Andretti on Pole for Race 1

The headline is not a typo. Marco Andretti won the pole for today’s Indycar race at Belle Isle.

Andretti nipped Robert Wickens in the second qualifying group with a last lap of 1:14.8. He was the only driver under 1:15. Scott Dixon led the first qualifying group and will start second.

Indy 500 champion Will Power was the fastest Chevy and will start sixth.

Firestone Introduces New Rain Tire

A new rain tire debuts this weekend. It is designed to produce more grip and push water away more efficiently. The new tires may see some action tomorrow with a chance of showers in the forecast.

Race 1 summary later tonight.

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The Positive Thinking of Power

“When you work hard at something it eventually comes to you,” Will Power said at his Sunday afternoon press conference. He credit this approach to his determination in the closing laps of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Winning the 500 had run through his head more than ever over the last year, he said. It was. “The last box to check on his career, which includes an Indycar Series championship won after several close calls. Again working hard will eventually get you what you want.

The race was an intriguing event. It was difficult to pass, as expected, but drivers liked that the outcome was more in their hands. Some teams, Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens, tried alternate pit strategies which were hurt by the timing of the caution periods. Power, on a normal pit cycle, was in the right spot in the end to take advantage of those who gambled.

Ed Carpenter and Power had the strongest cars all day. Carpenter led 65 laps and Power led 59. No one else led more than 19. Tony Kanaan looked to be a third factor until a cut tire forced an extra stop. He had worked his way back to ninth, then crashed on lap 189, setting up the dramatic finish and near storybook ending.

Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson, and Jack Harvey gambled there would be another yellow and they would be able to save enough fuel to go the distance. Servia led the field to the green on lap 193 and was quickly passed by Wilson and Harvey. Wilson led the next three laps, which sent a buzz through the crowd. The two leaders pulled into the pits for fuel on lap 196, hand Power the lead and the victory.

The usually stoic Power was one of the happiest winners in Victory Lane in many years. “I started screaming on the white flag lap,” he said. Tim Cindric corroborated that.

Notes

Power’s win was the first for a front row starter since Dario Franchitti won from third in 2010. It was Team Penske’s first 500 win since Juan Pablo Montoya won his third in 2015.

There were 30 lead changes, many on pit cycles. While we didn’t see constant passes for the lead, I thought it made each pass more genuine and a result of driving and not equipment packages.

Alexander Rossi had another march from the back of the field. His fourth place finish from a last row start was one of the highlights of the day. He also charged from the back to get a podium at Phoenix after a pit penalty. Rossi is now two points behind Power in the series championship.

Graham Rahal continues his season of starting in the back and getting to the top 10. Yesterday he finished tenth from his 30th starting spot. I’m sure he’s looking forward to Detroit where he dominated the weekend last year.

Danica Patrick’s career ended with a crash on lap 68. It was the only the second time she has not finished the race. Patrick had always done well at the Speedway, including being the first woman to lead.

Helio Castroneves spun and crashed on lap 146. I’m not sure if he will return next year. If he does, 2019 may be his last time to try for win number 4

Power is the first driver to win the Indycar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.

What is Up with the Pre-Race?

For a couple of years now I have become annoyed with the pace of the pre race ceremonies. This year I thought they were longer and more drawn out than ever. It seemed as if parts were out of order as well. These ceremonies used to be compact, flowing and built the tension leading to the start. I don’t get that feeling or the goosebumps I used to get during this part of the day.

The Speedway has found its new singer for “(Back Home Again in) Indiana”. It was another great performance by Jim Cornelison. Please keep him.

The highlight was playing a recording of Jim Phiilipe’s homage to veterans which preceded taps. It was wonderful to hear that again, but the moment was ruined when instead of following it immediately with “Taps”, the invocation was next, followed by an ABC commercial break, then “Taps.” A solemn moment was ruined.

The last straw was Tony George giving the command, “Drivers, start your engines” for the second year in a row. I’m not sure if I heard the engines or if the sound was Tony Hulman spinning in his grave. Please, IMS, give the traditional (Ladies) and Gentlemen, start your engines command. Drivers, start your engines is fine for every other race on the schedule.

I will close with a couple more photos from yesterday. I have more stories of the month this week before the series moves to Detroit.

(Left) Will Power’s car om pit lane race morning.

(Right) Power waits to take questions from the press.

All photos: Mike Silver

Power Wins Strategic Indianapolis 500

Will Power edged Ed Carpenter in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Power, whose car seemed to get stronger as the race went on, took the lead for good with 3 laps remaining when leader Stefan Wilson and second place Jack Harvey had to stop for fuel.

Power led 59 laps, second to Ed Carpenter’s race high 65. Power was able to pass Carpenter in the pits and kept ahead of the pole winner.

Alexander Rossi came from starting 32nd to finish fourth. Graham Rahal finished tenth after starting 30th.

It was an intriguing race with teams using different pit strategies. A rash of yellows around lap 50 and other cautions in the second half of the race played havoc with some teams’ plans.

Two fan favorites, Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves, crashed in separate incidents. It was the final race for Patrick, who is the first woman to lead laps at Indianapolis.

Three time winner Castroneves ran in the top 10 most of the day,but never contended for the lead. This was his only race in Indycar this season.

More tomorrow, including my thoughts on the day as a whole.

 

Race Day!

Good morning from IMS. The 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 begins in 7 hours. There seems to be no clear favorite for the race.

I still think it will be a caution filled race and strategies will be mixed. The temperatures in the 90s this afternoon and the anticipated cloud cover will change the way the cars handle.

Look for a quick post race note and a recap tomorrow.

The Drama Everyone Hoped For; The Results Nobody Wanted

Fans hoped that the return of bumping would bring drama back to qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There was plenty to go around. As the gun sounded, however, many were not happy with the results. Two perennial favorites, Pippa Mann and James Hinchcliffe, were out of the field for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, while another favorite, Conor Daly, fought his way onto the grid-twice.

James Davison, who had a hard crash Friday afternoon. sat for the last hour waiting to see if he would be bumped. His crew completed repairs around 2 am. Bob Lazier loaned the team  parts to rebuild the gearbox.

Davison was in a difficult position. He couldn’t withdraw his time until he was bumped. He had a spot and had to keep it. Mann wasn’t fast enough, and Hinchcliffe didn’t get another chance.

Conor Daly”s first attempt of the day ended with a 22.684 average. He was eventually bumped. His second effort put him back in the field. Oriol Servia, who was having a difficult day himself, bumped Daly on his third attempt of the day. Daly went out a third time and bumped Hinchcliffe out.

Servia had a problem on his first run and it was called off after laps of 201, 196, and 194. His second had two respectable laps in the low 220 range, but after he dropped to 217 on the third, the crew stopped the effort. He finally bumped his way in near the end of the day’.

In what would be Hinchcliffe’s final attempt of the day, he felt a vibration as he pulled out of pit lane. It went way, but it returned in turn 3 and he decided to pull in. The problem was a tire sensor broke and was rattling around inside the wheel. Hinchcliffe got back in line, but time ran out before he could get another try.

Press Conferences- Highs and Lows

The post qualifying press conferences ranged from silly to emotional. Foutr members of the Fast Nine- Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter, and Danica Patrick- spoke. They mostly joked around and all expected to be on the pole tomorrow.

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James Davison talked about how hard his crew worked to get the car ready after the crash on Friday.

“The only way to repay them (the crew) was  to make the race,” he said, “We owe them immensely.”

He sees no point in running hard Sunday to improve his position.

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Pippa Man and James Hinchcliffe also spoke in separate appearances. they both came from several rounds of on air interviews and team discussions. They both looked emotionally drained. I admire them both for making one last stop to talk to the media.

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In her brief emotional remarks, Mann said she knew Friday they might be in trouble when the car, which had performed well Wednesday and Thursday was not fast yesterday morning. Everything on the car was changed.

“We tried everything, obviously it wasn’t fast enough. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

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Hinchcliffe was subdued and direct. ” This was our fault. Nobody failed us We failed us,” he told the media. His comments seemed pointed at those on social media blaming ABC, the drivers who went out just before him, and anyone else they could think of for his not getting into the race.

“This track has done worse to me in the past and we came back swinging,” he said, referring to his crash in 2015 followed by winning the pole the following year.

As to speculation that he might replace Jay Howard in the race, “I will do what Sam (Schmidt) and Rick (Peterson tell me to do, ” he answered.

 

As I said in a previous piece, the current qualifying format was designed for a field of 33 entries only. The rules need to be changed when there are more entries. We knew two cars were going home. We can’t be angry at the system because our favorite drivers are the ones left out. Sad for them, yes; disappointed, absolutely. More on this topic tomorrow.

I will post an update when I get to the track. The weather this afternoon looks iffy.

 

Bump Tales- Marlboro Snuffed; Team Penske Fails to Qualify

Nothing at the Indianapolis Motor4 Speedway is a given. A car, a team, or a driver cannot be penciled into the starting lineup because they just happen to be at the track in May. This point was never driven home as hard as it was in 1995 when Team Penske, winners of the previous two 500s and three of the previous four, failed to make the field for the 79th running of the Indianapolis 500.  Penske came to Indianapolis with a new chassis. The car was a handful from the first practice day. A switch to a Lola or Reynard chassis didn’t help.

The powerful Mercedes-Ilmor pushrod engine that dominated the field in 1994 was not available by rule. The engine wasn’t the issue, however. The car had handling issues. It couldn’t get through the turns well. By the first qualifying weekend, Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi, winners of the last two 500s, were running 10 mph slower than eventual pole sitter Scott Brayton. Penske hoped they could find a solution in the week following pole weekend and get the cars in the field on the second weekend. Pole weekend 1995  was the first time Team Penske did not qualify at least one car on opening weekend.

Bump Day arrived and still neither car had qualified. Bump Days during the era of two qualifying weekend followed an unwritten schedule. If the field hadn’t been filled by then, a handful of cars would go out early to grab the few reamaining slots. If weather interfered later in the day, those cars were guaranteed a spot in the race. Then, several hours of open track for practice occurred. No one seriously thought about qualifying until after 4 pm, when a cooling shadow appeared on the front straight.  1995 stuck to the pattern.

The day before, Fittipaldi made an attempt to qualify. He was averaging 225.5 but the crew waved off the run. It was a speed that would have put him in row 10. Unser, Jr. did not come close to a  speed that would get him in the field. The team put all their hopes into the final two hours of qualifying.

At 5:20 pm Fittipaldi completed a run at 224. 907 which placed him insecurely on the grid. With 12 minutes left in qualifying, Stefan Johanssen bumped Fittipaldi and Team Penske from the field of 33 for the 1995 race. The team that dominated the previous year did not come close to getting in the race.

To his credit, and one thing I have always respected Roger Penske for, he did not try to buy qualified cars to put his drivers in the race. Other owners have done that in this situation, as recently as 2011, when Michael Andretti bought one of A. J. Foyt’s qualified entries for Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Unser, Jr. was the first active defending champion to not make the race. It would be the first 500 without an Unser in the field since 1962. He and Bobby Rahal are the only defending series champions to fail to qualify. Rahal’s bump story is coming next week in this space.

Following the 1995 season, Tony George formed the IRL, which precipitated a 12 year war with CART. The competing open wheel series hurt the sport. It is slowly recovering, but will likely never regain the prominence it once held. Penske opted to stay in CART and didn’t return to IMS until 2001. His team won three consecutive races and his team has since won three more. Team Penske’s most recent victory was in 2015 with Juan Pablo Montoya.

As bizzare as qualifying was, the 1995 race was one of the strangest I’ve seen. It seemed as if every driver who led crashed. The strangest crash was Jimmy Vasser, who loked to be in complete control, crashed trying to pass a lapped car. Scott Goodyear took command and was well on his way to victory. On a restart with about 10 laps to go, Goodyear passed the pace car, which had not yet left the track. He ignored the black flag. Officials stopped scoring Goodyear’s laps after lap 195. Jacques Villeneuve, who had received a two lap penalty earlier in the day, inherited the lead and the win. Villeneuve drove 505 miles to win the 500.

Next week on Bump Tales, stories of two former winners who failed to qualify in different years.  Look for my Indycar Grand Prix stories Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

 

Indycar News and Notes- Coyne Again Searching for Drivers

With activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginninjg this Friday, Dale Coyne finds himself in a familiar position- looking for a driver or drivers to fill a seat vacated by an injured driver. Pietro Fittipaldi was slated to drive the number 19 car in both the Indycar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. He was injured in a severe crash Saturday preparing for the 6 hours  WEC race at Spa. Fittpaldi injured both legs, including a complex fracture of the left leg. He underwent successful surgery and will be out at least eight weeks. Fittipaldi will also miss his scheduled start at Texas in June. The projected recovery time could allow him to drive his next assignment at mid Ohio in late July.

The scenario is a familiar one for Coyne. Last year Sebastien Bourdais fractured his pelvis in a qualifying crash at Indianapolis. James Davison filled in for Bourdais fort he 500. Coyne than had other drivers drive the number 18 until Bourdais returned for Watkins Glen. Tristan Vautier, one of last year’s subs, is under consideration to take Fittpaldi’s ride.

Other drivers thought to be in contention are Zachary Claman DeMelo, who shares the 19 with Fittipaldi and has ties to the car’s sponsor, Paysafe; and Ryan Briscoe. Practice and qualifying for the Indycar Grand Prix is Friday, so a decision should come quickly.

Entry List for the 102nd Indianapolis 500

The official entry list is out. Thirty-five cars have entered to attempt to get one of the thirty-three spots for the race. Buddy Lazier is not one of the entries. The field includes six former winners. Four of the five past champions are entered. With Fittipaldi out there are now three rookies in the field: Robert Wickens, Matheus Leist, and Kyle Kaiser. Helio Castroneves will drive in both the Indycar grand Prix and the 500. These are scheduled to be his only Indycar appearances  this season. Danica Patrick returns to the 500 for the first time since 2011. The 500 will be the final race of her career. The entry list appears at the end of this post.

Donuts for Daly

Jack’s Donuts has signed on to support Conor Daly’s Indanapolis 500 ride with Thom Burns Racing. Look for promotions during the month @ConorDaly22, @ThomBurns Racing and @jacksdonuts. If Conor is involved, it should be fun.

Bump Tales

Thursday the second part of “Bump Tales” appears. It is a tale of just how humbling Indianapolis Motor Speedway can be.

Castroneves, Taylor win IMSA race at Mid Ohio

The Team Penske Acura driven by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor won the IMSA race at Mid Ohio Sunday. The race marked the return of sportscar racing to the track. The former American LeMans Series used to run the same weekend as Indycar, making for a tremendous weekend of racing. The IMSA/Indycar is a doubleheader that needs to return.

This was Team Penske’s first victory in the Weather Tech Series.

Entry List

Here is a link to the Entry List for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

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I will also be back with a preview of the Indycar Grand Prix on Friday.