WILLFUL POWER

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

Alexander Rossi

Jordan King

Sebastien Bourdais

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

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

Takuma Sato

castroneves5760

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

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

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

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

IndyCar with Conor Daly & Ryan Reed

Ryan Reed and Conor Daly

Xfinity No.6 Ford

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

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

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

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

IndyCar Autograph Session

THIS IS INDY! THIS IS MAY!

This is May!

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

Jordan King Garage Sign

Danica Patrick Garage Sig

Spencer Pigot Garage Sign

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

Pietro Fittipaldi Grandstand Sign

Zachary Claman De Melo car name

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

SPM garage

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

Robert Wickens & James Hinchcliffe

v=Will Power & Derrick Walker

Simon Pagenaud & Will Power

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

Sebastien Bourdais

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

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

Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda

Takuma Sato No.30 Honda

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

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

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

Pit Lane

ROSSI WINS LONG BEACH

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Alexander Rossi. Photo by Nico Matamoros

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

Will Power, Alexander Rossi & Ed Jones in Victory Circle

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

Alexander Rossi celebrating in Victory Circle

Alexander Rossi

Alexander Rossi in Victory Circle

Photos by Nico and Pablo Matamoros.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach

Zach Veach/No.26 Honda

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

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

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

Josef Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet

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

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

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

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

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

Alexander Ross. Photo by Nico Matamorosi

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

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

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

Photo Sequence by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Pablo Matamoros

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Brabham

Cole Potts

Gavin Harlien

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

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

Aerialist landing

Airplane

Pace Lap Flag

Max Chilton's Shoe

Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda

Shoreline Drive

Gallery Photos by Pablo Mataoros

THE CAPTAIN WINS!

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team

Roger Penske and the No.2 Newgarden Team, Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Verizon IndyCar Team Owner Roger Penske was a double winner Sunday at Sonoma Raceway’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, with the race winner Simon Pagenaud and 2017 Champion, Josef Newgarden. Pagenaud led the last 24 laps of the 85-lap race, with Newgarden hot on his heels. The crucial turning point of the race came on Lap 64 with the last lead change between Newgarden and Pagenaud, with the Frenchman coming out ahead. They raced hard after that stop. It was the eleventh career victory for Pagenaud, and his second straight win at Sonoma Raceway. His Margin of Victory was 1.0986 seconds. Pagenaud completed every single IndyCar race lap, the only driver to do so. He was cheered by his peers in the Sunday Drivers’ Meeting on his performance as the Defending Champion all year.

Simon Pagenaud, Race Winner

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Pagenaud had already depleted two-thirds of his Push to Pass, whereas Newgarden had only used three seconds of the allotted 150. Pagenaud kept Newgarden at bay, finishing with only 7 seconds PTP, while Newgarden never used any more. The Frenchman was on a mission from the get-go, turning the fastest time of 109.575 mph – 1:18.3576 on Lap 13. Pagenaud said “I would rather be hunted than in the hunt.”

Josef Newgarden, Champion

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden’s race strategy was called by Penske President, Tim Cindric, who kept coaching him to keep focused on the goal – the Championship. Newgarden did and finished second, to become the youngest Championship since the unified series. He and Pagenaud swapped the lead six times, each leading for 41 laps. Newgarden won by 13 points, in his 100th career start. Newgarden said “It’s too awesome.” And “It was hard not to win, but Tim kept coaching me to be smart.”

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Finishing third through fifth were other contenders: Will Power/No.11 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Will Power

Power said “Obviously, you want to be the one that wins it, but it’s very tough these days, and you’ve got to have a very solid year to get it done, and when I look at this year, no one made mistakes. You see the top six there, top six or seven are the top six or seven almost every race. We had some ups and downs with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy team, but it was a good year. We won some races and some poles. We’ll give it another go next year.”

Scott Dixon fueling

Scott Dixon fueling. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Dixon said “”It just seems like the No. 3 car covered us. Every time we short-pitted they followed us and he was just a massive roadblock. Once we got into clean air, we were able to make up ground, but every time we got into traffic we got real loose. Huge credit to everyone on the NTT Data crew obviously not the way we wanted to finish. A big congrats to Penske and Josef (Newgarden) on a job well done.”

Castroneves said “I’m always going to focus on the positive thing. The (Championship) P4 is not what it represents because we were in a battle a lot more years than that. And that’s what I look at. I look because each year that’s what kept me motivated to come back and push hard, and that for me was hard. But to keep up like I’ve been doing all these years, I think it’s the hardest thing to do. But it doesn’t just happen. It comes with a great team. It comes with great dedication from your guys, great trust, and obviously, myself to keep motivated, finding ways to keep pushing and having teammates like I have today, no question, helped me to become a better driver.”

The other championship contender, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda fell out of contention early on, after pitting with mechanical problems. The crew labored for 25 laps and got him back on track to finish in P21. “It was a pretty disappointing day, to have a mechanical issue after the first stop. I think we were in a pretty decent position to possibly get in the top five after our opening stint but it wasn’t meant to be today. A huge shout out to the NAPA Auto Parts team and the Andretti-Herta boys for the hard work back in the garage to get us back out there, we picked up another spot.”

There were only three leaders – Pagenaud, Newgarden and Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, who led once for three laps during leader pit stop rotations. He finished tenth. “I have to thank the boys for keeping faith in the strategy. It was a bold move to make the three-stop call.It was a good consistent race. It was tough – there were a lot of moments of flying through the air and banging wheels with people. It was wild, so I’m just happy to come back in one piece and have another consistent finish to end the year.”

The top Rookie was Israeli driver, Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who finished 17th after starting 21st. “Jack Harvey and Tony Kanaan came together and they got stuck and slowed down a bit more than I anticipated. I just clipped Harvey, who was really close, and unfortunately, I broke the front wing which forced us to make an early pit stop. After that, the pace was really good. I ran with some quick guys like Will Power and Helio (Castroneves), and drove away from Helio. It was a good day. I learned a lot and want to thank Paysafe for the opportunity.”

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

Roger Penske, Simon Pagenaud & Tim Cindric

All kinds of stats came with this caution-free race: Newgarden is the first American IndyCar Champion in five years, the youngest since the unified IndyCar. Newgarden finished with more Push to Pass remaining than any other driver, including those who retired. This was the fifteenth indycar Championship for Roger Penske, and his 197th indycar win. This was the first caution-free IndyCar race in Sonoma Raceway’s 14-year year history. This was the fifth Driver’s Championship for Chevrolet since joining IndyCar in 2012.

Simon Pagenaud.

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Nico Matamoros

There wasn’t much in the way of incidents – some banging and blocking, and good racing. Pagenaud was teased about his shortcuts through the turf, and he joked that he wanted to try some dirt racing. There was only one penalty – Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing got a speeding ticket. Twelve of the 19 finishers were on the lead lap. Three retirements were due to mechanical problems.

It was announced during the broadcast that Tony Kanaan is going to AJ Foyt Racing next year. Musical Chairs begins.

Hinchcliffe didn’t have the best of luck this weekend, including the race. “After a good start, we made up a couple spots and then I was trying to set up someone going through Turn 3, and I guess Spencer (Pigot) just went for a gap that was closing and hit us, spun us out and put us to the back of the field and did some damage to the car. From there on it was tough just hanging on to the No. 5 Arrow Electronics machine. Like I said, we don’t give up, and we kept digging, trying to make up whatever spots we could, but ultimately some damage was done to the electronics on the car and the gearbox electronics stopped working so I was stuck in gear. Very unfortunate, but still a lot to be proud of this season.”

Rookie of the Year, Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda retired after 69 laps with technical failures.

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda retired on Lap 62 with mechanical problems. Early on he had a shredded right rear tire which he nursed back to the pits.

American Flag Parachute Jump

The Push to Pass stats were interesting. Newgarden only used three, while Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber &Data Andretti Autosport Honda and Pigot used up theirs. Along with Pagenaud, other drivers with only seven seconds left were Chip Ganassi Racing Honda teammates, Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher and Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba.

UNOFFICIAL GOPRO OF SONOMA RACE RESULTS

POS Car# Driver Car Laps Status

1. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
2. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
4. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
5. (4) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 85, Running
6. (9) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
7. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
8. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
9. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
10. (13) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (15) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 85, Running
12. (14) Max Chilton, Honda, 85, Running
13. (17) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
14. (20) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (22) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (12) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 84, Running
17. (21) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 84, Running
18. (19) Jack Harvey, Honda, 84, Running
19. (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 69, Off Course
20. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 62, Off Course
21. (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 60, Running
22. (16) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 52, Electrical

Unofficial Points Standings:
Josef Newgarden 642
Simon Pagenaud 629
Scott Dixon 621
Helio Castroneves 598
Will Power 562
Graham Rahal 522
Alexander Rossi 494
Takuma Sato 441
Ryan Hunter-Reay 421
Tony Kanaan 403

First Lap

First Lap. Photo by Nico Matamoros

HERE’S TO THE KID!

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Josef Newgarden and his No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet team gambled on red tire choices and won, taking his first Verizon Pole Position since 2015 and broke the qualifying track record with a blistering lap of 1:15.5205. He had run his sticker reds in the first qualifying round and took the pole on red “scuffs.” This stretches his points gap to four points ahead of closest contender, Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda.

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Newgarden was so excited, he had to be reminded what he said when he was told he had the pole. “Are You Kidding Me?”

The pole position doesn’t change his attitude going into the race. “No, this is IndyCar racing. Anything can happen. So, we’ve checked one thing off the box this weekend. We’ve got one big one to check off tomorrow. And then, if everything goes according to plan, we’ll see where we end up at the end.”

It was a nail biter of a Firestone Fast Six, with the lead changing a couple of times between Newgarden and Castroneves. The Penske Posse prevailed for the top four: Newgarden, Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Fifth and sixth were Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda, the only non-contender in the Fast Six, and Dixon.

It was the tenth pole for Team Penske this season – the only team to win any poles in 2017. Now all Penske drivers have at least one 2017 pole on their respective resumes. All in all, Roger Penske’s team has 256 indycar pole positions, more than any other team.

The post-conference was brief and full of levity. While one driver would speak, the others closely perused the T&S monitor.

Penske Posse Paying Attention

Regarding his thoughts on the Championship, Newgarden said “You always think about it. If you tell me not to think about it, I’m going to think about it. So, it’s difficult to not envision it, but I think for us, we’ve got to get through the race. We’ve got to have a good race car. Qualifying is one thing. Having speed is one thing. Winning the race is a whole other deal. So, we’re going to work hard with this Team Penske group. We’ve got four guys very capable of getting it done. For the Captain and for everyone at the factory, we want to make sure one of these Team Penske cars wins the championship. So, that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Will Power

Power was asked how frustrating to be so close, three and a half hundredths off pole. “Yeah, well, I mean, you start going back through the lap in your head. I could have just hit the throttle a little earlier there, yeah. Would have helped me braking actually, push back.

Yeah, it’s tight. It’s just like that sometimes. I mean, gave it everything I got. That’s the situation.”

Simon Pagenaud

Pagenaud said “That was really close. I can’t be unhappy with the DXC Technology Chevrolet. I thought we had as good a chance as any at the pole, but Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) were a little bit faster. Third is not a bad starting position at all. We’ll be right there if they make a mistake and right there to apply some pressure. We’ll continue to work on the car this evening and tomorrow morning in final practice then put together our race strategy. We plan for it to be a great day for the No. 1 team, but expect it to be a great day for Team Penske.”

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves said “The talent of our group is incredible. Great job on Josef Newgarden winning the pole. Our team is really strong and we work really well together. It’s really exciting for Team Penske that we will start in the front tomorrow. I’d rather Josef get the pole and we get the victory. For us with the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet, we wish we had a little more speed during qualifying. We have a great spot up front but wish we had a little more. It’s going to be quite a battle tomorrow with my teammates and Scott Dixon and we are ready for the challenge.”

Roger Penske

Roger Penske.Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Castroneves summed up the Penske Posse philosophy. “But in the end of the day, we still got to deliver this championship to Roger. We understand what we need to do. That’s what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

He elaborated. “Yeah, well, you know the top four today here is Team Penske. It made a lot of sense. We planned that at the beginning of the year. We’re surprised actually people did not decide to join Team Penske. I’m not sure how the rules were, if they’re allowed or not. But the point is, they were allowed, right? I don’t understand why.

“As mentioned, a hundred points (for winning race.) Team Penske, we’re throwing everything out there. We wanted this championship as bad as anybody. We do have a chance. We going to obviously try to execute. That’s our goal.

“So we did learn a lot, not only as qualifying but also as race pace. Certainly this place, the weather change quite a lot. So even that we came here, it was one way, but at least that day, we checked that box. We knew what to do. But it was a progress toward the entire weekend for us, to keep improving our cars. Today it showed very well in the qualifying. Now we got to continue finishing the rest of the job.”

Sato said “It was a fantastic feeling. Obviously, the fifth position isn’t pole position, but I think looking at the speed of the competitors, we achieved what we could do. I think certainly, the entire Andretti Autosport and No. 26 guys did a enormous, fantastic job so I’m really happy with them and we got it done all together.”

Scott Dixon

Dixon was philosophical after the session, in which it was down to the wire if he or Rahal would make the cut. “As a team, I think this is always one of our most difficult circuits that we come to. This morning, we made some good gains, but the conditions this afternoon, we just didn’t have the grip. It was kind of strange. The balance felt good. The car was kind of decent to drive, but just couldn’t carry the speed through the corners.

“Kind of interesting. We almost didn’t make group one. Then just squeaked through in Q2. Good to make it through to where we did. It was definitely hard work. A big credit to the team.

“Sixth position, you can definitely make lots happen from there. I think in ’15 we started ninth when we won that race. Definitely you’d want to be a little further up. But that’s the way it goes.

“We’ll make the most of the starting position and see what tomorrow brings.

“We’ll just have to see how the car is on the long run. We always know that the Penskes are going to be strong here. The other manufacturer’s aero kit is going to be strong at this track. We know the deficits that we have. But we can still as a team overcome those, whether it’s strategy or a car on the long run that’s hopefully going to be good.”

His team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he wasn’t going to beat up Dixon.

Takuma Sato

GOPRO GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA QUALIFYING

POS CAR# DRIVER CAR TIME SPEED

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:15.5205 (113.691)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:15.5556 (113.638)
3. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:15.6356 (113.518)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.8032 (113.267)
5. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:16.2208 (112.646)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.3978 (112.385)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:16.1815 (112.705)
8. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.1934 (112.687)
9. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:16.1968 (112.682)
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 01:16.5811 (112.116)
11. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:16.8221 (111.765)
12. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:16.9718 (111.547)
13. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:17.1016 (111.360)
14. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.7581 (111.858)
15. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:17.1417 (111.302)
16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:16.9539 (111.573)
17. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:17.2662 (111.122)
18. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:17.0231 (111.473)
19. (7) Jack Harvey, Honda, 01:17.2722 (111.114)
20. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:17.1602 (111.275)
21. (13) Zachary Claman DeMelo, Honda, 01:17.2814 (111.100)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 01:17.2507 (111.145)

PENSKE POSSE POWER PLUS DIXON

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The Penske Posse dominated yet again in the third and final practice for the Verizon Indy Car Series at Sonoma Raceway Saturday morning, with another contender – Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda splitting them up. In a run-up for qualifying for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the 22 drivers ran 247 laps during the 45-minute session. There was almost no drama during the green-flag practice. I said almost. Rookie Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing did a gentle spin early on, but no harm, no foul, and he continued to finish fifteenth for the session. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had a couple of spins – first in Turn 2 from which he recovered; and later, a spin in Turn 7 about two laps from the end of the practice with a mega tire burnout, and stall. Traffic got around. He was able to run eleven laps before his misstep. He finished seventeenth.

This time the Penske lads mixed up the order, with 2016 IndyCar Champion, Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology Chevrolet leading the pack at 112.925 mph/1:16.0329. He was fastest on his third of his eight laps. Dixon pushed his nose into second place, 0.1125 seconds behind.

Third through fifth were Will Power/No.11 Verizon, Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon, and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi.

Sixth was Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport, followed by Sato’s 2018 teammate, Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals/Soldiers Strong Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data Andretti Autosport Honda, and Tony Kanaan/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, in his last race with Ganassi.

JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Of the top eleven, only Newgarden and Rahal drove ten or more laps. All the rest turned single digit laps. JR Hildebrand/No.21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet ran the most laps – 20.

Ed Jones

Jones has captured the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, the second Rookie for team owner, Dale Coyne. The previous driver was Alex Lloyd in 2010. Jones was the 2016 Indy Lights Champion which earned him three starts in the IndyCar Series. He has run the whole season with DCR and is hopes of continuing on next season. When pressed, Coyne was coy about how close was his brokering his 2018 driver lineup with Jones, but said “Just about. We’re very, very close. I would love to have Ed back next year, so..”

Ed Jones & Dale Coyne

Coyne said “When you take a rookie to his first test, you usually know right away what you’re going to get. That’s been pretty straightforward everywhere we go. Ed was that way. The biggest surprise with Ed was his race craft. When we got to the tracks, he’s never crashed this year, he’s had a couple little spins but never crashed. So that’s very welcomed on our team because we crashed plenty with the other car.”

Ed Jones. PM

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jones said it was difficult to pinpoint one specific thing Coyne told him in terms of best advice. “It’s hard to say. There’s a lot of advice that Dale’s given me. But, you know, he’s always been very supportive of learning everything step by step, learning from Seb (teammate, Sebastien Bourdais.) Every time I get to every weekend, even every session, I remember early on it was try to learn as much as you can, take it step by step, there’s no need to overdo it early on.”

Other IndyCar Rookies of the Year currently racing include Alexander Rossi/2016, Carlos Munoz/2014, Simon Pagenaud/2012, James Hinchcliffe/2011, Ryan Hunter-Reay/2007, Marco Andretti/2006 & Will Power/2006, Sebastien Bourdais/2003, and Scott Dixon/2001.

Jay Frye , Fred McConnell, Ed Jones and Dale Coyne

Jay Frye, IndyCar president of competition and operations; Fred McConnell, Sunoco Director of Fuels Marketing, Ed Jones, and Dale Coyne.

WINNING PRACTICE

Josef Newgarden. PM

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Friday afternoon the weather conditions were the closest they could be to replicating Saturday’s qualifying session at Sonoma Raceway for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The temperature was 79 degrees F with 12 mph breezes. The skies were blue and all 22 drivers took to the track.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was the fastest driver, at 1:16.2485. This lap is unofficially under the official track record set by Penske teammate, Simon Pagenaud last year in the first round of Qualifying with a time of 1:16.2530. He was pushing the car to the limits and it paid off.

“You don’t get anything for winning practice, but it goes a long way to build confidence,” said Newgarden. He’s topped the first two practice sessions at Sonoma Raceway

Simon Pagenaud

Helio Castroneves

Will Power

Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, and Will Power. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Second through fourth were the other three Penske Posse drivers: Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi, and Will Power/No.11 Verizon. Power’s overall fourth place time was set in the morning. He might have gone faster, but he had a late-session spin on his alternative tires.

Josef Newgarden carrying Will Power

Newgarden & Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Two of the four Penske drivers are fighting physical ailments. Power showed up Thursday with a sore left leg incurred body surfing in Santa Cruz when he got knocked back by a wave. He can drive OK and even left brake. He just can’t walk easily, which is why Newgarden carried him into the Thursday Media briefing. Castroneves has a bad cold for which he’s being treated, gotten when he was fleeing Hurricane Irma and was trapped in the Atlanta humid, crowded airport for hours on end waiting out rescheduled flights.

Nine of the 22 drivers were faster in the morning practice, including Power.

Ryan Hunter-Reay NM

Scott Dixon NM

Marco Andretti. PM

Alexander Rossi. NM

Takuma Sato. NM

Graham Rahal. PM

Fifth through tenth were all four of the Andretti Autosport Honda drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL, Contender Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Honda, Marco Andretti/No.27 United Fiber & Data, Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb, and Takuma Sato/No.26. Photos by Pablo & Nico Matamoros.

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda in seventeenth place. The other Rookies were Jack Harvey/No.7 AutoNation Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda in a dazzling purplish vinyl wrap; and Zachary Claman DeMelo/No.13 Paysafe Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda in twenty-first and twenty-second.

After the afternoon practice, the IndyCar teams had Pit Stop Practice.

Power's Pit Stop . NM

Power's Pit Stop. NM

Castroneves Pit Stop. NM

Pit Stop Signaler. NM

All Pit Stop Photos by Nico Matamoros.

FULL FRIDAY

Friday at Sonoma Raceway the day started early with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and World Challenge practice. The Verizon IndyCar Series had its first official practice at 10am local time. The drivers were slow to come out. The skies were partly cloudy with a listless breeze and temps in the low sixties.

Josef Newgarden. PM

Will Power. NM

Simon Pagenaud. PM

Penske Posse: Josef Newgarden No.2-Photo by Pablo Matamoros; Will Power No.11 Photo by Nico Matamoros; Simon Pagenaud No.1 Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was fastest, at 112.390 mph/1:16.3950. He took the lead halfway through the session and never looked back. Second and third were his Penske teammates, Will Power/No.11 Verizon and Simon Pagenaud/No.1 DXC Technology.

Fourth and fifth were Alexander Rossi/No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda; and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 UNIFIN Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Scott Dixon/No.9 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing teams Honda was sixth and the other contender, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was eighth.

Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet and Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Teams Hondas were first out and fastest, until the field filled. Other leaders during the 45-minute session were Rossi, Power and Newgarden.

In the second test session Thursday afternoon, Pagenaud was fastest at 112.014 mph/1:16.6511, considerably faster than the cooler morning session. All of the 22 drivers posted faster times in the afternoon. Penske teammate and Points leader, Newgarden was ninth. Championship contender Dixon was sixth. The top Rookie, of three, was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, in thirteenth position.

The only drama was late in the second test session. Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda went off in Turn 6. He wasn’t hurt, but the car was – substantial damage to the rear end. He ended his test and his crew went to work repairing the car. He was out Friday morning and ran 12th overall.

The day’s lone incident occurred when reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato went off course in Turn 6, sustaining significant rear-end damage to the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda that ended his day about an hour before conclusion of the session. Sato was unhurt.

There seemingly are some new TV camera angles, making for interesting viewing. NBCSN will broadcast live the second Friday IndyCar Practice at 2pm PT/5pm ET; qualifying Saturday 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET; and the Sunday race on NBCSN and mathematical 360 in Canada at 3:30pm PT/6:30pm ET. All sessions are live-streamed on IndyCar.com.

Zachary Claman DeMello

Rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo is racing for the first time at Sonoma Raceway. He’s taken an abbreviated trip up the motorsports ladder, going from Skip Barber to Indy Lights to IndyCar. His goal this weekend is to learn and prepare himself for next year. While he wouldn’t mind running another year in the Indy Lights Series, go for the championship and the IndyCar seat prize money, his goal is IndyCar itself.

DeMelo is finding Sonoma Raceway challenging, with its high speed corners and lots of braking. The IndyCar has more downforce and softer tires. He ran primary tires in the morning practice, and is looking forward to running the alternative reds in the afternoon.

The Rookie trained a lot for this race, so he’s not sore from Thursday’s test session and its higher G forces. He’s finding confidence in running with other cars. Having an experience teammate such as Graham Rahal is very helpful, especially in debriefs. It’s good having Rahal’s feedback.

The number 13 is special to DeMelo. It’s lucky. His grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, she was liberated on the 13th, and her tatooed arm numbers added up to 13.

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

Next year Andretti Autosport can boast being the only IndyCar team which has an all-American driver lineup – four drivers.And they’re all on multi-year contracts. This is the first time team owner Michael Andretti has had all his drivers lined up and signed by the last race of the season. “It will be a good Christmas.”

Zach Veach, Dan Towriss and Michael Andretti

The newest addition, Zach Veach, came all the way up the Mazda Road to Indy ladder with Andretti Autosport, and somehow, Andretti knew that someday Veach would be back racing with his team.

Veach and Andretti have a long-term sponsorship agreement with One Thousand And One – a family of insurance companies based in Indianapolis. Dan Towriss, CEO, joined Veach and Andrtti for a media conference. Towriss said “We met Zach earlier this year and we formed a relationship and really just quickly identified in Zach a lot of shared values that are important to us, and as that relationship grew and the opportunity came to be involved with Michael and with Andretti Autosport, we just saw a match there for us that was perfect. We loved the way Zach will represent our brand, and we think, again, those shared values will be key to that.” Towriss wouldn’t go into specifics, but has several plans of how the company plans to activate the sponsorship of the insurance company, which focuses on retirement insurances, but is interested in expanding its reach. He wants to make it more intuitive and accessible. “There also will be activation on the philanthropy side which will involve Zach and what he represents: kind of being able to be involved in communities. We want to do well as a business, but we also want to make sure we’re giving back into the communities where we work and live, and Zach is going to be a big part of that.”

This finale race will award double points – 100 to the winner. Bonus points include one for pole position, one for leading at least one lap, and two points for leading the most laps. The points possibilities charts for the six mathematical contenders are mind-boggling.

A second practice session is set for Friday afternoon, in conditions most replicating qualifying and race conditions. Saturday morning IndyCar has its last practice session, with qualifying Saturday afternoon.

Points Possibility Charts

MORE REUNION RACING

Laguna Seca 60 Years

The last day of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca started out as most with a heavy palpable layer of fog; but it was high enough so the racing started on schedule. The sun broke through at noon and the skies were clear and blue all afternoon, with a gentle breeze. Sunday’s races were for the seven B Groups. The schedule was shorter than the rest, as the weekend concludes with the traditional Awards Ceremony. Even the lunch break was shorter – so short the SFR SCCA volunteers had to have their lunches delivered to their stations.

Black Mercedes Shuttle Van

Everything is classier at the Rolex Reunion – even the Shuttle – a huge black Mercedes Benz Van.

Group 1B was for 1955-1962 GT Cars, with a field of 48. Forty-two ran the Rolex Race. Kevin Adair in No.171 1959 Austin Healey 3000 won the race and turned the best time of 1:52.0 on Lap Five of the nine-lap race. Ron Goodman from Australia was second driving No.23 1954 Porsche 356, followed by Wolfgang Friedrichs from Westphalia in No.51T 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT. Fourth and fifth were Ranson Webster in No.39 191 Porsche Abarth Carrera and Kaid Marouf in No.38 1960 Alfa Romeo SZ.

In the morning race, the order was Goodman, Jeffrey Abramson in No.145 Morgan Babydoll IV, Adair, Friedrichs and Webster. Forty of the 48 entries ran in the morning race.

Robyn & Dave Handy and No.44T Austin Mini Cooper station wagon

Dave Handy drove the family No.44T 1962 Austin Mini Cooper station wagon in 1B, finishing sixteenth in the Rolex Race after starting in P20. The car was originally purchased as a street car in the mid-eighties by Robert Pass, father of Mrs. Dave Handy, and converted to a race car while being tricked out as a promotional car for his company, Passport Transport. After Dad quite racing, the car was then sold and had a motorsports hiatus for 15 years. Then Robyn Pass Handy, Mrs. Handy, became nostalgic for the car and somehow through Facebook connected with the then-current owner at Watkins Glen last September. She indicated they would be interested in buying it back if the owner-now getting on in years- wanted to sell it. In November the owner said he’d sell, but Robyn, sadly, wasn’t able to get it at that point. But unbeknownst to her, hubby Dave bought it and gave it to her as a Valentine’s Day gift this year.

No.44T Passport Austin Mini Cooper Station Wagon

He’s racing it this weekend, but is used to racing bigger cars, so from here on out, Robyn will race it. And yes, that’s her name above the door, already. The Handys keep their race cars and their Sasco Sports race prep shop at Virginia International Raceway, and attend 30 races a year. They also run a non-profit “Vintage Racers for Rescues” to raise money for other non-profit pet rescue organizations.

And speaking of such organizations, Dean Case, who handles the PR for Mazda North America is a long-time advocate for MUTS and he uses motorsports to promote animal shelter adoptions. This weekend is “Clear Out The Shelters” weekend, hoping to adopt as many pets as possible. His promotion this event is for the benefit of the Monterey County SPCA shelter across the street from the Laguna Seca main gate. The fundraiser is the auctioning of four custom-designed race helmets donated by SPARCO. All the artists donated their talents, including Bill Patterson, who designed the Reunion Poster and Program Cover.

All the proceeds go to charity.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/spcaofmontereycounty/m.html?item=182717528886&ssPageName=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

Group 2B was for 1958-1960 Formula Juniors – front engine and drum brakes. These were the older, smaller of the two groups of cars gathered at Laguna Seca to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Twenty-five cars comprised the field for this group, coming from Australia, Denmark, England, New Zealand, and all points West. Twenty-one of the field made each race.

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Mr & Mrs Ray Mallock

Chris Drake from England won both races, driving No.55 1961 Elva 300, and won by a good margin in the Rolex Race Sunday afternoon. But the fastest car in the group was the runner-up, Ray Mallock in his No.32 U2 Mallock Mk2. His best time was 1:46.8. Third place winner Joseph Colasacco in No.55 Stanuellini Formula Junior was the second fastest car in the race, with Drake third fastest. Mallock and Collasacco had a good dice in the beginning, with Mallock gridding ahead of Collasacco. They passed and repassed and Mallock held on for the rest of the race. They had the same sort of race in the morning, with a Safety Car bunching up the field. Collasacco was, accoding to Mallock, a bit over-eager on the re-start and tapped the rear of the British Racing green Mallock. It skidded Mallock a bit so he had to play catch-up and repass for second position. After the race Mallock had cosmetic damage to repair. The Mallock race cars are still being built in England by Ray’s brother, Richard.

Twenty-one of the 24-car field raced, same as in the morning’s race. The finishing order for the top three was the same for both races.

Group 3B was for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc. This was the largest field, with 51 entries, with 43 running the races.

Patrick Long's No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

Patrick Long’s No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

Patrick Long, the only American Porsche factory driver, won the race in Ron Benjamin’s No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T.R, and by a country mile. His fastest lap was 1:43.763 on Lap 7. Second was Michael Malone in No.37 1965 Lotus 26R, followed by Dalmo De Vasconcelos in No.185 1965 Lotgus Elan, Dennis Kazmerowski in No.199 1964 Ginetta G4 and Patrick Byrne in No.162 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa.

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Patrick Long & Gunnar Jeannette

Long’s car has an impressive resume, with wins in the 1975 24 Hours of Daytona and 1979 12 Hours of Sebring – both in the GTU Class. Two Class runner-ups, 1969 Daytona 24 Hour and 1971 Sebring 12 Hours.

Among those who didn’t run was professional racer, Gunnar Jeannette in No.67 1964 Abarth Simca 2 Mila Corsa. He was also entered in two other races.

Dr. Lee Talbot & Ginetta

Another driver of note in the field was 87-year old Dr. Lee Talbot, who raced a MGA in the first-ever raceat Laguna Seca in 1957. This weekend he’s racing his No.62 1967 Ginetta G4, whom he calls “Ginetta.” This is the first time she has been out West. Talbot towed her himself all the way from McLean VA. He has been racing for 69 years. Talbot ran sprint cars for a couple of years back in the day, before he turned to SCCA road racing. He’s enjoyed both Laguna Seca course configurations, and said at the time he drove the first Laguna Seca road races, that it was the best course in the North. It was a real road course. At that point SCCA was running airport circuits, such as Cotati and Vaca Ville, Stockton and Crows Landing. This current configuration is very much different, but it is safe and much more technical. The width is wider, and the camber has changed. It has many turns. He likes it.

IMG_0450

Dr. Lee Talbot in No.62 Ginetta

Talbot Crew Shirt

Talbot has raced on four continents including rallyes in Africa. Among his racing honors are 1969 SVRA Driver of the Year, and he’s a member of Road Racing Drivers Club, an honorary invitational driver’s club, whose current president, Bobby Rahal, is on site this weekend as a spectator.

Group 4B was for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. It was another large field, with 46 entries and 41 starters for the Rolex Race.

Lorne Leibel won both Sunday races in No.96 1965 Cobra AC, but second and third places were reversed from morning to afternoon. Thomas Steuer in No.75 was second in the Rolex Race driving No.75 1965 Chevrolet Corvette, followed by Kyle Kelley in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette. In the morning it was Kelley and Steuer. Fourth and fifth in both races were claimed by Jeffrey Abramson in No.5 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster and Bill Ockerlund in No.98 1963 Shelby Cobra.

Steuer was the fastest driver with a lap of 1:40.7.

Kyle Kelly in No.32 1966 Chevrolet Corvette

John Morton in No.74 1964 sunbeam Tiger

Mike Joy in No.89 1966 Ford Mustang

Left to right: Mike Joy, John Morton & Kyle Kelley.

Veteran racer, John Morton, drove Buck Tripel’s No.74 1964 Sunbeam Tiger to eleventh place, David battling many Goliaths. TV Broadcaster, Mike Joy, drove Ken Epsman’s No.89 1966 Ford Mustang, and finished twenty-fourth, on the lead lap of ten.

Among those who DNS were Chris MacAllister in No.146 1964 Shelby Cobra 289 and Dyke Ridgley in No.86 1963 Jaguar Lightweight XK-E. Both drivers are in multiple events.

Group 5B was the newer, faster Formula Juniors – 1961-1963 with disc brakes. The field numbered 39, with 34 starting the Rolex Race. Ten drivers came from overseas, including Australia, England, Nuevo Leon, Scotland, US Virgin Islands, as well as the US. Major kudos go to Karol Andrews who facilitated the organizing of the FJ gathering. She was always too busy to have time for an interview. My loss.

Several of the (local) FJ drivers also race historic Formula One cars and have extensive track time at Laguna Seca. It certainly helped.

Pole sitter Timothy de Silva, driving his No.10 Gemini MkIV was fastest in three of the four sessions and led for the first seven laps until he experienced what could have been suspension problems, and he limped around to the pits and retired. The crew tried shaking the car, to no avail. Danny Baker had been charging through the field from his fifth grid spot, to take the lead on Lap Eight in his No.36 1963 Lotus 27. Hot on his heels was Art Hebert in his silver No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A, turning fastest laps. His Lap 5 time of 1:39.6 held to be the best 5A lap of the day.

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Art Hebert No.2 1963 Lola Mk5A

Baker and Hebert finished 1-2, with Mark Shaw from Scotland drove is No.77 1963 Brabham BT6 to third. Fourth and fifth were Andrew Hibberd in No.272 1963 Lotus 27 and Joseph Colasacco in No.30 1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJ.

In the morning race, de Silva won, with ibberd as runner-up. Third was Robert Hoemke in No.4 1962 Cooper 59, with Shaw and Baker in fourth and fifth. Thirty-five drivers started the race.

Group 6B was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc. The field was 37 strong, with 27 starters for the Rolex Race, and nine DNS.

Cameron Healy won both races Sunday, in his No.55 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. He also had the fastest race lap of 1:50.7 on the last lap of the nine. Second and third in both races were Jeff Mincheff in No.52 1956 Lotus Eleven and Thor Johnson in No.99 1959 Lotus 17.

In the morning race, there were 31 starters and six DNS.

Start of 7B Race

Group 7B for 1973-1991 IMSA GTu, GTo/Trans AM Cars. Ground Pounders one and all. And fast! They turned the fastest times of the day.

Bill Ockerlund won the race in his No.33 1991 Chevrolet Duracell Camaro, and turned the fastest time of the race and the day at 1:31.4 on Lap eight of the ten-lap race. Finishing second was Joel Miller in the ear-splitting No.62 1991 Mazda RC-7. Third was Ken Epsman in his No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird, a car first raced by Bill Doyle in the original Trans-Am Series.

Those same three finished in the morning race, in a different order: Miller won, followed by Ockerlund and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Keith Frieser from Canada in No.63T 1984 Mercury Capri, and Kenneth Davis in No.8 1985 Roush Mercury Capri.

The day ended in bright sunshine, as it did all six days of the Reunions. A far cry from the early morning fog experienced some of the days. But – it didn’t stay.

Foggy Morning at Laguna Seca

The 2018 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will be one week later, to accommodate the PGA Tournament. So mark your calendars for 23-26 August 2018. And stay tuned for the featured marque. “It took two hours to decide and now it will take Legal two weeks to clear.” The Formula 5000 cars will be back. And the 2nd Annual Spring Classic will be back 18-20 May 2018. And the Porsche Rennsport has already been announced for 27-30 September 2018. So plan now. See you there!

REUNION RACING

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Foggy Friday. The deep fog enveloped Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the start of the morning Group A Races at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. There was line-of-sight between the Turn Stations so it was safe to race, but it was cold, palpable fog. The sun didn’t appear until noon, and then it shone on all the many and varied activities.

The eight Group A races were run in chronological order, as there were no sound limits for the weekend. The morning races set the grids for the afternoon Rolex Races.

Group 1A No.37 Luca Maciucescu 1934 Ford Granite State Special & No.18 Brian Blain 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special

Luca Maciucescu No.37 & Brian Blain No.18

Group 1A was for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & Touring Cars. These cars were really old, dating back to 1911 and up through 1935.

In the Rolex Race, Luca Maciucescu, who gridded third, won in his No.37 1934 Ford Granite State Special after a hard-fought battle with pole sitter, Brian Blain in No.18 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special. Finishing third was Rick Rawlins in No.11 1926 Bugatti 37A. Maciucescu turned the fastest race lap time of 2:15.6 on Lap Five.

The oldest car was driven by Charles Test. He ran a best time of 2:52.8 in his 1911 No.19 National Speedway Roadster. The youngest cars were two 1935 Rileys. Richard Jeffery drove No.117A Riley Special Brooklands and Greg Powell drove No.16. Riley-Ford Single SeatChamp car. Sixteen drivers of the 20 entries ran the race.

In the morning race, Blain won, ahead of Rawlins and Maciucescu. Fourteen drivers ran the race.

Group 2A was for 1927-1951 Racing Cars.

Paddins Dowling won the Rolex Race in No.7 1934 ERA R2A, from the pole position after winning the morning race. Runner-up was Hans Hugenholtz in No.26 1950 Talbot T26C, who hadn’t run the morning race. Third was Charles McCabe in No.6A ERA R6B. Dowling had the fastest time of 1:58.1, on the final lap of the eight-lap race. Eight drivers DNS, including Derek Hill, son of F1 World Champion, Phil Hill, who was to drie No.51 1931 Bugatti Type 51.; and Alain de Cadenet of London, who is also part of the CBS TV Reunion telecast. He was to have driven No.106 1936 Alfa Romeo 8C.

In the morning race, Chris MacAllister came in second, behind Dowling, in his 1938 ERA 14B. That made up for not starting the morning race. Third finisher was Peter Giddings in his familiar No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza.

Group 3A was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc.

Dyke Ridgley drove his 1960 Chaparral I to victory in the Rolex Race, and turned the best time of 1:43.2 on Lap five of the ten-lap race. He finished second in the morning race. Greg Meyer came in second in No.84 1959 Sadler MkIV. They ran close together. Charging hard to catch them was David Swig in No.16 Scarab MkI. His best time was second fastest of the race – 1:44.1. Fifteen drivers ran and all finished the race. Five drivers DNS including Dominic Dobson in No.60 Cooper Monaco MkIIII.

Between races, Swig received from Executive Director Mark Gessler of the Historic Vehicle Association – on behalf of the Scarab – the beautiful glass bowl which signified the Scarab had been accepted into the HVA Registry. Each year at the Reunion it selects/honors an important car. Last year it was a Cobra. This car is owned by Dyke Ridgley.

David Swig and Scarab Trophy

Vintage Registry Trophy

David Swig & Scarab Owner

1958 Scarab MkI

David Swig and Scarab

1958 Scarab MkI

Race Group 4A was for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars.

This was a large group, with 48 entries, of which 41 ran.

Local driver Bruce Canepa won the Rolex Race after failing to finish in the morning race. He was driving his fast No.12 1979 Porsche 935, which turned the fastest time of 1:32.3 on Lap four on the ten-lap race. Second was Kiel Hogan in No.24 1976 Dekon Monza, one of three in the race. Not often one sees that many such cars in the same place at the same time. Finishing third was Cooper MacNeil in No.0 1980 Porsche 935.

Canepa owns a large restoration facility nearby in Scotts Valley in which he houses his collection of historic vehicles. He also hosts a monthly Cars and Coffee event which is so well-attended that local volunteer college students staff it.

Fourth and fifth were Ken Epsman in No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Zak Brown in No.18 1981 Porsche 935.

Adam Corolla finished 16th in his No.70 1979 Porsche 935, and 19th in the morning race.

Sat AM Race 4A photo finish

In the morning race, two Porsches proved yet again you don’t have to win or be in front to have an exciting race and photo finish. Mid-pack, Alan Benjamin in No.61 1975 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR and Cameron Healy in No.11 1977 Porsche 911 Carerra RSR finished neck and neck, in positions 21 and 22.

MacNeil won the morning race, followed by Gunnar Jeannette driving No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5 and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Hogan and Brown. Forty-five drivers started that race with three DNS.

Also in the morning race, three fast drivers DNF’d after two laps – Canepa, Mike Thurlow in the boldly colorful No.53 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, and Charles Nearburg in his No.70T 1980 Porsche 935 K3; with Thurlow and Nearburg among non-starters for the Rolex Race.

Don Zurlinden No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Don Zurlinden & No.25 Tatum-GMC Special

Race 5A was another large group, for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars. Many of these cars used to race in the Del Monte Forest before the opening of Laguna Seca. Most of the Group’s cars are in Row Q at the Reunion, and most of them will still be there Sunday. Several, including four owned by Rob Manson, will be showing at the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday, including the winner of both races – Dave Zurlinden of Monterey CA. He drove Rob Manson’s 1953 Tatum-GMC Special (with car body by Hagemann) to victory in both races, and turned the fastest time of 1:50.4 on Lap Four of the nine-lap race. Second in the Rolex Race was Dyke Ridgley in No.17 1953 Jaguar C-Type, with John Buddenbaum in No.3 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which also will be showing at Pebble Beach. They all finished in that order for the morning race also.

Fourth and fifth were local driver, Don Pepperdene in No.77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special and Marcus Bicknell from the United Kingdom in No.15 1952 Streets Manning Special.

Thirty-seven drivers started the race, with seven DNS, including Joe Huffaker in No.77 1955 MG TF 1500, who had mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning race, Bruce McCaw in No.65 1961 Austin Healey Sebring Sprite and Manson in No.9C 1953 Kurtis 500S, who didn’t run the morning race either.

Finishing fourth and fifth in the morning race were Bernard Juchli in No.86 1955 Jaguar Hagemann Special and Don Pepperdene in No77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special.

Young Timothy de Silva is one of a new generation of vintage racers. The college student won his two races last weekend at the Pre-Reunion. I mistakenly wrote that he didn’t run the second of the Formula Junior races (as his car broke.) But what I didn’t know, and neither did Timing and Scoring, was that Scott Drnek offered up his 1963 Brabham BT6 for de Silva to drive. Timothy started ninth in Group Nine for FJ’s with disc brakes – the faster cars. He won the race.

This weekend, deSilva was fastest in all four of his sessions for Group 6A – 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. He won the Rolex Race and was nearly three seconds faster than the next closest car, driving No.25 1978 Osella PA8. Runner-up was Cal Meeker from British Columbia, driving No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third was Andre Lara Resende i o.126 1978 Chevron B36. Eighteen cars started the race, with three DNS including Mike Thurlow, who finished second to de Silva in the morning race. Thurlow drove No.4 1973 Lola T294. Nearly all drivers ran their fastest time on Lap Seven.

Meeker was third in the morning race., which had nineteen starters and two DNS.

Group 7A was for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars. There was a nice turnout of 34 cars, plus the seven DNS.

Chris MacAllister won from the pole position in No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, and was four and a half seconds faster than the runnerup, Cameron Healey in No.20 1970 Porsche 908/3. Third was Richard Dean of England in No.46 1970 Chevron B16.

Fourth and fifth were Gray Gregory in No.44 1970 Chevron B16 and Bob Kullas in No.23 1969 Chevron B16.

In the morning race, the finishing order was MacAllister, Healey, Gregory, Kullas and Dean.

Scott Barrett & No.53 1965 Koch Special

One of the drivers who didn’t run Saturday afternoon was Scott Barrett of Texas. He drove his No.53 1965 Koch Chevy Special in the morning race. The car was built by Wayne Koch, with a 440 hp, 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder Chevy engine, with Porsche 356 rear end. Back in the day it ran a lot of races, including the American Road Race of Championships. Koch won the ARRC DMod class his first year. After that the class became DSR and was a larger, more inclusive class and the Koch Special was not as competitive. Barrett has had the car for nearly four years and completely rebuilt it, saying it’s ‘awesome.”. At the Reunion he runs with the larger FIA Cars, in what he calls a “most diverse class”

Group 8A was the smallest run group all day, with 11 starters in the 19-car field. This group of 1981-1991 IMSA GTP Cars were the fastest all days. Winner Charles Nearburg in his No.99 AAR Eagle MkIII GTP ran a lap of 1:23.9, two seconds faster than runner-up Jonathan Bomarito in his No.202 1989 Mazda 767-B, who didn’t run the morning race. Third was Wade Carter in No.68 1984 Porsche 962. The DNS list for the afternoon was impressive, including Bruce Canepa, who only ran two laps in the morning race in his No.10 1986 Porsche 962; and Zak Brown, who finished third in the morning race, driving No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He won both his Pre-Reunion races in that car last weekend.

The McLaren M23 Formula One car, driven by former F1 driver, Mika Hakkinen, in Exhibition Laps Friday and Saturday, is being packed up and crated for its trip back to the UK. This was the first Hakkinen had driven on the 2.238-mile elevated road course. He found the braking zones required a lot of skill, and The Corkscrew was challenging. He thought German Touring Cars at Laguna Seca would be fun, but it was a long way from Germany.

McLaren M23 F1 Car in Turn 11

McLaren M23 F1

Freight-Prepping McLaren M23 F1 Car

Laguna Seca Sunset