SUNNY MOUNTAIN SHOWDOWN

Group One Start

Augie Grasis in No.11 1953 Allard-Cadillac J2X leading Peter Giddings in No.24 1953 Lancia D24/5 on the start of the Group One race.

Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca started out merely overcast rather than foggy, so the activities began right on schedule for the second and last day of the Pre-Reunion. Practice for each group was in the morning, with afternoon races for the ten groups comprised of more than 300 historic race cars. So far only one (large) car part had been retrieved. The actual race fields were smaller than Saturdays, either by attrition or choice.

Local driver, Dave Zurlinden drove his No.25 1953 Tatum GMC Special to victory from second on the grid for the Group One Race-1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars, and set the race’s fastest lap in the process – 1:50.4/73.011 mph. Pole sitter Dyke Ridgley and his No.17 1953 Jaguar C-type finished second, followed by Rob Manson in No.9C 1953 Kurtis 500S, 4.993 seconds behind. The race ran nine laps, with 21 starting the race of the 25 entries. Grasis started ninth and finished eighth. Giddings started eleventh and finished twelfth. The fastest time for the group in Turn One was 121 mph.

Duke Ridgley No.17 Jaguar

No.17 Jaguar C-type. Photo by Alan Mertens.

The second-place Jaguar has an interesting history. It came in second at Le Mans in 1953 with Stirling Moss and Peter Walker at the wheel. It’s a works lightweight car, which was fitted with a 3.8-liter engine, originally a 3.4. Moss finished second at Lisbon later that year. The car was then sold to Ecurie Ecoss in Scotland and was painted blue for awhile. Jimmy Stewart, the older brother of Jackie Stewart, won many races in the car. It continued on its famous racing ways for the next five years, before becoming a street car and used in performance events. It was never in any serious crashes. It was later restored and driven by a famous racer of the time, Keith Schellenberg in English vintage events. Schellenberg was an Olympic bobsled champion in 1956, owns his own island in Scotland (Isle of Eigg) and raced some amazing vintage cars including this Jaguar and Woolf Barnato’s Bentley. That is the same Woolf Barnato for whom a SCCA award is named. The 1986 recipient of the Award, R. David Jones, will be at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion driving a 1962 Lotus 23 in Group 7A for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars.

Pole Sitter Alex Hugo won the Group Two Race for 1955-1962 GT Cars, the largest group. He drove his 1962 Porsche 356B and turned the fastest time of 73.872 mph/1.49.1. Jeffrey Abramson started and finished second, 4.102 seconds in arrears, driving No.145 1959 Morgan Babydoll IV. Starting and finishing third was Ned Bacon in No.61 1961 Porsche 356. Thirty-seven of 43 drivers ran the nine-lap race. This group had a majority of drivers from California, although one hailed from New South Wales in Australia, one from Westphalia in Germany, and one from Bogata. The closest was William Kirkwood from nearby Carmel. Kirkwood drove his No.61T 1961 Elva Courier MKII, and finished sixteenth. Kirkwood is a Race Steward with SFR SCCA and also a SCRAMP Assistant Director. There were a couple other drivers from neighboring communities.

Mid-pack start of Group Three Race

Dyke Ridgley thought he’d try it again, in Group Three for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under/over 2 Liters. He had the pole position in his No.66 1960 Chaparral I. Starting second and third were Greg Meyer in No.84 1959 ASLWE MKIV and David Swig in No.16 1959 Scarab MkI. They finished in that order, in the nine-lap race, Ridgley being the fastest at 76.874 mph/1:44.8. He edged Meyer by 4.315 seconds. Thirty-two drivers started, in the nine lap race and thirty finished. Swig is a second-generation vintage racer, being the eldest son of the late Martin Swig and Esta Swig, who both raced the family vintage cars. Younger brother Howard Swig also races vintage cars, although the lads took time out earlier in their careers to run LeMons races in a whacky series that their father denied originating with Jay Lamm. David now is a Car Specialist with Sotheby’s and has to squeeze in his Laguna races between his car auction duties this month.

Group Four Race was for 1958-1960 Formula Jr – the smaller, earlier versions with front engines and drum brakes. It was the smallest field of the weekend, with 19 entries – from here and abroad. Chris Drake of England had the pole position in his No.55 1961 Elva 300 and he won by a considerable margin of 47.736 seconds ahead of Ray Mallock, also of England in his No.32 1960 U2 Mk2. I didn’t find him in time to ascertain is he’s involved with the Mallock race car. Drake was the fastest driver at 77.002 mph/1:44.6. Chip Fudge, who gridded seventeenth in the field based on his Saturday race, finished third in No.28 1961 Cooper T56. Sixteen drivers ran the race, and all but one finished. This group will run again next weekend as it’s one of the featured marques, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Formula Juniors.

One of the larger fields was Group Five for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc. The top three drivers finished where they started. Dalmo De Vasconcelos of Rio won in his fast No.185 Lotus Elan, with the fastest lap of 75.205 mph/1:47.1 and a 6.031 Margin of Victory ahead of Dennis Kazmerowski in No.199 1964 Ginetta G4. Robert S. Davis finished third in No.117 1965 Lotus 7. Twenty-nine started and twenty-eight finished the nine-lap race. The winner and another driver, Francisco Lara Resende in No.26 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA hailed from Brazil, another came from England and one from Antwerp. The rest were from California and other states.

Only twenty-six of the 40 Group Six entries raced. This big, loud and splashy group was made up of 1973-1981 FIA and IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars. Polesitter Bruce Canepa again won in No.12 1979 Porsche 935. Mike Thurlow charged from the back to place second in his very colorful No.53 1976 Chevrolet Corvette. Third was Ranson Webster in his pink and white No.42 1976 Porsche 035 K3. Canepa’s Margin of Victory was only 2.713 seconds, and Thurlow turned the fastest lap in his charge to the front, turning a 1:34.0/85.74 mph, the fastest of the day at that point. There were several drop outs due to mechanical and other woes, including Zak Brown in his No.18 1981 Porsche 935. He had gridded second and ran so until he retired.

The second largest Margin of Victory came in Group Seven for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. Alex MacAllister of Indianapolis won from third starting slot in his 1966 Ford GT40. He beat runner-up Lorne Leibel of Canada in his No.96 1965 Cobra AC by 23.625 seconds. Alex MacAllister was the fastest car at 82.997 mph/1:37.1. Third was pole sitter Jeffrey Abramson, a local driver in No.5 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster. Fourth was Chris MacAllister, also from Indy, in No.146 1964 Shelby Cobra. Four cars from Saturday elected not to run, including the very fast Bruce Canepa, who was entered in two different Porsche 962’s.

Smokin' Chris Hines No.58 Corvette

Chris Hines No.78 being pushed by SFR

SCRAMP Directors sweeping

This was a character-building race for Chris Hines of Scottsdale. He lasted five laps before he pulled off at Start-Finish with a blown motor blowing smoke. There was no fire and he was unhurt, but not so for the engine. He was in good hands, between SCRAMP personnel and the SCCA marshals, and he was able to limp back to his pits. He did, however, leave a large souvenir for the volunteers – a large swath of oil to remember him by.

This was the last race of the day. The paddock had started to empty, but soon it will fill back up to capacity for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion which has so many entrants wanting to run that the cut-off was 550 cars. See you there!

More Eye Candy, this time from the Bonham’s Auction display. If you have to ask the starting price, then you can’t afford to bid.

1909 Thomas Flyabout

Thompson Special indy car

1941 Mercedes Cabriolet

Jody Scheckter's Championship 1981 Ferrari F1

Left to Right: 1909 Thomas Flyabout; Thompson Special indy car; 1941 Mercedes Cabriolet; and Jody Scheckter’s 1981 Championship F1 Ferrari

FOGGY MOUNTAIN SHAKEDOWN

Foggy Start

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

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

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

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

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

Zak Brown #18 Porsche 935

Zak Brown’s #18 Porsche 935

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

Richard Dean No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Richard Dean’s No.46 1970 Chevron B16

Zak Brown No.16 1986 Porsche 962

Zak Brown’s No.16 1986 Porsche 962

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

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

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

Harindra & Timothy de Silva

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

Timothy de Silva No.10 1962 Gemini MkIV Formula Junior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a look at just a small sampling.

Wolfe

Mini Convertible

Old Jag

Ferrari Testarosa

Figaro

Lancia Rallye Car

I Ain't No Balloon Foot"

HAPPY HARVICK!

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

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

Kevin Harvick

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

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

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

Kevin Harvick No.4 Ford

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

Clint Bowyer

Clint Bowyer

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

Cars 3

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

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

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

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

Dale Earnhardt No.88 Chevrolet

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

Kyle Larson

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

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

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

Martin-Truex

Photo by Mike Burghardt

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

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

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

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

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

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

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

Harvick Cup Banner

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

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

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

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

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

Stage Three Restart!

SONOMA SUNDAY

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

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick. Photo by Mike Burghart

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

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

Will Rodgers

Kevin Harvick

David Mayhew

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

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

Kevin Harvick banner

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

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

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

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

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

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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

DaleEarnhardt No.88

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

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter

Cristela Alonzo & John Lasseter. Photo by Mike Burghart

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

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

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

No.1 Cessna

No.34 Love's Stop

No.20 Stanley

Cup Starting Grid

GANASSI FRONT ROW

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

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

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

Jamie McMurray

Jamie McMurray

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

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

Kyle Larson No.42 Chevrolet

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

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

Jamie McMurray No.1 Chevrolet

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

Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez

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

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

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

Danica Patrick No.10 Ford

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

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

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

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

Goodyear Tires

IT’S ALL ABOUT CARS

Cars 3

The pace picked up Saturday morning at Sonoma Raceway for Day Two of the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 250 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend. After Friday’s two practice sessions, cars were again going through the technical inspection process prior to their noon-time qualifying session. Once cleared, they lined up in Pit Lane side by side, all neat and tidy, awaiting their turn to peel out.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the paddock, the CARS 3 display was being set up, the final stop in a cross-country tour of 27 cities promoting the release of the latest Pixar movie. Three life-sized versions of the movie’s cars will be in the display, including No.95 Lightning McQueen.

John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, will drive the 2017 Toyota pace car for Sunday’s Cup race. He was the executive producer on CARS 3. Cristela Alonzo, voice of the film’s elite trainer, Cruz Ramirez, will be the Grand Marshal Sunday.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Points Leader, Kyle Larson/No.42 Target Chevrolet, was fastest Friday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway for the final practice session leading up to the 29th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 Race. He drove 94.389 mph/1:15.899, one of only two drivers who were in the fifteens. Larson also turned the most laps of any – 30. He edged Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Carmel Toyota, who turned a 1:15.935 at 94.344 mph.

Dale Earnhardt/No.88 Axalta Chevrolet was third. He had led most of the morning session. AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet was fourth, followed by Jamie McMurray/No1 Cessna Chevrolet.

NASCAR Penalty Box

Three drivers sat inside their cars in NASCAR’s equivalent of the Penalty Box for fifteen minutes prior to the first practice, for failing multiple tech inspections at the Michigan Cup race. They were Kurt Busch/No.41 Monster Energy/Haas Automotive Ford; Ty Dillon/No.13 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet; and Erik Jones/No.77 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota.

Final practice was more lively than the earlier session.

All 38 entries ran the session. Several drivers barely warmed their tires, including Landon Cassil/No.34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, who ran once around. Jones turned seven laps, getting out in his backup car which was thrown together after his tire wall encounter in Turn Eleven, in which he wrecked his car and damaged the tire barrier setup.

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott/No.24 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet had an even harder hit in Turn Ten. He slammed into the concrete wall, first with the front end and then with the rear. The Cup Series youngest driver was evaluated and released from the infield care center, cleared to drive. He was able to get the car into the pits, where his crew parked it outside the garage where the team could dismantle it and salvage whatever parts could be saved. Inside his garage, the crew started to work on the backup car.

Elliott said “I just made a mistake. It was really my fault. I hate it for my teammates on the No. 24 team. They sure don’t deserve it. They worked hard this past week to get this car ready to come out here a long way from home. So, made a mistake and we shouldn’t be having that.”

Cole Whitt/No.72 RTIC Coolers Chevrolet slide in his own oil in Turn Seven and retired with a blown engine. This caused a caution for extensive cleanup and oil dry.

Five drivers of the 38 are making their Cup debut: Kevin O’Connell/No.15 SBC Contractors Inc Chevrolet; Alon Day/No.23 earthwater Toyota; Billy Johnson/No.43 Smithfield Ford; Josh Billicki/No.51 Marriott Chevrolet; and Tommy Regan/No.55 OscaroParts.com/Capri Tools Chevrolet. O’Connell is also entered in the Carneros 200 K&N Race Saturday afternoon and qualified 28th in the 32-car field, but withdrew at the last minute.

Alon Day

Alon Day

Day, who ran as high as eleventh before finishing 23rd in final practice, is the first Israeli to compete in NASCAR’s top tier Series. He comes from a mostly road-racing background. Day competes full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and runs up front much of the time. Day comes to Sonoma fresh from his win last weekend at Brands Hatch in England. That series only has one oval (Netherlands) in its 12-race schedule. Those cars are more akin to the current K&N Series cars, much lower in horsepower and comfort. Day is racing for BK Motorsports, which is a Charter Team in the Cup Series and runs other drivers.

Johnson is also a road racer, coming from a sports car background. He races full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in the World Endurance Cup Series, and raced last weekend at the 24 Hours of LeMans. He also races full time in the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Series, where he has the most race wins. Johnson is also is a test driver for Ford Performance. The young American, with a Bus Ad degree, is substituting this weekend for Aric Amirola, who is recuperating from a race injury.

Next up is qualifying, road racing style. All cars will go out for thirty-minutes knock-out session, with the top twelve making it to a ten-minute shootout.

Cup Cars Qualifying Lineup

SONOMA SALUTATIONS!

Sonoma Sign

Martin Truex

Martin Truex

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers waited until the waning moments of the 115-minute long first practice at Sonoma Raceway to turn up the wick. Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row Toyota literally jumped to first in the last minute, with a lap of 1:15.740, the only driver to reach the fifteens.

The last ten minutes had three other leaders and top ten position changes. Truex edged Denny Hamlin/No.11 FedEx Ground Toyota for the lead, who edged Ricky Stenhouse, Jr/No.17 Fastenal Ford, who edged Dale Earnhardt Jr/No.88 Axalta Chevrolet-who had led most of the session. While running third, Earnhardt was edged by Clint Bowyer/No.14 Cars 3 Ford, who won Sonoma in 2012. Chris Buescher/No.37 Kingsford Chevrolet jumped into the fifth slot, then dropped to sixth followed by his teammate and road race veteran, AJ Allmendinger/No.47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet.

Rounding out the top ten were Chase Elliott/No.24 Chevrolet, Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, and Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Toyota.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr No.88

Clint Bower No.14

Chris Buescher No.37

AJ Allmendinger

Joey Logano No.22

Row One: Left to Right: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr; Dale Earnhardt, Jr; and Clint Bower
Row Two: Left to Right: Chris Buescher; AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano.

Big Blue Sweeper

Big Blue Sweeper

There was a Red Flag and two cautions and a Red Flag during the 115-minute session. The Red Flag was early on, to clean up the mess on the track caused by the off-course excursion by Ty Dillon/No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet. The track clean-up vehicles got a good workout. The caution was for Erik Jones/No.775-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota, when he hit the Turn Eleven tire wall hard enough for it to dislodge the protective rubber conveyer belt. Neither driver was hurt, but Jones crew brought out his backup car. The second caution was for Matt Kenseth/No.20.DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota, who lost an engine.

Ty Dillon

Erik Jones

Matt Kenseth

Left to Right: Ty Dillon No.13 Chevrolet; Erik Jones No.77 Toyota; and Matt Kenseth No.20 Toyota.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Steve Page & Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

The big feel-good moment of the day was the Sonoma Raceway President Steve Page’s presentation to Dale Earnhardt of a unique and definitely warm-and-fuzzy gift in honor of this being his last year of full-time NASCAR Cup racing. Knowing of Dale and wife Amy’s love for animals and wanting to do things which have a positive impact on the lives of others, Sonoma Raceway will sponsor three Labrador Retriever puppies being raised and trained to help child victims in courthouse settings, with disabilities at home and in the community. The puppies are named Dale, Junior and Amy. It was the first time I’ve ever seen Junior so surprised. He was also presented with a large Sonoma Raceway ceremonial wine bottle. Sonoma Salutation!

Sonoma Wine Bottle

The dogs were donated by Micons Labradors and Fieldstone Labradors, and will be trained by PALS Assistance Dogs. Another unique aspect of the thorough training process is that the dogs spend twice a week with incarcerated youth who assist in the training. Page said “Dale has such a huge following among our fans and we wanted to find a way for his legacy to carry forward locally, well beyond his days as a driver.”

Steve Page, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and PALS Nancy Pierson

Steve Page, Dale Earnhardt, Jr, and PALS Nancy Pierson

At Sunday’s race the track will distribute 10,000 “Thanks, Junior” hand-held fans. And if there’s continuation of the warm weather the Greater Bay Area has been experiencing, the fans will be welcome. Additionally, in the pre-race ceremonies, there will be a highlight video, and the Patriots Jet Team will write “#88″ in the sky as part of their traditional aerial show.

SATO SHINES!

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Takuma Sato/No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda held onto the past six laps of the 200-mile race to take his first win at the 101st running of Indianapolis 500 presented race. He took the lead for the second time on Lap 195 and held off the charging Helio Castroneves/No.3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet for his first oval victory. The Margin of Victory was 0.2011, the sixth closest finish in the history of the legendary race. He said “It’s such a privilege to win here. So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn’t really matter. Winning today, it’s just superb.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves

Castroneves tried and tried after Sato’s last pass on him, but just couldn’t get around Sato, and finished runner-up – for the third time at the Indy 500. He said “This place is unbelievable! I really thought we had it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t do it.”

Helio Castroneves

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Nico Matamoros.

The veteran Brazilian driver, in his twentieth INDYCAR season, has finished runner-up three times. He’s won the Indy 500 three times and has been chasing his fourth victory since 2009. “It was so close. We’ve got to keep going. I take my hat off to Takuma (Sato) for having a strong car today. He really seemed to be getting better as the race went along. I say, ‘great job’ to my guys. They worked their tails off. We saw it all today. We were in the back and we led some laps. We avoided disaster and we almost got number four.”

Ed Jones

Ed Jones

Top Rookie was Ed Jones/No.19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda, who finished third – the highest Indy 500 finish for the team. He congratulated Sato. “I didn’t really have the pace for him and Helio at the end.But we did the best we could. I think those guys were trimmed out quite a bit. Even in the draft, I was struggling to stay up with them. He was still pulling away.

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato. Photo by Nico Matamoros

It was Sato’s second career victory, the last being Long Beach 2013. Sato San, as his teammates call him, is the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Sato turned the fastest race lap of 226.190 mph on Lap 150.

Sato said “Unbelievable feeling. I cannot thank this team enough. Look at these guys. Fantastic. It was obviously a tough, tough race. But Helio really drives fair. I can trust him. I can really trust him coming from the outside. What a race. Hopefully the crowd enjoyed it.” In terms of knowing at what point he would win, “Until three laps to go, you really didn’t know. Me and Helio went side by side with three laps to go. You’ve got to go for it, run it flat. And we did it, and we pulled away. Fantastic.”

For Andretti Autosport, it was its fifth Indy 500 victory and third in the past four years. Andretti has had 65 career wins. Four of its six drivers led laps in Sunday’s race: Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28, seven times for 28 laps; Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29, four times for 27 laps; Alexander Rossi/No.98, six times for 23 laps; and race winner Sato twice for 17 laps. That’s 19 lead changes of the 35 recorded, and Andretti drivers led 95 of 200 laps.

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti

Takuma Sato & Michael Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Team Owner, Michael Andretti said “He (Sato) is awesome! Oh, my God; I can’t believe it. We work really really hard on this race. We focus on it a lot. Having all those cars out there, gaining all that information helps a lot. And we have great people on this team, and they’re the ones who got this win, as well as Takuma. He drove unbelievable.”

The Verizon INDYCAR Series has had six different winners in six races this season. The race had a record 15 different leaders, nearly half the field. Nineteen cars finished the race, 16 on the lead lap. There were 11 cautions for 50 laps, one-fourth of the race.

Race Start

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ed Jones was the top finishing Rookie in the race, but he never led a lap. Another Rookie got the lion’s share of attention all May long. McLaren F1 driver, Fernando Alonso skipped his Monaco Grand Prix to do something he’d always wanted to do. “I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.”

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Alonso was more relaxed, spontaneous, accepting of his new race environment, and willing to learn than anyone ever expected from an elite athlete from a supposedly more sophisticated and sheltered race environment. He met with the media one last time, immediately after the race – which he didn’t finish due to engine failure on Lap 180. He was credited with a P24 finish. “Obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today was not possible. anyway, it was a great experience, the last two weeks. It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking of that moment if Zak or someone from the team was taking a picture because I want that picture at home.

“Thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here.”

Fernando drinking the milk

Fernando drinking the milk

He captured the heart of the Media Sunday with his farewell. “Last thing. Thank you for all media. I didn’t won, but I will drink a little bit of milk.” With that he brought out a small carton of milk he’d been hiding and drank it all, and waving it to the media as he left. “You follow me for two weeks every single minute, but I really enjoy. Thanks for the welcoming. See you in Austin.”

The race was marred by three big accidents, both causing downtime for cleanup and track repair. All drivers were taken to the infield care center, checked and released, cleared to drive. The same could not be said for any of the race cars. There also were two minor accidents, in which no drivers were hurt; and one accident where a driver was transported.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso. Photo by Nico Matamoros

The first accident was terrifying in its ferocity and and destruction, and it brought out the Red Flag for 19 minutes and 40 seconds. It is incredible and a testament to the safety of the race cars and the SAFER walls that pole sitter Scott Dixon/No.9 Camping World Chip Ganassi Racing Honda wasn’t injured. On Lap 53 Dixon’s car went airborne after being hit by Jay Howard/No.77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Dixon hit the catch fence and came down cockpit first on the SAFER wall before flipping away and landing on the ground. While airborne Castroneves drove under Dixon trying to escape the wreck. Castroneves said his winglet was hit by Dixon causing some damage which needed repairs. “I just shut my eyes and ended up in the grass.” Howard had hit the Turn One SAFER wall and came down the track and collected Dixon. In the history of the Indianapolis 500, there have only been nine red flags for reasons other than rain. Rookie Fernando Alonso/No.29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda was leading at the time, followed by Rossi, Sato, Ed Carpenter/No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Dixon said after getting out of the infield care center: “I just got a little beaten up there. It was a bit of a rough ride. I’m bummed for the team and for Camping World. We got a little loose on the first stint there, but they dialed it in, and we started to make some progress. Overall, I think we were a little bit light on downforce but for later on in the race that would have been the right move to have. I’m just bummed for them and glad everyone is OK. It was definitely a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety of these cars. It’s tough. I was hoping Jay (Howard) would stay against the wall. I’d already picked a way to go and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. It makes you believe in the safety of these cars and the progress they’ve made.”

Max Chilton

Max Chilton. Photo by Nico Matamoros

Another big accident was multicar, on Lap 184. James Davison/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Oriol Servia/No.16 Manitowoc Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda hit, which in turn collected Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda. Josef Newgarden/No.2 hum by Verizon Team Penske spun to avoid them but hit the SAFER wall. Max Chilton/No.8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was leading when the Pace Car came out, followed by Sato.

One of the lesser accidents involved Conor Daly/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, when he hit the Turn Three SAFER Wall, and Rookie Jack Harvey/No.50 Michael Shank Racing w/Andretti Autosport Honda spun and hit the SAFER wall. Sato was leading at the Caution, followed by Rossi, RHR, Alonso, and JR Hildebrand/No.21 Preferred Freezer Service Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

Another big accident involved Buddy Lazier/No.44 Lazier Racing-Stalk It-Tivoli Lodge Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet on Lap 122. He spun on the short chute between Turns One and Two, hitting hard into the Turn Two SAFER wall and bouncing back on track. He got out of the car by himself, but was transported from the infield care center to IU Health Methodist Hospital for evaluation of chest discomfort. No further word on his condition has been received.

Pace Car leading Alonso and field

Pace Car leading Alonso and field. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

OFFICIAL INDIANAPOLIS 500 RACE RESULTS

1. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
2. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, Running
4. (15) Max Chilton, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, Running
6. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
7. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, Running
8. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
9. (25) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (24) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (14) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
13. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (31) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 200, Running
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (28) Pippa Mann, Honda, 199, Running
18. (29) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 194, Running
19. (22) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 186, Running
20. (33) James Davison, Honda, 183, Contact
21. (12) Oriol Servia, Honda, 183, Contact
22. (17) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 183, Contact
23. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
24. (5) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 179, Mechanical
25. (16) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 166, Mechanical
26. (32) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 155, Mechanical
27. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 136, Mechanical
28. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 125, Mechanical
29. (30) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 118, Contact
30. (26) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 65, Contact
31. (27) Jack Harvey, Honda, 65, Contact
32. (1) Scott Dixon, Honda, 52, Contact
33. (20) Jay Howard, Honda, 45, Contact

UNOFFICIAL INDYCAR POINTS
1-Helio Castroneves – 245
2-Scott Dixon-234
3-Simon Pagenaud-234
4-Takuma Sato-234
5-Alexander Rossi-190
6-Tony Kanaan-188
7-Will Power-186
8-Josef Newgarden-186
9-Ed Jones (R)-185
10-James Hinchcliffe-170
Max Chilton-170

Helio Castroneves

Photo by Nico Matamoros

SUNDAY SUNRISE SOUNDS AND SIGHTS

Pagoda

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

Cannon fired!

Cannon fired!

>

Fox TV Crew

Local TV Crew

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

Sunday Schedule

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

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

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

Matthew Metcalfe

Matthew Metcalfe

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

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

Pagoda

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

SATURDAY COLLAGE

Autograph Mob

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

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

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

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

Autograph mob scene

This line is closed

Autograph queues

Tony Kanaan

Scott Goodyear & Alan Bestwick

Fernando Alonso

Brian Barnhart

Brian Barnhart. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Curt Brunz/Jostens & Jeffrey Dean Morgan

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

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

Bryan Herta & Michael Andretti

Alexander Rossi & Milk Award

Michael Andretti & Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

JAR Hildebrand & Fernando Alonso

James Davison

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

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

James Hinchcliffe's No.5 Honda

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

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

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

AJ Foyt

Buddy Lazier

Juan Pablo Montoya

Rick Mears

Al Unser Jr

Helio Castroneves

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

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

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

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

McLaren road car

JR Rutherford's Indy 500 car

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

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

Mark Miles

Mark Miles

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

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

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

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