TUESDAY

IMS Sign

It was a glorious day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the opening day of practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. There are 36 NTT IndyCar Series drivers entered for this year’s race, so there will be bumping in qualifications this weekend. The weather was wonderfully warm – not too hot, just right with only a slight breeze. It was 64 degrees F at noon, but it felt warmer. The track temperature was 90 degrees F. It warmed up to 70 degrees F by 4pm, with track temp of 103 F, and then clouds started appearing. The wind increased a bit eventually to 7 mph. Then the clouds mostly blew away and the sun came out brightly at days end. Mid-day there were lots of school kids in groups, evidently on field trips.

Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter

Tuesday’s practice was divided into three segments: Oval Veterans, Rookies & Refreshers, and All Cars. There were 31 times recorded in the first two-hour segment, which included all the NTT IndyCar Series ‘regulars’ plus those one-offs who have already completed their Rookie or Refresher sessions. Ed Carpenter/No.20 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet was the fastest in this session, at 228.653 mph. Other than the open IndyCar test at IMS, Carpenter, who only races ovals, hasn’t been in the race car since last year. He said “There is always more you can get done, but today was a really good start. The baseline setup was good and we were able to work through everything that we wanted to try today not only on my car, but the other two as well. There will be a lot of data to go through tonight. Certainly there are areas for improvement. All things considered, where we are starting Day 1, speed-wise and race setup-wise, we are in a decent place. We tried a couple of different things today that were interesting and still need to be explored, but I am excited for the rest of the week.”

In these sessions, team drivers are allowed to get into each other cars for shakedowns. An example of this was James Hinchcliffe getting into the all three of his teammates Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Hondas. Max Chilton/No.59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet shook down the No.31 Chevrolet of his Rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward.

Seven drivers were in cars for the for Rookies & Refreshers. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet was the fastest, at 223.344 mph. In the overall group of the second session

Patricio O'Ward No.31 Carlin Chevrolet

By the end of the day, all 36 Indy 500 drivers were on course during one or more session, and some drivers in more than one car. If my calculations are correct, more than 3,000 laps were turned Tuesday. One driver who didn’t run in the last open session for all cars was Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet. He was experiencing car trouble … still, and hasn’t passed all levels of his Rookie Orientation Program. He will be allowed to practice Wednesday morning at 10:20am, prior to the open session at 11am. In the meantime, his Carlin teammate, Max Chilton, drove 13 laps in the car in the last session, coming in 35th of the 39 times posted. O’Ward said “We were hoping for a better start to our month of May, but unfortunately, we had a gearbox issue early in the rookie practice that took us back to the garage for the rest of the ROP (Rookie Orientation Program). The team was able to fix the issue, but we just didn’t have enough time for me to make it back out and get through everything we needed to for me to join the rest of the field in the final practice this afternoon.”

Helio Castroneves No.3 Chevrolet

Colton Herta

Simon Pagenaud No.22 Chevrolet

Left to Right: Helio Castroneves/No.3 Chevrolet; Carlton Herta/No.88 Honda; and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet

In the All session, Ed Carpenter was fastest from the start, based on his morning fast lap. That lasted until 4:35pm, when Will Power/No.12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet pipped his time, at 229.745 mph. The top four drivers remained the same for much of the session: Carpenter, Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda & Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 SealMaster Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda. And then, before Power topped the charts, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet worked his way into this small group.

The final top five lineup was: Power, Pagenaud, Carpenter, Castroneves and Herta – who was the top Rookie and the top Honda. Spencer Pigot/No.21 AutoGeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet turned the most laps – 128.

Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Chevrolet

One car looks different than originally planned. The No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet is all white, with no sponsor livery. Unfortunately, the team has lost its two main sponsors, which have “withdrawn. Kaiser said the team is actively looking for sponsors and whatever they can get will go on the car. If nothing materializes, they will do something fun with the car. “Yeah, from my mindset, it doesn’t change no matter what’s on the car, if there’s nothing on the car, if the car is covered in sponsors, which obviously is what we’d love. But for now, I go out there and I drive the car as best I can and put the car at the front every chance we can, and hopefully, if we perform the way we’re supposed to perform, then we’ll have people coming in to get on the side of the car.

“Actively we are looking for sponsors to be on the side of the car, because that’s what keeps the car going the track, obviously, but, regardless, the cars, if we qualify for the race, we’ll be in the race. I don’t feel like my confidence is contingent on what the car says or what the car looks like. If that was the case, I wouldn’t be a very good driver if my driving depended on what color the car was. So I go out there, I do my job, I drive the car as fast as it can go, and I let the business end take care of itself.”

Another somewhat naked white car is No.81 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet driven by Ben Hanley of England. And the No.42 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, driven by Rookie Jordan King of England could use more livery.

Those three drivers turned the fewest laps of the last session: Kaiser-10; Hanley-14, and King-42. They all turned more laps in the ROP/Refresher session: Kaiser-49, King-82, and and Hanley-44.

No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet

Ben Hanley's No.81 Chevrolet

Jordan King No.42  Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda

There was three cautions for debris, and one for Herta, when he spun at Pit Exit and stopped on course with a flat tire. He said “It was not fun. I guess just bit off a little bit more than I could chew. Was just trying to creep up to pit exit and pushed a little too hard and caught me out. We also did a front wing change which I don’t think had anything to do with it, but yeah, just carried a little bit more speed than I had been and spun out. The Total down time was 28.40 minutes.

Will Power

Kyle Kaiser

Colton Herta

Power, Herta and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet met with the media at day’s end. Power was asked about the speeds being higher. “The speeds — I think the speeds are — yeah, maybe a little quicker by yourself. All the big speeds came from big tows. The tire that — what INDYCAR wanted Firestone to do with the tire is exactly what it has done, which is help that front work off the corner so you can follow closer, and you’ve just to obviously get your car to work around that.

“Yeah, it’s kind of hard to judge the true speeds of cars right now by themselves. You don’t know what aero configuration people are running, whether they’re doing qualifying sims or they’re in race trim. We don’t know where we stack up, honestly, as far as true speed.”

Kaiser was pleased to breeze through his Refresher program this morning.”It went exactly how we hoped it would be for the most part. I mean, we went out, had to do the 210 (phase), the 215 (phase). Obviously initially we had to make sure everything was working properly. We hadn’t been out here since last year. Make sure everything feels right, obviously the new tire compounds and everything.

“We went through that, we got to try some different aero pieces and wanted to make sure they all read the same, and it went really smoothly. I was just overall happy with how the car felt. It felt very similar to last year, and last year we had a lot of pace, so I think it’s all feeling really positive going into the rest of the week.”

Herta said “I think today we were more towards trying to figure out the race car, and that’s how I want to kind of go, because if we can — I think we have a good qualifying car already. We were kind of fast on our own. I was really struggling in traffic, though, and that’s when it’s going to count, in the race. I think we have a good enough car to make the show and then to compete in the race is another thing.

“Just focusing on the race car mostly and getting some qualifying runs in in the morning and then the rest of the morning, all afternoon trying to work on the race car.”

While the Indy Lights Series is struggling to fill the fields, it’s quality not quantity. The series still remains the best stepping stone to IndyCar. Patricio O’Ward is the latest Indy Lights Scholarship Winner, utilizing his 2018 Championship to help fund his partial IndyCar season. Twenty-four of this year’s Indy 500 drivers are graduates of the Indy Lights Series. They are:

Indy Lights logo

Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Max Chilton, Conor Daly, James Davison, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, Colton Herta, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Ed Jones, Kyle Kaiser, Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Matheus Leist, Pippa Mann, Josef Newgarden, Patricio O’Ward, Spencer Pigot, Felix Rosenqvist, Oriol Servia, and Zach Veach.

The track opens officially at 11am Wednesday morning for an open session for all drivers. Rookie O’Ward will get extra time to complete his ROP, starting at 10:20am.

Tire Display

SIMON SAYS!

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo MatamorosSimon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet put on a passing clinic for all to see Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he won the sixth annual IndyCar Grand Prix. He made smooth move after smooth move in the rain, passing the cars who were in front of him after the last restart. Pagenaud, who started eighth, lived up to his words said after qualifying “I enjoy driving in the rain, so we will put on a good show tomorrow.” After the race, he said “I love racing in the rain. I grew up on it in racing. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Simon Pagenaud

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Simon Pagenaud

Left to Right: Simon Pagenaud. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Simon Pagenaud

This is the third IndyCar Grand Prix win for Pagenaud, and his 12th IndyCar victory. His last win was 22 races ago at the Sonoma season finale. Todays victory marks the fifth straight IndyCar Grand Prix win for Team Penske, and its 205th IndyCar win. Pagenaud won the first one racing for Schmidt Motorsports. Pagenaud said “It was amazing the whole race. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I thought everyone was saving fuel; I was just so fast. Chevy did a fantastic job giving us the horsepower. Third time – I’m equal with Will (Power). That’s awesome; we kept it in the Penske family. I can’t believe it; it’s awesome. What a race!” He led twice, for five laps.

Scott Dixon

Runner up for the third straight year was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, who lost the lead to Pagenaud on Lap 84 of the 85-lap race. Dixon led three times for 39 laps – the most of any leader. This is the third straight runner-up position for Dixon this season, and third consecutive time time he’s finished runner up in this race. ” It was a tricky race. It sucks to obviously lead that many laps and come up short, but again, congrats to Simon (Pagenaud), he drove a hell of a race and it’s nice to see him back in Victory Lane.”

Jack Harvey

Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda came in third, his first podium and highest IndyCar finish. This was Harvey’s first time running the road course race. “It wasn’t an easy race, but we put on a great show for everyone. It’s my first podium in IndyCar and I can’t wait to keep this momentum going for the 500. You can see how happy these guys are about getting a podium, imagine how happy they will be when we finally get a win!”

Podium. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud & Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Podium. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud & Jack Harvey. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Weather was the concern all afternoon. The race started in the dry, which then segued into drizzle and finally into rain, causing drivers to scramble to put on wets. This was one of the more exciting races this season, with 11 lead changes among six leaders. Most lead changes were during pit stops, except for the final one which provided drama and suspense. Would Pagenaud be able to overtake Harvey and Dixon for a much needed victory? He did, smoothly for the most part and with a little rubbing with Dixon for the final pass. The Margin of Victory was 2.0469 seconds.

Matheus Leist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Matheus Leist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Also having his best IndyCar finish was Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, coming in fourth, after starting 21st. He gained the most positions-17-of any driver in the race. Leist had been running third near the end of the race, having made some smooth passing moves on veterans. Then Pagenaud put the move on him after the last restart, and Leist finished fourth. “Just finished our best result here in IndyCar. It’s an awesome place to have my best finish in IndyCar. And about the race, it was just another tough one. We started from 21st and it had been a pretty tough weekend here until the race. But the good thing about this team is that we never gave up and we always kept going, we always kept working hard and trying to improve as much as we could. Today before the race I was like ‘Man, today I want the rain to come so we might have a shot here.’ I was probably the only one on the team who wanted it to rain, and when it started raining and I was restarting the race in P4 I knew we had a shot. I knew we could stay there and finish up there and that’s exactly what happened. Just so glad for the team.”

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Spencer Pigot/No.21 Autogeek Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet finished fifth. He started 12th, gaining seven positions in the results. “It was a really tricky race that threw everything at us. I had a lot of fun as I was able to pass a lot of guys in the dry and I thought our pace was really strong. The rain was teasing us the whole race. The team made a great call to go on the wets when we did as we were able to jump a handful of cars. I’m happy with fifth and it was a good, strong finish for me. Ed Carpenter Racing has done a great job and I want to thank ECR, Autogeek and Chevy for all their hard work.”

Felix Rosenqvist

Felix Rosenqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda led the first fifteen laps before being passed by Dixon. He finished eighth, the top placing Rookie of five in the race. He said “It was a tough race, with a lot of things happening. It was kind of bad timing on some things, we had some bad luck and we had some errors here and there. I think the main point for us was we were still having issues with degradation in the front on red (Firestone alternate) tires mainly. I don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s something we are looking into. We came out toward the back on the wet tires, and I think we managed to get four or five guys in the end and ended up P8.”

Colton Herta incident

Photo by Pablo Matamoros

There was the expected scuffle in Turn One on the first lap. Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the unlucky victim of the fracas, and he required rescue. He apologized to his crew for the short run. “Today was another disappointing day on the racetrack. The No. 88 GESS International guys can keep their heads up high because it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The guys worked flawlessly all weekend again and provided me a great car for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. I’m tired of not finishing a race, so hopefully, we get a good finish for the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month.”

Patricio O'Ward in traffic

Patricio O’Ward in traffic. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet received a Drive-Thru penalty for avoidable contact on Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti, which caused Rossi to limp to pits for repairs. Rossi finished 21st, four laps down, and O’Ward finished 19th, the last car running. He ran as high as second at one point.

Marcus Ericsson

Marcus Ericsson. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda spun and hit the wall in Turn 14 on Lap 11, bringing out the first caution. Ericsson retired, uninjured. “We were struggling a bit to get close on the straights, so we were trying to get as close as possible through (Turn) 14, and I think I just got a bit too close and lost a bit of front downforce, understeer then snapped into oversteer and I just couldn’t catch it.

Ryan Hunter-reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

The second caution was again in Turn One, this time for Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, who was hit by James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. RHR was rescued and Hinch had to serve a Drive Thru penalty for avoidable contact. O’Ward got caught out in this also, but continued on. Hinchcliffe came in 16th and Hunter-Reay finished 17th.

The last caution was for Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. He spun on cold slicks on a wet track in Turn One. He finished 21st, two laps down.

The race was scheduled for 85 laps or two hours – whichever came first. It ran for 85 laps and lasted 2:00.28.1166 hours. Other leaders were Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet, who led twice for 20 laps, and remains the Points Leader; Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda. There was periods of heavier rain, and a mad scramble of drivers pitting for rain tires. Rooster tails could be seen on the straights.

Rooster Tails. Photo by Pablo MatamorosRooster Tails. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rooster Tails. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The grass is really as lush and green as it appeared on TV, thanks to all that Indiana rain.

OFFICIAL RESULTS

1. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running

2. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running

3. (3) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running

4. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running

5. (12) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 85, Running

6. (5) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 85, Running

7. (6) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running

8. (1) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running

9. (7) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running

10. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 85, Running

11. (10) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running

12. (20) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running

13. (23) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running

14. (11) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running

15. (13) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

16. (18) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

17. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running

18. (22) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 85, Running

19. (19) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 85, Running

20. (24) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running

21. (15) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 83, Running

22. (17) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 81, Running

23. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 15, Contact

24. (9) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 11, Contact

Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

WARMING UP

This is May Wall Art

“This is May” Wall Art. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Although it was only 57 degrees F at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday mid-morning, it seemed warmer than Frigid Friday … at first. Then the wind kicked it up a notch. With the sun full out and shining brightly, it was deceptive. By the time for the half-hour NTT IndyCar Series warm-up on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, there were clouds moving in over the front straight grand stands. One popular place in the sunshine was posing in front of the big “This is May” wall art hanging at the base of the Pagoda, near Victory Circle.

Rookie Colin Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the fastest in the morning warmup session, at 1:09.2003/126.884 mph. He was among several leaders, but held the position the longest and to the end. Other fast drivers included Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, and Max Chilton/No.59 Carlin Chevrolet. All drivers were faster in the second practice than Saturday’s warmup.

Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda teammates-Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic and Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Graham Rahal

Max Chilton

Sebastien Bourdais

Left to Right: Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, and Max Chilton. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

Carlin Racing cars, No.31 Patricio O'Ward and No.59 Max Chilton Chevrolet

All but one of the drivers went out. Chilton’s Rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet was suited up in the pits but didn’t go out. He has consistently turned the fewest laps. The team said there were alternator issues, they were being fixed and O’Ward would able to race. O’Ward told NBC TV “It’s been a crappy weekend.” His Carlin teammate has been out for every session, turned more laps, and was fastest for a bit Saturday. For the Indy 500 there will be a third driver joining Carlin – another part-timer like O’Ward. That would be Charlie Kimball, who will drive No.23 Flasp Carlin Chevrolet.

O’Ward has joined the Red Bull Junior Team, a driver development team formed in 2001. From it have come several F1 drivers including Pierre Gasly, Christian Klein, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Riccardo, Max Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull sponsors the drivers in lower formula series. There currently are ten drivers on the team. O’Ward will continue out his partial IndyCar season with Carlin Racing. He said he joined the RBJT with “the intention of keeping the possibilities open to expand his racing portfolio in the future.” Reportedly, Christian Horner, principal for Red Bull F1 Racing team, confirmed O’Ward has enough points to qualify for a FIA Super Licence, which is required to race F1. Carlin said O’Ward earned 15 of the required 40 points by winning the 2018 Indy Lights Championship. The whole handling of Super Licences is governed by Appendix L of the FIA Sporting Code, and Supplement 1. Stay tuned.

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport has been battling an awful case of food poisoning this weekend. However, he was well enough to run as high as second before finishing 12th in the session. He said he was feeling a lot better.

Robert Wickens

Robert Wickens and friend

A welcome sight in the garages was Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver, Robert Wickens, who was in a wheelchair. He was engrossed in a convo, so I was unable to ask him about the special exo suit he was using in his rehabilitation.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Garage

Chip Ganassi Racing Garage

A.J. Foyt Racing Garage

This year another team has adopted the sideways garage format for the race cars, emulating the style started by Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports last year. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now is using it. They also are adopting what all the F1 teams have been doing for awhile – decorating the back wall of the garage mural style. Other teams doing it are Chip Ganassi Racing and AJ Foyt Racing, as well as Clauson-Marshall Racing.

One of the busiest garages Saturday morning, in the bright sunshine, was Firestone’s. They were busy prepping rain tires for the teams.

Firestone Garage

Firestone Rain Tires

Most of the Gasoline Alley garages have their signage up and displaying. However, Garages 14 and 15 are noticeably bare, for the time being. They belong to Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who have one more driver to announce, for No.77 Honda. That announcement is scheduled for 5pm Monday at Gate One at the track. Some people reckon it might be Oriol Servia, who was seen at the recent Honda test at IMS, in a team suit. As they say – film at 11.

Garage 14

Inside Garage 14

The weather started changing early afternoon, with a total cloud cover in place before the afternoon festivities started. Maybe the weather is responsible for the Internet poltergeists who have been jijacking bandwidth, leaving folks without email for hours on end and otherwise disrupting valuable media functions.

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

FAST FELIX POLES INDY GP

Felix Rosenvqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Felix Rosenvqvist. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda earned his first-ever NTT IndyCar pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Frigid Friday. His fast lap was 108.2785/128.597 mph. His previous best start was third at St. Pete. This is the 90th IndyCar pole position for Chip Ganassi Racing. “We’ve been up there all day. The NTT Honda car has been amazing. The first two laps I didn’t really feel like I had a grip and the the final ap there was just something switching on and I was like ‘OK, this could be good’ Bt honestly I didn’t think it was going to be. It is so tight and I looked up at the screen and we were P1 and I just prayed it was going to hold but, yeah, fantastic day. Thanks to my team.”

Felix Rosenqvist

Chip Ganassi & Barry Wanser

Felix Rosenqvist & Firestone Firehawk

Left to Right: Felix Rosenqvist; Team Owner Chip Ganassi & Team Manager Barry Wanser; and Felix Rosenqvist. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Making it a Ganassi front row was Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Honda, who was just 0.0194 seconds behind.

Third through sixth were Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Meyer Shank Racing Honda; Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda; Ed Jones/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet; and the defending race winner, Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

Felix Rosenqvist

Scott Dixon

Jack Harvey

Colin Herta

Ed Jones

Will Powero

Left to Right: Felix Rosenqvist-Photo by Pablo Matamoros. Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, Colin Herta, Ed Jones and Will Power.

The Firestone Fast Six represent five different race teams. The top three Fast Six times were less than Herta’s top time in the second practice. The qualifying track record remains 1:07.7044/129.687 mph set in May 2017 by Will Power.

The weather remained overcast and cold – 53 degrees with a wind chill factor. It never warmed up all day.

The rain forecast remains a topic. IndyCar can declare the race to be a Rain Race. Also, if three cars from three different teams put on rain tires, the rest of the field may also use rain tires. They aren’t required to do so, but the rules requiring the use of Primary and Alternative tires are not in play.

Some takeaways from Friday’s qualifying session: Only one Penske Chevy driver – Power – made the cut into the Fast Six; and two didn’t make it past the first round – Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske and Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske. Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Menards Team Penske starts eighth. Team Penske has dominated all five of this road course race, with Power winning three times from the pole; and Pagenaud winning twice, once from the pole. Herta was the only Andretti driver of four to make it past the first round.

Josef Newgarden

Helio Castroneves

Simon Pagenaud

Power said “I think we’ve been on the back foot all day, honestly. But man, I wasn’t even close in the final session and I was killing myself out there for position six. But that is what we’re dealing with now. It is so competitive out there and if you are a little bit out of the window, you are going to struggle. I’m not sure where we are missing it. But I can promise you we are going to go to work and figure it out” Castroneves said “Going out on reds twice was the strategy that we decided early on to see if we were going to e able to make the next ro nd. We’re not in the points or anything. We are just looking to make the Indy500, so it was a good gamble to find out what we could do. Plus, it collects information for our teammates for the setups on the reds. Unfortunately, it did not work out.” Newgarden said “I am not sure where we are missing it. But I can promise you, we are going to work and try and figure out where you can do better. And it might rain, so it could be a crapshoot either way.” Pagenaud said “This was the best lap I could have done, we just need to find a little bit more. And if it rains tomorrow, you just have to adapt. It’s the same for everyone. I enjoy driving in the rain, so we will put on a good show.”

Zach Veach

Marco Andretti

Alexander Rossi

Left to Right: Zach Veach, Marco Andretti, and Alexander Rossi. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

Zach Veach/No.26 Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda said “It was a confusing qualifying today. I think as a team we’re kind of struggling a bit. But we’re all back there, my teams are there, we’re sharing the back half of the grid, so we just have to figure out what’s going on for tomorrow.” Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda said “We have some homework to do overnight.” Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda said “It was a strange qualifying effort today. Pair our starting position with the food poisoning I’m battling, and it’s not an afternoon to remember.” Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda said “Really disappointing qualifying today for the team.”

Pagoda

Pagoda. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

Rank Car Driver Name C/E/T Time Speed Session

1….. 10. Rosenqvist, Felix. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.2785. 128.597. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
2….. 9. Dixon, Scott. D/H/F. 01:08.2979. 128.560. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
3….. 60. Harvey, Jack. D/H/F. 01:08.3238. 128.512. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
4….. 88. Herta, Colton. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.3743. 128.417. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
5….. 20. Jones, Ed. D/C/F. 01:08.4609. 128.254. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
6….. 12. Power, Will. D/C/F. 01:08.7901. 127.640. Round 3 / Firestone. Fast Six
7….. 15. Rahal, Graham. D/H/F. 01:08.2153. 128.716. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
8….. 22. Pagenaud, Simon. D/C/F. 01:08.2445. 128.661. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
9….. 7. Ericsson, Marcus. (R) D/H/F. 01:08.2497. 128.651. Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
10….. 18. Bourdais, Sebastien. D/H/F 01:08.2998 128.557 Elim.ination Round 2 / Top 12
11 …. 30 Sato, Takuma D/H/F 01:08.3300 128.500 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
12….. 21 Pigot, Spencer D/C/F 01:08.4697 128.238 Elimination Round 2 / Top 12
13….. 2 Newgarden, Josef D/C/F 01:08.6240 127.949 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
14 …. 19 Ferrucci, Santino (R) D/H/F 01:08.4499 128.275 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
15….. 3 Castroneves, Helio D/C/F 01:08.6497 127.902 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
16….. 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/F 01:08.6235 127.950 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
17….. 27 Rossi, Alexander D/H/F 01:08.6994 127.809 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
18….. 5 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/F 01:08.7710 127.676 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
19….. 31 O’Ward, Patricio (R) D/C/F 01:08.7487 127.717 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
20….. 26 Veach, Zach D/H/F 01:08.8170 127.591 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
21….. 4 Leist, Matheus D/C/F 01:08.7751 127.668 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
22….. 59 Chilton, Max D/C/F 01:08.9572 127.331 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2
23….. 98 Andretti, Marco D/H/F 01:08.8995 127.438 Elimination Round 1 / Group 1
24….. 14 Kanaan, Tony D/C/F 01:09.1230 127.026 Elimination Round 1 / Group 2

(R) Rookie

ROOKIES RULE!

Colin Herta. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Colin Herta. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Rookie Colin Herta/No.98 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda grabbed the top spot for the second NTT IndyCar Series practice Friday noon for the IndyCar Grand Prix, turning a 1:08.0393 for 129.049 mph. He said “I’m super happy!” And again it was breezy and cold-53 degrees F. Ask any photographer who was out for the 45-minute session. Brrr.

Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest, followed by Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, and Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.All but Dixon led the laps at once time or another, with Herta holding on the longest. Also fastest at one point early on was Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.

Sebastien Bourdais

Scott Dixon

Takuma Sato

Left to Right: Sebastien Bourdais; Scott Dixon; and Takuma Sato. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

All but two of the drivers eclipsed the morning fastest time, and all 24 were fastest in the second practice than the first. Again, it was double-digit laps, from 13-23. Rosenqvist turned the most laps in each session, for a total of 46.

Ed Jones. Photo by Pablo Matamoros.

Marcus Ericsson

Santino Ferrucci

There was one brief Red Flag for Ed Jones/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet when he ran out of gas and didn’t quite make Pit Row. Otherwise the session was uneventful.

Four of the five Rookies were in the top 11 drivers: Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda was ninth, and Santino Ferrucci/No.19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dale Coyne Racing Honda was eleventh.

Helio CastronevesToday is the big 44 for Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. Happy Birthday, Helio!

Next up is qualifying and the Firestone Fast Six.

OFF TO A POWERFUL START

Will Power.  Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is building on his IndyCar Grand Prix momentum to grab the top spot seconds away from the Checkered Flag for the first practice of this year’s NTT IndyCar Series road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Looking to make it a third consecutive GP victory, he’s off to a good start at 1:09.2890. Second fastest was Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Third through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Top Rookie Felix Rosenquist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Josef Newgarden/No.2 Fitzgerald Team Penske Chevrolet. All but Newgarden took turns leading the pack. Also on top, for the longest time, was the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner, Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, who finished ninth.

Spencer Pigot

Felix Rosenqvist

Josf Newgarden

Left to right: Spencer Pigot; Felix Rosenqvist; and Josef Newgarden. Photos by Pablo Matamoros

All 24 entries were on track, with double-digit laps turned – between 15 and 23 laps. There are five Rookies, ten Chevrolets and 14 Hondas.

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The weather was 51 degrees F, overcast, breezy and cold. But the track was dry after the aftermath of Thursday night’s rain storm. Not so the grass which was soggy. Rosenquist made it to the grass, but was able to get out alright. Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet spun and stalled in Turn Three. Otherwise, the session was drama-free.

Leadership Conference: Stephen Starks; Allison Melangton; Doug Boles & Jay Frye.

Leadership Conference: Stephen Starks; Allison Melangton; Doug Boles & Jay Frye.

The powers that be for the IndyCar Grand Prix met the media Friday morning to talk about the two events at the track and all that goes with in Indianapolis: IMS President, Doug Boles; IndyCar President Jay Frye; Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President, Allison Melangton, and IndyCar Vice President Stephen Starks. This year’s GP is the sixth annual road race, which runs clockwise on the Brickyard 2.439-mile, 14-turn course.

Frye said “We’ve had four different winners for the first four races, so we feel like we’re off to a really good start. One of the things we’ve worked hard on is a car count. For our first race we had 12 teams and 24 counts. So, a byproduct of that is here at the 500 we’ve got 36 cars.” He was asked about additional engine suppliers, and said “There’s nothing imminent to be announced, but we’re encouraged by the conversations we’re having.We’re encouraged by what they’re telling us. A lot of it is just timing. We’re confident that something is going to happen sooner than later.”

Boles was optimistic about this year’s GP turnout,and even more so about the Indy 500, saying “In terms of our attendance, things are trending up for tomorrow’s IndyCar Grand Prix. The numbers will be up this year. That says a lot about people getting used to this race being the kickoff for the month of May. It brings us more media attention, and it puts us on television two weeks out from the Indy 500, which is another opportunity to promote the Indianapolis 500 in this market. For us it it was never about cannibalizing. I think it was always about a way to elevate. And it’s a very easy weekend to get introduced to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.” And at the end of racing, when the track is cold, there is Track Invasion, when the fans can walk the track and stand on the Yard of Bricks.

“The Indy 500 is going to be up again, I think, for 2019. I think you attribute that to the excitement of the NTT IndyCar Series and the product that they put on a display in the Indy 500 has been some of the best racing in our 103 years. We have somebody that comes from every state in the United States, and almost 30 plus countries from around the world.”

Regarding the dire weather forecast for Saturday, i.e. rain, Boles said “The beauty of it is that it’s on a road course. Unless there’s electrical, we’ll run Saturday in the rain. Some of the most spectacular racing in the world is an IndyCar on wet pavement, the rooster tails, you really see the talent of the drivers, and when you think about the rain, they’re going slower, it’s unbelievable how fast they are in the rain. It’s frightening how fast they are in the rain. Right now the forecast is for maybe a little bit of rain. And just let me remind everybody, it is Indiana, and I know we say that a lot. Until tomorrow abut 2:30, I won’t start worrying too much about the weather because I think we’ll be able to get this in. We have a full team helping us monitor the weather five days out, really going forward, and then minute by minute as events are going on. Weather should not deter you from coming to the track.”

For the GP weekend, Firestone tires supplies five sets of rains per entry, along with seven Primary sets and four Alternate sets. The alternates are only available at road or street courses. They’re higher grip but less durable than the Primarys.

Starts spoke about the new network partner. “NBC has just been a tremendous media partner already. NBC ran Indianapolis teasers and spots in the NFL playoff rounds, and it continued at The Derby. It goes well with the cross-integration that NBC has promised and delivered on. It continued through the NHL playoffs. Race-to-race promotion has been great.”

IndyCar has a second practice session, prior to qualifying.

INDY

ROSSI RULES

Alex Rossi

Pole Sitter Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda put on a clinic today for the NTT IndyCar Series at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach by winning by the largest margin (20.2359 seconds) since 1995 when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Pruett by 20.3. Rossi led 80 of the 85 laps, only relinquishing the lead during pit stop rotations. This is Rossi’s second straight LB victory, and makes him the first back-to-back victor since Sebastien Bourdais won three in a row 2005-2007. Four of Rossi’s six IndyCar victories have come from the pole position. For Andretti Autosport, it was win number 63. Rossi dedicated the victory to his late grandfather, Donald Russell, who died Saturday.

Rossi’s victory makes him the fourth different winner in as many races, and all four have been from different teams.

Rossi’s words “As I said yesterday, winning the pole is huge come Sunday because it allows you to hopefully be in front leaving turn one and really just control the race from there. You can run your own strategy, your own pace, really dictate what the rest of the field does.

“We were able to do that. Obviously can’t do it without a fantastic crew, car, no mistakes, great strategy all day from Rob. Yeah, it’s awesome to be able to really I think kickstart our year. We’ve had good pace, but just haven’t the results. This is what we’ve been looking for.

“I love today. I definitely won’t get used to it, though. It’s certainly not something that is going to happen week in, week out.”

Michael Andretti

Michael Andretti

Team Owner, Michael Andretti explained the difference in winning as a driver (his first and last victories were at Long Beach) and as an owner: “They’re different. I think when you win as an owner, it’s like a real shared win. You’re just happy not really just for yourself but everybody in the team. Yeah, whereas as a driver, it more feels like a self-accomplishment.

“It is different. They’re both great in a different way.”

Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden

Joseph Newgarden//No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was runner-up and maintains his points lead. Rossi moved up to second place in the standings. Newgarden said “We’ve had certainly a lot of good fortune this year compared to last year. We haven’t had any yellows go away from us. Today was really a nice race, really well-executed by the boys. They did a good job. We’ll take a P2. Alex was too quick. Him and Andretti did a great job. Congrats to them for the win.”

Taking the Checkered Flag third through fifth were Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda. However, the last lap maneuvering of Rahal on Dixon went under Stewards Review, who determined it was blocking and reversed the official finishing position – putting Dixon on the podium and putting him third in the standings.

Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon

Dixon said “”It was unfortunate with the Graham Rahal incident. I think he overshot Turn 8 and then quickly tried to turn in reaction, and you know the rule is you can’t come back to defend if somebody’s already there, and that’s what happened. I was on (overtake) and hit his rear tire and had to lift off. I lost my momentum and that also turns the overtake off, as well. It was just one of those things. Had he not reacted there we would have (passed him) anyway. But it’s racing, hard racing.

Yeah, you’re not meant to react. That’s exactly what he did. It forced me not to hit him, I had to brake, get off the throttle. I think when you’re having to avoid somebody, when they’ve done a reaction.

“I think had he not defended or reacted the way he had done, we would have got the pass easily done. I think it is what it is. We’re going to be okay with it. They’re not going to be happy with it. That’s the way it is. I think Graham has definitely been racing on the edge. Definitely at Barber, some pretty risky kind of situations, too.

“It is what it is. We’ll just have to move on. Good friends with Graham. There’s no hard feelings there. But you still have to give everybody some space.”

Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal

Rahal’s take on the matter: “It’s not that tough (of a pill) to swallow; we were going to lose the spot anyway. My front (tires) were absolutely gone. Those were used reds (Firestone alternate tires). We should have gone to new blacks (Firestone primary tires) there at the end. My tires were absolutely shot. I had no braking grip whatsoever, but I moved right as quick as I could out of the corner and then I gave him a lane. By the rules you’re allowed to make your move, which I did on the exit of the corner. That was it. We’re just going to have to discuss it (with the officials). Look, I’m not like upset about it. We had a good day. Our car wasn’t great today, but it was decent and the TOTAL Oil team pushed hard. That’s all we can say. Did I block? Yes, I blocked; you’re allowed to block in this series. You’re allowed to make a move, (and) I made a move. That’s allowed, I mean that’s allowed. I didn’t go back to the left; there’s a lane to the left. He had overtake (remaining), I didn’t. If he wanted to go (there) he could go. But, I don’t know, we’ll discuss it with the officials.” (About how he would feel if he was in Scott Dixon’s position): “You would try the exact same, there’s no doubt. I think I played the rules as I see them fit. Did I block? Yeah, I take full (credit). Yeah, I blocked, but you’re allowed to in this series, and if they don’t want blocks, they should say you can’t make a move at all and just change the rule. The problem is, we see such large discrepancies in what is a block (and) what is not a block. It’s fine; we just need to go further and understand (the rule) a little better. At the end of the day, P4. Do we deserve P3? Probably, but you know what, it was a good day and good points for us. We haven’t had a lot of luck this season, so I’ll just take it as it is and move on.”

RHR turned the fastest race lap of 1:08.0153/104.165 mph on Lap 27.

The top Rookie was Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in tenth place.

Jim Michaelian

Jim Michaelian

Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, released attendance figures stating 187,000 for this year, up one percent from last year’s figures of 185,300. This coincided with estimates from various drivers that there was a good crowd. Newgarden told Rossi on the podium that “We must have been good. They haven’t left.”

As IndyCar races go, this one was relatively bland – the description applied by Dixon. The only dramas came at the start and finish. An accident at the start brought out the first and only caution. It involved Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM Honda, and Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. It was an apparent rear-ender accordion at the back of the pack. Ericsson was assessed a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. All three cars were able to eventually continue, with Harvey pitting for body parts replacements and adjustments. Pigot finished eighteenth with 84 laps, Ericsson finished twentieth, two laps down, and Harvey in 22nd, three laps down.

On the white flag lap, Dixon was racing Rahal, and it was a matter of opinion, depending on whom was asked, whether it was defensive driving, blocking or just racing. The Stewards reviewed the situation and determined it was blocking by Rahal on Dixon, and he had to yield his third place finish.

Close to the halfway mark, Dixon was chasing Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske, and Power had to choose between risking a wall hit or driving down the Turn One runoff, and he chose the latter. He executed a graceful, wide F1 U-Turn and continued on course, falling behind. Power never quite recovered, finishing seventh. Dixon said it had been “a pretty good race with Will.”

Another mistake was made by Rookie Santino Ferrucci, who was running ninth when he hit the wall after exiting from the pits with full tanks. The car bottomed and he ended up in the the same Turn One Runoff area. After the AMR Safety team restarted him, Ferrucci continued on course, two laps down. He finished 21st.

Eleven drivers finished on the lead lap. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda gained the most race positions, gridding fifteenth and finishing ninth. He is now seventh in the standings.

The only DNF was Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, after he got caught out in some of built-up rubber left by the Formula Drift cars and hit the wall with his right front. He limped to the pits and retired after the team wasn’t able to repair the car in time to return to racing. He said “I’m super bummed for everyone on the No.88 King Taco team and everyone who came out to show support and cheer me on. I’m really appreciative because I had a lot of family, friends and fans here with it being a hometown crowd. Everyone was awesome. We can take positives from here because we were so damn fast all weekend and I was really happy with the car. The guys did an incredible job, everyone has done so well working together. We’ll move forward. We have some testing planned later this week and we have the Month of May coming up, which will be awesome.”

There is an IndyCar test on 24 April at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then begins the Merry Month of May.

OFFICIAL RESULTS

1. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running

2. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

3. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running

4. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running

5. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running

6. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running

7. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running

8. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running

9. (15) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

10. (12) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running

11. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running

12. (9) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 84, Running

13. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 84, Running

14. (16) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running

15. (20) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 84, Running

16. (17) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 84, Running

17. (22) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running

18. (23) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running

19. (21) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running

20. (19) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 83, Running

21. (13) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 83, Running

22. (18) Jack Harvey, Honda, 82, Running

23. (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 50, Contact

ROOKIES RULE!

Colton Herta's No.88 Honda

NTT IndyCar Series Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Hardy Steinbrenner Racing Honda was fastest in the morning warmup at the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, with a lap of 1:07.1053/105.577 mph. The idea isn’t to be fastest so much as it is to scuff tires, practice pit stops, and check everything. Second through fifth were Marco Andretti/No.98 U.S.Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb Agajanian Honda; Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda; and Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The top Chevrolet was Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing in tenth position. All 23 drivers were on course for the half-hour session.

Patricio O'Ward

Patricio O’Ward

Back in the paddock after the session Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet was swarmed by Mexican race fans greeting their countryman. He was very pleasantly surprised by the surrounding adulation and enthusiasm.

While the drivers await the green flag for the session, they suit up, converse with their crew, and sit in their cars. they have drink bottles, fans, and data acquisition in the cockpit area, along with their multi-tasking steering wheel. In each pit there is a SCCA Volunteer fireman at the ready.

Patricio O'Ward's No.31 cockpit

SCCA Fireman in pits, at the ready

Tony Kanaan's No.14 cockpit

Six crew members are allowed over the wall and must wear helmets. The fueler is required to have a full-face helmet with visor which is pulled down for fueling. The others wear a different style helmet, sometimes called dual sport or dirt helmet, and sometimes worn with goggles.

Dirt helmet

Over the wall crew
Dirt helmet with goggles

The teams have a pit stop trainer, who works with them back at the shop and at the races. The pit stop crews have to be fit and agile, as they sometimes throw themselves over the wall, toss tires and hoses, dance around each other and step lively.

Over the wall crew

The tire designations have been declared for the race start and it’s about half/half between Alternate/Reds and Primary/Blacks. Five of the Firestone Fast Six will be going out on the Reds. Only Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet will opt to start on Blacks.

Race Tires

Matt Brabham won the Stadium SUPER Trucks Saturday race, after gridding second. He and pole sitter Sheldon Creed swapped the lead several times. Brabham was racing No.83 and Creed was in No.2. Brabham is the 2018 SST Champion, and he says racing in this series pays the bills. This is is third year in the series and “it gives me a living and pays quite well.” He races in a variety of others series, and this weekend he’s also competing in the Pirelli GT America Series as well as driving one of the IndyCar two-seaters. He says driving in a variety of series makes you a better driver, so he keeps busy Driver Coaching, as well as driving in IMSA. He learns something different in each series. Brabham’s goal is still to get back into Indycar. He’s had some meetings this week.

Matt Brabham

Matt Brabham

ROSSI ROCKETS … and OTHER RESULTS

IMG_3158

Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda has the pole for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach with a 1:06.4811/106.569 mph, a flyer lap he’d started when the Checkered Flag flew. Rossi is last year’s winner, from the pole. This is Rossi’s fifth career pole, and three of those five poles ended up with a victory. This was the fortieth IndyCar pole for Andretti Autosport. Rossi said “This pole was exponentially harder to win than last year’s … so this one was more special.”

Rossi nosed by Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda who was looking to be on pole. While the top four of the Firestone Fast Six ran in the 1:06’s, the 2017 record of 106.2254/106.980 mph set by Helio Castroneves still holds.

The top six qualifiers are: Rossi; Dixon; the three Team Penske Chevrolets of Will Power/No.12 Verizon, Josef Newgarden/No.2 Hitachi, and Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology; and Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. So it’s three Hondas and three Chevrolets on top. They all went out on the Red/Optional Firestone tires. Rossi ran two sets of reds in the Firestone Fast Six.

Alexander Rossi

Scott Dixon

Will Power

Josef Newgarden

Simon Pagenaud

Graham Rahal

In the Fast Six Presser, the drivers were all in such good moods and joking among themselves that it was questioned. Such camaraderie is not prevalent in other top tier series. They all seemed surprised by the question. “Of course we’re happy. We made the Firestone Fast Six.” It’s become a trite, but true, opinion that the IndyCar Series is such a competitive series with so many top drivers, that with such tight racing, any number of drivers could win – unlike F1 for example. So when drivers make the Fast Six, they are happy.

The fastest Rookie was Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Racing Chevrolet, in ninth position. He made it to Segment Two, where he was in early on and then was bumped.

There were two Red Flags in qualifying, both for drivers hitting a wall. The first one was for Tony Kanaan/No.14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet, in the first Segment, in Turn 6, and the second was Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the second Segment. Each lost their two fastest laps as penalty. Both drivers admitted it was their fault, apologized, and are working to make up for it in tomorrow’s race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was one of those who missed out of making the cut at the very last. ‘It was a bummer – definitely scratching our heads over that one.”

Felix Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa

Felix Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa

Felipe Albuquerque/No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac won the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach race Saturday afternoon. His co-driver is Joao Barbosa. They ran the 73-lap race. The duo won last year’s race at Long Beach, and this is their first victory since that.

Dane Cameron & Juan Pablo Montoya

Dane Cameron & Juan Pablo Montoya

Second and third in class were the two Acura Team Penske Acuras, with pole sitters Ricky Taylor/No.7 and co-driver Helio Castroneves as runners-up, and Dane Cameron/No.6 and co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya coming in third.. There were eleven DP1 cars, and six finished on the lead laps. Nine of the 11 finished, with two out early on due to accidents. No one was hurt.

Winning the GTLM class was Earl Bamber/No.912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR with co-driver Laurens Vanthoor. Second and third were Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R teammates Jan Magnussen/No.3 with co-driver Antonio Garcia and No.4. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin. There were eight cars, with the three podium cars finishing on the lead lap, one lap down from the overall winners. One GTLM car retired on the last GTLM lap due to an accident on the white flag lap. Dirk Mueller/No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT was hit by a Corvette and hit the wall. Mueller’s co-driver was Sebastien Bourdais, loaned from the IndyCar Series to fill in for ailing Joey Hand.

Earl Bamber & Laurens Vanthoor

Earl Bamber & Laurens Vanthoor

In the Pirelli GT America Series, Spencer Pumpelly/No.66 TRG Porsche 718 Cayman CS MR has the pole position with a lap of 1:25.916/132.75 kph. Second and third were Team Panoz Avezzano GT4 drivers Ian James/No.50 and Matt Keegan. All drivers are from North America – 19 American men and one Canadian female. Several of the drivers are also running in the Historic IMSA GTO Race.

Matt Keegan, Spencer Pumpelly & Ian James

L-R: Matt Keegan, Spencer Pumpelly & Ian James

FASTER YET

Alexander Rossi

The lap times fell fast Saturday morning for the third NTT IndyCar Series practice session at the 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was already 65 degrees F at 9am and all 23 drivers went faster in this 45-minute session than they had in the previous two. All but two drivers got down to the 1:07’s, compared to four on Friday afternoon. The qualifying track record of 1:06.2254 was set by Helio Castroneves in April 2017. Friday afternoon at Long Beach Castroneves, now racing an Acura for Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, broke the IMSA DP1 track record and is on pole for Saturday afternoon sprint race.

With only seconds to go, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda laid down the fastest lap of 1:07.0588. He pipped Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Laningan Racing Honda who had just hit the top of the charts with two minutes remaining. The top Rookie was Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, in seventh position.

The top ten were Rossi, Rahal, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, Simon Pagenaud/DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, Joseph Newgarden/No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, Herta, Rookie Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Rookie Patricio O’Ward/No.31 GESS Carlin Chevrolet, and Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The session was caution-free with no drama. Next up for IndyCar will be afternoon qualifying for Sunday’s 85-lap race.

Jon Ikeda, Acura Brand Manager, met with the media. It’s only been 65 days from the time Acura was announced as the title sponsor for the 45th running of the street race. Ikeda worked in Honda R&D for 26 years before moving into Sales. With Acura being the performance division of Honda, it wanted to refocus on the performance aspect of the brand. Honda started with the NSX car, and then moved into IMSA with Team Penske’s DPi program. Now Acura is the title sponsor for the Long Beach race. Ikeda lauded Toyota’s curating the race over the years; and praised the city of Long Beach and promoters of the race and their working with Acura to make the title sponsorship happen. He said it is a great foundation to build on, and Acura feels it can add new things and dimensions to what the race has been about. One way Acura is putting its imprint on the race is changing the Toyota red and white color scheme to blue. And over time, Acura would like to do some new and different things, amplify and innovate, bringing in whatever is new and enhance the whole experience.

For Acura, Long Beach is its home race, with its offices nearby in Torrance. Acura knew Toyota was leaving and Acura had a lot of discussions internally on how it wanted to approach it. And Acura felt Jim Michaelian and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach went through its own list. “We came full circle. We just said ‘This is the right thing. We would like to work with you.’ Ikeda said “It was a match made in heaven. You could see how the teams at Acura and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach were working together to make this come together so quickly. It’s been a fantastic decision and choice for us.”

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Helio Castroneves/No.7 Acura Team Penske Acura has the DPI pole for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. He had a record-breaking time of 1:11.332. He broke the record set last year by his Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya. “Records are hard work and meant to be broken.” He was super pumped about the significance of his pole. “The Acura. What a great combination to be in an Acura at the Acura Grand Prix. There are a lot of people to be here.” Castroneves’ co-driver is Ricky Taylor. When asked about his former fellow IndyCar driver, Sebastien Bourdais, doing double duty this weekend, Castroneves said it was more natural for Sebastien to be jumping from one car to another as he drove sports cars on a more regular basis. However, Castroneves did admit to carrying a separate helmet and suit with him to double series weekends.

Nick Tandy

Nick Tandy/No.911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR has the GTLM pole position with a lap of 1:16.377. He spoke about the track surface. He said “The IMSA drivers are usually the street sweepers on Friday being the first series on track on the first day. I found that the promoters had had the track swept quite clean the night before its first session (which was 7:40 am.) It was a pleasant surprise compared to previous years. The Drifters rubber isn’t that compatible for the IMSA drivers.”

There are nineteen IMSA cars, and 11 have in-car cameras. The race is Saturday at 2pm.

Nick Rossi's No.27 Honda