Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Popularity Predicament

Let's get this out of the way... This is about bumping for the Indianapolis 500 and James Hinchcliffe and why despite his stature in the series his stature is one of the reasons why he shouldn't be in the Indianapolis 500.

Let's start with the basics... Nobody should get into the Indianapolis 500 because of how popular they are. That is a dangerous precedent to set and a controversial topic for years to come.

None of us should want drivers, regardless of who they are, what they have won or how many Twitters follows they have to get in the race because of their popularity and I am saying this because of the children. Do you really want the message to be to children don't worry about ability as long as you are popular you will get taken care of? It is bad enough now we have a generation of people obsessed with what they say in 280 characters and looking like fools in bullshit YouTube videos. The last thing we need is to say don't worry about work ethic, don't worry about problem solving, don't worry about failing because as long as people like you and retweet you everything will be taken care of and you will get everything you want.

Nobody wants life to be like that and life shouldn't be like that. You should be forced to take failure on the chin and re-evaluate every decision made. People should be broken when things don't go their way. This is a way how better people are made. Some will rise and make sure it never happens again and do everything in their power to learn from this. Other won't and will continue to crumble.

This year it is James Hinchcliffe but who is it next year? If Kyle Busch says he is doing the Indianapolis 500 next year do you want Kyle Busch, to be locked into the field for because of how many Twitter followers he has? Should Arie Luyendyk, Jr. be gifted a spot in the field in 2019 because he was on a reality show? Imagine if Fernando Alonso was bumped from last year's race and the outcry had he been added to the field solely because of the notoriety he brings to the race. Drivers are a big part of the Indianapolis 500 but no driver is bigger than the race.

James Hinchcliffe is a beloved driver in IndyCar and he is a good thing for IndyCar but that should not lock him into the field. Who else should be locked into the field? Should Max Chilton expect to be taken care of if it is him on the outside next year? What about Kyle Kaiser? The last thing IndyCar should want to do is alienate drivers and play favorites.

Nobody should be penciled in. Duke isn't penciled into the Elite Eight of every NCAA Tournament. The New York Yankees isn't penciled into the American League Championship Series each year. Everything is earned. Have a bad regular season? You don't make the playoffs. Have an off night and can't make a three-pointer if your life depended on it? Well, you better hope your opponent is having a worse night than you. Hinchcliffe had his off night in the form of a green racetrack, successful qualifying runs by Oriol Servià and Conor Daly and a tire pressure sensor rattling around while heading out for a qualifying run with less than ten minutes on the clock. Everything that could have gone against him did and those are the worst days in sports.

But we should not get hung up on James Hinchcliffe not being in this race. IndyCar shouldn't want one guy to parade around and specifically this reason. Spread those crumbs around. It is a chance for someone else to step up and make a name for himself or herself and there are plenty of capable people. Josef Newgarden, the defending champion and championship leader, is still in this race. Alexander Rossi, second in the championship, is still in this race. Marco Andretti is still in this race. Graham Rahal is still in this race. Robert Wickens has been the darling of this season and he is still in this race. Ed Carpenter has a chance to be a great story. Scott Dixon and Will Power both have chances to add to their highly successful careers. Simon Pagenaud has a chance of making himself a household name. Sébastien Bourdais could complete the comeback story meant for Hollywood. Ryan Hunter-Reay could end up becoming a two-time Indianapolis 500 winners. Fan favorites Tony Kanaan and Hélio Castroneves are still in this race. Castroneves could become the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s! And Danica Patrick is back in this race.

We cannot focus on who is not there especially when there are many others in this race capable of carrying the torch.

Hinchcliffe aside, bumping should remain at Indianapolis Motor Speedway strictly because of the humbling moment of seeing a beloved figure brought down to earth. It is sports, it is competition and the beauty is we should go in having no idea what could happen. There is nothing better than going to a sporting event without a clue of what will occur and then being able to say for years to come "I was there!" Sports shatter our preconceived notions of what is possible. Just when we think we have saw it all another unexpected moment occurs and we have to redefine what we think is possible.

We need those moments. We need to leave an event repeating to ourselves "James Hinchcliffe isn't going to be in the Indianapolis 500" because we can't believe it to be true. That is the magic of sports; going in thinking we know what will happen and exiting stunned by what previously was thought to be unfathomable.

Track Walk: 102nd Indianapolis 500

We are down to the final days prior to the Indianapolis 500
The sixth round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Josef Newgarden enters as the championship leader with 184 points and he holds an eight-point lead over Alexander Rossi after Newgarden picked up six points for qualifying fourth in this year's race. There are six previous Indianapolis 500 winners in this year's race while 27 drivers look to become the 72nd driver to win the Indianapolis 500. Seven different drivers have won the last seven Indianapolis 500s

Time: Coverage begins at 11:00 a.m. ET on Sunday May 27th. Green flag at 12:21 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.
Race- 12:21 p.m. ET (200 laps).

Carb Day Practice
The traditional Carb Day practice takes place on Friday May 25th and once again it will be the final time for teams to work on their race cars before race day on Sunday.

Last year, Hélio Castroneves and Takuma Sato were the top two drivers in the Carb Day practice session and in the race Sato would beat Castroneves to the finish line for the victory in the 101st Indianapolis 500. Three other drivers who were in the top ten of that Carb Day practice session would finish in the top ten in the race with those three drivers being Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Fernando Alonso and Ryan Hunter-Reay were both in the top ten on Carb Day but had engine failures, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden each retired because of accidents and Graham Rahal finished 12th.

In the post-qualifying Monday practice, Sage Karam was the fastest driver at 226.461 MPH, almost a quarter of a second ahead of Tony Kanaan. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest Honda in third, 0.2901 seconds behind Karam. Charlie Kimball had an impressive session and was fourth fastest with Alexander Rossi, who suffered a tire puncture on his qualifying run that left him 32nd on the grid, fifth in the session.

Will Power was the top Penske driver in sixth with Hélio Castroneves right behind him in seventh. Marco Andretti found himself in the top ten for another session with Pennsylvanian in eighth. Zachary Claman De Melo's first Indianapolis 500 continues to be swell and he was ninth fastest on Monday while Scott Dixon rounded out the top ten ahead of Sébastien Bourdais.

Stefan Wilson and Kyle Kaiser had a respectable Monday in 12th and 13th both within a half-second of Karam's top time with pole-sitter Ed Carpenter in 14th with J.R. Hildebrand in 15th.

A few other notable drivers in Monday's practice session was Graham Rahal in 17th after a rough qualifying weekend, Danica Patrick was 19th with Takuma Sato in 23rd and Robert Wickens in 25th after having an accident in the middle of back straightaway after completing only three laps during the session. Josef Newgarden was 28th while Simon Pagenaud was the slowest driver on Monday.

In last year's Monday practice Max Chilton and Ed Jones were the top two drivers and Jones and Chilton finished third and fourth in the race. Sato was fifth fastest in last year's post-qualifying Monday practice.

Can Honda Repeat Its 2012 Performance?
Chevrolet took the top four positions in qualifying and the American manufacture had nine of the first 12 positions. Andretti Autosport was shut out of the Fast Nine for the first time since 2011. The best Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car and the best Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car are both on row six. The final six cars on the grid are Hondas. After two consecutive years with Honda entering as the favorite, it appears the pendulum has swung to Chevrolet.

However, in 2012, Chevrolet took eight of the top nine and had nine of the top 12 times. The best Chip Ganassi Racing entry was 12th. The best Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was in 19th. It appeared the race was set to be a battle between three Chevrolets from Team Penske and three Chevrolets from Andretti Autosport. In the race, the Ganassi Hondas of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were first and second at the halfway points. Marco Andretti did lead a race-high 59 laps but Honda teams led a combined 112 laps and the next highest number of laps led by a Chevrolet entry was 15 laps by pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe. Nine of the 16 lead lap finishers that year were Honda entries. In the closing laps it was a three-car battle between Franchitti, Dixon and Takuma Sato for the victory. Dixon led 53 laps in the race while Sato led 31 laps and Franchitti led 23 laps on his way to victory.

Ganassi took the top two positions in thnexte race in 2012 with three other Hondas from two additional teams also making it into the top ten. Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson finished seventh with Ganassi's Charlie Kimball in eighth and Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports' Townsend Bell coming home in ninth. All five of Honda's top ten finishers in that year's race started on row four or further back.

Freedom 100
The Carb Day tradition of the Freedom 100 continues and the 16th edition of the race features eight entries.

Patricio O'Ward enters as the championship leader with 145 points, one ahead of his Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta. O'Ward will be the fourth Mexican driver to attempt the Freedom 100 and a Mexican driver has never finished in the top five in this race. Herta made his Freedom 100 debut last year but his race did not make it through the first lap after contact with teammate Ryan Norman. Norman is back for this year's race. He is fifth in the championship on 105 points. Dalton Kellett has finished third the last two years in the Freedom 100. The Canadian is seventh in the championship on 87 points.

Santiago Urrutia returns for his third Freedom 100 start. He finished fifth last year and he is third in the championship on 139 points. Aaron Telitz is coming off a pair of podium finishes in the IMS road course races and he finished second last year in the Freedom 100 behind Matheus Leist. Telitz is sixth in the championship on 98 points. Victor Franzoni finds himself fourth in the championship on 119 points. Davey Hamilton, Jr. will make his Freedom 100 debut driving for Team Pelfrey. It is his first Indy Lights appearance since the 2016 season finale at Laguna Seca.

Eight different drivers have won the last eight Freedom 100s. Four different teams have won the last four Freedom 100s. This will be the smallest grid in the history of the event. The previous smallest grid size was 11 cars in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The Freedom 100 will take place at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday May 25th.

Carb Night Classic From Indianapolis Raceway Park
After a year off, the Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 series are back at Indianapolis Raceway Park for races during the Carb Night Classic.

Through six Pro Mazda races Exclusive Autosport's Parker Thompson leads the championship with 150 points with the Canadian having two victories, two runner-up finishes and two fifth-place finishes. Juncos Racing's Rinus VeeKay trails Thompson by 22 points and VeeKay is eight points ahead of teammate Carlos Cunha. RP Motorsport's Harrison Scott has won two of the last three races and the British driver heads into his first oval race fourth in the championship on 106 points. David Malukas rounds out the top five on 105 points while reigning U.S. F2000 champion Oliver Askew sits on 102 points in sixth.

Askew won last year in the only U.S. F2000 oval race at Iowa ahead of VeeKay while Cunha finished third in the only Pro Mazda race on last year's schedule at Gateway.

Kyle Kirkwood and Alexandre Baron each have two victories and a runner-up finish this season but Kirkwood holds the championship lead on 106 points as he has a fifth place finish to Baron's 22nd, leaving the American 13 points clear of the Frenchman. José Sierra has two podium finishes this season but he is 42 points behind Kirkwood in the championship. Igor Fraga and Julian van der Watt round out the top five on 55 points and 54 points respectively.

Darren Keane is a point outside the top five with Calvin Ming on 49 points in seventh. Lucas Kohl and Kory Enders are tied on 45 points while Rasmus Lindh rounds on the 41 points.

One storyline to check out in the U.S. F2000 race is Aaron Telitz, who will compete only hours after he will have run the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Telitz will drive the #14 Mazda for ArmsUp Motorsports.

The U.S. F2000 race will lead off the night at 6:05 p.m. ET on Friday May 25th and the race is scheduled for 75 laps. The 90-lap Pro Mazda race will take place at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Fun Facts
This will be the eighth Indianapolis 500 to take place on May 27th (1972, 1979, 1984, 1990, 2001, 2007 and 2012). The winners of those races are Mark Donohue, Rick Mears, Rick Mears, Arie Luyendyk, Hélio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Dario Franchitti.

Two other IndyCar races have been held on May 27th. Tom Kincaid won the Prestolite Trophy Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1910 and Gil de Ferran won at Nazareth in 2000.

Last year's Indianapolis 500 was the first to average under 160 MPH since 2009.

Last year's race was the first to have the final lead change not occur in the final four laps since 2010.

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

This year's grid features...

14 Americans.

Four Britons.

Three Brazilians.

Two Frenchmen.

Two Canadians.

Two Australians.

Two Colombians.

One New Zealander.

One Japanese.

One Spaniard and...

One Emirati.

Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden, Gabby Chaves, Jack Harvey and Matheus Leist could become the first driver to win the Freedom 100 and the Indianapolis 500.

Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Sébastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Ed Jones and Kyle Kaiser 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 pole-sitter has failed to win the last eight Indianapolis 500s.

The only time the driver who led the most laps has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 in the DW12-era was Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.

The average starting position for an Indianapolis 500 winner is 7.58 with a median of five.

Last year, Takuma Sato became the first Indianapolis 500 winner in the DW12-era to win the race from inside the top ten on the grid. Sato started fourth in last year's race.

The average number of lead change in the Indianapolis 500 is 13.227 with a median of ten.

The average number of cautions in the Indianapolis 500 is 7.79 with a median of eight. The average number of caution laps is 44.418 with a median of 44.

This will be the 69th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone.

This will be the 18th Indianapolis 500 victory for Dallara. Dallara is the all-time leader in Indianapolis 500 victories for chassis manufactures.

If Honda wins it will be the manufacture's 13th Indianapolis 500 victory, breaking a tie with Miller for second all-time in engine manufacture victories.

If Chevrolet wins it will be the manufacture's tenth Indianapolis 500 victory, putting it level with Cosworth for fourth all-time.

Possible Milestones:
Hélio Castroneves is one top five finish away from moving into sole possession of fourth-most top five finish all-time.

Ryan Hunter-Reay needs to lead 170 laps to reach the 1,500 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 92 laps to reach the 1,000 laps led milestone.

Takuma Sato needs to lead 33 laps to reach the 500 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 40 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 90 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

I normally don't pick a winner for the Indianapolis 500 but this year I will make an exception because I will take Danica Patrick to win the race because if she does win I look good, she is at 20/1 odds so that could be a good pay day and if she doesn't win it now then she will likely never win it... because she is retiring. There will be over 24 lead changes. Caution laps will be less than the average. Alexander Rossi finishes at least 20 points better than his starting position. At least two Penske drivers finish outside the top ten. Fewer than three Honda teams will suffer engine failures. Sleeper: Charlie Kimball.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: I Don't Know What I Am Writing

Ed Carpenter won his third Indianapolis 500 pole position. NASCAR held an exhibition race. Rain and fog delayed Saturday at Mosport for Pirelli World Challenge. There was a championship lead in the World Rally Championship! Jenson Button finished second again in Super GT and he and Naoki Yamamoto lead the championship! Nissan announced it was withdrawing from the Supercars series and then went out and won the first race after said announcement. In other lame duck seasons for manufactures, Mercedes-Benz continues to win in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters. Formula E was also in Germany. Moto3 had a jaw-dropping final lap and the winner wasn't even decided until after the final lap. Kudos to Jakub Kornfeil for jumping another bike and nailing the landing in a gravel trap. World Touring Car Cup will race twice on Monday. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

I Don't Know What I Am Writing
The title says it all. I don't know where I am going with it but last week while watching the World Touring Car Cup and 24 Hours of Nürburgring run the Nordschleife and then turning on the Formula One race from Barcelona got me thinking what the hell is going on. The Nordschleife is a marvel. Barcelona is boring.

Formula One had spectacular racetracks. There were few bores on the schedule. Besides the Nordschleife you had Spa-Francorchamps and the original Hockenheimring and going way back you had Reims. Full-throttle circuits. Circuits that pushed the cars to the limits. Barcelona doesn't do that. The new Hockenheim doesn't do that. Neither does the Hungaroring. This is part of the problem with Formula One and many racing series. The racetracks are dull. Half you can't tell from the others. It is as many corners as possible jammed into three miles of asphalt.

To be fair to Formula One, there are still some good circuits. Spa-Francorchamps is still a breath-taking circuit in its shorter form. Monza is magnificent. Montreal always puts on a good race. Baku is 40% dull but the other 60% is great.

I was trying to think of a better circuit in Spain for Formula One to go to but Spain has a dozen circuits and all are worse than the other for automobile racing. They are all great for motorcycles but my goodness they are dull for cars.

We need circuits that put everyone on edge. Imagine if Formula One ran the Nordschleife and Bathurst. Formula One is looking to race in Miami. That's nice but how many times have we had a Formula One street circuit in United States in hopes to spark an inferno of Formula One fans? The answer is five and none of them made it more than a decade and three of them didn't even make it to year four. We are seeing crowds shrink and part of the reason is because we know what type of race certain tracks will produce. We know what a race at Barcelona is going to look like. We know how Monaco, Hungary, Germany and Singapore are going to play out. A place like the Nordschleife and Bathurst are so unpredictable that speed is great but it can bite a driver out. You have to massively fuck up at a modern racetrack for it to cost you a race. A minor overcorrection at the Nordschleife or Bathurst can end your day.

Ten years ago I would have never thought NASCAR would add restrictor plate races to the schedule but after this weekend's All-Star Race it seems like everyone wants restrictor plate races on mile-and-a-half racetracks now. What once was a safety measure has now become a leash to reign in all the teams and knowing NASCAR we will have restrictor plates at every non-short track in 2019. What is the point of that? What is the point of building race cars that can exceed 200 MPH when you are going to limit them to 160 MPH on intermediate ovals and have every driver never have to lift off the gas? It seems like there is a smarter and more affordable way to do this.

It also has me wondering can we as race fans appreciate anything other than 75 million passes? Does the lead have to be constantly changing? Does anyone really care about the skill it takes to drive a race car?

We talk about what it takes to get people interested in racing and the various series of the world. I feel like we get lost in the bullshit. Just be exciting. Leave people saying, "Wow!" If you aren't do that then what is the point? Are bursts of speeds on city streets enough before a 90º right-hander enough? Every dickhead thinks he can stand on the gas before slamming on the brakes and making a right turn. Just because the car is going 175 MPH doesn't make it impressive. It only makes it fast.

In a month will be the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. That is impressive. Screaming up a mountain with no runoff. It is bonkers but something the everyday outsider would see and know he couldn't do. The problem is these thrilling event have been relegated to the periphery of motorsports. Instead of holding a prominent place for people to see, these events are kept aside for only cult followings. Meanwhile, the series with all the money continue to go to boring venues and hope luxury items in fan areas and playing with downforce levels will do the trick.

And on top of all that there has to be a balance of being something people need to see in person and people want to watch at home. A race needs to get people within driving distance out of their homes because they have to see it in person and for those unable to travel to the venue it has to be something they have to watch immediately. There isn't a motorsports series currently doing that.

Like I said, I don't know what I am writing. It is a compilation of thoughts that have occurred over the last week. Things feel different. This May has flown by and it seems like the Indianapolis 500 shouldn't be here already. When there were two weekends of qualifying and two weeks of practice every day was exciting. You would think with everything being condensed to one week of practice, one weekend of qualifying and the return of Bump Day I should be satisfied but something is missing. I have followed along to every practice session and invested heavily in qualifying weekend. I have listened to Donald Davidson, done ridiculous independent research in my spare time for odd Indianapolis 500 facts and read everything and watched everything I could surrounding this year's race. I have done the same things each May for as long as I can remember and yet I feel different.

The Indianapolis 500 feels more like an event we are hurrying to get through and not enjoying. Maybe that is just the times we live in. I can live with this current schedule and there is no good argument as to why two weeks of practice and two qualifying weekends should return but I feel unfulfilled.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Ed Carpenter but did you know....

Marc Márquez won the French Grand Prix, his third consecutive victory. Francesco Bagnaia won in Moto2, his third victory of the season. Albert Arenas won in Moto3, his first career victory.

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR All-Star Race. Johnny Sauter won the Truck race.

Daniel Abt won the Berlin ePrix, his second victory of the season.

Daniel Morad and Álvaro Parente split the Pirelli World Challenge GT races at Mosport. Lawson Aschenbach swept the weekend in GTS.

Rick Kelly and Fabian Coulthard split the Supercars races at Winton Motor Raceway.

Edoardo Mortara and Gary Paffett split the DTM races from Lausitzring.

The #8 ARTA Honda of Tomoki Nojiri and Takuya Izawa won the Super GT race at Suzuka. The #96 K-Tunes Racing LM Corsa Lexus of Yuichi Nakayama and Morio Nitta won in GT300.

Thierry Neuville won Rally de Portugal and took the World Rally Championship lead from Sébastien Ogier.

The #76 R-Motorsport Aston Martin of Jake Dennis, Nicki Thiim and Matthieu Vaxivière won the Blancpain Endurance Series 3 Hours of Silverstone.

Yann Ehrlacher won the first World Touring Car Cup race from Zandvoort. Two races will be held today.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 102nd Indianapolis 500.
The 76th Monaco Grand Prix.
The 59th Coca-Cola 600.
The 16th Freedom 100. Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 will be at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Pirelli World Challenge will be at Lime Rock Park.
Donington Park hosts World Superbikes.
Super Formula will be at Sportsland SUGO.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

First Impressions: 102nd Indianapolis 500 Pole Day

1. Ed Carpenter. He good. This shouldn't surprise you. How many times has Carpenter answered the call at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? He has something that is worth an extra MPH. Today it paid off greatly. He was the only one to have a lap break the 230 MPH average, he was the only driver with a four-lap average over 229 MPH. He is the one guy ahead of Team Penske... at least when it comes to Indianapolis 500 qualifying. How many more years can he be this fast and not have it work out during the race? Time is ticking away and it isn't getting easier for Carpenter.

2. Next to Carpenter on row one will be Simon Pagenaud and Will Power. Neither have an Indianapolis 500 victory. All the Penske drivers have been strong but can one take control of the race and make it theirs? On the inside of row two will be Josef Newgarden. Once again, he doesn't have his work cut out for himself. It feels like this could be a case of Penske could beat itself.

3. Sébastien Bourdais will start fifth, the best Honda on the grid. He is carrying the flag and he appears up for the task. If there is anything we have learned from the first five races this season is this little team has a cool head and it will make sure it is there at the end.

4. Spencer Pigot had not started better than 13th in his first 26 IndyCar starts. In his last start he rolled off from ninth on the grid for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. For his third Indianapolis 500 he will start sixth. This will only be Pigot's fourth oval start. His starting positions in the other three were 29th, 29th and 15th. This could be a big boost for his season but he has to remain calm. This is a long race. He is in a great position but he could throw it away.

5. Danica Patrick will start seventh for her eighth Indianapolis 500. I thought she would be solidly in the middle of the field, say 18th, but the combination of Ed Carpenter Racing and Chevrolet's advantage was in her favor. She knows this race. She can win it.

6. Hélio Castroneves didn't have the legs on Sunday and how the conditions turned against the Brazilian moments after Carpenter laid down the run of the day. To Castroneves' right will be Scott Dixon. Two veterans, two of the most successful drivers in the last twenty years in IndyCar. We may never these two on the same row again.

7. Quick round down of the final eight rows of the grid:

A.J. Foyt Racing looked good. Tony Kanaan is tenth with Matheus Leist the top rookie in 11th and James Davison went from the bubble yesterday to 19th today. No one would be surprised if Kanaan was in the top five with five to go. We have seen rookies do well in qualifying and get caught out in the race so Leist might fall back but every time Davison has started this race he has started deep in the field and made a lot of passes. Now he is in the middle of the grid. I think Davison could be a sleeper for a top ten finish.

Andretti Autosport looked good with Marco Andretti 12th and Ryan Hunter-Reay 14th but Alexander Rossi was going to be amidst these two before his qualifying went to hell and he will start 32nd. I think Andretti and Hunter-Reay will get into the discussion. Carlos Muñoz is starting 21st but we know what he can do. Stefan Wilson is two positions behind Muñoz with Veach two spots behind Wilson. I think Rossi can work his way to the front. The team just got the set up wrong for that qualifying run. If we have learned anything from two and a quarter seasons watching Rossi is he is methodical. This is a setback for him but he can overcome it.

Zachary Claman De Melo qualified 13th and that is great for him. Once again, the race is another animal but he wasn't supposed to be in this car 14 days ago. This was an impressive outing.

Charlie Kimball qualified 15th and Max Chilton qualified 20th in what has to be a confidence-building weekend for Carlin.

Takuma Sato ended up 16th but Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was still off with Oriol Servià in 26th and Graham Rahal in 30th. Maybe this team will race better but it has to questioning itself.

Kyle Kaiser had another positive day in 17th.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has hit its first bad weekend of the season. The best Robert Wickens could do was 18th. Jay Howard dropped to 28th. Jack Harvey was 31st in the Meyer Shank Racing entry that is partnered with SPM. It has all gone wrong at an inopportune time but the good news is, while this was a terrible weekend and a bad weekend for it to go wrong, the team has a chance to turn it around in the race.

8. It appears more and more likely James Hinchcliffe will not be in the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Jay Howard isn't budging. Sam Schmidt talked to Dale Coyne about opening a seat but neither Zachary Claman De Melo nor Conor Daly are moving. Oriol Servià is set in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan/Scuderia Corsa entry. The week is still young. Maybe some money will appear and a spot will open but if it doesn't, the Indianapolis 500 will live without Hinchcliffe. If this race can survive Bobby Rahal, Al Unser, Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and 12 years of the split then it can live without the driver Honda selected to be its poster boy.

9. However, if James Hinchcliffe does get a spot on the grid it will no be the end of the world, Bump Day would not have been invalidated and life would go on. Remember how upset people were when Ryan Hunter-Reay replaced Bruno Junqueira? IndyCar didn't collapse after that. People didn't stop going to the Indianapolis 500. It isn't the end of the world and instead of trying to legislate out any possible driver changes let's let it be. If a team wants to change its driver and thinks it can put a better driver in the field then so be it. And there is no need to change the rule and pay points to the driver that qualified the car. What happens if a driver is too ill to qualify? Or a driver has a death in the family and has to miss qualifying weekend? Remember a few years ago at Pocono when Ryan Briscoe didn't qualify the car because he had to race at Lime Rock Park in the American Le Mans Series and he started at the back of the field the following day at Pocono. Who would get the points then? Trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist only creates more problems.

10. Let's talk about aero kits. Everybody seemed happy with the look of the universal aero kit. But as we have learned this aero kit is different than the aero kits of the last three seasons and while creating a big tow for cars far back, the cars now experience a big wash when trying to make a pass and it unsettles drivers. People are worried that the race has been ruined. First, relax. When the last six Indianapolis 500s each had more lead changes than the prior 95 you are playing with house money. This race could have 20 lead changes, well off the average for the DW12-era but it would still be a great number and probably a fantastic race.

However, people will still be pissed even if they despised the aero kits only because of its looks? So was the change worth it? Are the instability, extra difficulty and lower speeds worth it?

11. One final thing when it comes to qualifying format and the two qualifying lanes: If we are going to have this format I can live with two qualifying lanes. I would prefer one lane and simplifying it but if you are 12th after your first run and you know there is no chance to get back into the field tomorrow, why go out and try to make the Fast Nine if it meant risking your time? The non-withdrawal line promotes teams taking the racetrack, which provides more action and keeps the track busy. People want cars on track. They get antsy over an empty racetrack.

Yesterday was a bit of a cluttered day and the fight to get into the field took all attention away from the fight to get into the Fast Nine. I think we will see a change to qualifying format next year. Mostly because I think IndyCar is going to make sure it covers its ass and does all it can to make sure someone the likes of Hinchcliffe does not fail to make the race again. I was thinking about this today but instead of making everyone 33rd to 10th re-qualify to set the grid, what if Saturday went along and decided the Fast Nine and set the field and on Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m. was for filling whatever positions remained opened and bumping with the Fast Nine starting at 5:00 p.m. ET? I am just throwing something at the wall.

Whether it reverts to Pole Day/Bump Day or another new format I expect something different for 2019.

12. Practice tomorrow and then a week full of media obligations before Carb Day on Friday. One week boys and girls. One week.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

First Impressions: 102nd Indianapolis 500 Bump Day

1. We can only start with James Hinchcliffe being bumped from the Indianapolis 500. Most likely had him toward the top of the timesheet. Maybe not the Fast Nine but first half of the grid. Nobody saw this coming. I didn't see this coming. The man who entered this weekend fifth in the championship after five consecutive top ten finishes to start the season had all the breaks go against him. He was the first to track the track after the first rain delay. A rubber-less surface cooking in post-storm sunshine and it caught him off guard. 

You cannot blame him for waiting to make his second attempt until he had to. There are too many risks. Withdrawing and crashing. Not withdrawing and crashing. Confidence shaken in an unfamiliar situation leads to conservative decision-making. You don't go until your hand is forced. 

Hindsight is 20/20. It is a blessing. It is a curse. Yes, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports should have had in at the front of the non-withdrawal line earlier or just put him in the withdrawal line behind the re-qualifiers of Oriol Servià and Conor Daly and been on the offensive but the offensive can get you burned. We saw that in 2010 with Paul Tracy and Jay Howard. Both drivers withdrew times neither were comfortable with and they ended up on the outside while Sebastián Saavedra, laid up in a hospital bed after a practice crash earlier in Bump Day, got into the field. 

It all comes down to timing and everything that could go wrong at the worst time did for Hinchcliffe. 

2. With that said, do not be surprised if James Hinchcliffe starts the 102nd Indianapolis 500 next week. This is a business. This is a team sport. Jay Howard is the sacrificial lamb. He should have known from the start. There is no guarantee Howard will get the hook for Hinchcliffe but who is fifth in the championship? Who is Honda's poster boy? Who has the full season sponsor? Who is more likely to give you a shot at winning the Indianapolis 500? 

If it happens or it doesn't I will not be surprised by either. SPM might respect what Howard did today in getting his car to 18th. After all, there is still a qualifying round tomorrow. Does SPM wait, let Howard qualify and then pull him for Hinchcliffe and have Hinchcliffe start 33rd or pull Howard before tomorrow, have Hinchcliffe qualify and get to keep the starting position? Oh, we are getting ahead of ourselves. 

3. James Hinchcliffe was not the only one on the outside. Pippa Mann failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in her career. The ABC broadcast closed with a weeping Mann hunched over while photographers took the official post-qualifying photos. She looked on the verge of collapsing from disappointment. Two drivers were always going to miss. It was never going to be a pretty sight. 

4. Moving to the front of the grid and the only question is how did Honda get it this wrong? After being the dominant manufacture the last two years, Honda has two cars in the Fast Nine. Andretti Autosport was shutout of the Fast Nine for the first time since 2011. Alexander Rossi came close but he along with his five teammates, the Foyt drivers of Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist and Ed Jones to name a few shooting for tenth tomorrow. 

5. It seemed like a Team Penske pole position waiting to happen but Ed Carpenter jumped up and split Hélio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Will Power rounded out the top four with Sébastien Bourdais in fifth. Spencer Pigot had his best day ever at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was sixth with Josef Newgarden in seventh. Scott Dixon had a second attempt move him up to eighth while Danica Patrick rounded out the top nine. 

Carpenter has proved multiple times to spoil the Penske party but we would not be surprised if the likes of Pagenaud, Power and/or Newgarden jumped up the order and dropped Carpenter to row two. Outside of Newgarden, it is hard to imagine anyone outside the top four winning pole position. The Chevrolets have the legs over the Hondas. Bourdais will give it ago but barring a few cars getting hit by big gusts of winds or surges in track temperature he should be happy with a spot on row two, same with Dixon. 

6. I want to talk about Danica Patrick because everyone else is talking about Danica Patrick. Over the years I have avoided slipping into the Patrick-hysteria with everyone focusing on her regardless of her position in NASCAR and I never wandered into the what ifs of a return to IndyCar. Now she is here and she is another competitor. Her personality might put people off and all she has to show for her career is one victory over ten years ago at Twin Ring Motegi but she is someone special at Indianapolis.

Her average finish in seven Indianapolis 500 starts is 8.714 with six top ten finishes in this race. Of 248 drivers that have made at least five Indianapolis 500 starts she ranks eighth all-time in average finish. Eighth out of 248! Bill Holland, Ted Horn, Jimmy Murphy, Harry Hartz, Hélio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon and Carlos Muñoz are the seven drivers ahead of her. Even if she finishes 33rd next week her average finish will be 11.75, tied with Michael Andretti and ahead of Arie Luyendyk, Bobby Rahal, Jim Clark and A.J. Foyt to name a few. 

Numbers don't tell the whole story but shit, at worst she will end her career with top ten finishes in 75% of her Indianapolis 500 starts. What more could you ask of a driver?  I will not say she is one of the greatest driver all-time or one of the greatest drivers not to win the Indianapolis 500 but I will say, regardless of next week's result, Danica Patrick was a damn fine driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Anyone who argues against it doesn't know what they are talking about. 

7. Outside of those already mentioned, who deserves some acknowledgment? 

How about the briefly mentioned Carlos Muñoz? He was 16th today and we know he can do better but he is an underrated driver and should be full-time. I think Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing deserves a shout for being 21st after many pegged him to be in the bumping discussion after some less than stellar practice days.

Oriol Servià deserves some praise after a handful of qualifying attempts gone wrong and really we should talk about Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as a whole. What is missing from this team, especially at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Takuma Sato was the team's best qualifier and he was 29th! Graham Rahal was 30th with Servià in 31st! This has to be the team's wake up call that something has to change for Indianapolis. Rahal has been getting results this year and pending Hinchcliffe's status for race day Rahal could be the only driver with top ten finishes in the first six races of the season but he has been doing it from terrible starting positions this season. This team isn't lost but it needs some direction. 

Just behind the RLLR trio was Conor Daly and again he finds himself looking for a break. It was unfortunate that he lost his ride with A.J. Foyt Racing after last year. Results were improving in a lame duck and learning year for the team, as the team had just switched to Chevrolet and was strapped with the Chevrolet aero kit for one season. Daly catches a lot of shit but he isn't a schlub. His return to Dale Coyne Racing has been rougher than expected and while DCR has the ability to get Bourdais into the fight for pole position it shows it is still a minnow as its other three cars were 26th for Zachary Claman De Melo, 32nd for Daly and out of the field for Mann.  

Finally, shout out to James Davison because he seemed to be on the verge of a breakdown after his accident yesterday. He got in by the skin of his teeth. I can only imagine the relief he had to feel. But once again we see an additional Indianapolis 500 entry struggle while full-time entries are comfortably in the field. Kanaan and Leist both were in the conversation for the Fast Nine. Davison was outside the top thirty for pretty much the entire week. Somebody has to go home but I didn't expect this big of disparity between Davison and the other two Foyt drivers. 

8. Rules... Where to begin? 

How about with the format? 

A lot happened today and this showed a problem with Bump Day coming first. You had at least four cars trying to fight for the final positions while other teams wanted to go for the Fast Nine but simultaneously those teams hoping to move into the Fast Nine weren't go to risk withdrawing their times and I think the two lanes worked today. It is a bit confusing and we can debate over the idea of there being a safety net but with this being the only day to make the field I do not blame teams only going out if they had a time to sit on as insurance. 

I would love to go back to one lane and teams having to withdraw a time if they want to re-qualify but only if you had two days to make the field. Without the two lanes nobody would roll the dice to go out for a second shot at making the Fast Nine. The risk was not worth the reward. If there were two days to make the field, Pole Day leading off on Saturday and then Bump Day on Sunday, teams would feel fine withdrawing times and going for the Fast Nine. You would have a percentage of the field that felt it had a shot, another percentage that would know it couldn't make the Fast Nine but were not in danger of being bumped and that final fraction of the field sweating into Sunday.

IndyCar knows the current Indianapolis 500 qualifying format is a clusterfuck. Let's simplify this and reverting to the previous format would not be regression for IndyCar. There is no need for hoops. It should be straightforward. I like the Fast Nine session. We could keep that. But let's go back to Pole Day being 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday with an hour break before the Fast Nine starting at 5:00 p.m. ET. Then have Bump Day be open from noon to 6:00 p.m. ET on Sunday with practice throughout the day for team's already qualified and ending the need for the Monday practice. 

9. I guess that is the only rule I wanted to talk about. This used to be the feeling at the end of the weekend. Now we have to try and roll out of bed and get excited for the run for pole position tomorrow. There is a bit of emptiness tonight. You watched two people get crushed. Tomorrow there will euphoria. Will we be over what happened the day before? Sleep tight. 

102nd Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Preview

After four practice days and five practice sessions we have reached the qualifying weekend for the 102nd Indianapolis 500. Two drivers will not making it beyond this weekend but one driver will get the honor of starting on pole position. This year will see the pole-sitter earn nine championship points with each position from second to ninth in the Fast Nine session earning one fewer point.

Who is in Play For the Fast Nine?
Will Power had the fastest no-tow lap during Friday practice at 229.780 MPH. He was the only driver to break into the 229 MPH bracket while teammate Josef Newgarden was second-quickest on the no-tow board at 228.993 MPH. Simon Pagenaud made it a Penske 1-2-3 as the Frenchman was 0.136 MPH slower than Newgarden.

Ed Carpenter made it a sweep of the top four for Chevrolet at 228.740 MPH with Sébastien Bourdais the top Honda in fifth at 228.657 MPH. Spencer Pigot and Danica Patrick made it three Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolets in the top seven with Pigot at 228.424 MPH and Patrick at 228.284 MPH. Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top nine at 228.193 MPH and 227.996 MPH respectively.

Rookie Robert Wickens was tenth quickest on the no-tow board at 227.996 MPH with Hélio Castroneves at 227.895 MPH in 11th and Marco Andretti 12th at 227.817 MPH.

Andretti was the fastest overall on Friday with the American running a lap at 231.802 MPH and he was fastest overall on Wednesday as well. Andretti has been in the top five of every practice session this week.

Scott Dixon was 13th fastest on the no-tow report on Friday at 227.741 MPH and he was in the top ten of the first four practice sessions this week before being 21st on Friday. Dixon missed part of Friday's session due to a migraine. Matheus Leist was a confidence-boosting 14th on the no-tow report at 227.687 MPH with Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the top fifteen at 227.563 MPH.

One other driver to watch is Sage Karam. The Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver had been in the top ten in three of four practice sessions prior to Friday but the Pennsylvanian was 26th fastest overall and 30th on the no-tow report.

Who is in Danger? 
Graham Rahal and James Davison were 34th and 35th fastest on the no-tow report Friday and each driver was 33rd and 34th overall respectively. Rahal's best no-tow lap was at 225.375 MPH while Davison was the only driver not to crack 225 MPH without a tow as the Australian topped out at 224.678 MPH.

Davison had an accident exiting turn two during the Friday session while searching for speed. Davison's car is undergoing repairs and if he is not able to make his guaranteed attempt during Saturday's qualifying session he will get a shot to make the field in a "Last Chance Qualifying" session on Sunday prior to the start of the Sunday qualifying session to determine the order of rows four through eleven.

Provisionally on the bubble was Kyle Kaiser. The Juncos Racing driver was 33rd fastest at 226.038 MPH. Pippa Mann was only 0.044 MPH faster than Kaiser. Jay Howard was 31st quickest, 0.100 MPH faster than Kaiser with the previously mentioned Karam in 30th at 226.302 MPH.

Jack Harvey was the slowest driver overall on Friday but the Meyer Shank Racing driver was 27th on the no-tow report at 226.610 MPH.

Rahal has had a perplexing week. While he spent two days outside the top thirty overall, he was fastest overall on Thursday. His teammate Oriol Serivà was fourth overall on Friday but 20th on the no-tow board at 227.168 MPH. Takuma Sato was 24th overall on Friday and 25th on the no-tow report at 226.827 MPH.

Who Should be Happy With Where They Are At?
Both Carlin drivers. Charlie Kimball has had a good week of practice and he was in the top ten on two practice days with Kimball fifth fastest on Wednesday. He was in the middle of the timesheet overall on Friday in 18th but he was 16th on the no-tow board at 227.406 MPH. His teammate Max Chilton has not been as good as Kimball with his best overall practice day result being 17th but he was 24th on the no-tow board on Friday at 226.845 MPH despite last year's fourth place finisher in the Indianapolis 500 being 32nd overall.

Dale Coyne Racing drivers Zachary Claman De Melo and Conor Daly should be feeling much better heading into Saturday. Claman De Melo was a late addition to the entry list in place of the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. After a few days to get his feet under him, Claman De Melo has warmed to the task and he was 19th on the no-tow board on Friday at 227.186 MPH. Daly was also toward the bottom of the timesheet in the early part of the week but he found some pace and was 26th on the no-tow chart at 226.752 MPH.

Who Has Not Yet Been Mentioned?
Stefan Wilson, Gabby Chaves, Ed Jones, Carlos Muñoz, Zach Veach, James Hinchcliffe and J.R. Hildebrand.

Their respective positions overall on Friday were ninth, 11th, 17th, 22nd, 28th, 29th and 30th.

Their respective no-tow positions on Friday were 29th, 28th, 21st, 17th, 23rd and 18th.

What is the Qualifying Order?
Claman De Melo is the first primary car in the qualifying order with Hunter-Reay, and Harvey next in the order. Castroneves is slated to be the first Chevrolet to take the track before Pigot and the ironic pairing of Dixon and Howard. Jones will follow before Rahal being the ninth qualifier ahead of his teammate Servià being the tenth qualifier.

Pagenaud and Hinchcliffe follow with Davison slated to go out 13th should his car be repaired in time. Bourdais will follow the driver who replaced him in last year's race with Patrick being the 15th qualifier. Kaiser, Chilton, Wilson, Leist, and Daly round out the first twenty qualifiers.

Rossi and Hildebrand will be the 21st and 22nd qualifiers ahead of Andretti and Veach. Wickens will go out 25th ahead of Chaves, Karam and Muñoz with reigning champion Newgarden following as the 29th qualifier and Power will be after his teammate.

The final five qualifiers will be Kanaan, Mann, Sato, Kimball and Carpenter.

What is the Weather Forecast?
Saturday calls for thunderstorms with an 80% chance of precipitation. Scattered thunderstorms are forecasted throughout the entire day with the storms likely not clearing the area until 6:00 p.m. ET. The high will be 80º F.

Sunday's forecast also has an 80% chance of precipitation with storms not starting until around 2:00 p.m. ET. and continuing into the evening. The high will be 87º F.

In case you are wondering, thunderstorms are forecasted for Monday but there is only a 60% chance of precipitation with a high of 81º F.

What is the Qualifying Weekend Schedule?
Saturday will begin with practice. The field will be split into two groups with one group practicing from 8:00-8:30 a.m. ET with the other on track from 8:30-9:00 a.m. ET before both groups will be allowed on track from 9:00-9:30 a.m. ET.

Day one qualifying will begin at 11:00 a.m. ET and will conclude at 5:50 p.m. ET.

Sunday qualifying could begin with a Last Chance Qualifying session for any driver that does not complete their guaranteed attempt on Saturday. Tentatively, Sunday qualifying will begin at 2:45 p.m. ET with Group One qualifying determining rows four through eleven. The Fast Nine session will begin at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What to Watch For During 102nd Indianapolis 500 Practice Week?

With Indianapolis 500 practice week about to begin there are a lot of questions on our minds. From the manufacture battle between Honda and Chevrolet to the championship battle, new teams to old teams, streak to slumps, rookies to veterans, we have a lot of questions and it appears there will be bumping for this year's race.

This preview of practice week will ask one question about each team. We start with the defending Indianapolis 500 winning team:

Andretti Autosport: Can It Keep Up Its Total Team Assault?
Andretti Autosport was a mess after 2011. It had two cars miss the Indianapolis 500 and very well could have had three cars miss the race. 

Flash forward seven years and the team is looking for its third consecutive Indianapolis 500 victory and fourth in five years. 

We have become accustomed to Andretti Autosport running in a four-car pack or a five-car pack in practice, working on set up and it seems that teamwork has been a rising tide lifting all boats. The team has had three cars in the Fast Nine session every year excluding 2015 when the Fast Nine session was not held and the team has had a car on row four the last four years. 

With the change to the universal aero kit we are all wondering how much will change and what will be the same. Could this be the year where Andretti Autosport's total team assault has to splinter off? And if running in a pack isn't getting the job done, can the team make the necessary change before it is too late? 

This year sees six entries and a line-up that trades Takuma Sato and Fernando Alonso for Zach Veach, Carlos Muñoz and Stefan Wilson. Sato might have won last year's race but prior to that his best finish in the Indianapolis 500 was 13th. Muñoz finished runner-up twice in the Indianapolis 500 with Andretti Autosport. The team should feel confident with the line-up it has and Marco Andretti was third fastest in the April 30th test.

Interesting tidbit: Despite all of Andretti Autosport's Indianapolis 500 success, the team has only won Indianapolis 500 pole position once and that was with Tony Kanaan in 2005.

Team Penske: Will Hélio Castroneves Go Rouge?
We all know about the Penske way and how buttoned up the team is. Nobody steps out of line. The goal is to win the race and then take second, third and fourth but this year sees a new wrinkle with Hélio Castroneves running the Indianapolis races. He is not going for a championship and his shots at a fourth Indianapolis 500 victory are dwindling. When push comes to shove, will he step out of line if he thinks it is best for him?

He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. When Townsend Bell was a one-off with Andretti Autosport two years ago he made an aggressive pit exit and contact between him and Ryan Hunter-Reay took both of them out of the race and significantly reduced the team's shot at victory. Fortunately, it worked out for Andretti Autosport. Castroneves will not be worrying about the championship and could he follow Bell's steps and cut off Josef Newgarden or Will Power exiting the pit lane? Would he throw a block on Simon Pagenaud going into turn one? It would seem out of character but considering all he has done for Team Penske I could see the Captain giving Castroneves leeway.

This could be the case where someone feeling they have something to prove lets ego get in the way.

Dale Coyne Racing: Was Last Year a Fluke?
For two glorious minutes it appeared Dale Coyne Racing was going to be the one everyone would be chasing in Indianapolis 500 qualifying and then Sébastien Bourdais overcorrected in turn two, slammed the wall, broke his lower body and left everyone wondering how good Dale Coyne Racing would have been in the 101st Indianapolis 500. 

Bourdais is healthy and he has started 2018 better than he did in 2017. The team has been competitive at every race this season and he won pole position at Phoenix. Leading the pack might be asking a lot but can Dale Coyne Racing put a car in the Fast Nine and could it get a second one close? Ed Jones was tenth after Saturday qualifying last year. While Bourdais had a rookie with him last year, this year he has Conor Daly and Pippa Mann, two drivers yet to have a competitive month of May and a vacated seat with a substitute still unknown but Zachary Claman De Melo and Sebastián Saavedra are the two drivers linked to that open seat. 

I think Bourdais can carry the torch but he could be a light-year ahead of his teammates. 

Chip Ganassi Racing: Will the Move to Two Work?
After close to a decade of running four full-time cars, Chip Ganassi Racing has downsized to two cars and it will not have any one-off drivers. 

Chip Ganassi Racing has not won the Indianapolis 500 since 2012. Last year, Scott Dixon was taken out in an incident that was not of his making. Tony Kanaan had a good day and Max Chilton worked strategy to get himself into a position where he was CGR's best shot at victory. The team has had two cars finish in the top five each of the last three years but the team has not felt like the team to beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for quite some time. 

This year has not started well for Chip Ganassi Racing but Scott Dixon has turned poor qualifying results it top five finishes. Ed Jones has been hit or miss but Jones was not spooked in his first year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he was driving for one of the smaller IndyCar teams last year. The team has sacrificed resources with the reduction of entries but it does have fewer eggs to focus on.  

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Now What?
I got to admit that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has impressed me this season. This team had a few seasons were results did not match those on paper and James Hinchcliffe was living down to expectations and his personality. I set the bar high consider he got what he wanted in Robert Wickens in a teammate and despite Wickens having been out of single-seaters for over six years he is lapping the rest of the rookie class, which includes Indy Lights race winners.

So now what? Wickens has been in contention for victory in three of five races this season. Hinchcliffe is one of two drivers with a top ten in every race this season. Two years ago Hinchcliffe was on pole position for the Indianapolis 500. Last year, the team was nowhere in sight and was not a threat all month. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has yet to have a bad weekend this season and it is bound to happen. The Indianapolis 500 would be the worst time for it to happen.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Can It Correct Qualifying Woes?
Since returning to full-time IndyCar competition Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's most notable Indianapolis 500 moment was Takuma Sato's dive on the inside of Dario Franchitti on the final lap in 2012 only to not make it through the corner. The team has not had much fortunate at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Since the adoption of the Fast Nine format in 2010 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has only made the Fast Nine once... in 2010. Last year was the first time in the DW12-era that RLLR had cars starting in one of the first five rows when Oriol Serviá started 12th and Graham Rahal started 14th.

But the qualifying woes aren't only at the Speedway. This year has been an abysmal showing when it comes to qualifying. Rahal has an average starting positionof 14.6 and Sato of 13.8. Both drivers have started fifth once this year but outside of that both have started outside the top ten four times. Despite the poor qualifying results, Rahal has finished in the top ten of every race this season and has an average finish of 6.4. Sato has finished in the top ten in the last two races.

Qualifying isn't do-or-die for the Indianapolis 500 but it can be a set back and it puts a driver in greater risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

A.J. Foyt Racing: Is Kanaan Enough?
The 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan was fastest in the April 30th test and he was reportedly fastest in the May 2nd manufactures' test. Last year, A.J. Foyt Racing got its first top ten finish in Indianapolis 500 in nine years. The team has not had a top five finish in this race since 2000.

Kanaan has been one of the best drivers at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he made his debut at the track in 2002. He has five top five finishes in the last seven Indianapolis 500s. He has started on one of the first three rows 11 times out of 16 starts. He has led 327 laps in his career in the Indianapolis 500, second most among active drivers and he has led at least one lap in the last six Indianapolis 500s. Kanaan has a chance of matching his own record of most consecutive Indianapolis 500s led and he could break a tie with his car owner for most Indianapolis 500s led as he and A.J. Foyt are tied on 13.

We know what Kanaan can do and none of us would be surprised if he put his seventh on the grid and was in the led before the first round of pit stops but will his two teammates be left in the dust? Matheus Leist has had a bit of a rocky rookie season but he dominated last year's Freedom 100. The bad news for Leist is the Freedom 100 hasn't really meant shit when it comes to the Indianapolis 500. Of the eight previous Freedom 100 winners who made an Indianapolis 500 start none have finished in the top ten as an Indianapolis 500 rookie with the best finish being 16th by Gabby Chaves and the average finish for those eight is 27.625.

James Davison is an additional entry this month and in his previous three Indianapolis 500 starts he has been no stranger to working his way through the field. With Davison getting a full week of practice and with a chance to work with Kanaan I think he could find himself closer to the sharp end of the grid but A.J. Foyt Racing has not been known for putting together stellar one-off entries. The team finds itself balancing the expectations of having a legend behind the wheel with its unfulfilling recent history. 

Ed Carpenter Racing: Is This When the Ship Turns Around?
Second question: If not now, when? Ed Carpenter Racing has been a disaster this season. Not because it is miles off the pace but because it has been competitive only to stub its toe come race time.

At least in qualifying Ed Carpenter Racing has given Team Penske a run for top Chevrolet team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2012. Last year ECR put two cars in the Fast Nine and both out-qualified the top Penske driver. ECR bested Team Penske in qualifying the year before as well. This is without mentioning the team having won pole position for this race in 2013 and 2014. The team has a high bar to live up to.

Ed Carpenter strolls in as the leader of the team, as Spencer Pigot has not been able to recapture any of the flashes we saw over his first two seasons of partial competition. Add to the sinking ship Danica Patrick's return in a farewell to motorsports and the Indianapolis 500.

History points to this team having the speed in qualifying here and I think Carpenter will lead the charge but where the other two drivers fall is a mystery. Pigot needs a confidence boost and Patrick needs a good outing. If the ECR speed carries over to Pigot then it could get him in the right direction for the rest of the season.

Harding Racing: Will There Be a Sophomore Slump?
In the 16 months since this team was first founded it finished ninth on debut in its Indianapolis 500 debut, finished fifth in the team's second race and has expanded to a full-time IndyCar operation. While the results this season have not matched Harding Racing's wondrous start last year the team is back and has a slew of bright minds behind Gabby Chaves' entry.

The team definitely benefited from attrition last year as a few Honda teams dropped out from engine failures and a few notable entries were taken out in accidents. In saying all this Chaves did have good days in practice last year. I think this team will run a similar strategy to last year and aim for the back of that middle third of the field and that should be good enough to comfortably get into the field. 

Carlin: How is The Team's Confidence?
Oh boy, things have not gone Carlin's way through the first five IndyCar races. The team could not have been expecting victories but I bet it thought Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton could produce more than one top ten finish and the drivers 18th and 20th in the championship respectively, both behind Gabby Chaves.

Kimball has had success at Indianapolis in recent years, especially during the aero kit-epoch. Chilton is coming off a year where he found himself in the right position at the right time and finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500. The difference is we now have the universal aero kit and both drivers are back in Chevrolets. Kimball has made a lot of laps around Indianapolis and through two years Chilton has been competent at this place. I think the team has to keep it simple. It has to set the bar low and go from there. 

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Do Two Entries Bring the Team Closer to the Top?
After withdrawing from full-time IndyCar competition after the 2013 Indianapolis 500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing has been back each year at the Speedway and has put together some competitive entries. The results haven't been there the last two years as Sage Karam has retired from each race, once because of an accident while working his way into the top five and another when his car died whilst on the edge of the top ten.

Joining Karam is J.R. Hildebrand, who has finished in the top ten in four of seven Indianapolis 500 starts. Both drivers have been quick at the Speedway but Karam's pace has been limited to the race. He has started on row 11, row eight twice and row seven in his four starts. Hildebrand on the other hand has started on one of the first four rows five times with his worst start in this race 18th.

Karam has been flying solo for most of his time at the Speedway with no one to bounce information off of. Now he has the technically minded Hildebrand to work with. Neither driver is full-time. Neither has any time with the universal aero kit. This could be a year where D&R struggles and both drivers have below average Mays. 

Juncos Racing: Is Kyle Kaiser Hung Out to Dry on His Own?
The team had two cars last year and while Sebastián Saavedra and Spencer Pigot weren't threats for the victory they knew all the team wanted was to complete all 200 laps and see where it got them. Both cars got to the end of the race and the team got a 15th place finish and an 18th place to show from its first Indianapolis 500.

This year Kyle Kaiser flies solo and he doesn't have a veteran to lean on. The good news is Kaiser seemed confident after his rookie orientation program. It doesn't mean he is going to be in the Fast Nine and it doesn't mean he will not be broken if he has a spin in the middle of turn one during a practice lap during the week. I think Kaiser will be fine and the team will do enough to get him in field but I am concerned the support system isn't there in case it does start to get tough for Kaiser. 

Meyer Shank Racing: What Improvements Are Made From Year One?
Last year, Michael Shank's Indianapolis 500 debut started with a head scratcher when a steering column failure sent Jack Harvey across the racetrack from the warm up lane in turn two. Harvey never really got into the thick of the pack and was in the wrong place after Conor Daly had his accident and was forced out of the race after a spin from hitting debris.

The good news is this team has two races under its belt this season heading into Indianapolis 500 practice and Harvey had good outings at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. Unfortunately, St. Petersburg ended after a hard accident but Long Beach was a really good race and he was fighting for a top ten finish. Add to the two outings a partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and MSR has all the pieces to make a leap forward from 27th on the grid last year. Harvey might not be contending for the Fast Nine but we see part-time entries put up respectable times and he could end up on one of the first five rows.

Practice Schedule
Practice begins today at 11:00 a.m. ET with a veteran session for two hours. From 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. will be a rookie orientation with a three-hour session for all competitors closing the day.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will all have practice from 11:00 a.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET. The teams will get the additional ten kPa of boost for the Fast Friday practice and that additional boost will also carry over to qualifying weekend.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Musings From the Weekend: Why There Needs to be Bumping

Will Power gave Team Penske its 200th IndyCar victory and for those keeping track at home, Team Penske is 12 victories away form 500 as an organization. Fog stopped the 24 Hours Nürburgring. Rain cancelled the Super Formula race from Autopolis. Kenan Sofuoglu ended his World Supersport career and unfortunately his final race ended before he could complete a lap. Carl Fogarty's day as the most successful rider in World Superbike history are coming to an end. Barcelona, great city, not so great racetrack. Monza hosted a sports car race and NASCAR heads into its not-an-All-Star break. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Why There Needs to be Bumping?
We have reached the middle of May. The only things between us on the Indianapolis 500 are five practice days, two qualifying days and Carb Day. For the first time since 2015 we are oversubscribed and bumping will occur during qualifying. If Dale Coyne Racing can find a replacement for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi we will have at least two cars bumped for the first time since 2011.

Bumping is the cruelest thing in motorsports and it gets the best of them. It doesn't care if you are the defending champion or the defending Indianapolis 500 winner. It doesn't care if you have 300,000 fans screaming your name or if the only person who knows who you is your mother.

Bump day was the worst day to quit smoking and even with the format change I think we are looking at a tense session with teams struggling and rolling the dice trying to trim out enough rear wing to get the car in the field but not send the driver rotating into the barrier.

There has been a slight change in the fan base. It is hard to tell how large it is but it makes a hum. Some are fearful of bumping. They think everybody should race that way all the sponsors are happy and no team risks losing funding and having to close its doors. While grids larger than 33 cars have occurred in Indianapolis 500 history that does not give us precedent for change.

Nobody wants to see team's fold especially after IndyCar has seen growth this season. There are a handful of developing teams that are not stable yet. Carlin is trying to make two cars work. Harding Racing is holding its own. Juncos Racing is piecing together this season with multiple drivers. Meyer Shank Racing has a good partial season laid out as it looks to a full-time future. It would be a big blow for any team to have a car miss the race but for these four teams we are worried it could be fatal.

It is a concern but this isn't a charity. This is competition. You want to race the Indianapolis 500, be faster than two other cars. And IndyCar needs this. Bump Day has been a loss. It is better than Pole Day. Pole position is great but give me the elation of survival and the gut-punching disappointment. There is nothing better than seeing teams forcing each other to give their best. You want the bottom of the field keeping each other honest. The last few years have lacked that and all you had to do to make the Indianapolis 500 was... well after last year you could make the race without completing a qualifying run but if everything went right all you had to do was complete four laps. You could lift in all four corners on all four qualifying laps and you would still be in the field.

That will not be the case this year. This year a driver will have to dig deep and go somewhere he or she has never been before in hopes of making the race. If a driver thought last year was grueling despite not having the threat of bumping this year will be 100 times worse. A driver should feel like he or she is going to throw up for seven and a half hours.

People love the ecstasy of success but we love defeat as well. We love heartbreak. We love seeing the thousand-mile stares looking for what went wrong. We love seeing heads in hands. We love seeing tears. And if you say you don't you are lying.

There is a reason why we love MLB one-game playoffs, game sevens and those obscure NCAA conference championship games for the NCAA tournament. Someone is going live to fight another day but someone else is going to leave with nothing.

We have seen a change in emphasis over qualifying weekend and IndyCar has pushed that pole position is the most important thing of qualifying weekend and it should be the final thing decided. That's nice but it is bullshit. IndyCar had something great with two-day qualifying. You got Pole Day on Saturday and you got to see the driver rewarded for pushing the limits the most and the next day you had Bump Day and drivers once again pushing their limits but with deeper consequences of overstepping the line. We know that getting more than 33 cars has been difficult for IndyCar but IndyCar can have its cake and eat it too when it has more than 33 cars. Instead of having one day to promote it could have two. It can have the big dogs raising the stakes with each run for pole position one day and then the next have a handful of teams biting their fingernails knowing their Indianapolis 500 dream might not even make it to race day.

I hope IndyCar reverts to the Pole Day/Bump Day qualifying format next year. We can still have the Fast Nine session on Saturday evening but let's get back to Bump Day being what it was with teams pulling times, teams thinking they are safe only to slowly fall to the bubble as the day goes on. Let's have the drama of the 6:00 p.m. qualifying gun. We love urgency. We love watching the clock. We love the feeling of a deadline.

Hopefully we have 35 cars this year and hopefully we can get to 36 or 37 cars entered for the Indianapolis 500. The more cars fighting for it the better and maybe the drama of Bump Day draws a crowd not only at the track but around televisions, tablets and computer screens across the country. Sponsors always find a way onto a race car in the race but we have seen Indianapolis 500 qualifying days draw ratings comparable to races on network television. If that is a case then while a team and a sponsor could be devastated in missing the race it could take a silver lining out of it that it had just as much exposure as any other race on the schedule and if anything it received more exposure because it was the only car on track for its qualifying runs while during a race it might briefly be shown once on screen and never be shown again.

Not making the Indianapolis 500 is a brutal reality to face but I don't think failing to qualify will kill off any teams. The health of a team should not come down to one race and it gives IndyCar even more of a reason to make sure the rest of the championship is financially viable.

We need bumping. We want bumping. We want drivers to have to give it their all and sometimes their all not be enough. That is what makes sports beautiful and at the same time cold.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Will Power but did you know...

Lewis Hamilton won the Spanish Grand Prix.

George Russell and Jack Aitken split the Formula Two races from Barcelona. Nikita Mazepin and Giuliano Alesi split the GP3 Series races.

The #912 Manthey Racing Porsche of Frédéric Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won the 24 Hours Nürburgring.

Yvan Muller, Esteban Guerrieri and Thed Björk split the World Touring Car Cup races on the Nordschleife.

Colton Herta swept the Indy Lights races on the IMS road course. Harrison Scott and Parker Thompson split the Pro Mazda races. Alexandre Baron and Kyle Kirkwood split the U.S. F2000 races.

Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Cup race from Kansas. Noah Gragson won the Truck race.

Jonathan Rea swept the World Superbike races from Imola and he now has 59 World Superbike victories, tied for the most in series history with Carl Fogarty. Jules Cluzel won the World Supersport race.

The #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson of Jean-Éric Vergne, Romain Rusinov and and Andrea Pizzitola won the European Le Mans Series race at Monza. The #11 Eurointernational Ligier-Nissan of Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo won in LMP3. The #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott won in GTE.

Coming Up This Weekend
Indianapolis 500 qualifying.
NASCAR has its All-Star Race.
MotoGP will be at Le Mans.
The Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters head to Lausitzring.
Pirelli World Challenge spends a Victoria Day weekend at Mosport.
Formula E returns to Berlin.
Supercars hosts Winton Motor Raceway.
The World Rally Championship heads to Portugal.
Blancpain Endurance Series has a round at Silverstone.
Super GT will be at Suzuka.
World Touring Car Cup races on a Monday at Zandvoort.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

First Impressions: 5th Grand Prix of Indianapolis

1. Will Power had this covered. He was toying with us when he let Robert Wickens lead the second segment of the race. Sacrifice the lead in the second quarter of race on the primary tires to lead at the end. He did the same thing last year with Hélio Castroneves. And now he is a three-time winner in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. We have yet to see anyone turn a Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory into a great Indianapolis 500 performance but that is bound to change. Team Penske has now won 200 IndyCar races. Power has really only one standout Indianapolis 500 and that was in 2015. It is bound to be his time.

2. Eighteenth to second. It could only be Scott Dixon. It is tough to say the start of this season has been rough but he hasn't had it easy. He has had multiple poor qualifying performances. He has had multiple breaks go against him in races. And he still gets the finishes that make up a championship season. Championships are built on top tens that end up being top fives and top fives that end up being podium finishes. Most drivers would be happy with tenth from 18th on the grid. For Dixon anything less than sixth is disappointing. Don't worry that he hasn't led a lap this year. He will be there come Sonoma.

3. Robert Wickens didn't lose this race today. It wasn't an experience thing. The team got the tire strategy wrong. The third stint on primary tires was a mistake. Mostly because a large enough gap was not made in the second stint and it wasn't for a lack of trying. He led Power by five seconds. He is knocking on the door for the championship as a rookie. He is bound to have a bad day. The poor results he has had were not of his making. We know about St. Petersburg and his gearbox let him down at Long Beach. It might come in two weeks in his first Indianapolis 500 but he is head, neck, shoulders and waist above the rest of the rookies.

4. Sébastien Bourdais finished fourth and he is also building something. For Dale Coyne Racing consistently finishing in the top five is wonderful for this team. He is staying in the conversation and every week he is a threat to win. This is the underdog story IndyCar should be promoting. I hate to say it but it should exploit the size of Dale Coyne Racing. It is a fraction of Team Penske and it is on Team Penske's heels. It is ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing, the mega organization field race winning cars in four series on two different continents. This team should win over the hearts of causal fans. It should be the plucky team everyone roots for.

5. Alexander Rossi ran out of fuel late but only lost a position, coasting to another top five finish. He might be second in the championship but he has been the best driver this year. He had the best car at St. Petersburg and Phoenix and he won Long Beach. Barber was his one off race and he was competitive today. Fortunately, he was the one Andretti car not to have mechanical gremlins bite him this weekend.

6. Hélio Castroneves finished sixth because of course he did. That is what he does even after being out of the car for the first six races of the season. He was never a threat in this race and yet he finished sixth. Put money on him to finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500... or second... or first. It will likely be one of those three.

7. James Hinchcliffe finished seventh in what is kind of a disappointing day because he could have been in the top five. However, this is best Hinchcliffe has ever been in IndyCar... and he is still being beat by his teammate. It is great to see Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have two cars consistently in competitive positions.

8. Where do we start with Simon Pagenaud? Another opening lap incident but this team he kept going. He made up some ground early after the incident and fought for an eighth place finish. He has yet to pick up a top five finish. This is only the second time in his career he has not had a top five finish within in the first five races of a season. The other year was 2013. He ended up being a title contender that year but this year feels different. He seems slightly off.

9. Another year starting outside the top ten, another year finishing inside the top ten for Graham Rahal in this race. If he could just start eighth in this race he would win it by 25 seconds. He has slightly under performed this year but when you consider where he has started in each of these five races he has over performed.

10. And Takuma Sato rounded out the top ten. I will flat out say Takuma Sato has slightly under performed through the first five races but I don't know what I should have expected from him. I didn't think he would win but his finishes have been 12th, 11th, 21st, eighth and tenth... actually Sato is performing just as I expected he would be. He could be a tad better but he is doing fine.

11. Josef Newgarden had one moment of over aggression and it cost him. He didn't have to try and pass Bourdais into turn 12. He had better tires and could have set up a move into turn one. He went from possible podium to outside the top ten and either he has the championship lead by a few points or he is second a few points behind Rossi (According to Wikipedia he leads Rossi by two points). We all make mistakes. Newgarden doesn't make many. I think he will be solid from here on out.

12. Zachary Claman De Melo deserves his own line because he finished 12th, went from 19th to 11th in the first abbreviated lap, kept in on the cusp of the top ten all race and lost a tenth place finish after needing to save fuel. Let's calm down a bit about him though. People were floored with his performance when two laps down at Barber. I don't think he is going to be contending for top five finishes this year or podium finishes but his results should improved and he looked good today.

13. Quickly through the rest of the field: Marco Andretti was off at the start after his teammate had to hurry to change an engine before the race and 13th is respectable for him. Tony Kanaan faded. I will tackle Spencer Pigot and Ed Carpenter Racing in a moment. Max Chilton did ok but it wasn't enough. I think Gabby Chaves led a lap through pit cycle and that was it. Ryan Hunter-Reay was misfiring for the final two-thirds of the race and I bet he is crossing his fingers that that was it for mechanical problems this month because he can't have a repeat of last year. Kyle Kaiser led a lap through pit cycle but that was it. Charlie Kimball had a shot at a top ten but had to make a late pit stop. Matheus Leist did nothing. Ed Jones had to stop for a puncture. Zach Veach had some mechanical issue.

14. Ok... Ed Carpenter Racing... what the fuck is going on? Who do I start with? Spencer Pigot finished 15th and add that to his finishes of 15th, 14th, 15th and 15th. He started ninth, jumped the curb in turn five and spun after contact with Sato. Before all that, Jordan King start fifth, punted Pagenaud in turn two and beached the car, putting himself a lap down and he would never recover. This team is lost. And I can't help but feel the lack of a veteran presence isn't helping. The toothpaste is out of the tube for this season and King has been quick but has had lapses cost him this year. I think this team needs to get serious and either keep King or Pigot, bring in a veteran for the #20 Chevrolet full-time and Ed Carpenter either needs to run a third car for all the oval races if he wants or limit himself to just the Indianapolis 500. This team was contending for the championship three years ago. It was not a surprise to see the team in contention for race victory. Now this team couldn't get a top ten finish if it hit them in the face.

15. You may have noticed the lack of LED panels for this race as IndyCar is working out some electrical issues with those this month. A lot of teams put the car number there in place of the LED panel. One, I think IndyCar is doing the right thing to get the LED panel corrected instead of having it possibly causing issues that ruin a team's race. Second, I want them to return. Fans love them. They love being able to follow along and the extra information it gives when it comes to pit stop times. Third, I also liked the number on the roll hoop and when you look at how microscopic the number will be on the rear wing of the low downforce aero kit it will be in a good position for the Indianapolis 500.

However, you can't have both the LED panel and the number. IndyCar needs to solve the number issue for the low downforce aero kit. You can't get away with numbers that are less than three inches in height. Find an alternative spot. On the engine cover, on the top of the side pod, on the ramp in front of the rear tire. There is plenty of unused real estate on the race car and if a sponsor isn't there now then put a number in its place so people can pick these cars out, which leads me too...

16. Team Penske! You are sponsored by Menards! Get Menards to supply red paint and black paint. Paint Newgarden's car red and Castroneves' car black. There is no reason for three cars to be identical Verizon silver with the only difference being number color and roll hoop color. Get creative. Why wouldn't a team not want its car to stand out? Be something that gets you noticed. It will get your sponsor noticed. Imagination will only help you. Three silver cars are boring and it is fucking lazy. And this is partly on IndyCar. The series shouldn't let it happen and it should encourage teams to take chances. Taking chances it what gets you noticed, not blending it.

17. I want to address the consistent theme through all of IndyCar. From Trackside to the radio broadcast to the ABC broadcast, they all do the same thing. There is this idea that the championship pauses and the Indianapolis 500 takes over from the rest of the season. If you want people who watch the Indianapolis 500 in person or on television to watch the rest of the season don't act like the Indianapolis 500 is all that matters.

Talk about the championship you twits! If all people hear is this is the biggest race of the year and people who cover the sport say the championship doesn't matter why will they bother watching Belle Isle or Texas or Road America or Portland or Sonoma? Fucking hell, how would talking about the championship during the Indianapolis 500 hurt the series? We have the Indianapolis 500 crammed down our throats for an entire month. Make room for the championship. ABC didn't even show the championship standings after today's race! It should have been talked about today. It should be talked about during qualifying. It should be talked about pre-race, during the Indianapolis 500 and after the Indianapolis 500.

There is a bigger picture. We love the Indianapolis 500. It is a great event but IndyCar shoots itself in the foot every time the championship is ignored this month.

18. To end on a brighter note, the crowd looked good today.

19. And now practice begins Tuesday. Indianapolis 500 qualifying is a week away and yet there is still so much that has yet to happen.

Morning Warm-Up: 5th Grand Prix of Indianapolis

Can Will Power add a third Grand Prix of Indianapolis victory to his résumé?
Will Power won his 51st career pole position in qualifying for the fifth Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a lap of 69.8182 seconds. This pole position puts Power in sole possession of third all-time in pole positions behind Mario Andretti, who won 67 pole positions, and A.J. Foyt, who won 53 pole positions. This is Power's third Grand Prix of Indianapolis pole position and he has won each time he has started on pole position for this race, including last year. Power is going for his 16th career victory from pole position and it would put him in a tie with Bobby Unser for fourth all-time in victories from pole position. The pole-sitter has won the last three editions of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Power is attempting to become the sixth racer with three victories on the IMS road course. Michael Schumacher and Marc Márquez each won on the road course five times. Wolf Henzler won four times in Porsche Supercup. Nico Jamin won three times, twice in U.S. F2000 and once in Indy Lights and Nicolás Terol won three 125cc races.

Robert Wickens will start in second position in his Grand Prix of Indianapolis debut. He missed pole position by 0.0870 seconds. This is Wickens' second career front row start after he won pole position on debut at St. Petersburg. This is only the second time a Honda has started on the front row for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Jack Hawksworth started second for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis driving the #98 Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport. Wickens won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Formula BMW USA in 2006. The other two drivers on the podium that day were Stefano Coletti and Simona de Silvestro. Coletti would win the second Formula BMW USA race the next day with Wickens in second and de Silvestro in third.

Sébastien Bourdais will start the Grand Prix of Indianapolis from third position. This is Bourdais' best career start in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis but he has started in the top ten in all five editions of this race. James Hinchcliffe rounds out row two. This is the first time Hinchcliffe has started a season with five consecutive top ten starts. He is looking to start a season with five consecutive top ten finishes for the first time since his sophomore season in 2012. Jordan King will start fifth in his Grand Prix of Indianapolis debut despite brake issues nearly kept him from participating in the qualifying session. This is the first time an Ed Carpenter Racing car has started in the top five for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Josef Newgarden rounded out the top six. Newgarden has never finished in the top ten in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Excluding Portland, it is the only track on the IndyCar schedule that Newgarden has not had a top ten finish.

Simon Pagenaud starts seventh, matching his career worst starting position in this race. He started seventh last year but finished fourth. Pagenaud has never finished on the podium from seventh on the grid but he has finished fourth four times in his previous eight starts from seventh on the grid. Alexander Rossi joins Pagenaud on row four. This is the second consecutive race Rossi has started in eighth position and it his career best starting position for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He finished eighth in last year's race, his career best finish in the event. Spencer Pigot will start a career best ninth. Pigot's previous career best starting position was 13th. This is the first time Ed Carpenter Racing has had two cars starting in the top ten for a road/street course since Mid-Ohio 2015. Hélio Castroneves makes his IndyCar return from tenth on the grid. It matches his worst starting position in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He finished third after starting tenth in the inaugural race.

Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan will start on row six. This is Sato's career best starting position in this race while Kanaan will start 12th, matching his career worst finish in this race after he started 12th last year. Neither driver has led a lap nor finished in the top five for this race. Sato is responsible for the two top ten finishes A.J. Foyt Racing has had in this race. Kanaan won from 12th position in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti will start on an all-Andretti Autosport row seven after both drivers missed out on advancing to round two by a fraction of a second. Despite the result, this is only Hunter-Reay's third-worst and third-best qualifying effort for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Hunter-Reay won from 13th on the grid at Iowa in 2014. This is also Andretti's third-worst and third-best qualifying effort for the race. In 13 starts from 14th on the grid, Andretti has only finished in the top ten four times.

Former Carlin Indy Lights teammates Ed Jones and Max Chilton will start on row eight. These are their worst starting positions for this race. All six of Jones' top ten finishes have come after he started outside the top ten while three of Chilton's eight top ten finishes have come after he started outside the top ten. Graham Rahal will start 17th. This is Rahal's fourth start outside the top ten in the first five races of the season. Rahal has three consecutive top ten finishes in this race and he has started outside the top ten in all three races. He finished second in the 2015 race from 17th on the grid. Scott Dixon joins his former Ganassi teammate on row nine. His previous worst starting position for this race was seventh. This is the first time Dixon has started outside the top fifteen multiple times in the first five races of the season since 2013 when he started outside the top fifteen three times. He would go on to win the championship that year.

IndyCar history will be made in this race as for the first time in IndyCar history two drivers named Zach will start on the same row. Zachary Claman De Melo and Zach Veach will share row ten. Claman De Melo is looking to improve his career best finish of 17th in his fifth career start. This is the first time Claman De Melo has qualified ahead of Veach. Veach has finished ahead of Claman De Melo in all three races they have started together. In 18 starts together in Indy Lights, Veach finished ahead of Claman De Melo in 16 of 18 races. Matheus Leist makes it three consecutive rookies on the grid. The Brazilian will start 21st for the second consecutive race. The best finish for the 21st starter in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was 13th by Carlos Muñoz in 2015. Gabby Chaves rounds out row eleven. This is Chaves' worst starting position of the season. He finished 15th and 17th in his two Grand Prix of Indianapolis starts in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Charlie Kimball will start 23rd in the #23 Chevrolet. He finished 23rd at Barber two weeks ago after he was spun in the race by Ed Jones. This is the fourth time in five races Kimball has started outside the top twenty. Kyle Kaiser rounds out the grid in 24th. Juncos Racing has started in one of the bottom two positions in every road/street course race this season. Kimball and Kaiser started on row twelve at Long Beach.

ABC's coverage of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.