Saturday, May 31, 2014

First Impressions: Belle Isle 2014 Race One

1. Due to family photos for the church directory (which could've been scheduled for tomorrow but I digress) I only got to watch the final 22 laps of race one. Didn't I say if there was ever a day for a Belle Isle winner to come from outside the top ten it would be today? It happened. Will Power from 16th. It is Will Power but Belle Isle is notorious for being difficult to pass at. Strategy played into his favor but it wasn't easy.

2. Graham Rahal put the pressure on Power and nearly picked up his first victory since 2008. Hate to rain on the parade but one result doesn't mean you have turned your season around. A string of seven, eight, nine, ten results is turning it around. He finished second at Long Beach last year and had only four top tens in the following sixteen races. It is a step in the right direction for Rahal and he and his team have a chance to capitalize on the good run tomorrow.

3. Tony Kanaan rounded out the podium. Not a bad result for him but how about Justin Wilson climbing from 19th to 4th?

4. Hélio Castroneves tried to stretch it to two stops and it backfired for only a fifth place finish. He's had the top car in qualifying. Let's see if he can repeat that result for race two.

5. James Hinchcliffe and Carlos Muñoz were sixth and seventh for Andretti Autosport with Carlos Huertas picking up his second career top ten. Huertas has quietly had a really good season.

6. Charlie Kimball and Marco Andretti rounded out the top ten with Scott Dixon in eleventh. Andretti tried to stretch the fuel mileage into a top five but had to be ultra conservative and had to settle with a top ten.

7. Juan Pablo Montoya, the KV drivers Sébastien Bourdais and Sebastián Saavedra and Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top fifteen. Briscoe was caught in a pickle. The caution came out right before he was going to pit from the lead. If he came in he was going to be back that far away. A damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for him.

8. Ryan Hunter-Reay nearly turned a brush of the wall in qualifying to a top ten before sliding into the tires on the final lap. He holds onto a three point lead heading into race two tomorrow. How quickly things can change in a week?

9. Things were rough for some in race one. Mikhail Aleshin had contact with Hinchcliffe ruin what could've been a top ten. He and Jack Hawksworth got together on the final lap. Josef Newgarden had a rough day and last year's Belle Isle winners Mike Conway and Simon Pagenuad were twenty-first and twenty-second. Two ways to look at this: 1. Perfect way to put the poor result behind you is by taking advantage of the opportunity tomorrow. 2. Already behind the 8-ball by losing so much ground and now you have to go back out there. It will be interesting to see how these drivers respond.

Morning Warm-Up: Belle Isle 2014 Race One

Hélio Castroneves looks for his third career Belle Isle victory from his third career Belle Isle pole position
Hélio Castroneves became the sixth different pole winner through six races in 2014. The Brazilian laid down a lap of 1:17.5362 minutes, over four-tenths faster than the second fastest time in the Fast Six. It is Castroneves' 39th career pole and third career pole at Belle Isle. He won from pole at Belle Isle in 2001. James Hinchcliffe will start second. This is Hinchcliffe's eighth time starting second in his career as he looks for that elusive first career pole.

Jack Hawksworth starts third, his third career top five start in six races. Mike Conway joins his fellow Brit on row two. This is Conway's first top ten start of 2014. Ryan Briscoe starts fifth. The last time the Australian started in the top five was the 2012 season finale at Fontana where he started second and finished seventeenth. Juan Pablo Montoya made his first career Fast Six and starts sixth. In his previous two Belle Isle starts, Montoya started each from pole position and finished seventeenth and eighteenth.

Sébastien Bourdais starts seventh after missing out on the Fast Six by 0.0630 seconds. Former Belle Isle winner Tony Kanaan starts eighth. Kanaan won from fourth in 2007. Graham Rahal starts ninth. It is his first top ten start since Sonoma last season. Scott Dixon rounds out the top ten. The furthest back a winner has come from at Belle Isle was tenth by Danny Sullivan in 1993. Carlos Muñoz and Carlos Huertas make up an all-Colombian row six. This was the first time career appearance in the second round of qualifying for Carlos Huertas.

Sebastián Saavedra will start thirteenth and will be joined on row seven by Josef Newgarden.  Takuma Sato ended up fifteenth on the grid. Will Power starts a surprising sixteenth, his worst career start at Belle Isle. Simon Pagenaud was second fastest in group one but lost his fastest two lap after being penalized for impeding Montoya during the session. It dropped him from advancing to seventeenth on the grid. Marco Andretti starts eighteenth.

Justin Wilson starts nineteenth with Charlie Kimball starting twentieth. Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay brushed the wall during the group one session, ending his qualifying session early. Hunter-Reay will roll off from twenty-first for race one. Mikhail Aleshin rounds out the grid in twenty-second.

Coverage of race one from Belle Isle begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pagenaud Powers To Top of Time Sheet in Second Practice

Simon Pagenaud looks for his second consecutive victory at Belle Isle
Simon Pagenaud won his first career at Belle Isle in 2013. He paced second practice in one of the best liveries of the season so far. The Frenchman ran a lap of 1:17.6502 seconds, the fastest of the weekend. Following him on the time sheet was the other Belle Isle winner from 2013, Mike Conway. The Brit was 0.0647 seconds back of Pagenaud. Hélio Castroneves was third quickest for the second consecutive session, 0.0669 seconds behind Pagenaud. Will Power was fourth quickest with fastest from first practice Ryan Hunter-Reay rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was sixth quickest with Takuma Sato in seventh. James Hinchcliffe was eighth for the second consecutive session. Ryan Briscoe made it two Ganassi cars in the top ten by being ninth fastest and Graham Rahal made it two consecutive session in the top ten in tenth.

Tony Kanaan was eleventh with Carlos Muñoz the top rookie in twelfth. Muñoz's fellow Colombian Sebastián Saavedra was thirteenth. Josef Newgarden was 1.0842 seconds back in fourteenth. Marco Andretti rounded out the top fifteen, making it eight Hondas in the top fifteen.

Justin Wilson was sixteenth after being second in the first session. His fellow Brit Jack Hawksworth was seventeenth. Carlos Huertas was eighteenth with his fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya directly behind him for the second consecutive session. Charlie Kimball rounded out the top twenty with Sébastien Bourdais and Mikhail Aleshin in twenty-second.

Race one qualifying will take place at 8:35 a.m. ET. The Fast Six format will be used for race one qualifying. Coverage of race one from Belle Isle begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

"500" Winner Hunter-Reay Tops Belle Isle First Practice

If starting this week by winning the Indianapolis 500 whetted his appetite for another champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay's hunt is in full force by being fastest in first practice for the Belle Isle doubleheader.

Hunter-Reay topped the time sheet with a 1:18.8595 lap. The 2008 Belle Isle winner Justin Wilson jumped to second fastest late in the session, 0.0221 seconds back. Hélio Castroneves was runner-up at Indianapolis and finds himself third quickest in first practice, 0.0382 seconds off Hunter-Reay. Winner of race two at Belle Isle last year, Simon Pagenaud jumped to fourth on his final lap of the session and making it three Hondas in the top five. Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five, 0.3488 seconds back of Hunter-Reay.

Four of the top five are former Belle Isle winners. Castroneves picked up his first IndyCar victory at Belle Isle in 2000 and Kanaan won in 2007.

Mike Conway made it five consecutive former Belle Isle winners on the time sheet in sixth position. Ryan Briscoe was seventh quickest as he looks to turn things around after struggling at Indianapolis but fighting for a eighteenth place finish. James Hinchcliffe was eighth quickest in his second home race. Belle Isle is located in the middle of the Detroit River with Windsor, Ontario in it's sights. Graham Rahal was a surprise ninth quickest with Charlie Kimball in tenth, making it three Ganassi cars in the top ten.

Marco Andretti was eleventh followed by Sebastián Saavedra and Jack Hawksworth. Scott Dixon was fourteeth, 1.0212 seconds of off Hunter-Reay's fastest lap. Carlos Muñoz jumped to fifteenth on his final lap of the session, putting eight Hondas in the top fifteen.

Takuma Sato was sixteenth quickest. Will Power was a surprising seventeenth in the first session. Just behind him was Mikhail Aleshin. Josef Newgarden was nineteenth with Sébastien Bourdais rounding out the top twenty. Colombians Carlos Huertas and Juan Pablo Montoya were the slowest two drivers in the first session with Montoya 2.0932 seconds back of Hunter-Reay.

Second practice from Belle Isle will take place at 3:20 p.m. ET.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Track Walk: Belle Isle 2014

Ryan Hunter-Reay Looks To Ride The Wave From Indianapolis to Detroit
Ryan Hunter-Reay led a race high 56 laps in winning the 98th Indianapolis 500 and now leads the Verizon IndyCar Series standings by forty-points heading to the Belle Isle doubleheader. Will Power dropped to second in the standings with Hélio Castroneves vaulted to third in the standings over Simon Pagenaud. They trail Hunter-Reay by 54 and 63 points respectively. Marco Andretti rounds out the top five, 82 points back of his teammate.

TV Channel: ABC. The final ABC weekend of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Time: Coverage begins Saturday May 31st and Sunday June 1st at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever, Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little and Vince Welch.

Can Chevrolet Win Their Home Race?
The American manufacture has been embarrassed in their backyard three times since Belle Isle returned to the schedule two years agos, the same year Chevrolet returned to IndyCar as an engine manufacture. Honda has won all three races held at Belle Isle in the DW12-era and has taken eight of nine podium positions. Last year, Mike Conway and Dale Coyne Racing took a surprise victory and bookended the podium with Justin Wilson in race one while Simon Pagenaud held off James Jakes for his first career IndyCar win with Mike Conway finishing third and Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti making it a clean sweep of the top five for Honda in race two.

Let's not forget to mention that Honda enters Detroit having won the last three rounds of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season (two for Ryan Hunter-Reay and one for Simon Pagenaud). The players have played musical chairs since the last time IndyCar decided to race in the middle of the Detroit River. Ganassi and Andretti traded places with Ganassi joining the bow-tie brigade. Mike Conway is now the secret weapon in Chevrolet's arsenal driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. Chevrolet has the upper-hand on paper with four former Belle Isle winners in their stables but paper has never won a motor race.

If this year doesn't work out, maybe Chevrolet should take a look at hosting a race at Michigan International Speedway if they want a home game they can win?

Who's Season Hangs in the Balance?
When race one from Detroit ends, a third of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season will be in the books. Some drivers will be right where they wanted to be while others are going to have to step up to the next level if they want to be a contender come Fontana Labor Day weekend.

Let's start from the bottom, Graham Rahal has fewer points in five races than Kurt Busch has in one. The Ohioan trails the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion by one point for 23rd in the standings. In four Belle Isle starts, his best finish came last year when he finished ninth in both races. In 2014, his best finish is 13th, his best start is 12th and his average starting position is 18.8. He and his team picked up over $12 million in sponsorship and has yet to show any improvement for the National Guard than when they were sponsoring Panther Racing. Meanwhile, his teammate for four rounds Oriol Servià out qualified (average start of 17.75 to Rahal's 18.25) and out raced Rahal (average finish of 12.5 to Rahal's 21) and his future is up in the air. See anything wrong with that?

Tony Kanaan entered Belle Isle in 2013 as the winner of the Indianapolis 500 and seventh in the championship with 124 points. One year later he heads to the Motor City sixteenth in the championship with 104 points and a twenty-sixth at Indianapolis. To be fair, Kanaan has three top tens from five races in 2014 but the Brazilian has seen a slip in results. He finished eleventh in the 2013 championship, ending ten consecutive years of finishing in the top ten of the championship standings.

In the odd world of IndyCar, James Hinchcliffe has one top ten in 2014, has an average finish of 19th (5.2 positions worse than Kanaan) and has the fourth best average starting position amongst full-time drivers at 7.2 (Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon are ahead of the Canadian) and is one point ahead of Kanaan in the standings in fifteenth. The Canadian had two victories at this point in 2013 but also found difficulty bringing the car home in the top ten. Meanwhile, his three full-time teammates are first, fifth and sixth in the championship.

Sports Cars
Both IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge accompany IndyCar to Belle Isle. The Prototype and GT Daytona class comprise a 32-car grid for the fifth round of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship. An LMP2 team defeated the Daytona Prototype juggernaut in the merged Prototype class at Laguna Seca with the #2 Extreme Speed HPD ARX-03b of Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown getting the victory. Dane Cameron and Markus Paltala won GTD at Laguna Seca for Turner Motorsport. João Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi lead the Prototype standings by three over Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Andy Lally and John Potter are all tied for the points lead in GTD with 87 laps.

Ferrari driver Anthony Lazzaro leads the PWC standings after a win and a second place finish at Barber last month. Johnny O'Connell is second in the standings, 46 points back with his Cadillac teammate Andy Pilgrim, Audi's Andrew Palmer and James Sofronas rounding out the top five in the championship.

IMSA takes to the track at 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday with PWC running a doubleheader. Race one of the PWC weekend is at 10:05 a.m. ET Saturday with race two at 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday.

Fun Facts
One-hundred and forty laps are scheduled for this weekend. No standing start at Belle Isle. Two rolling starts instead.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 70 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Race one will be the first IndyCar race on May 31st not hosted at either Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the Milwaukee Mile. The last race on May 31st was in 2009 at Milwaukee. Scott Dixon was the winner.

Race two will be the first IndyCar race on June 1st since last year when Mike Conway won driving for Dale Coyne Racing.

The starting positions to produce the most winners at Belle Isle are first, third and fourth, each producing three winners.

Fifth and eight positions are the only top the starting positions to have yet to produce a winner at Belle Isle.

Simon Pagenaud's win last year was the first for a car starting sixth at Belle Isle.

The worst starting position for a Belle Isle winner is tenth when Danny Sullivan won in 1993.

The last American to win at Belle Isle was Michael Andretti in 1996.

Remember more facts can be found at the Telemetry Center.

For some reason, my gut is saying pick Marco Andretti. Honda keeps their flag firmly in Chevrolets backyard. Ryan Hunter-Reay will ride the wave of momentum into Belle Isle and continue of his streak of finishing either first or second in four of the first five races. Simon Pagenaud has another stellar weekend. Graham Rahal continues to struggle. Tony Kanaan will be average. Sébastien Bourdais surprises some and Scott Dixon is Chevrolet's top dog. Mike Conway recovers after a few poor races after his Long Beach victory. Hunter-Reay and Pagenaud each add another victory to their résumés. Sleepers: Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Musings From the Weekend: Was There Much Racing Going On?

Going to break this down into parts for the big races this weekend. Just to get this out of the way, I thought all three races were really, really good. It felt that for one day the officials let a race go and let it play out naturally. If only they did that for every race during the year.

Thoughts About the "500"
1. Anyone else think this race goes up there as one of the all-time best? I know we've said this now three and easily four years in a row. Are we being too quick to judgement? Today it feels like everything that happens is automatically thrown on top as the greatest ever and whatever history an event has and however long it is is ignored. Just off the top of my head, 1991, 1960 and 1982 were all great duals. 1992 was a sloppy race saved by still the closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history. 1993 arguably is at the top considering the depth of the field, the amount of lead changes and how close it was at the end, despite not being a photo-finish. I know there are plenty of worthy candidates for best "500s" that I am forgetting but for the sake of time I think time will let things play out and in 5-10 years we will have a better idea where this rates.

2. I was really surprised with the fuel mileage Chevrolet was getting but to be more specific, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon and Will Power who all were able to do 3-5 more laps over a stint. It nearly played into Montoya's favor before speeding on the pit lane. It seemed Honda had the advantage the first two years of this engine formula, maybe the lost the edge by going to the twin-turbo and somewhere in development it lost that step to the Chevrolets? Of course, maybe I am selling Montoya, Dixon and Power short on being great drivers who can make fuel when they need to. It will be interesting to see how it plays out over the rest of the oval season.

3. The call to red-flag the race was spot on. There was a hole in the SAFER barrier. It's a safety concern that had to be tended to. Instead of letting the cars ride around and in this case just ride to the checkered flag, take the time to fix it so the cars can race. I would still like to see IndyCar put a rule in for late red flags on ovals. Here is how I would word it:

At the discretion of the officials, a red flag may be used between 5 and 15 laps to go of an oval race only once to clean up the debris of an accident. 

Bell's accident fell into that time frame and it worked out. I use the "discretion of the officials" line and I know some of you don't like that vagueness but here is what I am thinking of. Let's say with 12 to go, some has a Danny Sullivan moment, spins, hits nothing and keeps going and the caution is thrown. There is no need to red flag it there. No debris, no car and driver to tend to, the race could go green in three laps. Now let's say on that restart we have a James Hinchcliffe/Ed Carpenter accident, that's where the red flag could be used. Had it been used for the prior caution, it would have been a waste and the field couldn't be stopped, potentially leading to the field running the final eight laps behind the pace car. 

It has to be limited to one red flag though because we can't have stoppage after stoppage drag out the end of the race. And I think the time frame is fair. A accident with 16 to go is out of the time frame and you could easily get that race going before 10 to go. A accident with 3 to go however, I fell is too late to throw a red flag. Didn't NASCAR have a rule not too long ago of how late a red flag could be thrown? If an accident happens with 3 to go, the have any shot of a green flag finish you'd have to red flag it immediately, even if it was for car lazily spinning to the infield and having no damage. My feeling is if you aren't leading after 197 laps, you had plenty of opportunity to get the lead and if you aren't leading at that point, it just wasn't meant to be your day.

4. Think about where Ryan Hunter-Reay was May 26, 2007, the day prior to the 91st Indianapolis 500. Unemployed. He wasn't at Indianapolis, he wasn't preparing for Portland in two weeks. He hadn't raced for 1 year, 8 months and 3 days. He was an afterthought. His career was over at the age of 26 and he was going to fall into the bin of talented Atlantics drivers from the late-1990s, early-2000s that were full of talent but never got great opportunities in open-wheel race such as Jon Fogerty, Alex Gurney, Ryan Dalziel, Michael Valiante, Joey Hand, Luis Díaz and Rocky Moran, Jr. 

Look at all that he has accomplished in seven years. Now think of JR Hildebrand, Bryan Clauson, Luca Filippi, Wade Cunningham and Alex Lloyd. All talented, young drivers who haven't had enough opportunities to show what they can do. Before you start pegging drivers as washed up or never going to be able to succeed, remember what Hunter-Reay has done. The business of motorsports can sometimes be a bitch and drivers never get the opportunity but it only takes one break to turn a career around.

Mimosas at Monaco
This season might been a Mercedes blood bath but at least they are going to let Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton go at. They hate each other. If the remaining thirteen rounds of the Formula One season are these two trading haymakers like a fifteen round title fight between heavyweights, I am game for it. Daniel Ricciardo has been smooth and he will break through to get one victory and it might be more than his teammate, four-time World Drivers' champion Sebastian Vettel. My theory is Vettel is driving too hard and not taking care of the equipment while Ricciardo's three previous season have been driving cars that needed to be conserve to make the finish. Vettel has become use to putting the foot down and running purple sector after purple sector but the new car can't handle that style of driving. Vettel hasn't lost his talent. He was third at Malaysia, went from 15th to 4th at Spain, he just needs to take a deep breath and remember to finish first one must first finish. 

Shout out to Jules Bianchi and Marussia on their first points in Formula One with a ninth place finish and shout out to Marcus Ericsson and Caterham on just missing out on the points in eleventh.

Charlotte's Night Cap
Jimmie Johnson is in the Chase, everyone can breathe easy. I really enjoyed this race. It wasn't slowed up with endless cautions. It felt like a proper race and Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick had a great three-way battle at the end. Only thirteen cars finished on the lead lap and after 600 miles, half the field shouldn't be on the lead lap. I hated to see Kurt Busch's night end with an engine failure. He wasn't in contention to win but he was on the tail end of the lead lap most of the night and it appeared it was going to be close whether or not he would complete the 1,100 miles.

2015 Day Dreaming
Imagine if the 33 drivers who entered this year's Indianapolis 500 were back next year along with Sam Hornish, Jr., Buddy Rice, Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson (who supposedly will be back in 2015 with Jonathan Byrd's Racing), Luca Filippi, Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge, Bertrand Baguette, Alex Lloyd and A.J. Allmendinger also attempting the double? A man can dream right?

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Hunter-Reay, Rosberg and Johnson but did you know...

Gabby Chaves won the Freedom 100.

Aaron Telitz, Garret Grist and Tracy Hines all won at the Night Before the 500.

The #7 Bentley of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick won the Blancpain Endurance Series race at Silverstone.

Yvan Muller and José María López split the WTCC weekend at the Salzburgring.

Tom Sykes swept the World Superbike weekend at Donington Park.

Coming up this weekend:

IndyCar's doubleheader from Belle Isle.
NASCAR at Dover.
DTM in Hungary.
MotoGP at Mugello.
Super GT at Autopolis.
Le Mans Test Day

I want to end this week Musings with a personal anecdote. I never really believed in having one driver to root for. I think that is the worst way to get new fans. I think everyone should learn to love motorsports for what it is and not have the only reasoning they are following be one driver because once that driver retires or loses a ride what is keeping their interest? Drivers come and go, the product will be around forever. However, Ryan Hunter-Reay helped me out one night not too long ago.

If you've followed this blog closely since it's inception on April 5, 2012, you may be able to recall that I have talked about my grandfather and how we would watch races together until he died from cancer. I was 17 and felt I had no one to turn to. My whole family was distraught and bring up my grandfather created a flood of tears. I knew none of my friends at school could really understand what I was feeling. I was was looking for any type of comfort and support I could get. One depressed night I took a shot and emailed Ryan Hunter-Reay. Knowing the story of his mother passing not to long before my grandfather, I told him everything that had happened, how I was feeling and the regrets of not sacrificing everything I had to be by his side for every one of waning moments. I never expected him to respond, I never expected him to even read it. 

He got back to me five days later. He told me what I was going through was natural. He had the same feelings of regret and second guessing of not being by her side. He told me to focus on the good times I had with my grandfather and to keep my head. 

Those words really helped me through what was the darkest point of my life. I have never gotten the opportunity to thank Hunter-Reay in person for responding to the email of a 17 year old who felt suffocated by the death of his grandfather and failing to be by his side. He took a brief moment to support someone he never met and still has yet to meet. Maybe one day our paths will cross and I will get the chance to thank him in person. I don't root for drivers but it's hard for me not to feel a little happier each time Hunter-Reay succeeds.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

98th Indianapolis 500: First Impressions

1. What a phenomenal race. Ryan Hunter-Reay becomes the first driver to win from 19th on the grid since Bill Vukovich in 1954. He was on fire at the start, picking up positions from the get go. He methodically worked his way to the front and he didn't sit back. He went for it and look where he ended up. IndyCar dropped the ball on promoting his championship in 2012. This is IndyCar's mulligan, make up for it powers that be.

2. Hélio Castroneves was 0.0600 seconds from joining A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears in the 4-time winner club. Nothing for him to hang his head about.

3. Marco Andretti third. His track record at Indianapolis is fantastic. He is missing one thing though but you have to think it will one day fall his way

4. Carlos Muñoz in fourth after second the year before. He was much quieter in this race but he was solid all day.

5. Had he not been caught speeding, Juan Pablo Montoya may have been up by Hunter-Reay and Castroneves' side. Not a bad recovery

6. Kurt Busch was the top finishing rookie in sixth but if I had to vote for Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, Sage Karam and him should split the honor after Karam went from 31st to 9th. If they split it, I would be pleased. Maybe Busch comes back to do more IndyCar races or maybe he enjoyed it so much he switches full-time (doubt it). Karam however, despite the "should-they, shouldn't-they" Ganassi made over running him proved he deserves a full-time ride. Resurrecting Dreyer and Reinbold back to full-time status wouldn't be a bad thing.

7. Sébastien Bourdais finishes an Indianapolis 500 best seventh driving for the defending Indianapolis 500 winning team of #11 KV Racing. Quiet day for the Frenchman but a good day.

8. Had he also not been caught speeding, Will Power may have been up by Hunter-Reay, Castroneves and Montoya's side for the victory.

9. JR Hildebrand should take those results and super glue them to John Barnes' door. Tenth place as a one off. If only he can turn it into a full-time ride. He's a better driver than he is given credit for.

10. A quiet eleventh for Oriol Servià. This was scheduled to be his last race of 2014. Hopefully that changes as he has been the one bright thing for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2014.

11. Simon Pagenaud couldn't sweep the month at Indianapolis but twelfth is nothing to be ashamed about.

12. Alex Tagliani finished thirteenth as a one-off. He worked strategy to his favor and he was top Canadian as Jacques Villeneuve finishes fourteenth. Not bad for 19 years away from the Indianapolis 500.

13. Sebastián Saavedra and his roommate (former roommate? Maybe? I don't remember) James Davison finish fifteenth and sixteenth. Not a bad day for either. And Carlos Huertas was seventeenth. He is more than a ride buyer but not necessarily the next raising star.

14. Ryan Briscoe's race started poorly, nearly brushing the wall but eighteenth is a big turn around after it appeared his day was over before it even started.

15. Takuma Sato kept his nose clean in nineteenth as did Jack Hawksworth rounding out the top twenty.

16. Mikhail Aleshin started the race well but faded and finished two laps down in twenty-first.

17. Justin Wilson was in position for another top ten before front wing damage from the Townsend Bell accident forced him to pit and drop him to twenty-second.

18. Odd month for Martin Plowman. Runs over Franck Montagny but keeps going in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Runs into the back of Josef Newgarden, ending his day early. But Plowman was smart late in the race when the leaders were catching him. I thought he'd be a favorite for Rookie of the Year back in March. I was wrong. I think he should get another few starts in 2014.

19. Pippa Mann in twenty-fourth not a bad day. She had a lengthy pit stop (I believe it was her second or third) but she took the checkered flag, seven laps down.

20. Townsend Bell was in the top five when he had an accident with 10 to go. He proves Tony Stewart wrong every year when Stewart says you can't be competitive as an Indianapolis 500 one-off. Only wish the finish came to Bell as well as the strong run he made from 25th. But I think Busch also proves Stewart wrong. Not a bad thing at all. Bell should be a full-time driver though.

21. Tony Kanaan's hopes for back-to-back Indianapolis 500 ended when he had problems on the same round of pit stops as Mann. Ran out of fuel and then tore up his gearbox.

22. Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe collided with 25 to go after going three-wide with Townsend Bell. Bell survived, Carpenter and Hinchcliffe didn't. Both would have been threats at the end of the race. I really think it would have been Hunter-Reay and Carpenter 1-2 had he not been caught up in the accident.

23. Scott Dixon had a good run but a quiet run before he hit the turn four wall.

24. Josef Newgarden was punted by Martin Plowman when the caution flew for Dixon's accident. It was a disappointing end to his day. He started really well but, like Kanaan, ran out of fuel coming into pit on one stop and lost many laps.

25. Charlie Kimball brought out the first caution for a spin after 149 consecutive laps under green flag from the start of the race. The long run was thrilling and draining. A caution was bound to happen but it felt for a while that it would go 200 laps of green flag with no interruptions.

26. Buddy Lazier's day ended before halfway but I do hope he does run a few more ovals and if it's not him, maybe he hires Hildebrand, Davison, Tagliani or Karam who all showed they deserve more than one race a season.

27. Graham Rahal's season has been one to forget. The National Guard sponsorship has put a lot of pressure on him and RLLR and he has been an after-thought in every race of 2014. That team needs a massive shakeup as Servià has out-classed Rahal for most of this season.

28. It was an unbelievably fast race at the beginning. Slowed down after a handful of cautions in the final quarter of the race. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't speak. It was torture but it was fantastic.

29. The call to throw the red-flag after Bell's accident. First, the SAFER barrier was damaged, it had to be thrown. Second, I don't mind the call, it's better than letting the race run out under caution especially for ten laps. Third, my only fear is a car doesn't restart and it ruins the day of a team. The Chevrolet and Honda engines have proven to be near bulletproof but you never know when heartbreak is about to happen.

30. After watching the Hinchcliffe/Carpenter accident, it only confirms my thoughts that when the apron returns, it should be fair territory. Don't make it "out-of-bounds" like at Daytona and Talladega for NASCAR. The apron very well would have prevent that accident from happening.

31. It wasn't a slingshot fest. There was a fair amount of passing but I think a little more horsepower and aero kits will allow the field to break up a little bit and allow the top cars pull away. Letting the top two or three or four or five or six pull away isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you have a great car, it should have the capability of breaking away from others.

32. Listened to both the television and radio broadcast simultaneously. Cheever and Goodyear weren't as bad but maybe it's because the radio crew picked up where they lacked. Allen Bestwick did great on debut. Paul Page was great on his return to being the voice of the "500" and I enjoyed Robbie Buhl be the driver analyst on radio. Cheever and Goodyear still need to be shown the door.

I think ABC needs to improve their whole pre-race. Lindsay Czarniak is great. Should be pre-race host for all ABC IndyCar races but all the featurettes should be their own half-hour show followed by a proper half-hour pre-race show breaking down teams, strategies, qualifying, etc. Also, more driver interviews. It seems ABC talks about the same handful of drivers: Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Kanaan and whoever else is driving for Penske and Ganassi. Interview James Davison about his Indianapolis 500 debut and what it means for his historic racing family from Australia. They completely ignored Townsend Bell until late. Alex Tagliani got no acknowledgement until he led under caution late. Sébastien Bourdais and the defending Indianapolis 500 winning team KV Racing got barely any attention.

Pipe dream is Will Buxton, and only Will Buxton, doing the grid walk interviewing drivers in the pre-race with the remaining pit lane reporters coming in during the race. Of course that will only happen if NBC gets the rights to the "500" and Monaco doesn't fall on the same day. It truly is a pipe dream.

33. 364 days until the 99th Indianapolis 500

Morning Warm-Up: 98th Indianapolis 500

For the second consecutive year Ed Carpenter will lead the field to the green flag for the Indianapolis 500. Carpenter became the eleventh driver to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500 pole positions last week. Of the ten men before him to win consecutive pole positions, seven went on to add at least one Indianapolis 500 victory to their résumé. In the middle of row one for the second time in his Indianapolis 500 career, James Hinchcliffe looks to become the second Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500. Hinchcliffe finished sixth in 2012 after starting second. Will Power rounds out row one. It is the 40th Penske car to start on the front row and Power's second career front row start in the Indianapolis 500.

Hélio Castroneves looks for his fourth career Indianapolis 500 victory from fourth position. A.J. Foyt won his fourth from fourth position in 1977. Simon Pagenaud starts fifth after winning the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis two weeks ago. The last French-born driver to win the Indianapolis 500 was Gil de Ferran. The last French national to win the Indianapolis 500 was Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Marco Andretti starts sixth in his ninth Indianapolis 500 start. His grandfather Mario started sixth in his ninth Indianapolis 500 start and finished 30th in the ill-fated 1973 race. His father Michael started sixth in his ninth Indianapolis 500 start and finished thirteenth in the ill-fated 1992 race.

Carlos Muñoz will roll off from the inside of row three. The Colombian is looking to become the eleventh former-Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year to win the race itself. Josef Newgarden starts eighth. His first two Indianapolis 500 finishes have been twenty-fifth and twenty-eighth. JR Hildebrand starts a career best in the Indianapolis 500 in ninth. He started tenth last year before retiring due to an accident on lap three. Just like Muñoz, Hildebrand looks to become the eleventh former-Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year to win the race itself. 

Juan Pablo Montoya starts his first Indianapolis 500 in fourteen years from the tenth position. He led 167 laps from second position to claim victory in the 2000 Indianapolis 500. The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon starts next to him in eleventh. Dixon led 115 laps in his lone Indianapolis 500 victory. Kurt Busch is the top starting rookie in twelfth. Busch's best career Brickyard 400 finish is 5th in 2001. His average finish in 13 Brickyard 400 starts is 19.38.

Jack Hawksworth is the second-best starting rookie in thirteenth. It's the Brits first career IndyCar oval race as he drives for the 2011 Indianapolis 500 winners Bryan Herta Autosport. Justin Wilson starts fourteenth for the second consecutive year. Last year, Wilson went from fourteenth to fifth, the top finishing Honda in 2013. Mikhail Aleshin rounds out row five. He is the first Russian to ever start the Indianapolis 500 and it is his first career oval race.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan starts sixteenth. He was the fastest driver on Carb Day and looks to join Dan Wheldon (2005) and Dario Franchitti (2012) as the third driver to win from sixteenth position. The defending Indianapolis 500 winning team, the #11 Hydroxycut/Mistic E-Cig KV Racing Chevrolet starts next to their former driver with Sébastien Bourdais behind the wheel.  The Frenchman's best Indianapolis 500 finish is twelfth in 2005. Oriol Servià starts eighteenth. The Spaniard's average finish in the Indianapolis 500 is 11.6 in five starts. 

Ryan Hunter-Reay starts nineteenth. The only Indianapolis 500 winner to come from nineteenth was Bill Vukovich in 1954. Graham Rahal starts twentieth. His lone top ten in the Indianapolis 500 was a third in 2011. Carlos Huertas starts on the outside of row seven. This will be his first career oval start. 

Pippa Mann starts twenty-second. It her first Indianapolis 500 start inside the top thirty. Takuma Sato starts twenty-third. Sato is still looking for his first career top ten in the Indianapolis 500. Last year, he picked up his best Indianapolis 500 finish in thirteenth. Alex Tagliani starts on the outside of row eight. The French-Canadian had qualified no worse than eleventh the last four years.

Townsend Bell is on the inside of row nine, his worst Indianapolis 500 start of his career and third career Indianapolis 500 start outside the top twenty. Bell went from twenty-fourth to fourth in 2009. Charles Kimball is next to Bell. In his three previous Indianapolis 500s, Kimball has finishes of thirteenth, eighth and ninth. Jacques Villeneuve starts twenty-seventh in his first Indianapolis 500 in 18 years, 11 months and 28 days, a record for longest gap between starts. Marion Trexler previously held the IndyCar record for longest gap between starts at 17 years, 9 months and 5 days and Cy Marshall and Roland Free previously held the Indianapolis 500 record for longest gap between Indianapolis 500 starts at 17 years. 

James Davison starts twenty-eighth. He is the eighth different Australian to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Martin Plowman starts twenty-ninth. Plowman won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year and the world championship in LMP2 class in the FIA World Endurance Championship paired with former IndyCar driver Bertrand Baguette and Ricardo González. Ryan Briscoe starts thirtieth, the third Australian in the field tying the 1981 Indianapolis 500 for the record for most Australians in one Indianapolis 500. That year Vern Schuppan, Geoff Brabham and Dennis Firestone all finished in the top ten in third, fifth and tenth position respectively. 

The last row features the youngest driver and oldest driver on the grid. Nineteen-year old Sage Karam starts thirty-first. The 2013 Indy Lights champion finished second in the pit stop competition on Carb Day losing to Scott Dixon. Sebastián Saavedra starts in the middle of the eleventh row. His second career start in thirty-second. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, forty-six year old Buddy Lazier rounds out the grid in thirty-third. This is Lazier's third consecutive Indianapolis 500 starting on the last row. 

For what it's worth, more 32 year olds (10) have won the Indianapolis 500 than any other age. The lone 32 year old on the grid is Ryan Briscoe.

Here is a grid breakdown by ages:
19- Sage Karam.
22- Carlos Muñoz, Carlos Huertas.
23- Jack Hawksworth, Josef Newgarden, Sebastián Saavedra.
25- Graham Rahal.
26- JR Hildebrand, Martin Plowman.
27- Mikhail Aleshin, Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, James Davison.
29- Charlie Kimball.
30- Simon Pagenaud, Pippa Mann.
32- Ryan Briscoe.
33- Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon.
35- Sébastien Bourdais, Kurt Busch, Justin Wilson.
37- Takuma Sato.
38- Juan Pablo Montoya.
39- Hélio Castroneves, Townsend Bell, Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servià.
40- Alex Tagliani.
43- Jacques Villeneuve.
46- Buddy Lazier

ABC's coverage of the 98th Indianapolis 500 begins at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, 10:00 a.m. Central, 9:00 a.m. Mountain, 8:00 a.m. Pacific, 5:00 a.m. Hawaiian, 4:00 p.m. British Summer, 5:00 p.m. Central European Summer, 7:00 p.m. Moscow Standard, 12:00 a.m. Monday Japanese Standard, 1:00 a.m. Monday in Sydney and 3:00 a.m. in Auckland. Green flag will be at 12:12 p.m. ET.

Weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, a high of 79º Fahrenheit and 0% chance of precipitation. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Brace Yourself For the End of Sunday

The Indianapolis 500 may end under caution. 

It's ok. 

I've never been a fan of green-white-checkered finishes. I do but I don't understand fans expectations of every race ending under green flag conditions. I want every race to finish under green flag conditions with car flashing under the checkered flag at inconsistent intervals with some positions seconds apart while others fight hard to get that one more position even if it's for nineteenth. I don't want races to end with cars cruising around for one, two, three, four, five, whatever lap total it is because of an accident or debris. 

I accept races will finish under caution. They are inevitable. Sometimes it is for the better. They are rare. Let's focus on that. More races end under green flag conditions than behind a pace car. 

What I don't understand is the increased feeling over the last decade in motorsports from fans that it is their right from God to see a green flag finish. As if that is what they paid to see. I hate to break it to some of you, but you are wrong. You paid to see a race, whether it be 10 miles, one hour, 250 laps, 500 miles or 24 hours, and all that comes along with it and that includes a race ending under caution. This belief that a green flag finish is the only acceptable finish is self-centered. We don't hear from baseball fans demanding every game end with a walk off home run, basketball fans demanding every game end with a buzzer beater, hockey or soccer fans demanding every game end with a shootout (which is an awful way to determine the winner) or a football fan demanding every game end with a Hail Mary or game-winning field goal. Some baseball games end 12-2 with a groundout to second. Some basketball games end 94-77 with a team dribbling out the clock. Some football games end 34-10 with a kneel down. It happens. 

You can't hold the gun to the head, knife to the throat, baseball bat to the kneecaps of a sanctioning body to give them the finish you want or else you are going to pull the trigger, slit the jugular or go Hammerin' Hank Aaron and swing away. 

I run a lot. Not as much as I would have liked lately because of a knee injury but I'm slowly getting back out there. I think of a marathon. There is nothing more athletic in my opinion. The gun goes off or bell rings and the race begins. If someone falls, everyone isn't forced to stop and wait until the person gets up or told they will have to run an extra mile or two to make up for the person falling. The race is 26.2 miles long. No more. They don't take the top ten after 26.2 miles and have them run a 2-mile sprint to determine the winner. The winner could win by minutes and it's the beauty of the athletic endeavor. It isn't manipulated, it isn't a show, it's a competition that is allowed to flow at it's own pace. 

A motor race should be the same way. The distance is set and that is what everyone races to. If some can't make it the scheduled distance, then it wasn't there day and it's just the nature of the beast. If the winner takes the checkered flag by a second or a minute over second place, it happens naturally. 

The one incomparable thing motorsports has that no other sports has is cautions. They stop everything, bunch the field up, make competitors closer. I guess the closest analogy to cautions in motorsports are penalties in football where a team could gain or lose yards toward the end zone they are trying to score in but even that is different. Just because a team gains 10 yards doesn't mean they are going to score but then again, just because a driver has a 10 second gap to the leader erased doesn't mean they are going to take the lead. 

I think the intrinsic natural of motorsports isn't as appreciated as much as it should be, especially in this day and age where entertainment is pushed more than purity. Today, decisions should be made to increase drama, suspense and most importantly, eyeballs and not necessarily remain true to what a sport should be. The competition for eyeballs is tiresome. I want to see a sport be true to form. I don't want to see golf tournaments determined by putt-putt competitions because it's more exciting. I don't want to see a half-court shot count for four points in basketball because more teams might try it to cut leads down, I don't want to see metal bats in baseball to increase distances of home runs. I want to see purity. I want a sport to stand on it's own two feet for what it is. We are taught from a young age to be yourself and don't let others peer pressure you into change. Sports should be the same way. Be yourself. If others can't accept or appreciate you for who you are then tough for them. 

The analogy a race using green-white-checkered is like overtime in other sports is completely false. Why do football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, etc. play an extra session? The two teams are tied after regulation. They are a tiebreaker. A motor race does not use green-white-checkered to break a tie. The field isn't tied when a caution is thrown. Someone is always leading someone else. Green-white-checkered is a search for the "perfect finish" which does not exist. Other sports don't search for the "perfect finish" and everyone else is find with it, creating a paradox of how sports fan want their competitions to end. The idea "you don't want to be leading going into the last lap" is false. A driver should try and lead every lap. In motorsports, you can't sit back and think, "don't worry, I got 50 laps to figure this out." You have to go for it because you never know what is going to happen next. That is why a race should end when it reaches it's schedule distance, whether it be under green or yellow conditions. You shouldn't get a do-over or a second chance because you were in the right position at the right time. The schedule distance comes and if you aren't first, oh well. As Willy Wonda once said, "You Get Nothing! You Lose! Good Day Sir!"

The Indianapolis 500 has technically finished under caution the last four years. Dan Wheldon finished under the green flag in 2011 and then the caution came out, it's hazy. You could define it either way. I don't want the race to end under caution but if it does, it happens. The race, any race for that matter, should not be extended. A race should reach it's distance and end. The Indiana Pacers didn't get a half court shot worth five points at the end of game two of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night because it would be an exciting way to determine the winner. When the 48th minute ended, they were down by four to the Miami Heat and lost. When the 500th mile is completed on Sunday, whoever is in second, will lose, regardless if it is green or yellow and that is how it should be.

Musings From Carb Day

1. Part of me feels sad for Matthew Brabham. It felt like Grandpa Jack was going to give him the push needed but it wasn't enough. Good for Gabby Chaves winning the Freedom 100 after losing it by such a close margin last year. Brabham hit the rev-limiter and it allowed for Chaves to get the run on him. It seemed like the Indy Lights cars were hitting the rev-limiter on the straightaways. Hopefully the new car will be able to avoid that next year.

2. I heard this on More Front Wing's podcast. Steph Wallcraft interviewed 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve when he was in Toronto for the Indianapolis 500 media tour and the one thing Villeneuve said he would like to see more power in the cars for the race. He didn't want to see the boost turned back down to 130kPa. With the massive amount of passing we have seen in the last two Indianapolis 500s, maybe that extra power help spread out the cars. Now could the engines handle 140kPa for 500 miles? I don't know but seeing as how these engines are in their third year, you'd think there is enough data available for them to figure out what the limit is for a engine with 10 extra kPa. 

3. It was great to hear Bob Varsha in the booth. He is doing sports cars on Fox Sports but hearing him calling even just a practice session at Indianapolis felt right. Leigh Diffey does a great job handling both Formula One and IndyCar duties but Varsha is the go-to guy when a substitute is needed.

4. The apron is suppose to return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in time for this year's Brickyard 400 in late-July. I hope IndyCar doesn't make the apron "out-of-bounds" for next year's Indianapolis 500. Allow the drivers to use the extra space. A lot has changed since the 1992 Indianapolis 500, the last to feature the apron. The DW12 chassis was created with safety in mind, the SAFER barriers were introduced and HANS devices have been made mandatory. I think they should counteract the "crash angles."

5. With that said, Chase Austin had a nasty accident during the Freedom 100 when he hit the inside wall between the south end short chute and the infield portion of the road course. The front end of his car clipped the tire barrier on the road course while the back end collided with the concrete inside wall of the short chute. SAFER barriers should be everywhere at a race track. They have been around for over a decade now and the cost of installation must be lower than it currently is at. The cost should never be a deterrent from a track installing them. 

6. Remember when I suggested the pit stop competition should featuring all 33 cars? That would take way too long with the rate today's competition took. You'd have to spread it over two days. But in all seriousness, we got to limit each team to one participant. Ganassi and Penske swept the semifinals* and had six of eight positions in the quarterfinals*. The asterisk is for Sage Karam who, while driving for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, it practically a fifth Ganassi entry. 

7. Congratulations to the #9 crew and Scott Dixon on the pit stop competition victory but got to give the #22 Dreyer and Reinbold crew and Sage Karam credit. They haven't made an in-race pit stop yet and finish second. Not bad. 

8. Simon Pagenaud had a phenomenal orange livery for the pit stop competition, which he should run for every race. 

9. How IndyCar failed to give NBC the network deal is beyond me. The one thing working for ABC is their pit lane reporters but even then NBC has them covered by a country mile. Jon Beekhuis knows the inside and outside of the car like nobody's business, something ABC fails to have on their broadcast. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Track Walk: 98th Indianapolis 500

Two weeks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway feature a successful inaugural road course weekend  and a qualifying weekend, while different than any session ever held before, produce a pole winning speed of 231.067 MPH and the fastest field in Indianapolis 500 history. Twenty-seven drivers look to cement their legacy while six others look grace the Borg-Warner Trophy one more time.

TV Channel: ABC
Time: Coverage begins Sunday May 25th at 11:00 a.m. ET. Green flag will be at 12:12 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever. On the pit lane Rick DeBruhl, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch.

Are There More Records In Store?
Sixty-eight lead changes and and an average speed of 187.433 MPH were record breaking feats in 2013. One year later and it appears both record could be in jeopardy of being broken once again. The field qualified faster than it ever has before and only two drivers (Jack Hawksworth and Kurt Busch) had an accident all month. Meanwhile, it appears the cars still punch massive holes in the air, allowing for seamlessly unstoppable drafting on the straightaways.

Where Will The Winner Come From?
There have been four Indianapolis 500s since the last time the pole-sitter won. The average amount of races between the pole-sitter winning is 3.666667 races.

The last two years the winner has come from 16th and 12th. On only three occasions has three consecutive winners come from outside the first three rows. It actually occurred in five consecutive races from 1924 to 1928. Bill Cummings, Kelly Petillo and Louis Meyer all won from outside of row three in 1934, 1935 and 1936 respectively. Team Penske three-peat from 2001-2003 all started with drivers starting outside the first three rows. Hélio Castroneves started 11th and 13th in 2001 and 2002 while Gil de Ferran started 10th.

The last winner from each row (Starting Position in parenthesis):
Row One- 2010, Dario Franchitti (3rd).
Row Two- 2011, Dan Wheldon (6th).
Row Three- 1999, Kenny Bräck (8th).
Row Four- 2013, Tony Kanaan (12th).
Row Five- 2002, Hélio Castroneves (13th).
Row Six- 2012, Dario Franchitti (16th).
Row Seven- 1987, Al Unser (20th).
Row Eight- 1935, Kelly Petillo (22nd).
Row Nine- 1974, Johnny Rutherford (25th).
Row Ten- 1936, Louis Meyer (28th).
Row Eleven- No driver has ever won from row eleven.

Road to Indy
All three series are in Indianapolis, two at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda join USAC at the Night Before the 500. R.C. Enerson has won three of six races in 2014 and leads the championship. He did not start in the U.S. F2000 race at IRP last year. Peter Portante is the top finisher from 2013 returning as he finished third last year.

Spencer Pigot won the first four races of the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship before scoring a pair of eighths during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend. Scott Hargrove swept the races on the IMS road course and finished fifth at IRP last year in U.S. F2000 with Neil Alberico getting the win. Matthew Brabham won the Pro Mazda at IRP last year with Pigot finishing second and Shelby Blackstock in third.

The Firestone Freedom 100 takes place on Carb Day. Gabby Chaves finished second by 0.0026 seconds to Peter Dempsey in a four-wide finish last year with Sage Karam and Carlos Muñoz finishing in third and fourth. Zach Veach leads the points and finished fifth last year. Luiz Razia is five points back of Veach as he will run his first oval race. The Firestone Freedom 100 can be seen at noon ET on Friday May 23rd on NBCSN.

It'd Be Good To Know...

That this race pays double points (100 for the winner, 80 for second, etc.)

All restarts will be single-file.

Eighteen Hondas and fifteen Chevrolets comprise the starting grid.

This is the first Indianapolis 500 without a car #4 since 1985.

This will be the 35th and final time Jim Nabors sings "Back Home Again in Indiana."

Simon Pagenaud, Marco Andretti and Sébastien Bourdais are all looking to join Alex Lloyd as the only drivers to win on both the oval and road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The starting grid features:

Eleven Americans.

Four Britons.

Four Colombians, an Indianapolis 500 record for most Colombian in one race.

Three Canadians, the most since 1995 when Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy and Scott Goodyear all started.

Three Australians, tying the 1981 Indianapolis 500 for most Australians in field of 33.

Two Brazilians.

Two Frenchman.

One New Zealander.

One Spaniard.

One Japanese and...

One Russian.

Mikhail Aleshin becomes the first Russian driver to start the Indianapolis 500 and Russia becomes the 28th different nation to have a representative in the Indianapolis 500.

Fun Facts
The last six Indianapolis 500s have been won by international drivers, a record. The previous record was five consecutive from 1999-2003.

Chip Ganassi Racing has won the last three races to occur on even years. The last non-Ganassi driver to win on an even year: Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006.

Four times has the Indianapolis 500 occurred on May 25th (1975, 1997, 2003, 2008). Bobby Unser, Arie Luyendyk, Gil de Ferran and Scott Dixon were the winners in those respective years.

The last native Hoosier to win the Indianapolis 500 was Wilbur Shaw in 1940.

Sarah Fisher would become the second female car owner to win the Indianapolis 500 should Josef Newgarden or Alex Tagliani end up in victory. Maude Yagle was the winning car owner of the 1929 Indianapolis 500 with Ray Keech as her driver.

Hélio Castroneves needs to lead 11 laps to join Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Michael Andretti and Al Unser as the fifth driver in the 5,000 laps led club.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 70 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

I'll be honest, this is the race I hate predicting the most. Maybe because I don't want to get it wrong. Maybe because I don't want to feel like I jinxed a driver. Maybe because out of 33 cars, I think 24 could win. I'll keep my predictions vague. There won't be a record set for most lead changes or fastest race this year. I don't envision many accidents. Pit stops will take a key driver out of contention. There will be a first time winner in the Indianapolis 500.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Helping the Little Guys in the Pit Stop Competition

The Carb Day tradition of the pit stop competition gets the crews involved in competition for a decent bonus for the men and women who don't get enough recognition for what they do each race weekend. But the pit stop competition needs a change.

When the 2014 pit stop competition entrants were announced last Tuesday the two teams who have dominated the pit stop competition combining to win the last eight consecutive years took eight of the twelve spots.

All three Penske teams, all four full-time Ganassi teams and Dreyer and Reinbold Racing, which is Ganassi's sports car pit crew on loan along with their development driver Sage Karam, are participating. The two team make-up two-thirds of the field. The remaining four crews not from the two-headed Penske/Ganassi monster are AJ Foyt's crew for Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan's crew for Graham Rahal, Andretti Autosport's crew for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Schmidt Peterson Hamilton's crew for Simon Pagenaud.

The pit stop competition maybe a nice way to fill time on Carb Day but something should be done to make sure each team has an equal opportunity at the $50,000 prize.

I'd really like to see all 33 teams participate in the pit stop competition. Set the seeding by qualifying times, have the 32nd (Sebastián Saavedra) and 33rd fastest (Buddy Lazier) teams take part in a play-in round with the winner filling in the bracket of 32 and let every crew participating in the Indianapolis 500 have a shot at the bonus. The one problem with that is it would take longer to complete. How long could they hold the fans interest? Unless they could have each head-to-head race start a minute after one another with all the pairings lined-up and ready to go or they could have two staging areas so one race could end, the next could begin almost immediately and the next teams could set up in staging area A during the race in staging area B but I am not entirely sure that's practical.

Here are some of the marque first round match ups if every team participated:

Will Power vs. Ryan Briscoe. An all-Australian, Penske-Ganassi first round? I'd take it.
Carlos Muñoz vs. Charlie Kimball. Andretti vs. Ganassi.
Kurt Busch vs. Carlos Huertas. Can Busch successful launch out of a pit stop or will their be a surprise in the second round?
Justin Wilson vs. Ryan Hunter-Reay. Could Dale Coyne Racing upset Andretti Autosport twice?
Tony Kanaan vs. Sébastien Bourdais! Kanaan vs. the team that led him to Indianapolis 500 glory the year before!

Pretty titillating stuff.

Every team participating may not be realistic but I think teams should be limited to one entry. And none of this crap that Montoya belongs to "Penske Motorsports" and Hélio Castroneves and Will Power belong to "Team Penske." Six of one, half a dozen of the other, this was done so The Captain could get one over on everybody and pick up the top abandoned Dragon position from the 2013 Entrant championship standings. They are all part of the same team and it's a technicality I'd call Penske out on and not let him get away with it.

One per team and seeing as there are thirteen teams, either take one from each and have one play-in round or one team gets left out but there would be each representation from Penske, Ganassi, Andretti, KV, Foyt, Bryan Herta Autosport, Schmidt Peterson, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Dreyer and Reinbold and/or Lazier Racing Partners.

It's just a simple idea to have more parity and give some of the little guys a fairer opportunity at the $50,000 prize. Because God only knows Penske and Ganassi are in such dire straits for the bonus.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Roll Up! Roll Up For The Magical IndyCar Media Tour! Step Right This Way!

Now that I have The Beatles stuck in a few heads time to note on Tuesday IndyCar drivers are heading across North America to talk about the Indianapolis 500 in 18 cities.

It's great that the series spreads the drivers around to different cities instead of bringing them all to New York like they did for a while. However, I think the way they send out drivers could be worked on.

For example, back-to-back Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter is going to Milwaukee with James Hinchcliffe. Nothing against Milwaukee or Hinchcliffe but the Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter should not be going to Milwaukee. He should be going to New York and ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. I don't care that Carpenter has never won the "500" before or wasn't on Dancing With The Stars. He went 231.067 MPH over four laps for crying out loud. He was the fastest all weekend and isn't a slouch for the Indianapolis 500.

Another thing that should be improved on is not sending one driver to one city. For example, why is Pippa Mann going to Cincinnati all by herself? I don't think one driver is enough for a market.

Here is a solution:
Eleven groups of three, pair a few cities up and do the best you can to get at least one American in each group. There is no reason two separate sets of drivers are going to Cincinnati and Louisville or Dayton and Columbus or Bristol, CT and New York. If you have to, get drivers on a helicopter or puddle-jumper airplane to get between two cities in close proximity in one day.

I looked at the where the drivers are going and came up with what the groups of three theoretically should be and where they should go (Note: These are not the actual media appearances):

Bristol CT/New York: Ed Carpenter, Kurt Busch and Marco Andretti.
Why?: You get the pole-sitter, fastest rookie qualifier who happens to drive in NASCAR and an Andretti in the biggest American market and on the biggest American sports channel. Great way to get the American audience interested.

Detroit: Will Power, James Davison and Buddy Lazier.
Why?: Power and Lazier are actually going to Detroit but I threw the rookie Davison in there because he is also a Chevrolet driver and has a fellow Australian in Power to help out.

Chicago/Milwaukee: James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon and Martin Plowman.
Why?: It's the biggest Midwest market and you get two contenders, one of which is the defending series champion and former Indianapolis 500. Plowman goes because he is a rookie who could benefit from being around the personalities of Hinchcliffe and Dixon and Plowman drives for A.J. Foyt Racing, who are sponsored by ABC Supply and based in Wisconsin.

Cincinnati/Louisville: Hélio Castroneves, Townsend Bell and Jack Hawksworth.
Why?: Castroneves is a big personality, Hawksworth is a great story (he is living out of an extended stay hotel in Indianapolis) and Bell has the television personality to complement Castroneves while helping the less known Hawksworth get his story across to the general public.

Nashville: Josef Newgarden, Carlos Muñoz and Takuma Sato.
Why?: Newgarden is from Nashville. Firestone's headquarters is in Nashville and you give them two drivers who were the Fast Nine.

Denver: JR Hildebrand, Justin Wilson and Mikhail Aleshin.
Why?: Hildebrand and Wilson are actually going to Denver. Both are well-spoken individuals and I think that would help Aleshin who would be going to a new market.

Dallas/Houston: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sébastien Bourdais and Ryan Briscoe.
Why?: Andretti Autosport is sponsored by Snapple, which is based in Plano, Texas. Two drivers are champions, all three are race winners and all three are great speakers.

Columbus/Dayton: Graham Rahal, Oriol Servià and Sebastián Saavedra.
Why?: Rahal is from Ohio and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is based in Ohio. Servià is fun to listen to and Saavedra brings a Chevrolet driver to the market.

New Orleans/Tampa Bay: Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam and Pippa Mann.
Why?: New Orleans may be hosting an IndyCar race in 2015 so why not show them you are invested by giving them the defending Indianapolis 500 champion? Kanaan brings out the best in everyone and I think he, Karam and Mann would do very well promoting the series.

Birmingham/Charlotte: Charlie Kimball, Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Huertas.
Why?: Kimball is a race winner with a sponsor that has used Kimball in their television commercials. Montoya just left NASCAR and is a name familiar to those two markets and I think Huertas would benefit from having two veterans with him on the media stop.

Toronto: Jacques Villeneuve, Ales Tagliani and Simon Pagenaud.
Why?: Two Canadians in Canada's biggest market and Pagenaud is a contender. Pair Montreal into this stop and I bet this year's Indianapolis 500 get's its biggest rating in Quebec.

IndyCar should consider the idea above for next year. You would have drivers teaming up to get a market, instead of throwing one to the wolves, hoping they came out unscathed and draw a few more people to the broadcast.

Musings From the Weekend: The Passing of Sir Jack and More

The busy motorsports weekend ended on a somber note.

Sir Jack Brabham passed away at his home in Gold Coast, Australia Monday morning. He was 88 years old. Who would have thought midget car champions would lead to trips to the royal box at Monaco and the heights of Grand Prix racing? Something considered near impossible today. Brabham's CV shines with three World Drivers' Championship, two-time World Constructors' Championships and the distinguishing honor of being the first driver to start the Indianapolis 500 in a rear-engined car. He is the only driver to win a Formula One race in three different decades and the only driver to win a World Drivers' Championship in a car he built.

Brabham broke into Formula One when you didn't need a rich daddy or sponsor backing your career from the age of 13 to catch a team's eye. The amount of championship races were in the single-digits and the Indianapolis 500 counted towards the title. The Nürburgring was over fourteen miles long and hay bales were safer barriers.

He made his first Formula One start at the now ancient age of 28 years old in the 1955 British Grand Prix, racing against Juan Manuel Fangio, Sterling Moss, Maurice Trintignant and Mike Hawthorn. The Beatles were five years away from forming, petrol cost 23 cents per gallon in the States, the Brooklyn Dodgers would go on to win their first World Series title with the Don Newcombe, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges leading the way with a kid named Koufax making his debut that June.

He survived the most lethal era of motorsports driving everything and anything just like his fellow competitors Mario Andretti, AJ Foyt, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees to name a few. His sons followed in his footsteps, continuing to add to the Brabham family dynasty. Geoff is probably the most notable , with wins at Le Mans, Bathurst and Sebring as well as four titles in IMSA GT between the 1980s and 1990s and two top-five finishes in the Indianapolis 500. David and Gary made it to Formula One. Gary drove the first two rounds of the 1990 season for Life Racing Engines. He failed to make pre-qualifying at both events. At the third round of the 1990 season David made his debut with the Brabham team but his father hadn't had involvement with the team for twenty years. Gary would go on to win the 1991 12 Hours of Sebring teaming up with his brother Geoff and Derek Daly. David would drive for Simtek in the 1994 Formula One season. David and Geoff teamed up to win the 1997 Bathurst 1000  and David won in the GT1 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007 and 2008 driving for Aston Martin before winning overall in 2009 with Peugoet.

The Brabham dynasty is long from being only on pages of history books and Wikipedia. Jack's two grandsons, American-born Matthew, son of Geoff and British-born Sam, son of David are adding their own pages and trophies to the Brabham family legacy. Both winners in junior Formula racing as Matthew and Sam look to climb to the top open-wheel racing series in North America and Europe, where their grandfather, fathers and uncle competed.

Sir Jack Brabham was Australia's first great driver on the world stage. Without Brabham, who knows if the door opens for succeeding generations of Australian drivers such as Alan Jones, Mark Webber, Vern Schuppan, Will Power and Daniel Ricciardo.

In the present day of motorsports, if a driver accomplished only one of Jack Brabham's triumphs listed above, they would be considered one of the best in the world. Brabham's legacy reminds us of a time when motorsports was pure. Drivers weren't limited in what or where they competed by contracts. They took advantage of every opportunity they got. The product was not diluted by spectacles in hopes to improve the television ratings or decisions to favor the sponsors interest over that of the fan who works 40-plus hours a week and spends their hard earn money and precious free time traveling and buying tickets to sit at a race track. Championship points were earned with finishes up front and series were laissez-faire when it came to a champion being determined.

Sir Jack Brabham now heads to The Great Race Track in the Sky. We will have to wait to find out whether he decides to hop behind the wheel of a car or crawl under with tools in hand for an adjustment.

In memorial of Sir Jack Brabham, we look back at the events that transpired on the track this past weekend.

Time Trials From The Speedway
I've got to give credit where it is due and say Indianapolis 500 qualifying was exceptional. The weather worked out perfectly. Had it been hotter, maybe we don't see 231 MPH averages. I already suggested limiting the amount of attempts to three. The Fast Nine portion in the middle of the afternoon didn't make it easier for teams to reach top speeds. I would preferred that session be later in the afternoon but hands were tied by putting qualifying on ABC. Part of me would've preferred to see the Indiana Pacers-Miami Heat Eastern Conference Final game one start at 1:00 p.m. and have that lead into the Fast Nine starting at 4:30 p.m. ET but beggars can't be choosers now can they?

I thought the ESPN3 coverage was great. You got to see everything without commercial interruption. Of course you had Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear causing headaches but when the coverage moved to ABC, like a gift from God, Dario Franchitti entered the booth and in less than 13 minutes he had done better than Cheever and Goodyear in their 20 combine years doing color commentary. Franchitti has knowledge of the DW12 chassis and was pointing out moments during laps that Cheever and Goodyear would have never noticed. If it was just him and Bestwick, IndyCar would have it's best booth since the days of Paul Page, Bobby Unser and Sam Posey. One thing Franchitti has to work on: Getting over his Ganassi-bias. If he can do that, he should be ESPN/ABC's IndyCar color commentator starting in 2015.

In the first round of Sunday qualifying, when the first four drivers went out and didn't improve on their position I got nervous the session would end up with everyone ending up in the positions they ended in on Saturday, making the session useless. Fortunately a few drivers did pick up positions. I still think making everyone re-qualify is a little over the top. A suggestion: Fill the field Saturday, set the Fast Nine Saturday, give out points on Saturday. Sunday, open the track at 10 a.m. and have a two hour practice for the Fast Nine teams to work on race set which would give them plenty of time (four and a half hours) to switch over from race setup to qualifying setup. At noon, track opens for four hours for any teams that want to try and bump the slowest qualifier out and for practice for the teams that have already qualified.

Of course additional entries trying to bump in is necessary for this to happen and if I am IndyCar, I'd put some pressure on Chevrolet to match Honda's 18 entries. Those three additional entries could provide as much action and drama as today's round one did. Imagine if we had bumping at 228 MPH? And with Kurt Busch's success this month, who knows who might be lining up to make an attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 (I am being a bit optimistic that Busch's run this year changes anything moving forward).

I think there will be some tweaks to the format for next year but I do not envision the whole system being scrapped after one year.

Let's Try This One Again
Remember the format I proposed for the NASCAR All-Star Race at the end of last week? Forget it because it sucks. After watching and falling asleep during the race Saturday night, I woke up Sunday morning thinking, "what is the point of the segments?" They are meaningless. It's 20 lap, competition caution. Another 20 laps competition caution. It's Bruton Smith's dream race and dumbing down of motorsports to the greatest degree.

New and I swear final proposal: Heat races. Do it for both the Showdown (I preferred it being call the Open) and the All-Star Race and make sure both races are on the same day. Take the cars entered for the Showdown (this year 23) and break them up into two 20-lap heats, winners advances to the All-Star Race with 2nd through 6th advancing to a 10-lap LCQ to make the All-Star Race. Winner of the LCQ advances and the Fan Vote winner must at least make the LCQ. This format would've put an additional in the All-Star Race but adding one car to a 22 car grid isn't the end of the world.

After that do the All-Star Races three-lap with a pit stop qualifying format and break up the field again into two 20-lap heats again. Top four from each advance to the 10-lap feature. The remaining cars that have failed to advance go to the 10-lap LCQ with the top two advancing to the feature. Feature race starts 10 cars for 10 laps, to the victor goes the spoils.

I'd rather see the 20-lap sprints have some drama of cars advancing and some having their nights end early than just be pointless caution for an excessive amount of pit stops to be made. It would give a cookie-cutter mile and a half, a Saturday night short track feel.

Finally, I would make that Saturday a non-stop day for racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Have the Friday be a free practice day for Cup cars and Trucks with Truck qualifying and Showdown qualifying ending the on track action with a giant autograph session with all the drivers for the fans ending the day. Then on Saturday, have the Truck race at 1:00 p.m., Showdown at 4 p.m., All-Star Race qualifying at 6:00 p.m. with the All-Star Race beginning at 8:00 p.m. It would fill Fox Sports 1's schedule with wall-to-wall racing on a Saturday, it would start the All-Star Race at a much earlier time (9:45 p.m. ET is way too damn late for the green flag of an exhibition race) and I think the format changes would still allow for the race to slot in nicely to a two-hour broadcast window.

CBSSN Surprises
To my surprises Sunday evening, I was scrolling through the TV guide and found the Blancpain Sprint Series race from Brand Hatch earlier in the day on CBS Sports Network followed by the DTM from Oschersleben earlier in the day. It was fantastic. I miss Speed, I really do but Speed wouldn't have shown those races for another six months but would've shown hours of Racing Chef or Unique Whips re-runs instead. It's hard to believe the downfall of Speed has lead to a sort of emergence for series on American cable. NBC's Formula One coverage is outstanding. Pirelli World Challenge is on NBCSN with great online broadcasts of the race. Blancpain and DTM races are now shown on the same day they took place and to be honest, with Fox Sports 1 shedding some of these contracts, their MotoGP coverage has improved.

Don't get me wrong, I'd still like a motorsports specific television network that showed FIA World Endurance Championship, ELMS, Blancpain Sprint and Endurance races, DTM, BTCC, V8 Supercars, Road to Indy, Super Formula and Super GT, USAC and more with each night would have it's own bench racing show for open-wheel, motorcycle, sports cars, stock cars, touring cars and a highlights show Sunday nights to wrap up the weekend's action. Of course until that network comes, we will have to make do with what we have.

Of course, now that CBSSN has DTM, their races will no longer be available live on YouTube for those in the United States and Canada. It's one thing if you have the races but if you're not going to show the races live, they should be at least be made available to the people.

Quick Hits
1. Sam Hornish, Jr. is sure making the best of his seven race Nationwide Series schedule with a victory at Iowa. Don't get me wrong, it still disappointing to see he has settled for a seven race Nationwide Series Schedule and wasn't apart of the who's who line up at Indianapolis. I know he has said he has moved on from IndyCar but Montoya and Villeneuve both said the same and look where they are.

1b. Imagine if Hornish, AJ Allmendinger, Buddy Rice and Conor Daly could all find rides for 2015 and the 33 drivers in the race this year all returned as well. How great would that be?

2. Brands Hatch is a phenomenal circuit. It may not be the biggest circuit or feature lights or have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to built but it doesn't get much better than that. I'd love to see DTM, IndyCar and Formula One all return to Brands Hatch. The racing would be fantastic.

3. Kyle Busch moonlighting in the Truck Series is getting old. He has won three of four Truck races in 2014 (the only race he didn't win he didn't start in) and led 130 of 134 laps this past Friday night at Charlotte on his way to victory. What type of sick thrill does he get from this? It's one thing if he was dominating Cup as well and just couldn't be beat but Kyle Busch has become a driver that is unstoppable in the two lower national touring divisions but he's been bipolar in Cup. Wins 8 races one year and finds ways to rack up races with accidents the next. Clearly his success in the Nationwide and Truck Series plays no impact into what he does in the Cup Series. Instead of beating up on the same competition, maybe Kyle should join his brother Kurt at Indianapolis, because beating up on Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday, Jr. isn't helping in his day job in Cup.

Winners From The Weekend

Marc Márquez is 5-for-5 in 2014 after winning the French Grand Prix from his fifth pole position of the year. Valentino Rossi and Álvaro Bautista rounded out the podium.

Jamie McMurray won the NASCAR All-Star Race.

Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan of Filipe Albuquerque, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell won the ELMS race at Imola. The SMP Racing Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Viktor Shaitar and Sergey Zlobin won in GTE and the Formula Racing Ferrari of Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Andrea Piccini won in GTC.

The #28 Grasser Racing Lamborghini of Hari Proczyk and Jeroen Bleekemolen swept the Blancpain Sprint Series weekend at Brands Hatch.

Christian Vietoris surprisingly won his first career DTM race at Oschersleben after making the right call to start the race on wet tires.

Scott McLaughlin won Volvo's first championship race in V8 Supercars since returning to the series earlier this year at Perth. He did win a exhibition event held during the Formula One Australian Grand Prix weekend. Craig Lowndes won the second race while Chaz Mostert took the third race, his first career V8SC victory.

João Paulo de Oliveira and André Lotterer split the Super Formula weekend at Fuji Speedway.

Coming up this weekend:
Probably the best weekend of the year for motorsports.

Indianapolis 500.
Monaco Grand Prix.
Coca-Cola 600.
Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone.
World Touring Car Championship at Salzburgring.
World Superbikes at Donington Park.
Freedom 100 for Indy Lights on Carb Day at Indianapolis.
Night Before the 500 at Indianapolis Raceway Park with USAC, Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ed Carpenter Wins Back-To-Back Indianapolis 500 Pole Positions

Ed Carpenter Will Start On Pole Position for the 98th Indianapolis 500
For the second straight year, Indiana's native son will start on pole position. Ed Carpenter laid down a four-lap average of 231.067 MPH to win pole position for the 98th Indianapolis 500, he is the fastest qualifier. It is Carpenter's third career pole position. James Hinchcliffe qualified second with an average of 230.839 MPH, with Will Power rounding out the front row at 230.697 MPH.

Hélio Castroneves qualified fourth, looking for his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory at 230.649 MPH. Simon Pagenaud qualified in the middle of row two on his 30th birthday at 230.614 MPH. Marco Andretti qualified to Pagenaud's outside at 230.544 MPH.

Carlos Muñoz was the penultimate qualifier and ended up seventh at 230.146 MPH. Former Indy Lights champions Josef Newgarden and JR Hildebrand qualified eighth and ninth respectively.

Juan Pablo Montoya qualified tenth, running the fastest time in group one with a 4-lap average of 231.001 MPH. He was the first to crack a four-lap average over 231 MPH since 2003. Scott Dixon's first lap was over 231 MPH but his four-lap average was 230.928 MPH and he will start eleventh. Kurt Busch qualified twelfth for his Indianapolis 500 debut at 230.782 MPH. Busch will become the first Nevadan to start an IndyCar race.

Jack Hawksworth qualified thirteenth with fellow Brit Justin Wilson qualifying fourteenth. Mikhail Aleshin was the first driver in group one to run a four-lap average over 230 MPH with four laps at 230.049 MPH good enough for fifteenth. Tony Kanaan will defending his Indianapolis 500 victory in sixteenth position directly ahead of the #11 Hydroxycut/Mistic ECig KV Racing Chevrolet also gunning to defend it's Indianapolis 500 victory with Sébastien Bourdais behind the wheel. Oriol Servià qualified eighteenth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified nineteenth after being on the verge of making the Fast Nine yesterday. Graham Rahal was twentieth quickest with Carlos Huertas in twenty-first. Huertas' Dale Coyne Racing teammate Pippa Mann qualified a career best twenty-second for the Indianapolis 500. Takuma Sato was twenty-third with Alex Tagliani twenty-fourth.

Townsend Bell qualified twenty-fifth with his fellow Californian Charlie Kimball in twenty-sixth. Jacques Villeneuve qualified twenty-seventh in his return to the Indianapolis 500. His previous worst Indianapolis 500 start was fifth.

James Davison qualified twenty-eighth for his Indianapolis 500 debut with fellow Indianapolis 500 debutant Martin Plowman in twenty-ninth. Plowman was the slowest Honda. Ryan Briscoe was the slowest Ganassi driver in thirtieth. Ganassi development driver Sage Karam qualified thirty-first on loan to Dreyer and Reinbold Racing. Sebastián Saavedra qualified thirty-second with Buddy Lazier rounding out the thirty-threes car field with a four-lap average of 227.920 MPH.

There will be a practice session tomorrow starting at noon ET and will be five hours in duration.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day One Down, One To Go

One day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying is in the books and after six plus hours of watching on the iPad and television and Timing and Scoring on the laptop there are plenty of things on my mind.

1. Despite being complicated, today was great. I think the weather played a big role. Had it not been in the mid-50s all day and been twenty degrees warmers, we wouldn't have seen as much action and there probably would have been a lull during the middle afternoon. But it wasn't in the 70s and we saw a record number of qualifying attempts in one day. I do think the teams should be limited to three attempts a day. It would make teams think twice before going out. Besides, we don't want Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy moments in qualifying were someone makes a dozen attempts.

As for the "fast line" for cars withdrawing times, I thought it worked however I think to make it simpler either go all in and get rid of withdrawing times or go all in and do it like it was done forever where if you wanted to make another attempt, the time on the board is withdrawn. 

2. A lot of talk over the early part of qualifying being shown on ESPN3 and WatchESPN app only. It's the way of the television world. Being on a network is a precious spot and the Internet provides the platform for events to be shown that couldn't make a television network. Realize being on ESPN3/WatchESPN isn't going to grow IndyCar's fan base. It is giving those you are looking for coverage a place to find it and that's ok. 

3. But this leads to me to my next point. If you are on ESPN3 only, don't continue to treat the broadcast as something every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to bump in. The audience is highly educated in the field. Stop talking to the audience like they are 5 years old. They are adults. 

Oh and Dr. Jerry Punch threw out a gem when interviewing Kurt Busch when said to Busch "explain to the millions watching at home the differences in a stock car and IndyCar." You're on ESPN3, a million people in the World don't even know Indianapolis 500 qualifying is going on let alone watching it. I would be surprised if the ESPN3/WatchESPN only portion drew over a thousand viewers. 

4. Going back to the treating the audience like adults comment: Do we have to bring up Charlie Kimball's diabetes every time he is shown. First off, everyone watching on ESPN3/WatchESPN already know. Second, you wouldn't (shouldn't) bring up Micahel Sam's orientation every time he is shown on SportsCenter. It's getting old. I know he is an ambassador and wants to raise awareness but he does that with Novo Nordisk on the side of his car and the countless hours of work away from the race track. He and we don't need to be reminded of it every time he is being interviewed. His diabetes is brought up more than his Mid-Ohio win and that is wrong.

5. One more television nugget. I believe it was after Sebastián Saavedra was interviewed about KV Racing's driver coach Al Unser, Jr. Eddie Cheever took a cheap shot at the Andretti family saying the Unser Family has nine Indianapolis 500 victories and the Andretti has only one. What provoked that jab Eddie? Cheever has a pretty tedious grudge with the Andretti family and has gone on too long. Hey Eddie, how many Formula One Grand Prix victories do you have? Or how many World Driver's Championships are on your résumé? Once again, Allen Bestwick is doing his all but his wingers are holding him back.

What I enjoyed with NBCSN's coverage last year was the passion they had in the broadcast and their own one-offs. Will Buxton was phenomenal, as was Gil de Ferran. The booth of Diffey, Beekhuis and de Ferran was engaging, personal and the type of booth you'd love to go out and have a drink with. ABC's crew doesn't give off that vibe. The ABC crew needs a shot of adrenaline. 

6. Twenty-eight of the thirty-three drivers set personal best 4-lap averages in Indianapolis 500 qualifying today. The five that didn't? Castroneves, Kanaan, Dixon, Lazier and Villeneuve and I wouldn't rule out Dixon and Villeneuve from doing it tomorrow. Dixon's personal best is a 230.099 from 2003 and his top 4-lap average today was a 229.283 run. Villeneuve's best is a 228.397 from 1995 and he did a 228.171 today. Castroneves, Kanaan and Lazier's best are all above 231 MPH. I doubt they will get that extra mile an hour tomorrow but for all these complaints about speed, 230 MPH was needed just to make the Fast Nine. What else do you want? 

It looks like 226.5 will be the slowest time and if you go back to 1996, when Luyendyk shattered records, the slowest time was 222.185 MPH. The field is close. It isn't the faster field ever but you have 20 former IndyCar winners in the field, six of which are former Indianapolis 500 winners and six are former IndyCar champions. Not to mentioned there is a World Drivers' Champion, NASCAR Cup Series Champion, LMP2 World Champion and Le Mans class winner in the field. Beside asking for Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Johnson, Gordon and Stewart, what else could you want from this field?

7. No bumping which is disappointing. Chevrolet, ball is in your court to match Honda's 18 entries next year. Thirty-six cars would be fantastic especially if the right drivers are hired. Let's improve this area in 2015. I'm not so much worried about qualifying speeds, they are in the right area/heading in the right direction. Let's get a couple more teams and talent drivers on the entry list though. 

Overall it was a good first day of qualifying. Now we look forward to see who gets pole and how the grid will be set for next week's race.