Monday, May 30, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Cutting Ties

Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. Lewis Hamilton is back on top in Formula One. There was a photo finish on Carb Day. A complaint was filed and denied at the Nürburgring. Unfortunately, there was a terrible accident at Lime Rock Park and our thoughts and prayers are with Andrew Palmer and Jorge de la Torre. Rain plagued the Super Formula race. Domination occurred at Charlotte by a driver you wouldn't expect it from. The Brits defended their house in World Superbike. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Cutting Ties
ABC has broadcasted fifty-two of 100 Indianapolis 500s and are contracted to show the 101st and 102nd Indianapolis 500s. The network has been the home for dramatic moments from the finishes in 1982, 1992 and 2014 and some controversial moments in 1981 and 2002. ABC stayed through the split even when the names Andretti, Unser, Penske and Newman-Haas were elsewhere. Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart filled the living room on Sunday nights and they paved the path for Paul Page, Bobby Unser and Sam Posey live on Sunday afternoons. ABC won Sports Emmys for their Indianapolis 500 broadcasts and was even nominated for Outstanding Live Sports Special as recently as 2012.

Despite some mistakes, ABC has been a terrific partner for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500. That is why it is time for IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 to move on from ABC after 2018.

All things must pass. ABC has made strides but the series needs a television network to commit for more than a handful of races and care about the other 15 races. ABC never mentions the other races outside of the five the network broadcasts. The NBCSN races are rarely mentioned outside of the final 30 seconds of a race broadcast when 90% of the viewers have moved on.

NBC would be the natural partner for IndyCar but NBC's plate is full. While ABC aired the Indianapolis 500 yesterday, NBC aired the French Open. Last year, the Premier League season ended on Memorial Day weekend and ten NBC Universal networks showed all ten matches that ran from 10:00 a.m. ET to noon ET. The Indianapolis 500 has started between 12:15 p.m. ET to 12:30 p.m. ET in recent years meaning the race start would likely have to move back should NBC take it on and have to jam it in after the Premier League finale. These are things that could be worked out in future years. While the Indianapolis 500 isn't drawing a World Cup Final or NBA Finals rating, it is still a respectable number and something a network would make time for.

One fear about leaving ABC is leaving its partner ESPN but what would IndyCar lose? The series is rarely featured on SportsCenter as it is and SportsCenter ratings are down. Not to mention NASCAR still gets more airtime on ESPN and it isn't even partnered with the network anymore. Some point out that NASCAR is doing just fine and has had multiple television partners for decades but think about NASCAR for a minute. NASCAR is on 36-plus weeks a year. No network would commit that much. Fox has MLB and the NFL in autumn. As much as Fox likes NASCAR, they aren't passing up NFL or MLB playoff ratings.

Other sports have done well since leaving ESPN. The Premier League ratings are higher than ever and the Premier League is solely on NBC. Formula One ratings are at its highest levels in twenty years and the series is solely on NBC. The NHRA ratings have improved drastically since leaving ABC/ESPN for Fox. IndyCar won't explode in terms of television viewers and race attendance by getting into bed with one television partner but the status quo has not done the series any favors the last fifteen years.

If NBC took on IndyCar full-time, there would be a lot of things to work out, especially to get races on network television. Besides the French Open, the Premier League and Formula One, NBC has golf, the NHL and the NFL, not to mention NASCAR to live with from July to whenever IndyCar ends its season. NBC's house might be crowded but IndyCar could benefit from squeezing in.

Post-Indianapolis 500 Thoughts
In addition to the first impressions, here are some things that couldn't make the field of 33, if you will.

1. Can we widen the pit lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? There were three incidents of unsafe releases and all three involved contenders and one took out two. I know unsafe release comes down to a team being observant and patient but the pit lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is almost inadequately narrow. The pit lane couldn't be expanded to the right because that would make an already tight front straightaway pretty much into a one-lane road. Expanding to the left would require removing some seats and while that sounds bad, it isn't the end of the world. Many of those lower seats in the Tower Terrace have gone unsold in recent years and those seats could be made up with temporary grandstand along the back straightaway or somewhere else around the racetrack.

2. Watching Carlos Muñoz afterward made me think he realizes his time with Andretti Autosport is coming to an end and this was his last great shot. Andretti Autosport stalwarts Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti aren't going anywhere. Alexander Rossi just cemented himself in the team for as long as he wants to be there. Dean Stoneman appears to be on a championship run in Indy Lights. Muñoz is on the verge of being without a chair when the music stops. It is a shame considering he has finished second, fifth, 20th and second in his four Indianapolis 500 starts and has completed 800 out of a maximum 800 laps.

3. Looking toward the championship, it is still Simon Pagenaud's to lose despite him finishing 19th. He has 292 points and is 57 points clear of Scott Dixon. Hélio Castroneves is 11 points behind Dixon with Josef Newgarden on 211 points. James Hinchcliffe rounds out the top five with 205 points and Rossi is two behind the Canadian. Muñoz is four points behind his teammate Rossi. Tony Kanaan has 192 points and is three ahead of Charlie Kimball. Despite finishing dead last, Juan Pablo Montoya on 187 points, nine ahead of Will Power.

Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay tumbled down the standings to 12th and 13th respectively with 173 points and 162 points. Takuma Sato and Sébastien Bourdais are tied on 134 points. Marco Andretti has 130 points. Mikhail Aleshin is three behind Andretti and five ahead of Max Chilton. Conor Daly has 108 points while Jack Hawksworth rounds out the top twenty with 91 points with J.R. Hildebrand on his heels with 84 points.

It's hard to tell how the championship will play out over the next few races because all the front runners prior to the Indianapolis 500 have no momentum going to Belle Isle and Simon Pagenaud still has a firm grasp on the lead. Penske gags when it comes to closing out a championship but someone is going to have to be superb in the final ten races to have a shot at Pagenaud.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Alexander Rossi and Lewis Hamilton but did you know...

Martin Truex, Jr. led 392 of 400 laps on his way to victory in the Coca-Cola 600. Denny Hamlin won the Grand National Series race on Saturday.

The #4 Team Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Bernd Schneider, Adam Christodoulou and Manuel Metzger won the 24 Hours Nürburgring.

Dean Stoneman won the Freedom 100 by 0.0024 seconds over Ed Jones. Pato O'Ward continues to win in Pro Mazda. He was victorious at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Anthony Martin won in U.S. F2000.

José María López swept the WTCC race on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Álvaro Parente swept the Pirelli World Challenge GT races from Lime Rock Park. Lawson Aschenbach and Jade Buford won in GTS.

Hiroaki Ishiura won a rain-shortened Super Formula race from Okayama.

Tom Sykes swept the World Superbike races from Donington Park. Kenan Sofuoglu won the World Supersport race.

Artem Markelov and Nobuharu Matsushita won in GP2 at Monaco.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar runs two at Belle Isle.
IMSA joins IndyCar at Belle Isle.
MotoGP returns to Spain for a round at Barcelona.
NASCAR heads to Pocono.
DTM will be at the Lausitzring.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

100th Indianapolis 500: First Impressions

Alexander Rossi: 18 Gallons Dry, One Pint of Milk Full
1. This race had aspects of the previous 99 Indianapolis 500s. The opening stint reminded me of 2014. When was a caution going to come? Would one come at all? Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe reenacted the Jim Rathmann and Rodger Ward duel for the first twenty-five laps. You had the start-stop nature with caution after caution during the middle of the race like it was the IRL-era. A car painted in Menards colors had engine problems and a USAC driver led. The finish was 2011 except it didn't end with a rookie sliding short of history but coasting across the finish line at a pace that hasn't been seen in over forty years.

Alexander Rossi's Indianapolis 500 victory couldn't have been more complete. He ran the fastest lap in the 100th Indianapolis 500 at 225.288 MPH and he took the checkered flag with a lap averaging 179.784 MPH. That has to be the slowest green flag lap that wasn't an in-lap or an out-lap. Rossi had a respectable month but nobody expected him to win it. He was around the back half of the top ten all month but he was the fifth fastest of a five-car team. He was light years ahead of other rookies but he wasn't busting up the big boys. He was on the periphery. Rossi has always been on the periphery. Second in GP2 but couldn't stay in Formula One and couldn't get a respectable team, hell he couldn't get the American team to take him in. Won the Formula BMW World Finals only to have BMW pull out of Formula One. IndyCar fans knew he existed but always felt he never wanted to come in. You could say we all felt he thought he was bigger and better than IndyCar.

Did he really felt that way? He had to at least put up that facade. If Formula One teams or GP2 teams knew he was interested in racing at home and wasn't focused on Europe, they would have sent him packing. When push came to shove over whether to race or just be a reserve driver for the cellar dweller Manor Racing, Rossi decided to race. While most young single-seater prospects turn to sports cars, whether its LMP2 or GT, when their road to Formula One collapses into the sea, Rossi dove into IndyCar. No one of his ilk choose IndyCar unless they never want to be seen in Formula One. It's a career move on par with getting on a sinking ship. A sinking ship that hovers at the surface because of the Indianapolis 500.

Did Rossi's victory raise IndyCar out of the water for all to see? We won't know tonight or tomorrow or a week for now or a year for now. I think of the words of Justin Wilson. He never regretted coming to America and making a career here instead of in Europe. Did Wilson have an affluent life here? No. He was successful but money was tight. Wilson was out of a ride despite being one of the most respected on the grid but would his life been any better if he was a Formula One reserve driver or had raced another year in Formula One or had chosen DTM or prototypes over IndyCar? We will never known but Wilson showed you could be happy and race in IndyCar. Many drivers come from Europe, from the world of Formula One and can't believe how friendly the IndyCar paddock is. How can that be when IndyCar is in such a state of distress? IndyCar's joy is the only thing it has going for itself.

Rossi has reached the pinnacle of IndyCar in six starts. Where does his career go from here? Will Formula One come calling and would he go back? Does he stick around in IndyCar and, though he won't be making millions and soaking in glitz and glamour at every race, fall in love with a series most wouldn't dare join?

2. Carlos Muñoz came home in a strong second for a Andretti Autosport 1-2. Muñoz was quiet all day. He faded a little bit but never lost the front of the field. He carved his way to the front as the race wore on. Muñoz didn't have a caution fall his way; he put himself in contention. Another second for Muñoz. He looked gutted. He should be. He was charging. If it weren't for his teammate, he would have won the Indianapolis 500.

3. Josef Newgarden was at the front of the race all day. He and Muñoz are the future and one, if not both, will win an Indianapolis 500 someday. Though he drives for Ed Carpenter Racing and they pinch pennies to get by, he doesn't need to go to Penske or Ganassi. He can be a champion with the little team. It sounds crazy but it isn't inconceivable.

4. After a slew of other drivers stubbed their toes, it appears Tony Kanaan was going to be in position to win his second Indianapolis 500 and would only have to hold off Josef Newgarden. He worked his way to the top ten and kept his nose clean. Was this Kanaan's last hooray in the Indianapolis 500? I don't think so but he doesn't have that many left.

5. Charlie Kimball made it the final 36 laps without stopping and he conserved fuel at a extreme rate. When Kanaan and Newgarden were leading and running laps at 215-217 MPH, Kimball had dropped down to 201-202 MPH laps. Was that too conservative of Kimball, especially after he finished over five seconds behind Muñoz and Newgarden and was nipped at the line by 0.0255 seconds by Kanaan for fourth? Probably but fifth is nothing to be ashamed off.

6. Another year, another set of results J.R. Hildebrand can superglue to John Barnes door. Sixth-place for Hildebrand. Can someone get this man a full time ride? Six Indianapolis 500 starts, four top ten finishes. He has completed all 200 laps all but once. He has too much talent to be on the sidelines 50 weeks of the year.

7. James Hinchcliffe had a great day but seventh doesn't do it justice. He and Hunter-Reay were the class of the field for the first 250 miles. For a man who was knocking on Heaven's door last year, to come back and finish seventh in the Indianapolis 500 is a fantastic result.

8. Scott Dixon finished eighth and that is as high as he could get all day. He never challenged for the lead. He never challenged for the top five even. I can't even remember him being mentioned on the broadcast. And he finished eighth. This wasn't a bad day for Dixon but not a day to brag about.

9. Sébastien Bourdais finished ninth but I can't recall him being mentioned once. He kept his nose clean and this is what he got out of it.

10. Will Power made it the final 36 laps without stopping but he is fortunate to get tenth. He had a penalty for an unsafe release from the pit lane and he and the other Penskes seemed to struggle with some type of engine problem. This day could have been a lot worse.

11. I thought this race was going Hélio Castroneves' way. He pits from the lead and the caution comes out when Buddy Lazier loses a wheel. His left rear wheel guard gets knocked and flaps in the wind, a caution comes out after Takuma Sato brushes the wall. He couldn't over come that last problem and he finishes 11th.

12. Oriol Servià finished 12th after starting tenth but faded to 19th within the first 50 miles of the race. Not a bad day.

13. This day could have been worse for Marco Andretti. He made a net gain of one from his starting position but it is nothing to celebrate.

14. Graham Rahal went from the back to the front but couldn't finish in the top ten. He had a good day despite finishing 14th. I think he will look back and realize he set himself back in qualifying.

15. Max Chilton finished 15th and that would have been good enough for Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year most year but nope. His former Marussia/Manor teammate stole his thunder. But I think Rossi earned it. After all, Chilton kept Rossi from making his Formula One debut back at Spa-Francorchamps in 2014. I would say they are now even.

16. Jack Hawksworth had a respectable day and finished 16th. This is actually a big jump forward for him considering how poor his season has been.

17. Alex Tagliani might have finished 17th, the final car on the lead lap but Tagliani led a handful of laps and now has led in six consecutive Indianapolis 500s. Tony Kanaan has the record for seven consecutive Indianapolis 500s led from 2002-2008. The only other driver to lead in six consecutive Indianapolis 500s was Rick Mears from 1979-1984. Tagliani is an oddball in the record books.

18. Pippa Mann was the first car one-lap down in 18th, her best Indianapolis 500 finish. She cracked the top ten at one point late during the final pit cycle but she couldn't stretch it. This is what Mann does. She runs most of the laps but never contends. You can make a career out of it.

19. Simon Pagenaud had something wrong with his engine and he could only manage 19th. He was also penalized for unsafe pit release. This was a hit for the championship leader but not as bad as it could have been considering how many other contenders struggled.

20. Gabby Chaves wasn't mentioned all day and he finished 20th. I think he will run more this season with Dale Coyne Racing if not the rest of the season.

21. Townsend Bell is the first of many to stub his toe. He exited his pit stall, slammed into Castroneves and ricocheted into Ryan Hunter-Reay ruining both their races. Bell and Hunter-Reay could have finished 1-2. Instead Bell was 21st a lap down and Hunter-Reay was 24th, two laps down. Bell may not get a second year with Andretti Autosport and that is unfortunate because he had a great first half.

22. Matthew Brabham finished 22nd but wasn't a factor all day and Bryan Clauson, after completing 92 laps in his first two Indianapolis 500 starts, finished 23rd and completed 198 laps. It was a respectable showing for Clauson after many wrote him off as a wasted seat.

23. Spencer Pigot had a good day until he ran out of fuel under caution and finished 25th. I hope he gets a few more starts this season. Three starts aren't enough, especially for the defending Indy Lights champion.

24. Takuma Sato slapped the wall. He had completed all 200 laps the last three years but his best finish is still only 13th. How much longer will he be at A.J. Foyt Racing? Don't be surprised if this was his final run for Foyt in the Indianapolis 500.

25. Mikhail Aleshin spun and many expected that. He is fast. If he hones in his aggression he could be a winner on an oval and perhaps the Indianapolis 500.

26. Stefan Wilson had a mechanical failure end his Indianapolis 500 debut after 119 laps. He held his own. Will he be back next year?

27. Conor Daly can't catch a break at Indianapolis. He spun after being blinded by the smoke from Aleshin's spin and ended up bumping the Russian and the wall. Daly had been in the top fifteen at that point.

28. Buddy Lazier missed the first 100 miles but got out there and completed 100 laps. He has made 19 Indianapolis 500 starts. I bet he is shooting for 20. He could get it but I think he is better off being a one-off car owner. He has a car and if he could be someone like who Sam Schmidt was from 2004 until 2010 who showed up to the Indianapolis 500 each year and through a partnership put together a respectable effort, he could have a long future not only in the Indianapolis 500 but perhaps as a full-time IndyCar team. There were many talented drivers on the outside this year and if Lazier could get a James Davison or Luca Filippi or Brian Vickers in his car and partner with Carlin or Juncos Racing or another team, he could put together a contender for a top ten finish.

29. Ed Carpenter had an engine failure end his race before halfway. He wasn't contending for the lead but see how this race went you wouldn't have ruled him out if he were out there.

30. Sage Karam picked his way into the top five from 23rd in less than 100 laps but he was too aggressive and he now has consecutive 32nd place finishes. Karam is talented but he needs a mentor. Unfortunately, Chip Ganassi kicked him to the curb. He could be a race winner. He could be a champion. He is currently an orphan.

31. Juan Pablo Montoya joins Jimmy Bryan and Johnny Rutherford as drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 and finish dead last the next. Was it a surprise? Yes. Is it the end for Montoya? No. It is just another oddity in the Indianapolis 500 record book.

32. The pre-race festivities were fantastic. From the anthem to the 21-gun salute to taps from the flag stand. Whoever decided to have taps played from the flag stand is a genius. I bet it was Doug Boles. The children's choir should be apart of every race. They nailed "God Bless America" and they nailed "Back Home Again in Indiana." The race broadcast was good. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear are still insufferable. Allen Bestwick deserves better. The pit reporters are great. Jon Beekhuis should be in the booth.

33. We are 364 days until the 101st Indianapolis 500.


Morning Warm-Up: 100th Indianapolis 500

It is race day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
James Hinchcliffe starts on pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500. The Canadian will make his fifth Indianapolis 500 start and he looks to join Jacques Villeneuve as the second Canadian winner in the Indianapolis 500. One of Hinchcliffe's four IndyCar victories came on an oval. That was at Iowa in 2013. He started second that day and led 226 laps. Hinchcliffe was 12th fastest on Carb Day. In the middle of row one will be Josef Newgarden. The Tennessean has never started better than seventh in the Indianapolis 500. His worst finish in his last four oval starts is sixth and he finished second at Iowa and Pocono in that span. Newgarden has been the quickest of his three Ed Carpenter Racing teammates all month but he was 17th on Carb Day. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts on the outside of row one. Hunter-Reay started third in 2012 and retired in 27th after a suspension failure.

Townsend Bell matches his best Indianapolis 500 starting position in fourth position. He has three top ten finishes in nine Indianapolis 500 starts. His best finish was fourth in 2009. When Bell started fourth in 2011, he retired in 26th after an accident in turn one. Carlos Muñoz starts next to his Andretti Autosport teammate. Muñoz had his worst career start and finish in the Indianapolis 500 last year after starting 11th and finishing 20th, the final car on the lead lap. He enters with four consecutive finishes outside the top ten. Will Power rounds out the second row, his seventh consecutive Indianapolis 500 start on one of the first two rows. He started sixth in 2013 but was the final lead lap finisher in 19th.

Mikhail Aleshin starts on the inside of row three. Aleshin's only Indianapolis 500 start was from 15th in 2014. He finished one lap down in 21st but the Russian led one lap during the first cycle of pit stops. The Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Simon Pagenaud starts next to his former Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate and his current Team Penske teammate Hélio Castroneves. Pagenaud has won three races on the trot. The last driver to win four consecutive races was Sébastien Bourdais in 2006. Castroneves could become the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s. He has won from 11th, 13th and pole position.

On row four, starting right behind his Schmidt Peterson teammate is Oriol Servià. This will be his second best start in the Indianapolis 500. He started third and finished sixth in 2011. This will be Servià's 199th IndyCar start. Alexander Rossi was the top rookie qualifier. He finished 14th in his only other oval start at Phoenix in April. Takuma Sato rounds out row four. The A.J. Foyt Racing driver has never finished better than 13th in the Indianapolis 500. This is only the second time Sato has started better than row six. He started tenth in 2011 but an accident after 20 laps made him the first retirement and placed him in 33rd.

Scott Dixon starts on the inside of row five. He started 13th in 2004 and 2005 and finished eighth and 24th in those respective races with a turn one accident being his fate in the latter race. Marco Andretti starts 14th, only the third time in 11 Indianapolis 500 starts he has started outside the first three rows. He finished third from 16th in 2010 and ninth from 27th in 2011. J.R. Hildebrand rounds out the fifth row. This is Hildebrand's second worst starting position in the Indianapolis 500. He started 18th in 2012 and completed all 200 laps, finishing in 14th.

Charlie Kimball starts 16th, his second best start in the Indianapolis 500. He finished third last year from 14th on the grid. Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya is in the middle of row six. He has regressed every year in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. After starting second in 2000, Montoya has started tenth, 15th and this year 17th. Tony Kanaan will be on the outside of row six. This is the fifth time Kanaan has started outside of the first three rows. He has two top ten finishes in his previous four starts outside the first three rows including his 2013 victory from 12th on the grid.

Sébastien Bourdais will start 19th, his second worst Indianapolis 500 starting position. His lone top ten finish in the Indianapolis 500 was seventh in 2014. Ed Carpenter will start 20th in car #20. Carpenter has three top ten finishes in 12 Indianapolis 500 starts. Sophomore starter Gabby Chaves rounds out row seven. He finished 16th from 26th last year, good enough to earn him Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.

Rookie Max Chilton qualified on the inside of row eight. Two years ago, Chilton competed in the Monaco Grand Prix and last year he participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His finished 14th in both his starts at Monaco and his Nissan GT-R LM Nismo retired after 234 laps at Le Mans. Sage Karam starts 23rd for his third Indianapolis 500. His last IndyCar start was last year at Pocono were he spun while leading with 21 laps to go. Conor Daly qualified 24th, one position off his best Indianapolis 500 starting position. He completed 198 laps in 2013 to finish 22nd and last year he failed to take the green flag after a fuel line let go on the pace laps.

Pippa Mann qualified 25th. She has had two accidents in preparations for the 100th Indianapolis 500. She spun in turn two in qualifying and spun in exiting turn four on Carb Day. Graham Rahal will be in the middle of row nine. He started 26th in 2013 and an accident in turn two classified him in 25th. He did finish third from 30th in 2011. Rookie Matthew Brabham rounds out row nine. He finished 16th in his IndyCar debut in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis two weeks ago.

Bryan Clauson qualified 28th, an Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar career best for Clauson. His best Indianapolis 500 finish is 12th. Rookie Spencer Pigot is in the middle of row ten. He has finished 14th and 11th in his two IndyCar starts this season at St. Petersburg and in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Stefan Wilson makes his Indianapolis 500 from 30th on the grid. His last oval race was in 2012 at Fontana in Indy Lights, where he finished sixth.

On the inside of the final row will be Jack Hawksworth. Last year's race ended prematurely for Hawksworth after he spun exiting turn four and collected Sebastián Saavedra and Stefano Coletti. Buddy Lazier makes his Indianapolis 500 return in the 32nd position. This is Lazier's fourth consecutive Indianapolis 500 start from the final row. Alex Tagliani will start 33rd after an accident in qualifying. He started 33rd in 2009 after replacing Bruno Junqueira in the #36 Honda for Conquest Racing. He finished 11th that day.

The 100th Indianapolis 500 can be seen on ABC with coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. ET and green flag is set for 12:12 p.m. ET.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Track Walk: 100th Indianapolis 500

Another year, another Indianapolis 500
For the 100th time, Indianapolis Motor Speedway holds a race on Memorial Day weekend. Thirty-three drivers are set to participate. Of those 33 drivers, 27 are on the outside looking in of a club with 69 members. Six of the 33 are already in the club but could raise there profile and one could jump to the penthouse.

Coverage
Time: Coverage begins at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday May 29th. Green flag at 12:19 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: ABC.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever in the booth with Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhius working the pit lane.

Indianapolis 500 Weekend Schedule
Carb Day:
Practice- 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. ET (1 hour). NBCSN will have live coverage.
Pit Stop Competition- 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET (2 hours). NBCSN will have live coverage.
Sunday:
Race- 12:19 p.m. ET (200 laps).

The Starting Grid
Row 1:
James Hinchcliffe
This will be Hinchcliffe's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 6th (2012)
Car #5 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times but not since Arie Luyendyk in 1997.
Eighteen times has the pole-sitter won the race, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2009.
This is the first pole position of Hinchcliffe's IndyCar career.

Josef Newgarden
This will be Newgarden's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 9th (2016).
Car #21 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Eleven times has the winner started second, most recently Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000.
Last year was Newgarden's first lead-lap finish in the Indianapolis 500.

Ryan Hunter-Reay
This will be Hunter-Reay's ninth Indianapolis 500 start.
2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.
His 2014 victory is the only Indianapolis 500 victory for car #28.
Eleven times has the winner started third, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2010.
After leading 56 laps on his way to victory in 2014, Hunter-Reay did not lead a lap in last year's Indianapolis 500.

Row 2: 
Townsend Bell
This will be Bell's tenth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2009).
Car #29 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Six times has the winner started fourth but not since Bobby Rahal in 1986.
This will be Bell's 39th IndyCar start.

Carlos Muñoz
This will be Muñoz's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2013).
Car #26 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dan Wheldon 2006.
Seven times has the winner started fifth but not since Buddy Lazier in 1996.
Muñoz was one of three Honda drivers to lead in last year's race and he led three laps, the most of the Honda drivers.

Will Power
This will be Power's ninth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2015)
Car #12 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Peter DePaolo 1925.
Five times has the winner started sixth, most recently Dan Wheldon in 2011.
Power could become the 15th driver to win the Indianapolis 500 after finishing second the year before.

Row 3:
Mikhail Aleshin
This will be Aleshin's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 21st (2014)
Car #7 has won the Indianapolis 500 twice but not since Bill Holland in 1949.
Five times has the winner started seventh but not since A.J. Foyt in 1961.
Aleshin has not finished in the top ten in his last four starts. He has never gone more than four starts between top ten finishes.

Simon Pagenaud
This will be Pagenaud's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 8th (2013).
Car #22 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Twice has the winner started eighth but not since Kenny Bräck in 1999.
Pagenaud led 35 laps in last year's race, more than the other three Penske drivers combined. Will Power led 23 laps, Juan Pablo Montoya led nine laps and Hélio Castroneves led two laps; 34 laps total.

Hélio Castroneves
This will be Castroneves' 16th Indianapolis 500 start.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009).
Car #3 has won the Indianapolis 500 eleven times, the most victories for a car number. Castroneves' 2009 victory is the most recent victory for car #3.
Only once has a winner start ninth, Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993.

Row 4:
Oriol Servià
This will be Servià's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2012).
Car #77 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Twice has the winner start tenth, most recently Gil de Ferran in 2003.
This is Servià's first top ten start in an IndyCar race since Iowa 2013 where he started and finished seventh.

Alexander Rossi
This will be Rossi's first Indianapolis 500 start.
Car #98 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently Dan Wheldon 2011.
Rossi is the top rookie qualifier.
Twice has the winner started 11th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2001.

Takuma Sato
This will be Sato's seventh Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 13th (2013, 2015).
Car #14 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently Kenny Bräck 1999.
Twice has the winner started 12th, most recently Tony Kanaan in 2013.
Sato has completed all 200 laps the last three years. He is one of eight drivers to do that.

Row 5:
Scott Dixon
This will be Dixon's 14th Indianapolis 500 start.
2008 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #9 has won't he Indianapolis 500 four times with Dixon's 2008 victory being the most recent.
Four times has the winner started 13th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2002.
Dixon could lead a lap in his sixth consecutive Indianapolis 500. That would tie him with Rick Mears for second most consecutive Indianapolis 500s led. Tony Kanaan led seven consecutive Indianapolis 500s from 2002-2008.

Marco Andretti
This will be Andretti's 11th Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2006).
Car #27 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently Dario Franchitti 2007.
Only once has a winner started 14th, Bob Sweikert in 1955.
Jim Rathmann and Johnny Rutherford both won their first Indianapolis 500 in their 11th start.

J.R. Hildebrand
This will be Hildebrand's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2011)
Car #6 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times, most recently Sam Hornish, Jr. 2006.
Juan Pablo Montoya became the fourth driver to win from 15th with his victory last year.
Hildebrand has completed 200 laps in four of his five previous Indianapolis 500 starts.

Row 6:
Charlie Kimball
This will be Kimball's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2016).
Car #42 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Twice has the winner started 16th, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2012.
This is Kimball's second best starting position in the Indianapolis 500. He started 14th in 2012 and 2015.

Juan Pablo Montoya
This will be Montoya's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner (2000, 2015).
Car #2 has won the Indianapolis 500 nine times, including Montoya's victory in last year's race.
Twice has the winner started 17th but not since Eddie Cheever in 1998.
Montoya could become the sixth driver to win consecutive Indianapolis 500s.

Tony Kanaan
This will be Kanaan's 15th Indianapolis 500 start.
2013 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #10 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dario Franchitti 2010.
The best finish for the 18th-starter is second in 1920 by René Thomas and in 2009 and 2010 by Dan Wheldon.
Kanaan could move into sole possession of second all-time in Indianapolis 500s led. He is tied with Al Unser and Mario Andretti having led 11 Indianapolis 500s. A.J. Foyt led in 13 Indianapolis 500s.

Row 7:
Sébastien Bourdais
This will be Bourdais' sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 7th (2014)
Car #11 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Tony Kanaan 2013.
Twice has the winner started 19th, most recently Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.
The Frenchman has never led a lap in the Indianapolis 500.

Ed Carpenter
This will be Carpenter's 13th Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2008).
Car #20 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989.
Three times has the winner start 20th but not since Al Unser in 1987.
Should Carpenter win, he would match Sam Hanks for most Indianapolis 500 starts before winning.

Gabby Chaves
This will be Chaves' second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 16th (2015).
Car #19 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Only once has a winner started 21st, L.L Corum and Joe Boyer in 1924.
Chaves was last year's Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

Row 8:
Max Chilton
This will be Chilton's first Indianapolis 500 start.
Car #8 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Pat Flaherty in 1956.
Twice has the winner start 22nd but not since Kelly Petillo in 1935.
Chilton could become the fourth British driver to win Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year joining Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Nigel Mansell.

Sage Karam
This will be Karam's third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 9th (2014).
Car #24 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Graham Hill 1966.
The best finish for the 23rd-starter is second in the 1933 race by Wilbur Shaw.
Karam could become the youngest winner in Indianapolis 500 history at 21 years, two months and 25 days.

Conor Daly
This will be Daly's third Indianapolis 500 appearance and hopefully second start.
Best finish: 22nd (2013).
Car #18 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
The best finish for the 24th-starter is fourth in 1967 by Denis Hulme, in 1969 by Mel Kenyon, in 1972 by Sammy Sessions, in 1995 by Eliseo Salazar and in 2009 by Townsend Bell.
His father Derek finished 12th in his third Indianapolis 500 appearance. It was Derek's best Indianapolis 500 finish.

Row 9:
Pippa Mann
This will be Mann's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2011).
Car #63 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Only once has the winner started 25th, Johnny Rutherford in 1974.
Mann has one lead lap finish in 13 IndyCar starts. She finished on the lead lap in 13th at Fontana last June.

Graham Rahal
This will be Rahal's ninth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 3rd (2011).
Car #15 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently Buddy Rice 2004.
The best finish for the 26th-starter is third in 1956 by Don Freeland and in 1960 by Paul Goldsmith.
This is the 30th anniversary of his father Bobby's Indianapolis 500 victory.

Matt Brabham
This will be Brabham's first Indianapolis 500 start.
Car #61 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Only once has a winner started 27th, Fred Frame in 1932.
The Brabham family joins the Vukovich and Andretti families to have three generations compete in the Indianapolis 500. His grandfather Jack finished ninth as a rookie in 1961 and his father Geoff finished fifth as rookie in 1981.

Row 10:
Bryan Clauson
This will be Clauson's third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 30th (2012).
Car #88 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Twice has the winner started 28th but not since Louis Meyer in 1936. No winner has started worse than 28th.
Clauson has never made it passed lap 61 in the Indianapolis 500.

Spencer Pigot
This will be Pigot's first Indianapolis 500 start.
Car #16 has won the Indianapolis 500 four times but not since George Robson in 1946.
The best finish for the 29th-starter is second in 1911 by Ralph Mulford and Paul Tracy in 2002.
Pigot could become the seventh California-born driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and first since Jim Rathmann in 1960.

Stefan Wilson
This will be Wilson's first Indianapolis 500 start.
Car #25 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Al Unser 1987.
The best finish for the 30th-starter is fourth in 1936 by Mauri Rose.
Wilson's only other IndyCar start was September 1, 2013 in the Grand Prix of Baltimore. He finished 16th.

Row 11:
Jack Hawksworth
This will be Hawksworth's third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2014).
Car #41 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
The best finish for the 31st-starter was fourth in the 1951 race by Andy Linden.
Hawksworth's only lead lap finish this season was the Grand Prix of Indianapolis where he finished 20th.

Buddy Lazier
This will be Lazier's 19th Indianapolis 500 start.
1996 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #4 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993.
The best finish for the 32nd-starter is second by Jim Rathmann in 1957 and Mario Andretti in 1981.
Lazier could become the oldest winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 48 years, six months and 30 days old.

Alex Tagliani
This will be Tagliani's seventh Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 10th (2010).
Car #35 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
The best finish for the 33rd-starter is second in 1980 by Tom Sneva and 1992 by Scott Goodyear.
Like Scott Dixon, Tagliani has led a lap in five consecutive Indianapolis 500s.

Road to Indy
Sixteen drivers are entered for Indy Lights' Freedom 100.

Carlin's Ed Jones leads the championship with 160 points. Jones has two victories including a victory on the IMS road course two weeks ago. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Santiago Urrutia and Juncos Racing's Kyle Kaiser trail Jones by 21 points. Urrutia holds the tiebreaker over Kaiser with a victory and two second place finishes over Kaiser's victory and a second from the first seven races.

Carlin's Félix Serrallés and Andretti Autosports' Dean Stoneman are tied on 125 points. Both drivers have victories this season but Serrallés hold the tiebreaker over the Brit with a second place finish while Stoneman's next best finish is third. Belardi Auto Racing's Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach are the next two drivers in the championship with 109 points and 103 points respectively. Schmidt Peterson's RC Enerson is eighth in the championship with 101 points.

SPM's André Negrão and Andretti driver Shelby Blackstock round out the top ten in the championship with 87 points and 84 points respectively. Canadian's Scott Hargrove of Team Pelfrey and Juncos Racing's Zachary Claman De Melo are the next two in the championship. Hargrove is on 76 points with De Melo four behind him.

Juan Piedrahita of Team Pelfrey has 69 points, three ahead of Andretti driver Dalton Kellett. Carlin's Neil Alberico has 61 points and Heamin Choi returns driving for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Choi's only start in 2016 was at Phoenix where he retired after a spin and finished 16th.

The Freedom 100 will take place at 12:15 p.m. ET on Friday May 27th and NBCSN will have live coverage of the race following IndyCar practice.

Eight cars are entered for Pro Mazda's Freedom 90 from Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday night. Pato O'Ward leads the championship with 188 points from five victories and a second in six races. His Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz trails O'Ward by 39 points and is the only other race winner this season. Will Owen trails O'Ward by 78 points while Owen's Juncos Racing teammate Garret Grist is two points behind him. Nico Jamin has 106 points, 13 points ahead of his Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Jake Eidson. Jake Parsons has 90 points and Nicolas Dapero has 76 points.

Pro Mazda's Freedom 90 will be at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday May 27th.

U.S. F2000 will join Pro Mazda at IRP on Friday night. Eighteen drivers are entered for the lone oval race of U.S. F2000's season. Parker Thompson has won three of the last four races and leads the championship with 150 points. His Cape Motorsports w/ WTR teammate Anthony Martin trails by 28 points in second. Pabst Racing's Jordan Lloyd has 114 points and ArmsUp Motorsports' Victor Franzoni is fourth with 108 points. Pabst Racing's Yufeng Luo rounds out the top five in the championship with 105 points.

JAY Motorsports' Luke Gabin has 103 points and is 13 points clear of Team Pelfrey's Robert Megennis. Megennis is the top American in the championship. Ayla Årgen of John Cummiskey Racing trails Megennis by 20 points in the championship. Cape Motorsports w/ WTR's Nikita Lastochkin has 68 points and Pabst Racing's Garth Rickards rounds out the top ten in the championship with 62 points.

Six other Americans are on the entry list. Austin McCusker, Dakota Dickerson, Tazio Ottis, TJ Fischer and Cameron Das are all rookies while Max Hanratty will make his second appearance in the Freedom 75. Brazilian Lucas Kohl and Briton Jordan Cane are also rookies and round out the entry list.

U.S. F2000's Freedom 75 will be at 6:10 p.m. ET on Friday May 27th.

Fun Facts
This will be the eighth Indianapolis 500 to take place on May 29th (1971, 1982, 1983, 1988, 1994, 2005, 2011).  The winners in those respective years were Al Unser, Gordon Johncock, Tom Sneva, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Jr. and Dan Wheldon won the last two Indianapolis 500s run on May 29th.

The only other IndyCar race run on May 29th was at Gateway in 1999. Michael Andretti was the winner.

The last five Indianapolis 500s have had the winning pass occur on lap 197 or later.

The last four Indianapolis 500s have had the four most lead changes in the event's history.

This year's grid features:

14.5 Americans (Matthew Brabham is the half).

Four Brits.

Three Colombians.

Two Canadians.

Two Brazilians.

Two Frenchman.

1.5 Australians (Matthew Brabham again).

One New Zealander.

One Russian.

One Japanese and...

One Spaniard.

The pole-sitter has failed to win the last six Indianapolis 500s, matching the longest streak in Indianapolis 500 history. The pole-sitter did not win from 1998-2003.

Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Marco Andretti, Sébastien Bourdais and Matthew Brabham look to join Alex Lloyd, Jack Harvey and Dean Stoneman as the only drivers to win both on the oval and road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The average starting position for an Indianapolis 500 winner is 7.585 with a median of five.

The average number of lead changes in the Indianapolis 500 is 12.59 with a median of ten.

The average number of cautions in the Indianapolis 500 since 1975 is 7.78 with a median of eight. The average number of cautions is 44.24 laps with a median of 43 laps.

This will be the 67th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone.

This will be the 16th Indianapolis 500 victory for Dallara. Dallara is the all-time leader in Indianapolis 500 victories for chassis manufactures.

Should Honda win, it will be Honda's 11th Indianapolis 500 victory, moving Honda into sole possession of third all-time in Indianapolis 500 victories for engine manufactures. Offenhauser has the most with 27. Miller is second with 12. Honda is currently tied with Cosworth for third.

Should Chevrolet win, it will be its tenth Indianapolis 500 victory, putting Chevrolet level with Honda and Cosworth for third all-time.

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 12 laps to reach the 4,800 laps led milestone and he needs to 76 laps to pass Bobby Unser for sixth all-time in laps led.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 41 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 70 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 67 laps to reach the 2,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Alex Tagliani needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 700 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 64 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 76 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs one podiums to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Juan Pablo Montoya needs one podium to reach 25 career IndyCar podiums.

Predictions
History could occur but its the Indianapolis 500, history is a given. At least 30 lead changes will occur. At least drivers will lead a lap and at least two drivers lead the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. There will be at least one caution for an engine failure. There will be no accidents between teammates. Four drivers starting outside the top ten finish in the top ten.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: The Narratives

James Hinchcliffe won Indianapolis 500 pole position. The NASCAR All-Star Race was good on track but a mess. There was nothing but photo finishes at Mugello. The Formula E championship will come down to the final round in London again. Pirelli World Challenge has a familiar face in a new place and still ending up on the podium. BMW had a good weekend. V8 Supercars had a first time winner on Saturday and he decided to do it again on Sunday. World Rally returned to Europe and Sébastien Ogier did not win. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

The Narratives
Every year there are narratives entering the Indianapolis 500.

There are narratives of redemption and the most notable is James Hinchcliffe. As Dario Franchitti put it, from kebab to pole position. People were celebrating Hinchcliffe just getting back in the car and I think we all would have been satisfied with Hinchcliffe taking the green flag from 19th on the grid but to return and put the car on pole position is outstanding. He was seconds away from death and now he is 500 miles away from glory.

Then there is the return of Menards to the Speedway sponsoring Simon Pagenaud. Menards was on cars in the Indianapolis 500 for a while during the split but this year is twenty years removed from Scott Brayton's fatal accident. Menards partnering with Team Penske is like Ray Bourque being traded to the Colorado Avalanche, Menards is never going to have a better chance at winning the Indianapolis 500 than this year.

Speaking of Penske, Hélio Castroneves is going for his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500, 25 years after Rick Mears won his fourth driving for Team Penske and this is Team Penske's 50th year of competition. The planets and stars could not be anymore aligned then they are for Castroneves and Penske. If there was ever a year for Castroneves to win his fourth, this is it. No one has won more at the Speedway than Roger Penske. Could he be the author for another chapter of history?

The Andretti narrative still hangs around and this year Marco Andretti will have to come from 14th on the grid to end his family's drought in the Indianapolis 500. The crazy thing is now might the right time for the fortunate to fall on the Andretti family. Three of the last four winners have started on row five or worse. Bill Sweikert is the only Indianapolis 500 to start 14th but other droughts have come to an end. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the first winner from 19th since Bill Vukovich 60 years prior. Juan Pablo Montoya's win last year from 15th was the first from that position since Graham Hill in 1966.

These are just the highlights but there are plenty of other stories out there. Graham Rahal looks to win on the 30th anniversary of his father Bobby's lone Indianapolis 500 victory. A preacher could win as a co-car owner with Oriol Servià as the driver. Townsend Bell has to be the sleepiest of sleepers. Mikhail Aleshin is becoming a cult hero at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his driving style. Stefan Wilson follows in the footsteps of his brother. Formula One rejects (Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton) and ladder system write offs (J.R. Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves) have a chance to etch their names in the history book after years of uncertainty and disrespect.

We enter with 33 narratives. Only one concludes in victory.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about James Hinchcliffe's Indianapolis 500 pole position but did you know...

Jorge Lorenzo won by 0.019 seconds over Marc Márquez in the MotoGP Italian Grand Prix. Johan Zarco won in Moto2 by 0.030 seconds over Lorenzo Baldassarri. Brad Binder won in Moto3 by 0.038 seconds over Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Sébastien Buemi won the Berlin ePrix and trails Lucas di Grassi by one point with the doubleheader in London ending the season July 2nd-3rd.

Patrick Long swept the Pirelli World Challenge weekend at Mosport in his first weekend with Wright Motorsports after EFFORT Racing withdrew from the championship earlier this month. Lawson Aschenbach and Canadian Max Riddle won in GTS.

Marco Wittmann and Timo Glock split the DTM races at Red Bull Ring.

Tim Slade swept the V8 Supercars weekend at Winton Motor Raceway, his first two victories in the series.

After missing the last two rounds, Kris Meeke won on his World Rally return at Rally de Portugal.

Joey Logano won the NASCAR All-Star Race. Matt Crafton won the Truck race.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 100th Indianapolis 500
Monaco Grand Prix
Coca-Cola 600
24 Hours Nürburgring with the WTCC support races.
Pirelli World Challenges return to Lime Rock Park.
Super Formula runs at Okayama.
World Superbikes heads to the land of its current masters: Donington Park.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

100th Indianapolis 500 Sunday Qualifying Preview


Thirty-two cars made qualifying attempts on Saturday. The grid will be set on Sunday.
The Fast Nine was set on Saturday and those nine drivers will each make one final qualifying attempt for pole position this afternoon while the remaining 24 drivers will each qualify again to set rows four through eleven. The surprise from Saturday was that not only did Honda have the top two times but also had five of the top nine while zero Ganassi drivers advanced to the Fast Nine session.

James Hinchcliffe was fastest on Saturday with a four-lap average at 230.946 MPH. This will be Hinchcliffe's four consecutive Fast Nine appearance. He has qualified second for the Indianapolis 500 twice. Ryan Hunter-Reay was second fastest at 230.805 MPH. Hunter-Reay has qualified in the top nine twice for the Indianapolis 500, most recently seventh in 2013. Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver at 230.736 MPH with his Penske teammate Hélio Castroneves following him at 230.500 MPH. Power has started on the front row the last two years while Castroneves' last front row start was from pole position in 2010.

Townsend Bell was the fastest qualifier after the first run through the qualifying line at 230.452 MPH. Bell's lone Indianapolis 500 start in the top nine was fourth in 2011. Josef Newgarden will qualify in the first three rows for the fourth time in his five Indianapolis 500 appearances. He has never qualified better than the third row. The ECR driver was sixth on Saturday at 230.229 MPH. Mikhail Aleshin vaulted himself into the top nine on the final qualifying attempt yesterday with a four-lap average of 230.209 MPH.

Carlos Muñoz continues to shine at Indianapolis as the Colombian ran a 230.173 MPH average and he will start in the first three rows for the third time in four Indianapolis 500 appearances. Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top nine at 230.102 MPH. After starting on row seven and eight his first two years at the Speedway, the Frenchman will be making his third consecutive start on one of the first three rows.

Alexander Rossi was in the top nine until Aleshin knocked him out. The rookie's lone qualifying attempt was run at 230.048 MPH. Rossi bested his veteran teammate Marco Andretti, whose fastest run on Saturday was 230.037 MPH. Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and defending Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Scott Dixon were 12th and 13th respectively on Saturday, the first two drivers below 230 MPH. Dixon was the top Ganassi driver but no Ganassi drivers in the top nine should not be a surprise as no Ganassi driver has made the Fast Nine since 2011. Last year, the Fast Nine session was not held due to weather delays. Ed Carpenter was 14th with his teammate J.R. Hildebrand in 15th.

Takuma Sato was the top A.J. Foyt Racing driver in 16th; the only driver in the 228 MPH bracket while his former teammate and current Dale Coyne Racing drive Conor Daly was 17th. Sage Karam qualified in 18th, ahead of his former teammate and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan. Sébastien Bourdais rounded out the top twenty while Graham Rahal was 21st. Bryan Clauson and Spencer Pigot both ran four-lap averages at 227.100 MPH but Clauson gets 22nd because he was the first to put up the time.

Oriol Servià was in the top nine for a fair amount of the afternoon but after being relegated to tenth the Spaniard returned to the track only to fall down the order and end up 24th with a four lap average at 226.893 MPH. Charlie Kimball was 25th fastest on Saturday with rookies Matthew Brabham and Stefan Wilson behind him. A.J. Foyt Racing teammates Jack Hawksworth and Alex Tagliani were 28th and 29th. Buddy Lazier was the slowest posted time at 224.341 MPH.

Gabby Chaves made two qualifying attempts on Saturday. His first attempt was at 227.673 MPH but he withdrew that time only to wave his second attempt after one lap. Pippa Mann spun on her only qualifying attempt on Saturday exiting turn two and made light contact with outside and inside wall. She walked away from the car under her own power. Max Chilton did not make a qualifying run after his accident in turn two in pre-qualifying practice.

The track will open for practice at noon for cars 23-33rd from Saturday and last a half hour. Fifteen minutes later cars 10th-21st from Saturday will practice for a half hour. The Fast Nine will get a half hour practice at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Qualifying will resume at 2:45 p.m. ET to set rows four through eleven. The cars will go in reverse order of speeds from Saturday. ESPN3.com and WatchESPN will have coverage of the first hour and fifteen minutes of qualifying until ABC's coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. ET. The Fast Nine session for pole position will begin at 5:00 p.m. ET.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

100th Indianapolis 500 Saturday Qualifying Preview

After a surprising Fast Friday, intrigue hangs over Indianapolis 500 qualifying
The first day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying takes place on Saturday and the field will be set for the 100th Indianapolis 500. The top nine drivers from Saturday will advance to the Fast Nine session to be held at 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. The remaining drivers who are 10th-33rd on Saturday qualifying will re-qualify on Sunday with the slowest car going first and those 24 drivers will set the starting order from row four to 11.

The qualifying draw was held after Friday practice. Tony Kanaan's primary car was drawn first with Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Simon Pagenaud's primary car being drawn second. Kanaan won the 2005 pole position and has three front row starts but has not been on the front row since 2007 when he started second. Nine times Kanaan has started within the first three rows. He was 20th fastest in Friday practice. Pagenaud has improved in Indianapolis 500 qualifying each year he has been at the Speedway. He has qualified 23rd, 21st, fifth and third in his four Indianapolis 500 appearances. Pagenaud could join Jean Chassagne and René Thomas as Frenchmen to win Indianapolis 500 pole position. Pagenaud was 13th yesterday.

Marco Andretti is third in the line of primary cars. The third generation driver was one of nine drivers to run a lap over 231 MPH on Friday as Andretti was fifth quickest. He has started within the first three rows in eight of his ten Indianapolis 500 starts but Andretti has only one front row start. He started third in 2013. His grandfather Mario won pole position for the Indianapolis 500 three times.  Rookie Alexander Rossi is the next of the primary cars. He was the top rookie in Friday practice as he rounded out the top ten. Rossi could become the first Californian to win Indianapolis 500 pole position since Joe Leonard in 1968.

Sébastien Bourdais' primary car is drawn fifth among the primary cars. Last year, Bourdais started a career best seventh in the Indianapolis 500. His previous best start was 15th. The Frenchman was 21st on Friday. Josef Newgarden was second quickest yesterday at 232.344 MPH. Newgarden has qualified on row three in three of his four Indianapolis 500 starts. He started ninth in 2012 and eighth and ninth the last two years.

Oriol Servià is drawn seventh among the primary cars and the Spaniard was a surprise 11th quickest in Friday practice. He qualified third in 2011 but his next best start is 13th, which occurred in 2013 and 2015. J.R. Hildebrand is the next after Servià. He was 14th in Friday practice. Hildebrand has qualified in the top ten for the last three Indianapolis 500s. Mikhail Aleshin will qualify after Hildebrand. The Russian was ninth latest in Friday practice.

Will Power was drawn as the tenth primary car to qualify. Power was fastest on Friday at 232.672 MPH. The Australian has qualified in the top nine the last seven years but has not won the pole position. He has qualified second twice including last year. Hélio Castroneves is drawn to be the car after his Penske teammate. The Brazilian could move into sole possession of second all-time in Indianapolis 500 pole positions. He is currently tied with Rex Mays and A.J. Foyt with four pole positions. Castroneves was 15th in Friday practice.

Bryan Clauson is drawn next. He has qualified on the final row in each of his first two Indianapolis 500 starts. Rookie Matthew Brabham is 13th in the order of the primary cars. His grandfather Jack qualified 13th on his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1961 and his father Geoff qualified 15th for his first Indianapolis 500 in 1981.

Scott Dixon could become the 12th driver to win successive Indianapolis 500 pole positions and could become the ninth driver to win at least three Indianapolis 500 pole positions. The New Zealander was 12th fastest on Friday. Dixon's teammate Max Chilton is drawn to go after him. Chilton was 23rd yesterday.

Buddy Lazier's primary car was drawn 16th among the primary cars. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner is attempting to make his 19th Indianapolis 500 start, the most among active driver. Lazier has started on the final row in his last three starts. His best Indianapolis 500 start was fifth in 1996. Lazier was the slowest driver on Friday at 225.683 MPH. Alex Tagliani is the first of three A.J. Foyt Racing drivers drawn to qualify. The Canadian was 29th on Friday. Takuma Sato will follow his teammate. He was 27th in Friday practice.

Townsend Bell is drawn 19th among the primary cars. He was sixth quickest on Friday but had the fastest no tow lap, a lap that came without assistance of a draft from another car, at 231.342 MPH. Bell is attempting to make his tenth Indianapolis 500 start. He has qualified outside the top twenty the last three years. His best start was fourth in 2011. Gabby Chaves drew to go after Bell. The Colombian was another surprise on Friday. He was one of the nine drivers to complete a lap at over 231 MPH.

Spencer Pigot is next to do of the primary cars. The rookie suffered an accident on Wednesday and missed all of the Thursday session barring one install lap. He was 26th fastest yesterday. Charlie Kimball is drawn 22nd of the primary cars. Last year, Kimball matched his best Indianapolis 500 starting position in 14th. He has three top ten finishes in five Indianapolis 500 starts. His two finishes outside the top ten occurred when he qualified outside the first eight rows.

Ryan Hunter-Reay drew 23rd in the order of primary cars. He was the slowest Andretti Autosport entry for most of Friday before vaulting up to seventh late in the session. He has started outside the first five rows in six of his eight Indianapolis 500 starts. Stefan Wilson is attempting to make his Indianapolis 500 debut and is drawn after Hunter-Reay. Wilson made two Freedom 100 starts in 2010 and 2011. His best finish was fourth. Wilson was the slowest rookie on Friday, 32nd on the timesheet. Jack Hawksworth is drawn after his countryman Wilson. Hawksworth was the fastest of the Foyt drivers on Friday in 22nd.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya is scheduled to go out 26th. His starting position has regressed in his three Indianapolis 500 starts. After starting second as a rookie in 1999, he has started tenth and 15th in his last two starts. The last time the previous year's Indianapolis 500 winner won the pole position the following year was 2010 by Hélio Castroneves. Castroneves won pole position in 2009 as well. Montoya was the slowest of the Penske cars on Friday in 18th. James Hinchcliffe is set to go after Montoya. He was third fastest at 231.972 MPH. Hinchcliffe has started second in two of his four Indianapolis 500 starts.

Carlos Muñoz is 28th in the order of primary cars. He was fourth fastest on Friday. Like his countryman Montoya, Muñoz's starting position has regressed in his three Indianapolis 500 starts. After starting second as a rookie in 2013, he has started seventh and 11th the last two years. Sage Karam returns to the Speedway and is attempting to make his third Indianapolis 500 start. After starting on the final row as a rookie in 2014, Karam started 22nd last year. He was 30th fastest on Friday.

Pippa Mann drew 30th. She was 19th fastest yesterday in practice. Her best Indianapolis 500 starting position was 22nd in 2014. Ed Carpenter is set to go after Mann. All four of Carpenter's starts in the first three rows have come in the last six years. Carpenter was 16th in Friday practice. Conor Daly should be the penultimate primary car to go. He was 25th yesterday. Daly was slated to start 23rd in last year's race before an oil leak ended his race on the pace laps. Graham Rahal is the final of the primary cars in the qualifying order. His best Indianapolis 500 start was fourth in 2009 but he has started on row six or worse in four of the last five years. Rahal was 17th fastest on Friday.

Saturday begins with practice from 11:00 a.m. ET-12:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 12:45 p.m. ET and can be seen on ESPN3.com and WatchESPN. ABC picks up coverage of the final two hours of qualifying at 4:00 p.m. ET.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Shaving Days to Save Money

Let's get this out of the way: IndyCar teams are struggling for funding. Something needs to be done. This must be somewhere between the 3,746th and 6,215th idea how to stop the bleeding and increase the viability of teams.

There should be fewer days at racetracks. It sounds crazy but it's a simple way to save teams money. Teams would need fewer nights for hotel rooms, fewer tires and other resources would be used and it would decrease the chances of damaged equipment. 

While it would be simple to take a day off each weekend, it might be more difficult for some venues than others. Street circuits are one where three-day weekends would have to stay. At St. Petersburg, six series took to the track. Long Beach featured four series and a pro/celebrity race. You can't squeeze that all into two days. 

Road courses and ovals are a different animal. While just as many series go to road course events, a Friday could be used for support series to get practice and qualifying sessions completed while IndyCar would take to the track on Saturdays and Sundays. Ovals (besides the Indianapolis 500) should be one-day shows. IndyCar goes to Texas and Pocono by themselves. Indy Lights only runs Phoenix and Iowa and Pro Mazda's only other oval is Iowa. 

For this year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis, 22 of 25 drivers completed over 150 laps over the weekend and 17 drivers completed over 170 laps. The three drivers that didn't break the 150 laps threshold were Tony Kanaan and Sébastien Bourdais, who both retired in the race and Alex Tagliani, who was penalized in pretty much every session imaginable and lost track time on at least three occasions. Twenty-one drivers had completed more than 82 laps before the 82-lap Grand Prix of Indianapolis itself. 

Common sense says reduce the amount of practice session and costs should go down. IndyCar could run a 90-minute practice session and qualifying on Saturday with a race on Sunday for road courses with a two-hour practice on ovals followed by qualifying followed by the race. The one way IndyCar could make up for less on track action is by having a preliminary race that was slightly longer than a fuel window on Saturdays at road courses and could fit nicely into a one-hour or 90-minute television window.  

Indianapolis 500 prep would have to change as well. Give the teams the Monday and Tuesday after the Grand Prix of Indianapolis off and open the track on Wednesday with Rookie Orientation and practice splitting the day. Thursday and Friday would be normal practice days, Pole Day and the Fast Nine session returns to Saturday with Bump Day on Sunday. Indianapolis 500 qualifying should change because there is no reason to make teams qualify for the race and then run again to set their starting position. Qualifying once for the Indianapolis 500 is stressful enough. There is no reason to force the teams to risk damaging a car more than once. Keep it simple and have everyone qualify once and not have to qualify again unless they want to try to make the top nine or need to bump their way back into the field. 

I am sure some of you are wondering how less track time could benefit the series and how could the series draw more people to the track with less track time. IndyCar could hold events in the markets they are heading to. The drivers could still head out on Friday and every driver could do media appearances. IndyCar could hold meet-and-greets around that week's destination for different demographics. Conor Daly, Josef Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe could be at an event for Millennials that features electric dance music and high alcohol consumption. The Penske drivers could do something boring for old white men. A few drivers could go to a local dirt track to promote the race. If there is a local karting facility, drivers could race younger kids. The goal should be to connect with many facets of the communities IndyCar races in. 

In 2012, European Le Mans Series had 13 cars show up to Donington Park for a race and had to cancel three races. The following season ELMS cut race weekends to two days and the series has returned to three-day weekends this year. ELMS has also more inclusive than IndyCar and has tweaked the regulations to draw more teams to the series but in the first season with two-day weekends, the average grid size in ELMS was 25.6 cars. 

The IndyCar grid won't go from 21 full-time cars to over 40 entries at every race by reducing two-thirds of the race weekends by a day but IndyCar needs to help the teams save money or help the teams make more money. Saving money is the easier option and something the series can control. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Getting in on the Cheap

Max Verstappen made history. Simon Pagenaud is making history. Formula One is better without Mercedes. The Kentucky Kid still has it and in the wet nonetheless. A man named Ayrton was victorious. There were a few first time winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It rained at Imola. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Getting in on the Cheap
Indianapolis 500 practice begins today and we are on 33 entries. A 34th needs a Hail Mary. IndyCar president of competition Jay Frye doesn't think it is a problem. He is wrong.

The 33 cars on the entry might be of high quality but when has motorsports been about quality? When has the Indianapolis 500 been about quality? This is a race where the teams would put together programs on a whim and end up in the field. This is a race where drivers with Formula One and Le Mans experience fail to qualify and guys who aren't even known in their own hometown add their story to the more than a century of lore.

Competition isn't about quality. Some of the best Bump Days are when things go wrong. When teams are throwing it at the wall and hoping it sticks. When teams stop thinking scientifically and roll the dice. If it was all about quality then Buddy Lazier's team wouldn't be allowed into Gasoline Alley and Dale Coyne Racing and another ten cars would be asked to leave and people could live with only 20 cars starting the Indianapolis 500.

When there have been at least a half a dozen drivers who have reportedly been working on Indianapolis 500 deals not showing up to the race track to attempt to qualify, that's when regulations have to change. No one will be upset if a car attempts to qualify with something other than the 2.2 L twin-turbo V6s of Chevrolet and Honda or in a chassis that wasn't the DW12. Chevrolet and Honda would probably welcome the relief of not having to support sixteen-plus cars.

Remember those engine summits IndyCar held prior to the ICONIC committee that featured Honda and Chevrolet but also FIAT and Volkswagen and a few other manufactures? IndyCar should do that again but instead of trying to come up with a formula the manufactures want the series should inquire about allowing existing engines produced by the manufactures and getting them into the series. With LMP2 regulations changing, the 4.5 L V8 Nissan engine that has proliferated FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series will be deemed obsolete next year. IndyCar could benefit from allowing the Nissan engine into the championship. Chevrolet and Honda would get some relief, it would be another option for one-off teams and it would add another manufacture to the series.

IndyCar should welcome teams getting in on the cheap. The Indianapolis 500 shouldn't be about completing a checklist of getting one of two engine manufactures and the sole chassis. The regulations should allow teams wiggle room. Put a limit on engine displacement and a limit on cylinders and let the teams play within those boundaries.

Fans want to see competition and they want to see bumping. We want to see the Katherine Legges, James Davisons and Brian Vickers of the world attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. If it takes allowing teams to select the Nissan LMP2 engine and other engines currently outside IndyCar to make that happen then allow it, especially if it makes more financial sense for the teams. Unpredictability is one reason why people watch sports. A hand full more of entries would leave people on the edge of their seats.

More Thoughts on the Grand Prix
I had a few more thoughts after the Grand Prix of Indianapolis that I didn't get in after Saturday's race. I was against the race at the start because it seemed like an easy way to get another race on the schedule while the likes of Road America, Phoenix, Circuit of the Americas and Michigan were not pursued. However, I think it is a great way for IndyCar to get attention on the series prior to the Indianapolis 500 and if IndyCar was racing at Kentucky or Chicagoland or anywhere else a fortnight prior to the Indianapolis 500, it would not create the same buzz.

It's not the race but the venue. Indianapolis Motor Speedway raises hairs and withdraws breaths. If IndyCar were racing anywhere else, it would just be another race. Even though 250,000 people don't show up for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, there is something about the venue that makes me want to watch. It's like a baseball game at Wrigley Field or a soccer match at Wembley Stadium; I am going to watch regardless if there is a trophy on the line or a game where half the seats are empty.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis draws a respectable crowd in terms of an IndyCar event. Don't compare it to the Indianapolis 500. Saturday was a chilly day but if 20,000-25,000 people were there then it was a success. Compare that to past opening days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, its probably four to five times larger. Should the Grand Prix of Indianapolis be another time of the year? I don't think it would do any better. The race does compete with the Indianapolis 500 for fans. Many people have dropped $300 to $600 on Indianapolis 500 tickets. Do you really think they want to spend or can spend another $50 to $60 to go to the Grand Prix of Indianapolis? Moving the race to September could make it possible for more to go but will they? There is something about heading to the Speedway in the month of May. People are not conditioned to head to 16th and Georgetown in September.

The Speedway hasn't stated displeasure in Grand Prix of Indianapolis attendance but what can be done to entice people to the track for another day in May? What if a Bronze Badge raffle was created for those who purchase Grand Prix of Indianapolis race day tickets prior to the start of April? If you buy a ticket you earn a chance to earn two Bronze Badges and the Speedway could give out five pairs of Bronze Badges. What if grid passes for the Indianapolis 500 were raffled?

It's an event that has grown on me but, just like every other event on the IndyCar calendar, I don't want to see it struggle and I want to see it be a healthy event with a long future.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Simon Pagenaud and Max Verstappen but did you know...

Ed Jones and Dean Stoneman split the Indy Lights races on the IMS road course. Pato O'Ward swept the weekend in Pro Mazda. Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson won the U.S. F2000 races.

Norman Nato and Alex Lynn shared the opening weekend of the GP2 weekend from Barcelona. Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon were victorious in GP3.

Tom Sykes and Nicky Hayden split the World Superbike races from Sepang. Ayrton Badovini scored his first World Supersport victory.

The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Mathias Beche, Ryō Hirakawa and Pierre Thiriet won the European Le Mans Seres 4 Hours of Imola. The #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Mike Hedlund, Wolf Henzler and Robert Renauer won in GTE. The #2 United Autosport Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England won in LMP3 for the second consecutive race.

The #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maximilian Buhk, Dominik Baumann and Jazeman Jaafar won the Blancpain Endurance Series 3 Hours of Silverstone.

Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup race from Dover. Erik Jones won the Grand National Series race. Matt Crafton won the Truck race.

Coming Up This Weekend
Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
MotoGP will be at Mugello.
Formula E's penultimate round of the season takes place in Berlin.
Pirelli World Challenge heads north to Mosport.
DTM heads east to Austria.
V8 Supercars will race at Winton Motor Raceway.
World Rally returns to Europe and more specifically Portugal.
NASCAR runs its meaningless All-Star Race.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

First Impressions: 3rd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

1. Simon Pagenaud is on a roll and the bounces keep going his way. He was third when the final round of pit stops started. He exited with a three-second lead. Pagenaud has been great and fortunate. Had the officials been properly penalizing drivers for blend line penalties, he doesn't win at Long Beach. Had Jack Hawksworth picked the outside line in turn five, he doesn't win at Barber. Had Conor Daly and Hélio Castroneves not exited into lap traffic, he probably doesn't win today. Pagenaud is having a historic season but will it continue into the Indianapolis 500? Can this run continue for a sixth race? All we know is Pagenaud is the championship leader and comfortably in control.

2. Hélio Castroneves did not have a great weekend and he still finished second. A timely caution put him on the podium. This is what Castroneves does. He rarely has the fastest car but he methodically works his way to the front and gets top five finishes.

3. James Hinchcliffe had a great weekend from start to finish. Quietly Hinchcliffe has put together an impressive start to the season and he finally has had a good result at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is coming at the right time.

4. Two years ago, had Graham Rahal lost a second row starting position due to his car being underweight in qualifying, he would have been fortunate to finish in the top fifteen. Rahal has changed and he worked his way to a fourth place finish. Another year where it appears Rahal will be hanging around for sometime.

5. Charlie Kimball finished another Grand Prix of Indianapolis in fifth. Could he be a sleeper in the Indianapolis 500? He was competitive. He gave James Hinchcliffe a real run early in the race. Kimball keeps his nose clean but taking that next step and becoming a contender week in and week out will require taking risks.

6. Conor Daly was just as fortunate as Castroneves and for about 15 laps, it appeared Daly was headed for an emotional victory. Daly abused his rear tires more than anyone else and he faded but sixth for a struggling Dale Coyne Racing is a wonderful result and he held off Scott Dixon.

7. Speaking of Scott Dixon, he wasn't hit by a Penske driver this year in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Seventh isn't good enough though especially as Pagenaud makes the podium his weekend vacation home.

8. Juan Pablo Montoya overcame a blend line penalty to finish eighth. Race control started handing out drive-through penalties for blend line violations. Good. Was that so hard to do from the start?

9. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport finally got off the mat. He went from 15th to 7th in the first turn and finished ninth. This was a race Andretti Autosport needed.

10. Alexander Rossi gets his first career top ten. He had an impressive race as he made Will Power blink and stayed in the top ten almost all race.

11. Spencer Pigot finished 11th. This kid deserves more races beyond the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully he gets it but this is IndyCar and rarely is young talent rewarded properly.

12. Quickly round outing the top 18: Carlos Muñoz kept his nose clean except for a lazy spin in turn ten and he finished 12th. Mikhail Aleshin was in the top ten for the first stint but faded. Max Chilton did nothing and finished 14th. Marco Andretti made a few good passes but could only managed 15th. Matthew Brabham had a really good debut and finished 16th. Gabby Chaves held his own in his return and finished 17th. Takuma Sato had a blend line violation and finished 18th.

13. The rest of the field: Will Power had a rough two days and finished 19th. Just when it appeared Jack Hawksworth was taking a step in the right direction, he dropped like a rock and finished 20th. Josef Newgarden was doing better than Graham Rahal on the first stint but he could get passed 15th and a blend line violation cost him a top twenty finish. J.R. Hildebrand's race was ruined when it appeared he ran out of fuel under caution. Alex Tagliani was penalized after each practice session and was speeding on the pit lane in today's race. This was the best Foyt could do? Sébastien Bourdais and Tony Kanaan had their days ruined in turn one. No more to say on that.

14. This was a good race. You had drivers moving up from deep in the field. A few top dogs stubbed their toes. It wasn't delayed by many cautions. What else can you ask for?

15. Tagliani's livery should become Hawksworth's or Sato's livery for the rest of the season so we can tell the two full-time Foyt drivers apart.

16. And now we move our attention to the Indianapolis 500. Do you have goose bumps? Sleep well and enjoy your Sunday. Practice begins Monday.


Morning Warm-Up: 3rd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

The championship lead starts on pole position again.
For the second consecutive race, Simon Pagenaud will start from pole position. The Frenchman ran a lap of 68.6868 seconds to win his fourth pole position of his IndyCar career and first in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Pagenaud attempts to become the first driver to win successive races from pole position since 2011. Will Power won Sonoma and Baltimore from pole position that year. Pagenaud could become the 11th driver in IndyCar history to finish on the podium in five consecutive races to start a season. The last driver to do it was Sébastien Bourdais in 2006. Charlie Kimball qualified second. It is Kimball's first career front row start. The Ganassi driver was 0.2948 seconds behind Pagenaud in the final round of qualifying. Kimball finished fifth in the two previous Grand Prix of Indianapolis. His two previous starts in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis were 23rd and 14th.

Hondas swept row two. James Hinchcliffe will start third. It is Hinchcliffe's best start he started second for the second Belle Isle race in 2014. Hinchcliffe has never started nor finished in the top ten in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. His 2014 race ended prematurely after he was hit by debris, giving the Canadian a concussion. Last year, Hinchcliffe finished 12th from 13th on the grid. Jack Hawksworth qualified fourth. It is the British drivers best start since starting third in the first Belle Isle race in 2014. Hawksworth's lone front row start was the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Of Hawksworth's six top ten starts, his seventh on the IMS road course in 2014 is his only top ten finish in those six starts. Tony Kanaan and Juan Pablo Montoya will start on row three. Kanaan's best finish in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was seventh last year. Montoya finished third in last year's race.

Scott Dixon qualified seventh, his worst start in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. A Penske driver has spun Dixon in each Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Will Power spun him in 2014 and Hélio Castroneves tapped him last year. Sébastien Bourdais will start eighth in his third Grand Prix of Indianapolis start after qualifying seventh in the previous two editions. Bourdais has finished fourth each year on the IMS road course. Mikhail Aleshin has his first top ten start since qualifying second for the second Houston race in 2014. He qualified eighth for Fontana in 2014 but his pre-race accident prevented him from taking the green flag. Will Power rounds out the top ten. Should Power repeat as Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner, it would be the third-worst starting position he has won from. He won from 12th after qualifying second at Long Beach in 2012 and 16th at Belle Isle I in 2014. Power set the track record in the first round of qualifying with a lap of 68.6746 seconds.

Rookies Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi will start on row six. Chilton and Rossi both have two starts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Chilton finished fourth and third in last year's Indy Lights races and Rossi finished fourth and sixth in Formula BMW USA races during the 2007 United States Grand Prix weekend. Daniel Morad and current Haas F1 Team driver Esteban Gutiérrez won those Formula BMW USA races. Hélio Castroneves will start 13th, his worst starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Since the start of 2014, this is the fifth time Castroneves will start outside the top ten. Matthew Brabham will make his IndyCar debut from 14th. The Brabham family will join the Andretti and Vukovich families as families to have three generations of drivers start an IndyCar race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay will start 15th. Last year, Hunter-Reay went from 19th to 11th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. J.R. Hildebrand makes his season debut this weekend and will start 16th. Last year, Hildebrand started 15th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Carlos Muñoz and Spencer Pigot will start on row nine. Muñoz has failed to finish in the top ten in the last three races and has never gone four consecutive races without a top ten. Pigot finished 14th on his IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg in March. Marco Andretti will start 19th for the second consecutive race. Andretti has yet to start in the top ten this season. Takuma Sato rounds out the top twenty. Sato has started 16th and 22nd in his two Grand Prix of Indianapolis starts and has finished ninth both times.

Alex Tagliani makes his first IndyCar starts of 2016 and will start 21st. Tagliani has finished in the top ten twice in 12 IndyCar starts coming from outside the top twenty. He finished sixth from 24th at Michigan in 2001 and finished tenth from 21st at Barber in 2010. Dale Coyne Racing's Conor Daly and Gabby Chaves will start 22nd and 23rd. Daly and Chaves both match their second-worst starting position of their careers. Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden round out the starting grid. Both drivers had their cars fail post-qualifying technical inspection for being underweight. Rahal had qualified third and Newgarden had qualified fifth. This is the 18th time in Rahal's career he has started outside the top twenty. Newgarden matches the worst starting position of his career. He has started 25th on three previous occasions. He finished fifth from 25th at São Paulo in 2013.

The 3rd Grand Prix of Indianapolis can be seen at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 82 laps.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Track Walk: 3rd Grand Prix of Indianapolis

IndyCar heads to Indianapolis
The month of May is here and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis opens the action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third consecutive season. After a thrilling finish at Barber Motorsports Park, Simon Pagenaud enters the fifth round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season looking for his third consecutive victory and he would be the first driver to win three consecutive races since Scott Dixon in 2013. The Frenchman leads the New Zealander by 48 points with Juan Pablo Montoya 52 points behind his Penske teammate. Brazilians Hélio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan round out the top five, 70 and 82 points back respectively. Graham Rahal is sixth on 100 points, 88 behind Pagenaud.

Coverage
Time: Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday May 14th. Green flag at 3:50 p.m. ET.
TV Channel: ABC.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever in the booth with Rick DeBruhl, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jon Beekhius working the pit lane.

IndyCar Weekend Schedule
Thursday:
First Practice- 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET (75-minute session).
Second Practice- 3:00-4:15 p.m. ET (75-minute session).
Friday: 
Third Practice- 11:00-11:45 a.m. ET (45-minute session).
Qualifying- 3:00 p.m. ET.
Saturday:
Warm-Up- 11:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ET (30-miunte session).
Race- 3:50 p.m. ET (82 laps)

Rolling Into May
Four drivers have top tens in all four races. Another three drivers have been in the top ten for 75% of the races and one other driver has multiple top five finishes.

Simon Pagenaud enters the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on a career year. The Frenchman had never had two consecutive podium finishes in his IndyCar career at the start of the 2016 season. Now he has four consecutive podiums, including two consecutive victories. His 48-point championship lead puts Pagenaud a great position to be the championship leader entering Indianapolis 500 qualifying next week. He won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis in 2014 with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports but a gearbox problem caused Pagenaud to be the first retirement in last year's race.

Scott Dixon is second in the championship with a victory, a second, a seventh and a tenth from the first four races. This is the first time Dixon has had four top tens to open a season since 2007. Going back to last season, Dixon has seventh consecutive top ten finishes, his longest stretch since the end of 2014 when he had eight consecutive top tens. Dixon's two Grand Prix of Indianapolis starts have been ruined by contact with Penske drivers. Will Power spun him in 2014 and all Dixon could manage was 15th. Castroneves spun him in the first turn of last year's race and Dixon recovered for tenth.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis. While Montoya has four top tens from the first four races and three top fives from four races, he has not led a lap since his flat tire at Phoenix dropped him from contention for victory. Montoya's 2016 season has been mirroring his 2015 season through four races. Last year, he entered the Grand Prix of Indianapolis with three top fives from the first four races and outside of the first two races of the season Montoya had led only one lap. Montoya did not lead a lap in last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Hélio Castroneves' best finish through four races is third at Long Beach and his worst finish was 11th at Phoenix after he suffered a flat tire. He finished third in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and went on to finish second by 0.0600 seconds to Ryan Hunter-Reay. Last year, Castroneves finished sixth in last year's race after starting third. Castroneves has not entered the Indianapolis 500 with a victory since 2012. Six times has Castroneves entered the Indianapolis 500 with a victory under his belt including in 2001 and 2002. Five of the six times he has finished in the top ten.

Tony Kanaan rounds out the top five of the championship but has yet to stand on the podium. Kanaan has not entered the Indianapolis 500 in the top five of the championship since 2009 when Kanaan was leading the championship by a point over Scott Dixon. In 2013, he was 17th in the championship entering the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan's only victory on a natural-terrain road course was at Sonoma in 2005. His last podium on a natural-terrain road course was at Sonoma in 2008. He has finished tenth and seventh in the previous Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Last year, Graham Rahal finished second at Barber Motorsports Park and followed that up with a second at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis after leading nine laps. It was the first time Rahal had successive podiums since 2011, when he finished second at São Paulo (ironically to Will Power, whom he finished second to last year) and third in the Indianapolis 500 behind Dan Wheldon and J.R. Hildebrand. Rahal has four podiums and five top tens in the six natural-terrain road course races of the aero-kit era.

Will Power has jumped to seventh in the championship after being 22nd with one-point after sitting out the St. Petersburg season-opener due to concerns of a concussion and an inner-ear infection. Power won last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis from pole position. Thirteen of Power's 25 IndyCar victories have come from pole position. Power is on his longest winless drought since going 25 races between victories at São Paulo in 2012 and Sonoma in 2013. Power has only two podiums since his last victory, both on ovals (second in the Indianapolis 500 and third at Phoenix).

Josef Newgarden has jumped to eighth in the championship after a mechanical issue forced a retirement St. Petersburg and left him 21st in the championship. He has finished in the top ten in the last three races and finished third at Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago. Newgarden has never finished on the lead lap at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He finished two laps down in 17th two years ago and was a lap down in 20th last year. His best starting position was 12th last year. 

Last Chance Saloon Before the "500"
Four drivers entered for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis have yet to score top tens through the first four races.

Marco Andretti scored his best finish at Barber Motorsports Park. Despite Andretti's struggles, he has completed all but two laps this season. Andretti has not entered the Indianapolis 500 without a top ten since 2012. He would not score his first top ten that season until he finished second at Iowa in June. Andretti has finished 14th and 16th in his previous two starts on the IMS road course.

Alexander Rossi makes his first appearance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2007 when he ran in Formula BMW USA during the United States Grand Prix weekend. He finished fourth and sixth in his only two starts on the track. Rossi, like his teammate Andretti, he finished in the top fifteen in three of the first four races, has completed all but two laps and his best finish this year is 12th.

Conor Daly has two 13th place finishes to show for his 2016 season so far. His only lead lap finish was at Long Beach. Daly has yet to make it to the second round of qualifying. His best starting position was 13th at Long Beach. He has been out-qualified by his then-Dale Coyne Racing teammate Luca Filippi at all four races this season but Daly has finished ahead of Filippi in three of four races.

Jack Hawksworth has started all three road and street course weekends strong and his teammate Takuma Sato has been getting results but Hawksworth has struggled on Saturdays and Sundays. His average start through four races is 15.0 and average finish is 17.5. Arguably Hawksworth's breakout race was the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, where he started second, led 31 laps and finished seventh, his first career top ten.

The Rookie and The Returnees
The IndyCar grid grows by four entries from the previous round at Barber Motorsports Park. One driver makes his debut while four drivers return to IndyCar.

Matthew Brabham makes his IndyCar debut in the #61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet. The team is partnered with KV Racing. The American Wallaby has 47 starts in the Road to Indy and has 18 victories, including a victory on the IMS road course in Indy Lights in 2014. Brabham won the 2012 U.S. F2000 championship and the 2013 Pro Mazda championship. Brabham could become the first Florida-born driver to win an IndyCar race.

Spencer Pigot returns for his second IndyCar race in the #16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Pigot made his debut at St. Petersburg where he started 21st and finished 14th. Pigot has made four starts on the IMS road course but his track record has been dismal. He finished eighth in both in Pro Mazda starts in 2014 despite starting on pole position in each race and finished seventh and 12th last year in Indy Lights, retiring after an accident three laps into race two. 

J.R. Hildebrand has not be in an IndyCar since finishing eighth in the 99th Indianapolis 500. He is back in the #6 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Hildebrand ran last year's Grand Prix of Indianapolis and finished a lap down in 21st after a mechanical issue. He has not had a top ten on a natural-terrain road course since finishing eight at Sonoma in 2012. Hildebrand's only other top ten on a natural-terrain road course was seventh at Motegi in 2011.

Alex Tagliani makes his Grand Prix of Indianapolis debut in the #35 Alfe Heat Treating A.J. Foyt Racing Honda. This is Tagliani's first non-oval race since finishing tenth in Toronto 2 in 2013. This is his first natural-terrain road course race since Barber 2013 where he finished 11th. He finished 17th in last year's Indianapolis 500 driving for A.J. Foyt Racing and 13th in the 98th Indianapolis 500 driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Gabby Chaves will return to IndyCar this weekend as he will drive the #19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500. The Colombian replaces Luca Filippi, who had started the first four races of 2016. Fillipi had advanced to the second round of qualifying twice this season and his best finish was 16th. Chaves completed all 282 racing laps last May between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500. Chaves finished 15th in the grand prix and 16th in the "500."

The Other Eight
Takuma Sato is ninth in the championship with 90 points. Sato has finished ninth in both editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He has started outside the top fifteen both years.

Ryan Hunter-Reay is three points behind Sato in the championship. After finishing second in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, he finished 11th last year.

Charlie Kimball has never started better than 14th in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, yet he has finished fifth in both editions. He led one lap last year.

James Hinchcliffe suffered a concussion in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis after being hit by debris. He led four laps last year during a pit cycle but finished 12th.

Mikhail Aleshin returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time since 2014. He failed to complete a lap in the inaugural race after being in the start line accident with Sebastián Saavedra and Carlos Muñoz. He started and finished 25th.

Sébastien Bourdais has the best average finish among all drivers in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He has started seventh and finished fourth in each race. He led one lap in 2014.

Carlos Muñoz's average starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is 20.0 and his average finish is 18.5. Muñoz has failed to score a top ten finish in the last three races. He has never finished outside the top ten in four consecutive races in his IndyCar career.

Max Chilton will make his IndyCar debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Last year, he finished fourth and third in the Indy Lights races on the IMS road course. 

Road to Indy
Five different drivers have won the first five races of the Indy Lights season. Carlin's Ed Jones took the championship lead after he won race one and finished second at race two at Barber Motorsports Park. He also finished second at the previous round at Phoenix. Jones has 108 points and is six points ahead of Juncos Racing's Kyle Kaiser. Kaiser retired from race one at Barber but rebounded for a sixth in race two. Félix Serrallés finished second in race two at Barber but a spin in race two cost him the championship lead and he trails his Carlin teammate by 14 points.

Santiago Urrutia scored his first IndyCar victory in race two at Barber and is fourth in the championship, 19 points behind Jones. RC Enerson is seven points behind his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate. Zach Veach has 75 points and is a point ahead of his Belardi Auto Racing teammate Felix Rosenqvist. Dean Stoneman is the top Andretti Autosport driver after picking up his first Indy Lights podium with a third in Barber 2 with 72 points. André Negrao has 70 points and Shelby Blackstock rounds out the top ten with 60 points.

Team Pelfrey's Scott Hargrove is 11th with 57 points and is a point ahead of fellow Canadian Zachary Claman De Melo. Juan Piedrahita is four points behind his teammate Hargrove. Dalton Kellett is a point behind Piedrahita. Neil Alberico has 43 points and Scott Anderson has 39 points.

Last year, Jack Harvey and Sean Rayhall split the races on the IMS road course.

Indy Lights will race at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday and 1:18 p.m. ET Saturday.

Thirteen drivers are entered in Pro Mazda; four are in the National class. Pato O'Ward has won three of four races and leads the championship by 12 points over his Team Pelfrey teammate Aaron Telitz. Telitz has finished in the top ten in all four races this season. O'Ward finished second to Telitz in the second St. Petersburg race. Garett Grist finished third in both Barber races but trails O'Ward by 50 points. Cape Motorsports w/ WTR's Nico Jamin is two points behind Juncos Racing's Grist. Team Pelfrey's Weiron Tan rounds out the top five with 69 points.

Cape Motorsports' Jake Eidson has 64 points and is one ahead of Juncos Racing's Will Owen. Jake Parsons is ten points behind his teammate Owen and Nicolas Dapero has 50 points.

The four National class drivers are Bobby Eberle in the #13 JDC Motorsports entry, Jay Horak in the #37 M1 Racing entry, Kevin Davis in the #44 JDC Motorsports entry and Bob Kaminsky in the #57 Kaminsky Racing, Inc. entry.

Last year, Tan, Neil Alberico and Santiago Urrutia split the three Pro Mazda races at Indianapolis. A third was added to the weekend to make up race for a rain out at NOLA.

Pro Mazda races at 1:55 p.m. ET on Friday and 10:20 a.m. ET Saturday.

Parker Thompson took the championship lead in U.S. F2000 after sweeping the races at Barber. The Canadian has 91 points and the Cape Motorsports driver is 11 points clear of Luke Gabin of JAY Motorsports. Gabin has finished in the top five of all four races and was second in Barber 2. After each picking up a victory and a second at St. Petersburg, Pabst Racing Services drivers Jordan Lloyd and Yufeng Luo are third and fourth respectively in the championship with 78 points and 73 points. Lloyd finished fifth and 20th at Barber while Luo failed to finish in the top ten in either race. Anthony Martin rounds out the top five with 71 points.

Robert Megennis of Team Pelfrey has two third place finishes this season and 66 points, five ahead of Victor Franzoni. Nikita Lastochkin has 57 points, ten ahead of Ayla Årgen. Garth Rickards rounds out the top ten with 42 points, one ahead of Jordan Cane.

Twenty-seven cars are entered in U.S. F2000. Five are National class entries. Nico Jamin swept the U.S. F2000 races on the IMS road course last year on his way to the championship.

U.S. F2000 will be the first race of the weekend at 1:00 p.m. ET Friday. Race two will be at 12:15 p.m. ET Saturday.

Fun Facts
This will be the first IndyCar race to ever take place on May 14th. 

Simon Pagenaud and Will Power are the only two winners of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. 

Pagenaud won from fourth in 2014 and Power won from pole position last year. 

Pagenaud could become the eleventh driver to finish on the podium in the first five races and first since Sébastien Bourdais in 2006. Of the previous ten, only one didn't win the championship. That was Bill Holland in 1949. 

Power has not led a lap this season. This is the first time Power has not led a lap through the first four races since his rookie season in 2006.

The only drivers to have won on both the oval and road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are Alex Lloyd and Jack Harvey. Lloyd won the Liberty Challenge in 2006 and the Freedom 100 in 2007. Harvey won the race one of the Indy Lights weekend and the Freedom 100 last year. 

Juan Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, or Ryan Hunter-Reay could join Lloyd and Harvey as winner on both the IMS oval and road course.

Marco Andretti or Matthew Brabham could become the first driver to win in both Indy Lights and IndyCar on the IMS road course. Andretti won the inaugural Liberty Challenge in 2005. Brabham won race one of the 2014 Indy Lights weekend. 

Chevrolet has won the last 24 pole positions in IndyCar. The last Honda pole position was Simon Pagenaud at Houston 1 in 2014.

The first two editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis have had 12 lead changes and 11 lead changes respectively.

The first two editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis had four cautions for 19 laps and one caution for two laps respectively. 

Possible Milestones:
Should Hélio Castroneves take the green flag, he will make his 316th IndyCar start, moving him passed Johnny Rutherford for sixth all-time. 

Should Tony Kanaan take the green flag, he will make his 315th IndyCar start, tying him with Johnny Rutherford for seventh all-time.

Tony Kanaan needs to lead 41 laps to reach the 4,000 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs to lead 70 laps to reach the 3,000 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs to lead 67 laps to reach the 2,500 laps led milestone.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 10 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 28 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 64 laps to reach the 500 leads led milestone.

James Hinchcliffe needs to lead 76 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Will Power needs one podiums to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Juan Pablo Montoya needs one podium to reach 25 career IndyCar podiums.

Predictions
Honda gets on the board before the Indianapolis 500 and Graham Rahal will be standing on the top step of the podium. Chevrolet takes at least six of the top ten finishers. Scott Dixon will not be hit by a Penske driver. Andretti Autosport finds some fortune and gets two cars in the top ten. Wet-weather tires will be used for at least a portion of this race. There will be no more than seven lead changes. At least eight different countries are represented in the top ten finishers. One Penske finishes in the back half of the field. Sleeper: Charlie Kimball.