Honda Sweeps Doubleheader; Race 2 and Weekend Thoughts

Above: Ryan Hunter-Reay just after taking the checkered flag to end his three year winless streak. Photo: Mike Silver

Another drought ended yesterday as Ryan Hunter-Reay chased down teammate Alexander Rossi, forced him to make a mistake, and won for the first time in 42 races. On Saturday, Marco Andretti ended his five year pole drought and Scott Dixon won his first race in nearly a year. Honda won both poles and both races in the home games for Chevy in Detroit.

Unlike Saturday, drama started in turn 3 of the first parade lap, when GM Vice President Mark Reuss spun the Corvette ZR-1, slammed head first into the wall, and bounced back in front of the field. Pole sitter Rossi was the only car able to get past wounded pace car. The others later returned to pit lane after the car was cleared. Rene Binder stalled the engine and needed a tow back to the pits. After a 30 minute delay, Oriol Servia, in a backup pace car, led the field to the green flag.

Sunday’s race looked a lot like Saturday’s event. teams used  different pit strategies with some cars opting for a three stop race. Ryan Hunter-Reay was one of the first to pit. meanwhile, Rossi was running away from the field. Rossi and Hunter-Reay exchanged the lead on pit stops. Rossi, on a two stop schedule, took the lead when Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 53. A 63. second stop put the deficit to Rossi at 10 seconds. Hunter-Reay’s DHL car had a lot of speed on fresher tires. Rossi had made his last stop six laps earlier. The lead gap slowly closed until on lap 64, Rossi missed the turn with a huge brake lockup. Hunter-Reay zipped past and took the checkered first. Rossi shredded a tire and after a quick replacement, he ended up twelfth. The mistake not only cost Rossi the victory, it also cost him the point lead that he had just gained on Saturday. Rossi is now third in points behind Will Power and Scott Dixon.

Overall, Sunday’s race was a better than average Detroit race. There were battles for position throughout the field and a fight for the win at the end. Belle Isle will return to the schedule next year.

Notes

I hope Sunday’s pace car incident leads to the end of celebrity pace car drivers. While Reuss does have experience driving high performance cars, he does not drive professionally. The drivers in this series deserve professional in all phases of the race. I have opposed this practice for a long time. I feel the same way about celebrity flag wavers. Professionals should controla race from the command to start engines on.

Sunday changed my mind about the new car racing at Detroit. It was amuch more competitive show than Saturday. This package needs a little tweaking. Texas next weekend will show how much adjusting needs to be done.

Zak Brown, principal at McLaren, and Gil De Ferran were at Belle Isle this weekend talking to teams about entering the season next year. DeFerran is helping facilitate McLaren’s entry into the series. Nothing has been confirmed.

Will Power’s runner-up finish yesterday was the only Chevy on the podium all weekend. Andretti had three of the six spots and Ganassi had two.

ABC/ESPN televised its final Indycar race for the foreseeable future. NBC Sports takes over television duties next weekend at Texas and all of the next three years. ABC at one time was the go to network for Indycar, but at the corporate level seemed to have had a waning interest in the sport the last few years. I appreciate the hard work of all the people I’ve met who work for ABC and hope many can catch on with NBC next year.  Some great people may not be back next year.

What is the Ceiling for Dixon?

Now that Scott Dixon has tied Michael Andretti with 42 career wins, how many more can he get before he retires? Someone asked me Saturday if I thought he could get to 50. I think that may be a stretch given his age and how difficult it is to win in today’s Indycar series. On the other hand, I wouldn’t completely dismiss the idea that he can reach the 50 mark.

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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

Carb Day- Lots of Laps and a Great Indy Lights Race

I’m not sure we know any more about how the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will go tomorrow after watching the Carb Day session. 1,273 laps of mostly strung out running should help drivers get a feel for Sunday’s similar weather conditions. The four fastest yesterday- Tony Kanaan 227.791, Scott Dixon 225.684, Marco Andretti 225.220, and Sebastien Bourdais 224.815, could be the group from which  the winner comes.  The race will come down to track position in the last40 laps and who makes the right tire calls on the last stop.

Danica Patrick had an electrical problem early in the session and only ran 15 laps. Her second lap was the eighth quickest. She did get on track during the final 10 minutes. The session was halted briefly for a track inspection. No cars had an on track incident.

Polesitter Ed Carpenter Ran 30 laps with a best time of 223.219, 14th fastest. Teammate Spencer Pigot had the 9th fastest time, 223.584. Overall, a decent day for the Carpenter team. Can they put it all together on race Day? That has been the one glitch in their 500 program.

Graham Rahal ran the most laps, 51, as he still looks for a good pace. The rest of the top five in laps run were Carlos Munoz, 49; Jay Howard, Helio Castroneves, Stefan Wilson, and Sage Karam 48 each; Josef Newgarden, 47. Of the high laps run group, Karam was quickest with the 12th best lap at 223.278.

We will begin to get answers in 15 and half hours from the time I’m writing this.

Herta Wins Exciting Freedom 100

When engines fired for the Indy Lights Freedom 100, I joked to my friend Brad that the race starts in 38 laps. This race has produced extremely close, four wide finishes with great racing in the last two laps. I was wrong. The small field raced every lap as if it were the final lap.

Twenty lead changes in a 40 lap race is unprecedented. Dalton Kellett, the polesitter, had the longest stretch in the lead, from lap 21-25. Colton Herta, who started sixth, took the lead on lap 39 and held off Patricio O’Ward by 0,0281 seconds. Yes that was close, but it is not in top four closest margins in Freedom 100 history.

The Day in Photos

Here are some photos from yesterday. Remember to rest tonight (Ha) get to the track early, and drink lots of water. Enjoy the race.

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Colton Herta takes the lead during the Freedom 100.

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Danica Patrick returns to the track after a trip to the garage to repair electrical problems.

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Pit road is always busy on Carb Day.

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James Davison leads Takuma Sato in turn 1.

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Spencer Pigot leaves his pit box.

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Pit stop practice for Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter.

Good Morning. It’s Carb Day!

The final practice for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 starts at eleven am. I expect it to be a very busy session as drivers figure out how the cars work in traffic and how the behave in the heat.  This is also the time for some teams to get in some pit stop practice under near race conditions.

It doesn’t always happen that Carb day and race day have similar weather, but this year the temperatures should be similar. Look for who is fastest and who turns the most laps. I’m also looking at who runs the most consistent times, especially in traffic.

Daltonm Kellett won the pole for today’s Indy Lights race. In a bit of a surprise, usual top qualifiers Santi Urrutia and Colton Herta start fifth and sixth. It should be a typical Lights race at IMS with a close finish. I will have results later.

Coverage of Carb Day can be seen on NBCSN starting at 11 am EDT

My Indy 500 preview is posted at wildfireradiosports.com.

Bump Tales- Peter Revson’s Six O’Clock Run

Editor’s Note: This is the last of the series. I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories of past Bump Days.

Photo from 1970 Indianapolis 500 program.

Peter Revson sped down the backstretch at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his final qualifying lap. On the other side of the track, the gun sounded to end qualifying for the 1969 Indianapolis 500. He just had to finish this lap and he would be in the field for his first 500.

Revson made it easily. His Repco-Brabham bumped Rick Muther from the field. The final run of the day ended a hectic last hour of qualifying and capped what had been one of the strangest qualifications in the history of the race.

The first weekend of qualifying was rained out except for one waved off attempt by Jigger Sirois. That is a tale for another day. Do NOT call Talk of Gasoline alley and ask Donald Davidson about it. Sirois’ attempt with about 15 minutes left on what was to be Pole Day was waved off. Before another car could get on track, the rains came again. Sunday was a complete washout. All 33 spots would need to be filled the following weekend.

A busy Saturday Pole Day saw 25 of the 33 spots filled. A. J. Foyt won the pole. Mario Andretti and defending race champion Bobby Unser completed the front row. Just five spots remained for Sunday.

It was a typical Bump Day afternoon. Teams waited until after 4 pm when the cooling shadow began to creep across the track. Then the scramble to get in the qualifying line began. The last hour produced several waved off runs. Jerry Grant lost the turbo of his Ford. It took 24 minutes to clean up the oil trail he left on the track. Losing that much time in the final hour could hurt several drivers chances.

Jigger Sirois and Al Miller each suffered a mechanical issue on their incomplete attempts. Their shortened runs allowed Revson to get on the track on time.   Bob Veith turned out to be the victim of the  Grant oil cleanup . He waited helplessly hoping Revson would pull off before the gun.

Revson would finish the race in fifth place from his 33rd starting position. The following year he joined Mclaren. He won the pole in 1971 and started second in 1972. His best finish was second in 1971.  Revson only completed a combined 26 laps in his last two starts -1972 and ’73 due to mechanical failures.

In 1972 Revson also drove for McLaren in Formula 1. He won both the British and Canadian Grand Prix in 1973 and finished the season fifth in points. Revson is the last U.S. born driver to win an F1 race.  Following the 1973 season he moved to the Shadow Formula 1 team.

His quick rise to prominence ended March 22, 1974. Shadow had retired from the first two Formula 1 races of the year. The team arranged a test session in Johannesburg, South Africa, the site of the next race. Revson’s car crashed violently into the Armco barrier. He was killed instantly.

Notes

My Indianapolis 500 preview will be on Wildfireradiosports.com tomorrow. I will have additional thought in this column Saturday along with some pictures from the IMS Roadster Tribute which follows the Public Drivers’ Meeting.

Thank you to the IMS Media Relations Staff. You al have been great to work with this May.

And thanks to all who have read this space and wildfireradiosports these last three weeks.

 

 

Final Thoughts- Qualifying Weekend

What do Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Rahal, Al Unser, Jr., and Emerson Fittipaldi have in common? There are two things. They won a combined six Indianapolis 500s, and they each failed to qualify for an Indianapolis 500. It can happen to the best. Great drivers-popular drivers-  have missed the race from time to time. The series moves on and the race goes on. There is a season to run, and the Indianapolis 500 will be back next year.

Saturday was one of the most intriguing, compelling Bump Days I have seen. It is nice to know that after a seven year absence, bumping is still the heart of qualifying. I’m glad it has returned.

Can We Ditch the Fast Nine?

The Fast Nine was a good idea when there were only 33 entries. It did add a bit of excitement to what was an otherwise ho hum weekend where no one was going to miss the race.

This year the Fast Nine was anticlimactic. It is time to put it away until the next year only 33 cars show up. Removing it would solve a major hiccup in the qualifying procedure.

Near the end of Saturday some teams were scrambling to make the field and others went out to attempt to makea the Fast Nine.  This is confusing to teams and fans. Who gets priority? The groups need to be separated.

Saturday should be running for the pole, and Sunday should be for making the race. With the pole decided on Saturday, the speedway and Indycar can promote the winner on Sunday’s qualifying show in addition to having a Sunday morning headline.

Notes

In years past I have watched drivers on television after they failed to qualify for the 500. I heard the disappointment in sadness in their voices, the tears in their eyes and thought I knew how sad they were feeling. Seeing that emotion in person Saturday evening at Pippa Mann’s press conference, however, really drove home how much this race means to the drivers who base their entire year on being in the 500.

Ed Carpenter and Scott Dixon have combined to win five of the last six poles at Indy. James Hinchcliffe is the only other pole winner in that stretch.

Saturday’s crowd was low because of the weather. yesterday’s crowd seemed smaller than last year’s Sunday attendance.

Indy Lights has two sessions today. The first round is from 10:45-11:30. The next round is at 4:30 after the Indycar  practice from 12:30-4. Indycar practice is streamed. There is no streaming for the Lights practices.

Aaron Telitz on Pit Lane Parley

Indy Lights driver Aaron Telitz is this week’s guest on Pit Lane Parley. Tune in at 3:15 EDT Friday on wildfireradiosports.com

 

 

 

Update-Kanaan Starts 10th

Tony Kanaan had the fastest time in the 10-33 qualifying round. The big surprise was Alexander Rossi, whose first lap was 227, but slowed to a 221 on his last lap. He will start 32nd.

Rumors are still swirling about James Hinchcliffe replacing a qualified driver. There is one strong rumor out there. I do not report rumors. I will say it’s the one that makes the most sense for all parties involved.

The Fast Nine begins in a few minutes. I will have an up date afterwards. My full weekend wrap up will be posted on wildfireradiosports later tonight.IMG_3099