years ago. I grew up in Sonoma, just a few hours north of here. I spent a lot of times here as a kid watching Champ Car races and Formula Atlantics and stuff. I probably watched this guy (referring to his teammate) and Helio in IndyCars when they were here. So it’s nice to get the prototype victory.” Cameron has won here at Laguna Seca, but in GT cars. This was his first prototype win.

Montoya said “It’s a big relief before Petit (Petit Le Mans.) We made sure we had tires at the end.”

There were seven overall lead changes among four drivers: Cameron-75 laps; Ricky Taylor/No.7 Acura-38 laps; Jordan Taylor/No.10 Minolta Konica Cadillac-1 lap; and Tristan Nunez/No.77 Mazda Team Joest-7 laps.

No.52 LMP2 ORECA

In LMP2, with only the two ORECA cars, both made the podium. Matthew McMurray took the Checkered Flag in No.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA, with teammate Dalton Kellett. McMurray said the cooler temperatures didn’t help that much for tire management. Runner up was Cameron Cassels in No.38 Performance Tech Motorsports, with co-driver Kyle Masson, who turned the fastest LMP2 race lap of 101.764 mph.

Dirk Mueller & Joey Hand

Dirk Mueller & Joey Hand

This was the Joey Hand’s and his team’s first GTLM win this season in No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, with co-driver Dirk Mueller. “I’ve been trying since 1998 to win here on my home track. This is more about the people around me, more so about the team. It didn’t start out well. It was pretty bad at first. We went from worst car here to best car here. This is my race for camping here, with my wife and friends. This one really feels really good. This track stands out on any race calendar, but especially for me a California guy.”

No.66 Chip Ganassi Ford GT

Tommy Milner/No.4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7 R ran the fastest GTLM race lap of 97.660 mph.

In the last ten minutes of the race, it was Gutsy GT driving, with the two factory Corvettes, Antonio Garcia No.3 and Tommy Milner/No.4 with John Edwards in No.24 Team RLL BMW – and slicing, dicing, chasing, side by side, nose to tail, nearly or maybe actually touching, but keeping it on the pavement and in forward motion. Fun to watch! In the end, Edwards prevailed ahead of Garcia and Milner, finishing second through fourth in class.

Corey Lewis & Bryan Sellers

Corey Lewis & Bryan Sellers

Bryan Sellars won GTD class in No.48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini, with co-driver Corey Lewis, who also ran the Lamborghini Super Trofeo race race. Lewis said each car completely different. The Trofeo series car was a street chassis. Sellars said their GTD win was a credit to the engineer, controlling tire degradation. “I think you have to look at this race, a lot of times it’s put on drivers. A lot of times it’s put on crew. But I have to say today it was all down to our engineer, Lars Giersing. He did a fantastic job, the car was great. One of the things we focused on this week was tire degradation and we were able to just run consistent and ultimately that was what was able to get us the win.”

No.48 Paul Miller Lamborghini

Sunday started very differently than the previous three days, in that not only was there fog, there was a deep layer of fog so pervasive that the start was delayed five minutes, after which the fog lifted just enough for visibility corner to corner. The ambient temperature was 57 degrees F and the track was only 60 degrees F. Five drivers chose not to go out. Felipe Albuquerque/No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac was the fastest DPi with a lap of 1:16.830; Dalton Kellett/No.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA Cadillac was fastest in LMP2, at 1:20.030. Joey Hand, a local NorCal driver, topped GTLM with a lap of 123.193 in No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Joe Holton’s fast time of 1:25.751 was best for GTLD, driving No.76 Compass Racing McLaren.

IMSA Foggy Pre Grid

No.5, No.76 driving into the fog to Turn 4

Foggy Warmup

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

All cars passed Tech, and there are no updated standings for the Driver’s Championship.

The IMSA season finale is Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, a 10-hour endurance race on 12 October 2019. It will be televised live on NBC starting at noon ET.

LEGENDARY DAY

Autograph Lines

Saturday was Legends day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The day started out hot and humid, sunny with an unpredictable breeze. The weather forecast was for afternoon thunderstorm, right about the time of the Festival Parade downtown Indianapolis. It did rain, hard in mid-afternoon; but as it’s Indy, it came, it poured, and it left. The sun came back out. And the temperatures rose.

At the track there were huge queues for the morning NTT IndyCar driver autograph sessions. And then the fans all found grandstand seats for the public/open Drivers’ Meeting, where all the drivers were introduced and received their Starter Rings. Will Power, as defending Indianpolis 500 winner, received his winner’s trophy from the American Dairy Association; and along with Team Penske owner, Roger Penske, received his Baby Borg trophy for winning last year’s race.There were various and sundry other presentations and speeches. Before and after these festivities, the Historic indycars did Exhibition Laps.

Roger Penske & Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies.

Will Power receiving 'Winners Drink Milk' Plaque

Will Power receiving his Starter Ring

Left to Right: Roger Penske and Will Power receive their Baby Borg Trophies for their 2018 Indy 500 win; Will Power receives his ‘Winners Drink Milk’ Plaque from American Dairy Association CEO, Jenni Browning; and Will Power receives his 2019 Indy 500 starter Ring. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.

At the Drivers’ Meeting, all 33 drivers were present and accounted for. They sat in grid order in a mini-grandstand facing the grandstands, and stood when called to come down to receive their starter rings.

Pole Sitter Simon Pagenaud receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Ed Carpenter receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Spencer Pigot receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring.

Kyle Kaiser received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

James Hinchcliffe receives his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Sage Karam received his 2019 Indy 500 Starter Ring

Left to right, receiving their 2019 Indy 500 Starter Rings are: Front Row – Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter & Spencer Pigot; Last Row – Kyle Kaiser, James Hinchcliffe, and Sage Karem. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Saturday night is when the track makes its Sunday race decisions and plans based on its best weather information. The track has a weather station at the Speedway, plus a partnership with a local TV weather station. Its information is about as current and correct as it can get. Stay tuned.

Seb on a Scooter

Sato on a Scooter
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RHR Golf Cart

Scott Dixon's Scooter

Alexander Rossi's Golf Cart

At the track, there are a variety of ways drivers get around besides walking or rental cars. There are scooters, and watch out – those drivers don’t have a rev limiter on their scooters. There are customized golf carts, fancy motorcycles, and to get to the parade – fancy busses waiting for them right beside the Public Driver’s Meeting grandstand.

Garage Motorcycles

Garage Golf cart lineup

Parade Busses

Many groups took advantage of the relative calm of the day to lead tours around the track and various facilities. Victory Circle had a queue of tours waiting for their chance to visit the iconic podium.

Eric Prill, Doug Boles & Deanna Flanagan at IMS Announcement

One very small group on the Podium Saturday morning was SCCA. Eric Prill, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, along with Deanna Flanagan, Director, Road Racing live-streamed an announcement on the SCCA Facebook page, which was billed as a ‘Major Announcement from a Secret Location.’ Joining them was Doug Boles, President of IMS, to tell the SCCA folks that the SCCA National Runoffs are coming back to IMS in 2021. The Runoffs were first held at the Speedway in 2017 and were so popular, the entry was 969, highest ever for SCCA. Now, as part of the rotation around the country, SCCA is bringing the event back to the Brickyard, with the three-day races being held Oct 1-3, 2021.

After the big announcement, IMS Radio asked Prill to talk about competing at the Runoffs and winning his first-ever National Championship, at IMS.

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Grandstand Crowd. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

MONDAY

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet is on a roll, figuratively, not literally. This year’s Indianapolis 500 pole winner turned the fastest lap of 228.441 mph on his last of 88 laps Monday, as the Checkered Flag flew at the end of the two-hour NTT IndyCar Series practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was only on the top for half a lap, after pipping Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet, who had just hit the top minutes before the end of the session. The last few minutes of the two-hour session were busy with everyone on track. All 33 drivers participated.

Simon Pagenaud's lap chart

Simon Pagenaud’s lap chart

It was pointed out to Pagenaud how incredible it was that he was very consistent in his four laps, perhaps more than any other driver. “I must have had a magic — we used to call it the Franchitti wind. Do you remember that, when Franchitti used to get those magic winds? I think he gave me a bit of wind there. So I don’t know, the car was just phenomenal really. Joking aside, it’s just — the consistency of the car is phenomenal. We run really well on tires. We don’t really use the tires badly at all, and I think we’re not sliding, so we can run really low downforce without sliding, and I think that’s why the consistency is there. Obviously the conditions yesterday helped everybody be a lot more consistent compared to Saturday, but yeah, it’s quite amazing to see this average for sure. I don’t know what I was doing on the fourth lap, right? What the hell.”

The weather was cool and cloudy/overcast with a 12 mph breeze.

Other fast drivers included Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Kanaan finished 11th with 56 laps while his Foyt teammate, young Matheus Leist/No.4 ran 57, finishing 16th. Kanaan also ran four laps in Leist’s car. “Kanaan said “It was busy. We’re still trying to learn everything we can to the race. I had to drive both cars because we wanted to make a change that was going to be too big to do it between one car only, so I jumped in his car to get a feel for it. We’ll try to make a decision. We have a week — five days to decide until we get to Carb Day. A pretty cool day. I wish it was like that in the race, but it’s not going to happen, so everything is going to change again.”

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was sort of squeezed up high on the track, into the dirty high line, and he grazed the wall. There was a brief caution, as he continued and pitted for the team to check his tires. And yes, they were covered in marbles.

There were three cautions for 18.39 minutes: Ericsson; track inspection; and one for Jordan King/No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who slowed on the back stretch, and it wasn’t clear if he’d make it back to the pits on his own. He did.

Rookie Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet had an aha moment entering the pits, with Ferrucci coming in hotter than Mann, who had slowed in her approach. Monday was the first day the pit road speed of 60 mph was strictly enforced, meaning if someone exceeded the limit, he or she would get a drive-thru penalty. Maybe Ferrucci forgot.

The Monday Practice Day after two-day Qualifying was said to have been added these past two years as the drivers used to do their full-tank runs on Bump Day. Kanaan was asked how valuable the session was for the drivers. “Well, I think you saw it. Everybody put like 60, 70, 80 laps. Everybody is running together. It is helpful for sure. Although we have so much time to do those kind of things, I think it was — I liked everything about this year’s, the way qualifying went, the way the organized qualifying — I always felt like last year, I felt — I qualified in the top 12 in the first day, but I wasn’t in the show. I went to sleep, I’m like, I’ve got to do it again. I mean, what — so for us, it was — for me in my opinion it was a pretty good move.”

Tony Kanaan

Takuma Sato

Marco Andretti

Left to Right: Tony Kanaan; Takuma Sato, and Marco Andretti.Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Validating Kanaan’s point on the value of the Post-Qualifying Practice session were the numbers.Everyone did double digit laps.The most laps turned was the 98 laps run by former Indy 500 Winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda ran the fewest laps – 50.

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud

Tony Kanaan & Simon Pagenaud

ONE AND DONE – PAGENAUD ON POLE & ALONSO GOES HOME

Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske Crew and car. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud and Team Penske Crew and car. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet became the first-ever Frenchman to win the pole for the Indianapolis 500 race. He ran 229.992 mph, not quite as fast as Spencer Pigot, but fast enough to score his 11th IndyCar pole, making it number 266 pole for Team Penske, and its eighteenth Indy 500 pole. A new record was set – the closest-ever Indy 500 field based on time. There was a mere 1.8932 seconds between Pagenaud’s pole time and that of the slowest car in the field, Pippa Mann/No.39 Driven2SaveLives Clauson-Marshall Racing Chevrolet, who qualified 30th.

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

Simon Pagenaud & Roger Penske

Pagenaud said “I can’t thank my teammates enough for always pushing me. This is the biggest race in the world.” Last year teammate Will Power won both May races at IMS. Pagenaud won last weekend’s Indy Grand Prix. “I think we have all the . momentum we need. We have the best car; obviously, we showed it today. We have the best engine right now. At the end of the day, there is a lot that can happen. It’s a long race – 500 miles. We just need to execute.

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

ECR front row drivers, Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter

Starting second through fourth are the three Chevrolets of Ed Carpenter Racing – Spencer Pigot/No.21 Auto Geek, Ed Carpenter/No.20, and Ed Jones/No.63 Scuderia Corsa.

Fifth through ninth are:Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5g Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet, and Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda.

It was thirty-five degrees cooler Sunday, and windy. The sun played hide-and-seek with the high clouds, and it rained sporadically during the day. The skies opened up for a brief but torrential downpour during Alonso’s presser. For the 103rd running of this iconic race, there will be 15 Chevrolets and 18 Hondas. The youngest driver is Herta at age 18 – just barely. The oldest is Oriol Servia/No.77 MotoGator Team Stange w/Arrow SPM Honda. He is 44 and starting nineteenth.

Sage Karem

James Hinchcliffe

Kyle Kaiser

Sage Karem No.24 DRR Chevrolet

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Arrow Honda

Kyle Kaiser's No.32 Juncos Chevrolet

Left to Right: Sage Karem, James Hinchcliffe & Kyle Kaiser.
Left to Right: No.24 DRR Chevrolet; No.5 Arrow Honda; & No.32 Juncos Chevrolet. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

It was Youth and Good Looks triumphing over Experience and Age, for the bubble seat on the Indy 500 grid. First, it was young Sage Karem/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet who took the top spot in qualifying for the Last Row. His car number is also his age. Then it was young part-time IndyCar driver, Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet who knocked off the two-time Formula One Champion, Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet, for the very last seat on the last row. Kaiser is the fifth youngest driver this May. Sandwiched in between the two kids was Indy 500 hard-luck kid, James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

Karem said “We just kept slightly missing the balance for the weather, and then ended up having to come back today to fight into the field, and that was probably one of the most — that was the most stressful 48 ours of my life, probably on e of the biggest battles I’e ever had to go through mentally.”

Hinchcliff said “Indy, she likes a dramatic day. It’s crazy how it played out. I know a year ago I was watching everybody else go out for the fast nine, and we weren’t in the show, and it sucks. I feel bad for those guys. We had a really strong car in race trim, so I’m bummed that I wrecked that one, but hopefully it all translate well to the new car and we get back to group running. I told Sam (Schmidt) before we went out that we are going to try to not do this next year, try not to have it be so dramatic.”

Kaiser said about today’s run that “It felt like we qualified on pole, to be honest. It was pretty wild. I didn’t really know right away. I had no idea. I had somewhat of an idea because I got to see the laps, but I heard it was really close. An I came across start finish and first thing I asked was ‘are we in, did we make it?’ and I just heard screaming, so that was a good sign. But the last 48 hours, like Sage said, has been an absolute whirlwind. It’s been crazy. We had really good pace with our main car, but obviously we had an incident, and it’s been just an uphill battle since then.”

Gil de Ferran & Fernando Alonso

Not making the show were Alonso, and the two Carlin Chevrolet teammates, Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 and Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher. Alonso and McLaren Racing Sporting Director, Gil de Ferran met with the media. Alonso said “It has been a very long qualifying, nearly 56 hours of qualifying from yesterday morning. So yeah, we were just one place all the time-out. Yesterday 31st instead of 30. Today 34th instead of 33 by a very small margin, and yeah, unfortunately not fast enough in any or both days. Yeah, disappointed now. Obviously it would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough. You know, I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, everyone safe, and enjoying from the TV unfortunately.

But in terms of motorsport in general, to be here, and at least try, it deserves some credit. Obviously we are all disappointed, and we will try to do better next time. But it’s that kind of things that you learn. I said before, I prefer to be here, even 34th, than being at home like last year.

De Ferran was quite clear on the prospect of buying a ride into the race. “We will not do that. We want to earn our place in the field.”

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 Carlin Chevrolet

Patricio O’Ward’ No.31 Carlin Chevrolet. photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Wrecker or Checker. That had been the mindset for Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet – so said he. He didn’t wreck and he didn’t make the field. “I did everything in my power to get everything out of the car I could. I can’t remember how many adjustments I made. It’s disappointing.”

UNOFFICIAL QUALIFYING RESULTS

1. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 2:36.5271 (229.992 mph)

2. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 2:36.5971 (229.889)

3. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 2:36.6402 (229.826)

4. (63) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 2:36.7629 (229.646)

5. (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 2:37.1465 (229.086)

6. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 2:37.4490 (228.645)

7. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 2:37.4659 (228.621)

8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 2:37.6208 (228.396)

9. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 2:37.7240 (228.247)

10. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 2:37.3729 (228.756)

11. (25) Conor Daly, Honda, 2:37.4688 (228.617)

12. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 2:37.5337 (228.523)

13. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 2:37.5415 (228.511)

14. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 2:37.6874 (228.300)

15. (33) James Davison, Honda, 2:37.7057 (228.273)

16. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 2:37.8116 (228.120)

17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 2:37.8226 (228.104)

18. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 2:37.8256 (228.100)

19. (77) Oriol Servia, Honda, 2:37.9009 (227.991)

20. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 2:37.9535 (227.915)

21. (48) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 2:37.9584 (227.908)

22. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 2:37.9799 (227.877)

23. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 2:38.0815 (227.731)

24. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 2:38.0911 (227.717)

25. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 2:38.1063 (227.695)

26. (42) Jordan King, Honda, 2:38.2402 (227.502)

27. (81) Ben Hanley, Chevrolet, 2:38.2542 (227.482)

28. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 2:38.3523 (227.341)

29. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 2:38.3834 (227.297)

30. (39) Pippa Mann, Chevrolet, 2:38.4203 (227.244)

31. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 2:38.0747 (227.740)

32. (5T) James Hinchcliffe, Chevrolet, 2:38.2118 (227.543)

33. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 2:38.3311 (227.372)

SOGGY SUNDAY – QUALIFYING?

INDY 500 GRID (provisional)INDY 500 GRID (provisional)

Blue skies broke out around Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 2:45pm EST. The track was being dried and the first priority for NTT IndyCar drivers was to complete the Last Row Shootout. There were 15 tow trucks and pickups, plus seven jet dryers, and two big sweeper dryers, first on the track, and then in Pit Lane.

Jet Dryers

All qualifying cars were told to report to the Tech line at 4pm. Qualifying for the Last Row will be at 4:30pm, followed immediately by the Fast Nine Shootout. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda will be first car out for the Last Chance Qualifying, followed by the other five cars. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet has had no practice for this session. The Mayor of Hinchtown has quite the history with Indy 500 Qualifying. Three years ago he had his horrific crash which sidelined him for months. The following year he earned the Pole Position. Then last year he failed to make the show at the very last minute. And now he’s fighting to make the last row. Drama.

Immediately following the Last Row Shootout, with no practice or warmup, the Fast Nine will have their Qualifying for the Pole Position and other positioning.

There were Happy Feet Saturday on the Bricks after qualifying. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Tony Kanaan's Feet

Pagoda roof

Max Chilton's feet

Fernando Alonso's feet

Starter Stand

Ryan Hunter-Reay's feet

SPEED BUMP

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Borg Warner Trophy Flagger. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

It’s Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the track is alive with the sound of …. nothing. There were cars on track for about 20 minutes before they returned to the safety and dryness of their respective garages when the track was shut down for ‘conditions.” Translation – rain, or at least an anemic attempt with sprinkles. It’s supposed to be Bump Day, with the setting of the last row of the grid for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, as well as the Fast Nine Shootout determining who will have the pole and where the other eight will line up. For now, Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet has the provisional pole.

The schedule, which had been on hold, has just been updated …. Again. Fast Nine practice was to have started at 12:45 pm EST, and Last Row Shootout at 1:30 pm EST. Track equipment were drying the track … again. It was out earlier drying up the rain from this morning’s shower, including the very noisy jet dryer. BUT…just as this was being edited for transmission, the rain returned.

Juncos Racing Garage

Juncos Racing Garage

The six cars vying for the last three slots on the grid had their shortened practice session, as rain ended it ten minutes early. Only five of the cars went out.

The No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet of Kyle Kaiser was being worked on in the garage. The crew felt it would be better to work on the car than running Sunday’s practice.

The ambient temperature at 10:15 am was 73 degrees F, with track temperature pegged at 78F. The wind was blowing 9-13 mph and back. It wold slow, and then gust. In the garages, I watched body panels parked outside Foyt’s garage rocking with the wind. Normally they are positioned at right angles to the garage. The crew decided it would have more grip and downforce and less chance to blow over if it was repositioned parallel to the garage. So be it.

Townsend Bell & #39 crew

Max Chilton

Aerodynamic Car Panels.

Left to Right: Townsend Bell, Max Chilton, and Foyt Racing grippy body panels.

James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda ran 12 laps and was the fastest at 228.125 mph. The order was Hinchcliffe, Sage Karen/No.24 DRR Wix Filters Dreyer Reinbold Racing Chevrolet-7 laps, Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet-11 laps, Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet-9 laps and Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet-6 laps.

Fernando Alonso's McLaren Crew working on car.

No.66 McLaren Chevrolet off to work

McLaren Crew packing up pit equipment

Left to Right: Fernando Alonso’s No.66 McLaren Chevrolet crew beavering away on race car prior to final pre-qualifying practice session; Race car being towed to pits; and McLaren team scrambling to cover up and pack up after start of rain.

Alonso was late coming to the session, as his crew were feverishly working hard on the car right up until they went to the Pit Lane so only ran the fewest laps. The team worked hard overnight on settups. Whatever they did wasn’t the answer. Alonso was last of the five, with his best speed being a non-competitive 220.009 mph.

Firestone Award Winners

Left to Right: Brett Schilling, Cara Adams, Phil Severyn, and John Norton of BorgWarner Inc.

Firestone tire engineers Cara Adams, Brett Schilling and Phil Severyn received the 53rd annual Louis Schwitzer Award for Engineering Excellence in the NTT IndyCar Series. The award recognizes the achievements of the engineers behind the Indianapolis 500 race cars. In this case it was for their expertise in developing the Firestone Firehawk 2019 Indy 500 Race Tire. The award recognized the innovative change in the tire’s construction, which improved the tire’s footprint. As a result, the lateral grip is less dependent on aerodynamic downforce. Additionally, a change in the tire compound improved the mechanical grip. These changes are especially beneficial in race traffic when the aero load on the right front tire is reduced due to leading car turbulence. The tire construction changes allow for a more consistent level of performance.

Adams was the first female engineer to win the award, which honors engineers who develop innovative new concepts to improve competitive potential. It is presented to engineers, by engineers, and judges aim to recognize advancements that increase performance, safety or efficiency. Adams graciously claimed the honor for the entire team of engineers, and in turn, Firestone donated the $10,000 prize to The Indy Family Foundation.

Firestone Garage Grid Display