Sunday, May 31, 2015

First Impressions: Belle Isle 2015 Race Two

1. I am so tired after this race. Sébastien Bourdais wins. He switched to slicks at the right time and beat Juan Pablo Montoya off the pit lane, not to mention he stretched his fuel load to 30 laps, the longest stint of the race. Had this race run to the full 70 laps and not been a timed event, he probably doesn't win. Bourdais becomes the seventh different winner from eight races. Can't deny that IndyCar is a competitive series. The question is can one driver take control in the second half of the season and take the championship?

2. Takuma Sato scores his first podium since São Paulo 2013. Like Bourdais, he did 30 laps on his final stint and he held off a charging Graham Rahal. However, these races are anomalies for Sato. He might not score a top ten in the next five races.

3. Nice bounce back for Graham Rahal after being taken out early in race one. Three podiums from the second quarter of the season is not bad at all. It has been an amazing turn around season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He could get a win this season but he will need Honda to step up their game.

4. Tristan Vautier scored his first career top five. Fourth place is an amazing run from last on the grid. Like the top three, he did 30 laps on his final stint. I think he has passed the audition. That #19 ride might just have become his for the rest of 2015.

5. Marco Andretti came home in fifth. A great weekend for him. Not a bad first half of the season for him. Six top tens from the first eight races.

6. What a weekend for Conor Daly. He was in contention for at least a top ten yesterday but damage killed that chance and today he works strategy into his favor, leads some laps, overcame having to pit under caution while everyone else stayed out, overcame a penalty for a block that probably didn't happen and he finished sixth. I think he has passed the audition. The #5 is his until James Hinchcliffe returns. Sorry Alex Tagliani. If you want to run at Toronto, you are probably going to have to look elsewhere.

7. Jack Hawksworth overcame two spins and finished seventh. Not a bad day for A.J. Foyt Racing considering at one point it looked like Hawksworth day was ruined after contact with Sage Karam.

8. Ryan Hunter-Reay managed an eighth-place finish. He needed a top ten today. Only three top tens from the first half of the season. He is going to be hoping for a big turn around in the final three months.

9. Gabby Chaves finished ninth. He really didn't have a memorable race but he kept his nose clean and it got him a top ten.

10. Juan Pablo Montoya, like the top four, did 30 laps on his final stint but coasted home to 10th instead of finishing in the top five and potentially on the podium. Not a great end to his weekend but he is fortunate all his championship rivals had worse days than him.

11. Quick summary of the back half of the field: Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon got together and to just make this race even more insane Will Power and Hélio Castroneves got together. What the hell was going on out there? And then you had James Jakes finish 15th after going a lap down on lap ten and never getting his lap back. CFH had a bad day as both their cars had accidents with Josef Newgarden having the harder hit of the two. Carlos Muñoz had an engine problem end his day after five laps.

12. Race control can't decide to review something post race and then for incidents later in the race decide to make a decision a few laps later. Luca Filippi and Charlie Kimball made slight contact on the pit lane. They decide to review it post race. Sage Karam makes contact with Jack Hawksworth and Stefano Coletti and he is handed a penalty within two laps. Where is the consistency? You can't be too busy one moment to make a call and then 20 or 30 laps later be making penalty calls on the spot. Once they made the decision to review an incident post race, they can't then start making calls during the race because they are contradicting themselves.

13. The first half of this race was really good. Then Rodolfo González got into the tires literally at he halfway point of the race and it went to hell. Power passed three cars before start/finish on one restart. Exactly what does a driver have to do to jump a restart if it is OK to pass three cars before start/finish? I think IndyCar should adopt no passing before start/finish on restarts. That's one of the reasons for all these incidents on restarts. You have drivers trying to dive-bomb four drivers into a corner and there is going to be contact when that happens. We have seen with the DW12 chassis and the aero kits that these cars can pass on track even at a place like Belle Isle. Perhaps it's time to tell them to wait to pass until they pass start/finish.

14. One half of the IndyCar season down. No more races on ABC. I will have a first-half review later this week. Now to Texas and the second oval of the season. Five of the final eight races are on ovals and Toronto in a fortnight is the final street course of the season. A lot of questions still need to be answered. Does anyone want to win this championship? Will Honda win a dry race? Who else will be in the #18 and #19 this season? Will Penske and Ganassi keep it together? Stay tuned next week for another race from the mind-boggling, fantastic racing series known as the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Morning Warm-Up: Belle Isle 2015 Race Two

Can Honda sweep in Chevrolet's backyard?
Fresh off his first career victory in race one, Carlos Muñoz looks to sweep the weekend and become the first driver since A.J. Allmendinger to score his first two victories in consecutive starts. He won from 20th on the grid yesterday. It was the third worst starting position for a road/street course winner in IndyCar history. Max Papis won from 25th on the grid at Laguna Seca in 2001. Scott Dixon won Mid-Ohio last year from 22nd. Marco Andretti made it an Andretti 1-2 in race one, the 17th 1-2 finish for Andretti Autosport and first since Barber last year, where Andretti finished second to Ryan Hunter-Reay. Simon Pagenaud finished third and in doing so picked up his 50th career top ten in IndyCar.

Will Power and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five in race one. They currently sit second and third in the championship after race one. Hélio Castroneves finished sixth and he is fourth in the championship after race one. Jack Hawksworth picked up his first top ten since the season opener with his seventh place finish in race one. CFH Racing teammates Josef Newgarden and Luca Filippi finished eighth and ninth. Newgarden finds himself sixth in the championship; exact 90 points ahead of his Italian teammate. Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top ten on Saturday and he remains the championship leader with 11 points separating him from Power.

Takuma Sato led early but broke two front wings and fell to 11th. James Jakes overcame running into the tires and contact with Tony Kanaan to finish 12th. Ryan Hunter-Reay finished 13th while KV teammates Sébastien Bourdais and Stefano Coletti rounded out the top fifteen. Hunter-Reay has four consecutive finishes outside the top ten at Belle Isle. Bourdais has never finish in the top ten at Belle Isle with 13th being his best finish in six starts after yesterday.

Sage Karam finished 16th after being penalized for blocking Sato during the race. Tristan Vautier made contact with the barrier that damaged his front wing but was able to finish 17th. Gabby Chaves had a flat tire knock him to 18th. Conor Daly suffered damage on a restart while running solidly in the top five and came home 19th. Tony Kanaan rounded out the top twenty, 14 laps down after repairs for the contact from the early incident with James Jakes and Graham Rahal. Rodolfo González, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal all retired from race one. Despite retiring, Rahal remains fifth in the championship entering today's race two.

Rain is forecasted all day in Detroit. Race two qualifying will take place at 11:20 a.m. ET. ABC's coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

First Impressions: Belle Isle 2015 Race One

1. From wet to dry and back to wet. The changing conditions open the door for anyone to win and today, Carlos Muñoz scored his first career victory from 20th on the grid by playing his cards right. He switched to slicks at the right time, kept his nose clean and switched back to wets at the right time so he could pit and not lose the lead as everyone was crawling due to driving on wets when it was still dry waiting for the rain to come. By the time the heavens opened up, Muñoz was gone and then came the lightning, causing the red flag that ended the race. You will take a win anyway you can get it and Muñoz and Andretti Autosport finally get a monkey off their back that has been there all season.

2. I thought Marco Andretti made the wrong call being the first driver to switch to slicks after remembering what happened at NOLA. Everyone switched to slicks and it clearly wasn't dry enough. When Andretti switched, it was still pretty damp and a dry line wasn't wide enough to get off line for another ten laps but Andretti kept it straight, unlike Charlie Kimball, who was one of the next drivers to switch to slicks and clobbered the turn two wheel. Andretti played it right. Then he had a problem where his car appeared to get stuck on the pit limiter and he fell from leading to fifth but while everyone stopped for wets, he stayed out and opened up a massive gap to the likes of Will Power and Scott Dixon, who stopped for slicks. If it wasn't for Muñoz stopping about a half dozen laps after Andretti initially, Andretti might have won but second isn't so bad.

3. Simon Pagenaud was the lone Chevrolet to stay on slicks when everyone was jumping back to wets. He was up front all race but couldn't challenged Muñoz. He may have been able to challenge Andretti had the race continued but it wasn't meant to be.

4. Will Power finished fourth. He led a few laps after Andretti bogged down on the pit limiter but other than that, he wasn't a factor. He led the opening two laps but Takuma Sato flew by him on lap three in the wet conditions and he came in for wets a lap or two after the likes of Dixon did because the rain at that time was 15 minutes out. He could have stayed out on slicks but he didn't want to get caught out and it backfired.

5. Scott Dixon was the first to switch back to wets and he did it under caution. It benefited him because everyone but Muñoz, Andretti and Pagenaud came in within two laps of Dixon doing it under yellow and he passed them all while they made their stops. However, because the rain didn't come immediately, he lost a lot of time and fifth was the best he was going to get.

6. Hélio Castroneves finished sixth but like Power, he wasn't a factor. He started up from but was passed by Sato on lap one and he just hung around in the top ten.

7. What a nice day for Jack Hawksworth. He switched to slicks a lap or so after Andretti and like Andretti, he was fortunate that it wasn't him to roll snake eyes while Kimball did. However, he switched back to wets right after Dixon did and the best he was going to get was seventh.

8. Josef Newgarden overcame a flat tire after Sato ran into his side and replacing a front wing after making contact with Gabby Chaves to finish eighth. What benefited Newgarden was when he pitted to change his wing; Dixon was pitting to switch back to wets. Newgarden's crew probably saw it and thought "monkey see, monkey do" and it paid off.

9. Luca Filippi switched to slicks the same lap Hawksworth did and he turned a 19th starting spot into a ninth place finish. He was fortunate the race was called under the red flag because right after the red flag was shown he slid into the turn one barriers and he wasn't going to be able to restart. It's a bittersweet top ten for Filippi.

10. Like Power and Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya wasn't a factor. He finished tenth but once pit stops came he fell out of contention.

11. Finally, Takuma Sato. Finished 11th but could have been much better. This is how Sato races. He finds a way to ruin a good day. Today it was running into the side of Newgarden, which damaged his wing. Then he damaged his spare wing and he didn't have a third wing to use. This is how he races. He isn't going to change and it's a shame because we know he has the pace but it just goes for waste.

12. I am going to rip on race control. It seemed like every incident was followed with a quote of "we will review it after the race." And this was on lap two with cars that didn't make contact. Then when James Jakes made contact with the side of Stefano Coletti on lap nine (I think) and spun into Tony Kanaan, who then spun in the path of Graham Rahal, leaving the Ohioan no place to go, they decided to wait to review it until after the race. Why? Especially when it took two and a half minutes for the cars to run a lap under caution. Three caution laps are nearly eight minutes. That is plenty of time to review a call.

If race control is going to wait to review everything until after the race, then why are they at the race at all? They don't have to be there. IndyCar should send Brian Barnhart and company sightseeing around the cities they are visiting during the race and when they comeback at 7:00 p.m., they could be given ice cream and just review the incidents then and make up their minds because that is what they are practically doing now. Race control needs to be able to make calls during a race, not after the fact.

13. With drivers such as Justin Wilson, Simona de Silvestro, Oriol Servià, Alex Tagliani and J.R. Hildebrand all not in full-time rides, why aren't they the assistant stewards? The current field of drivers respect those five names mentioned more than the current cast of characters in control and they are more familiar with what is going on than the current race directors. These are whom race control should bring in. It sucks that they aren't driving but if they can be used to benefit the race from an officiating standpoint than I think everyone would support that.

14. IndyCar needs to adopt virtual safety car, especially for debris cautions. There is no reason why there are four or five caution laps to pit up one little winglet. Virtual safety car would force the cars to slow down but the pits would stay open and once the debris would be picked up it would be back to full speed racing. Hypothetically, you could throw a virtual safety car and be back to full speed racing in less than a lap. This would allow for more racing and that's what fans paid to see and what fans turn their TV on to see, not caution, close the pits, open the pits, another lap of caution, waiting, waiting, waiting, five laps behind the safety car and back to green.

Virtual safety car costs nothing to implement. Just make sure drivers are going slower through sectors. In today's race the fastest lap was a 1:20.0249 by Marco Andretti. Let's just say that averages to 26.667 seconds per sector. With VSC, when it is deployed, race control would just have to watch the drivers and make sure their sector times weren't any faster than let's say 35 seconds. If someone is going faster than the posted time through the sectors than black flag them and sit them for five laps. It is simply and IndyCar needed to implement it prior to St. Petersburg. There is still time for IndyCar to adopt VSC before this season ends but they won't because they are IndyCar and they never make revolutionary steps. They think they do but they don't.

15. I thought today was actually a good races despite race control being useless, Rodolfo González hitting everything but his pit crew (too soon?) and the excessive amount of caution laps for debris. When they actually got to racing, it was very good. Wet to dry and back to wet races are great because you have no idea what is going to happen. You had crews trying to be one step ahead and then you had the crews of Muñoz, Andretti and Pagenaud winging it and today, sticking to the beat of one's own drum turned out to be the right thing to do.

16. And we get to it all again tomorrow. Qualifying at 11:25 a.m. ET with the race scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET and it is going to rain all night and all day tomorrow. I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store.

Morning Warm-Up: Belle Isle 2015 Race One

Will Power and Hélio Castroneves will lead field to green flag today.
For the 14th consecutive race, a Chevrolet won pole position and for the third time this season, Will Power will lead the field to the green flag. The Australian broke the Belle Isle track record with a lap of 76.0941 seconds. His Penske teammate and all-time leader in Belle Isle victories Hélio Castroneves will start second after missing out on pole position by 0.0259 seconds. Indianapolis 500 winner and championship leader Juan Pablo Montoya made it a clean sweep of the top three for Team Penske. Takuma Sato is the top Honda starter in fourth. Simon Pagenaud makes it four Penskes in the top five with Sébastien Bourdais makes it an all-French row three.

Scott Dixon starts seventh. Only once has a Belle Isle winner started seventh, which was Greg Moore in 1997. Stefano Coletti will start a career-best eighth. He finished eighth in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Marco Andretti will start ninth. He has two top tens in seven starts at Belle Isle, both top ten finishes coming within the last two seasons. James Jakes rounds out the top ten. The last time Jakes competed at Belle Isle he finished tenth and second after starting third and second. Tristan Vautier returns for a second consecutive round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. He will roll off from 11th, Dale Coyne Racing's best starting position of the year. Sage Karam rounds out the top 12 after advancing to the second round of qualifying for the second time in his career. He started 12th at Barber.

Graham Rahal starts 13th. He has three consecutive top five finishes, the longest streak of top five finishes in his career. Last year, Rahal finished second in race one from ninth on the grid. His worst finish this season is 11th. Jack Hawksworth starts 14th. He finished eighth at the season opener from St. Petersburg but has finished outside the top twenty in four of the last five races. Tony Kanaan starts 15th. Kanaan has not won on a road/street circuit since Belle Isle 2007. Only two of Kanaan's 17 victories have come on road/street circuits. Ryan Hunter-Reay starts 16th. Last year, Will Power became the first driver to win at Belle Isle from starting outside the top ten. Power won from 16th last year in race one.

Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden make up row nine. Newgarden was going to advance to round two of qualifying but caused a red flag after hitting the barrier exiting turn 12. Newgarden's CFH teammate Luca Filippi will start 19th with Carlos Muñoz rounding out the top twenty. Three rookies round out the grid. Conor Daly will start 21st as he substitutes for the injured James Hinchcliffe. Rodolfo Gonzalez starts 22nd in his second career start. Gabby Chaves will round out the grid in 23rd.

There is an 80% chance of precipitation today in Detroit with a 75% chance of rain at race time. ABC's coverage for race one of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit begins at 3:30 p.m. ET with green flag at 3:50 p.m. ET.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Track Walk: Belle Isle 2015

IndyCar heads to Detroit for the only doubleheader of 2015
The Verizon IndyCar Series may have completed the 99th Indianapolis 500 but the month of May is far from over as the series reaches the halfway point of the season with rounds seven and eight taking place this weekend at Belle Isle. Last year, Will Power won race one from 16th on the grid, the first time a Belle Isle winner started outside the top ten and the Australian had to hold off a hard-charging Graham Rahal. In race two, Hélio Castroneves picked up his third victory at Belle Isle holding off Power, who overcame a penalty for avoidable contact to finish second.

TV Channel: ABC
Time: Race one coverage begins Saturday May 30th at 3:30 p.m. ET. Green flag will be at 3:50 p.m. ET. Race two coverage begins Sunday May 31st at 3:30 p.m. ET. Green flag will be at 3:50 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever are in the booth. Rick DeBruhl, Jon Beekhuis and Dr. Jerry Punch will work the pit lane.

Penske Motors into Motown
Team Penske has won three of six races and has three of the top four in the championship and swept the Belle Isle races last year. Juan Pablo Montoya is fresh off his second Indianapolis 500 victory and holds a 25-point championship lead over Will Power (272-247). Scott Dixon is the only thing between a Penske 1-2-3 as the Kiwi is 61 points behind Montoya. Hélio Castroneves is fourth, 66 points back.

Fresh off three consecutive top five finishes; Graham Rahal is two points outside the top five and holds a 31-point cushion over Barber-winner Josef Newgarden. Sébastien Bourdais quietly sits in seventh on 161 points with Charlie Kimball a point behind the Frenchman. Marco Andretti is nine points behind Kimball with Tony Kanaan rounding out the top ten in the championships on 147 points.

Simon Pagenaud finds himself 11th in the championship, five behind Kanaan. Ryan Hunter-Reay is 12th, 12 points behind Pagenaud. Despite missing the Indianapolis 500, James Hinchcliffe is still 13th in the championship and a point behind Hunter-Reay, however the Canadian is out indefinitely but is shooting for a comeback in August. Carlos Muñoz is 14th, eight points behind his Andretti teammate while Takuma Sato rounds out the top fifteen on 106 points.

Driver Changes
With Hinchcliffe sidelined, recovering from his accident in Indianapolis 500 practice, Conor Daly get a chance to drive the #5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Honda. Daly run the #43 Smithfield's Honda for SPM at Indianapolis but the car failed to take the green flag after suffering a fuel leak. This will be Daly's third appearance of the 2015 season. He substituted for an injured Rocky Moran, Jr. at Long Beach in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Luca Filippi returns to the #20 Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet after sitting out for the Indianapolis 500. Filippi is 18th in the championship with 85 points. The Italian has two top ten finishes this season.

At Dale Coyne Racing, Rodolfo González returns to drive the #18 Honda. The Venezuelan made his IndyCar debut at Barber last month finishing 20th. Tristan Vautier will run his second consecutive round of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, as the Frenchman will step behind the #19 Honda. In Vautier's lone Belle Isle appearance, he finished 11th and 14th in 2013.

Pirelli World Challenge
Twenty-eight cars are entered for the Pirelli World Challenge doubleheaders at Belle Isle as only the GT/GTA cars make the trip to the Motor City.

Olivier Beretta enters as the championship leader with 799 points and his closest championship rival will not be at Belle Isle. Ryan Dalziel will miss the Belle Isle weekend due to the Le Mans Test Day as he prepares to drive for Extreme Speed Motorsports. Dutch driver Renger van der Zande will replace Dalziel in the #31 EFFORT Racing Porsche. McLaren driver Kevin Éstre is Beretta's closest challenger as the Frenchman trails the Monegasque driver by 70 points. Johnny O'Connell jumped to fourth in the championship after sweeping the Mosport round. O'Connell trails his former Corvette teammate by 83 points.

Acura driver Ryan Eversley is 206 points back of Beretta in sixth. Mike Skeen is seven back of Eversley with Michael Lewis seventh on 532 points. Chris Dyson is four points back of Lewis with James Davison and Nicky Catsburg rounding out the top ten of the championship. Catsburg did not compete at Mosport but will return for Belle Isle.

Last year, Johnny O'Connell swept the Belle Isle round and they were the final victories of his season. Race one from Belle Isle will take place Saturday at 9:50 a.m. with race two at 12:10 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The fifth round of the 2015 Tudor United SportsCar Championship takes place at Belle Isle with three of the four classes on track. GT Le Mans will not be at Belle Isle as those teams will prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Twenty-four cars are entered across three classes.

In Prototypes, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook took the championship lead after winning at Laguna Seca. The Anglo-Canadian duo has 129 points and holds a four-point lead over Sebring winners Christian Fittipaldi and João Barbosa. Jordan and Ricky Taylor are the defending winner at Belle Isle and are 11 points behind the Spirit of Daytona duo. Joey Hand and Scott Pruett are still looking for their first victory of 2015 and sit on 113 points with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran rounding out the top five, a point behind Hand and Pruett.

The Shank pairing of Oswaldo Negri and John Pew have 103 points and are sixth in the championship. The #07 Mazda SKYACTIV-D featuring Tom Long and Joel Miller.

Seven cars are entered in the Prototype Challenge. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett of the #54 CORE Autosport lead the PC championship but have yet to score a victory this season but the pairing have finished second in all three PC races this season. Daytona and Sebring winners Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch, drivers of #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry, are two points back of Braun and Bennett. Laguna Seca winners the #11 RSR Racing duo Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming are six points back of the championship leaders. Mikhail Goikhberg and Stephan Simpson will drive the #85 JDC/Miller Motorsports entry. James French will be in the #36 Performance Tech Motorsports entry with a second driver yet to be announced and Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis will drive the #8 Starworks entry. The #16 BAR1 Motorsports entry still has yet to announced their drivers. This will be the first appearance at Belle Isle for the PC class.

Ten cars are entered in GT Daytona. The #48 Paul Miller Audi of Christopher Haase and Dion Von Moltke lead the championship with 87 points, one point ahead of the #63 Scuderia Corsa of Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell. Scuderia Corsa won last year with Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal. The #22 Alex Job Porsche of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil are four behinds behind Haase and Von Moltke. Seven points back of the #48 Audi is the #007 TRG-Aston Martin of James Davison and Christina Nielsen. None of the top four in the championship have won this season. The Laguna Seca winning #73 Park Place Porsche of Patrick Lindsey and Spencer Pumpelly round out the top five in GTD, 11 back of the #48 Audi.

Andy Lally and John Potter of the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche are six points outside the top five. Sebring winners Marco Farnbacher and Ian James of the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Porsche are two behind Lally and Potter. Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen of the #33 Viper are a point back of Farnbacher and James with the #97 Turner Motorsport BMW of Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala a point behind the Viper. Madison Snow and Jan Heylen round out the entry list in the #58 Wright Motorsports/Brumos Porsche.

The IMSA race will take place at noon ET Saturday on Fox Sports 2.

Fun Facts
Saturday's race will be the 61st American Open-Wheel race to take place on May 30th. Of those 60 previous races, 55 were Indianapolis 500s. The last American Open-Wheel race to take place on May 30th that wasn't the Indianapolis 500 was a NASCAR Speedway Division Race at Rochester in 1952. Wally Campbell took the victory. The last race to take place on May 30th was the 2010 Indianapolis 500 won by Dario Franchitti.

Sunday's race will be the 13th race to take place on May 31st. The most recent was last year when Will Power won race one from Belle Isle.

Hélio Castroneves is the only driver with multiple victories at Belle Isle. He won there in 2000 (his first career victory), 2001 and 2014 race two.

Other active drivers to win at Belle Isle are Tony Kanaan (2007), Scott Dixon (2012), Simon Pagenaud (2013 race two) and Will Power (2014 race one).

Prior to last year's Penske sweep, Honda had won nine consecutive Belle Isle races (CART 1998-2001; IndyCar 2007-2008, 2012-2013. 2013 being a doubleheader).

Possible Milestones:
Scott Dixon needs to lead 44 laps to become the eighth driver to reach the 4,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

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

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 6 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

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

Simon Pagenaud is one top ten away from 50 career IndyCar top tens.

Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal split the weekend. Chevrolet extends their consecutive pole position streak to 16 consecutive races as they sweep the pole positions for the doubleheader. At least one driver scores their first top ten of the season this weekend. At least one driver scores their first podium of the season this weekend. Chevrolet takes at least five of the Firestone Fast Six in race one qualifying. Sleeper: Luca Filippi.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Musings From the Weekend: Looking a Year Into The Future

What A Weekend It Was
We had the fourth-closest Indianapolis 500. Mercedes made a strange call at Monaco. Results were changed after the fact in Berlin. The Brits defended their territory in World Superbike. McLaren did win this weekend, just not in Monaco and a Japanese veteran finally broke through for his first victory. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Looking a Year Into The Future
The 99th Indianapolis 500 is behind us. The 100th is just over a year away. What will be in store? Rather, what should be in store?

I think about the Borg-Warner Trophy. From what I have been told is the Speedway is pretty protective of the trophy, barely letting anyone touch it. I think they need to loosen up and take it on the road. It's just a trophy and I think of the Stanley Cup, which has been around the globe and been touch by thousands and thousands of people.

As much as the Indianapolis 500 is an American event, the Indianapolis 500 is also an international event. It has been an international event from day one when Italian Ralph DePalma and Swiss Arthur Chevrolet took the green flag while Fiat, Mercedes and Benz were just three of the many manufactures in the race. International names such as Peugeot, Mercedes, Maserati, Cosworth, Honda and Toyota have all been wheeled into victory lane as well as Offenhauser, Miller, Ford, Duesenberg and Marmon. And then there are the drivers. You have the national icons of Foyt, Unser and Mears etched on the same trophy as internationally adored names of Clark, Fittipaldi, Franchitti and Castroneves.

The 100th Indianapolis 500 should not be a celebration of a great American event but of a great world event and the Indianapolis 500 should be brought to the world. Twenty-eight different nations have been represented in the Indianapolis 500 from Russia, the largest country in terms of land area to the principality of Monaco, the second smallest nation in terms of land area. After all these years, I think the Indianapolis 500 should be brought to these nations.

When the calendar changes over to 2016, the Borg-Warner Trophy should leave it's humble abode at 16th and Georgetown and go on the world tour. Head to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and Chile. Sixteen different European nations have been represented in the Indianapolis 500 and then there are Canada and Mexico. Take it to the major cities and let the people see it, touch it, take photos with it. Make it an experience they will share, show to others.

Think of the places it could go. Christ the Redeemer, Cape Town, Red Square, the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, Sagrada Família, Sydney Opera House, Brandenburg Gate, Buckingham Palace. Take it to the Arctic Circle! And these are just the tourist destinations. Take it to other great racetracks of the world. Take it to Bathurst, Nürburgring, Le Mans, Spa, Monza, Suzuka, Interlagos. And bring out the drivers. When it's in Russia, have Mikhail Aleshin there. When it is in Finland, make sure Tero Palmroth is there. In Italy, bring out Max Papis, Teo Fabi, Fabrizio Barbazza. Get as many of the living British drivers together as possible. Imagine David Hobbs, Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Dario Franchitti, Darren Manning, Alex Lloyd, Justin Wilson, Pippa Mann, Katherine Legge, Mike Conway and Martin Plowman all in the same room.

And after a month or two trotting around the globe, have a tour of North America. Head to Times Square, the Grand Canyon, the French Quarter, the Golden Gate Bridge, the river walk in San Antonio, etc. Head to hometowns of past winners, Houston, Albuquerque, Wichita. Head to Defiance, Ohio! In my opinion, the Borg-Warner Trophy should not be in the state of Indiana from January 4 to April 30, 2016. Not everyone can get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum but bring the trophy to the people, bring the history of the Indianapolis 500 to the people. Get people interested that way. You can't just hope people are going to bump into the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar and fall in love. You need to introduce them to both and perhaps they decide to tune in and maybe they stay for a long, long time.

The manufactures are also looking toward the 100th Indianapolis 500 and are already talking about entering more cars. My question is how many more? Are each go to enter one more? Are they go to enter two more? What about three? We saw this year that there are plenty of drivers who wanted to attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 but the problem is there are so few rides due to the clamp Chevrolet and Honda put on the amount of engine leases they were giving out. If both are willing to loosen their grip then great but it then becomes about whom you put in those cars.

You need to make sure the best drivers possible are getting these rides. Ryan Briscoe, an IndyCar race winner, now a 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring class winner and a former Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter didn't have a ride until James Hinchcliffe was hurt. A driver of his caliber should be in the field. A.J. Allmendinger wants to do the double, as does Kyle Larson. Those are two names that should be attempting to make the race. And Ganassi has to loosen his grip on Larson. Let the kid do the double. Let's get this out of the way. Instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for a championship that may never come, let the kid attempt the Indianapolis 500 because he is more likely to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 than win the NASCAR Cup championship. Perhaps give Buddy Rice one final Indianapolis 500 appearance.

There are a few other drivers I like to see at Indianapolis next year and we will get to those in a minute.

Mark Miles mentioned in his Thursday press conference, in which the 100th Indianapolis 500 logo was unveiled, that he is talking with the FIA about having them involved in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. For quite sometime, the Monaco Grand Prix has fallen on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 and it has made a great day of motorsports with Monaco leading into the 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 rounding out the night. However, for next year, I think Monaco should be pushed back a week. I know IndyCar and Formula One each have their own agenda but I think it would be nice if the centennial Indianapolis 500 was given the global spotlight. It would just be for next year and in return, IndyCar and the Speedway should make sure the Indianapolis 500 is not the day of the 100th Monaco Grand Prix. We can worry about if the Indianapolis 500 moves up to the Saturday or pushed to Monday in 2042 at a later date but I think it would be nice if each sanctioning body gave each other some respect.

Pushing the Monaco Grand Prix back a week would create a back-to-back with Monaco and the Canadian Grand Prix from Montreal. While it isn't ideal to have fly-away races on consecutive weeks, realize the leaked 2016 Formula One calendar has Melbourne and Shanghai back-to-back weeks and the distance between those two cities is greater than the distance from Monaco-to-Montreal (Melbourne-to-Shanghai: 5002 miles (8,050 km). Monaco-to-Montreal: 3,803 miles (6,121 km)).

Now you may click on the link to the leaked 2016 Formula One calendar and think, "Why not move Monaco up a week and create a back-to-back with the Spanish Grand Prix and give the teams two weeks off before the Canadian Grand Prix?" Because I have an idea and the big wigs at Honda need to be involved. IndyCar needs to convince Honda to get McLaren to return to the Speedway and when I say McLaren I mean the whole bunch of drivers they have. McLaren has won three Indianapolis 500s (Mark Donohue in 1972, Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and 1976). The Offenhauser name won't be in the 100th Indianapolis 500. The Marmon name won't be in the 100th Indianapolis 500. The almighty Cosworth name won't be in the 100th Indianapolis 500. McLaren is still active in motorsports and they wouldn't have to build a whole new chassis and the engines already exist and have been well tested. Perhaps you can get McLaren to develop an aero kit which wouldn't need much testing as we saw this year, as majority of the teams didn't get to run the oval aero kit until May 3rd. On the technical side, it is much easier for McLaren to show up and run the Indianapolis 500 than it was 20, 25 years ago. The difficult part is in terms of drivers. I'd want them to bring out the big guns. Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne. The big names coming over from Europe added to lure of Indianapolis and having two world champions and two very talented prospects come over would be a blast to the past.

But I am not just asking for McLaren to return I want an engine manufacture to return next year and I know what you are thinking, "There is no chance in hell a third engine manufacture will be able to develop a new engine in time for next year's race." And you are right. There is no chance in hell an engine manufacture will be able to develop a new engine by this time next year but I am not asking for an entirely new engine to be built and developed, I am asking for an engine that already exists be brought over for the Indianapolis 500. I want Toyota back at Indianapolis and I want IndyCar to allow their 2.0 L I4 Super Formula engine to race in the Indianapolis 500. I have been railing for this for quite sometime. Instead of forcing engine manufactures to conform to IndyCar regulations, why not open the door to the engines that already exist? Expand the eligible engines from only 2.2 L twin-turbo V6s to engines that are between two and three liters in displacement and have either four or six cylinders. Then the door is open to many other manufactures but let's focus on Toyota. In Super Formula, Toyota engines power three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer, Super Formula champion and former Formula One driver Kazuki Nakajima and another former Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi. Bring those three over. Perhaps Toyota could have an open car or two for drivers with the name Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards.

Let's say all 34 cars, 17 from each manufacture, return next year. Add on the McLaren foursome, three to five Toyotas, Larson and Allmendinger doing The Double and another car or two and you have 44-47 teams. You could have 11-14 cars fail to qualify, however, times have changed. The time of having a dozen cars failing to qualifying and just going home isn't best for teams and sponsors. If Indianapolis 500 qualifying drew 2.5 million viewers than teams may have a reasonable defense as to why a sponsor should stay despite failing to qualify for the biggest race of the year but that's not reality. If you get 44 or more entries, why not run a consolation race on Carb Day for these teams so they at least get some airtime for their sponsors and get their drivers more experience at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Carb Day is one giant party and giving fans more on-track time would be a positive. Call the consolation race the Hulman Hundred after Tony Hulman and the former Silver Crown event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. You might be thinking that Hulman would have been against this but you know what? Tony Hulman didn't promote races in 2015. He didn't experience this climate. The year 2015 is much different than 1965. There is much more competition and the ways things were done aren't necessarily the way things should be done now. As we have seen with the Freedom 100 (we will get to that in a moment), you can have a good race at the Speedway with a dozen cars.

Don't say that everything above is impossible. Nothing is impossible. It would be an uphill battle to make it happen but it is possible. It will take an open mind and just pure excitement for arguably the greatest race in the world. It can be done. Now are the people in charge going to open their minds and their eyes and see the possibilities of what the 100th Indianapolis 500 can be?

Indy Lights Midterm
The Freedom 100 was the midway point for the Indy Lights season and Jack Harvey took the victory and the championship lead. The first half of a season for the Dallara IL-15 chassis has been pretty good but not great. Through eight races there have been nine lead changes, six of those came in the Freedom 100. The pole-sitter has won five races.

There is definitely room for improvement for Indy Lights. Indy Lights runs on seven road/street courses; six of those host doubleheaders (Long Beach being the lone single-race weekend). Unlike GP2 and GP3, two development series that also run doubleheaders on a regular basis, Indy Lights does not invert the starting grid for race two and they should invert. Currently, the starting grid for race two is set by times from qualifying but if you can run a faster lap in the race that your fastest race lap can improve your position. However, unless it rains or a driver has a poor qualifying session, it's rare to see a driver run a faster lap in the race. If they do ran a faster lap in the race it is normally when a driver has fallen back in the race, is out of contention for the win but pits for tires and goes out and runs seven or eight qualifying laps at the end of a race. Even if a driver runs a faster lap in the race, it is rarely good enough for pole and at most you may see a driver improve two positions.

Instead of lining-up the cars in the same order in race two and hoping for a different results, line them up differently. Inverting the field would mix it up. It would get the faster guys in traffic and potentially create some passing. There are only a dozen cars in Indy Lights. You can either invert the entire field or just invert the top six or invert the top eight. Do something to make it a little more interesting.

Finally, halfway through the first season for the IL-15 chassis and grid size is still stuck at a dozen entries like it has been for the two and a half prior seasons. We were all hoping the new car would see new teams enter and new teams have entered (Juncos, Carlin, 8Star) but the grid hasn't grown as the additions have been balanced out with teams not returning. Team Moore is nowhere to be seen and use to run two cars. Andretti Autosport has cut down to one car after running two for pretty much their entire tenure in Lights. Bryan Herta Autosport is gone. The revolving door of five cars entering while five cars exit has left talented young drivers without rides. Matthew Brabham and Zach Veach won Indy Lights races last year but need a little more Indy Lights experience before moving up to IndyCar, the only problem is there is no room for them in Lights. Scott Hargrove nearly won the Pro Mazda title and is clearly ready for Indy Lights and did well in testing and at St. Petersburg for 8Star but he lost his ride due to funding. These are just three young names left outside in the cold and there are surely more.

Dan Andersen has called for more IndyCar teams to get involved in Indy Lights and none have answered. Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi expands his operation but not to Indy Lights, but to Global Rallycross. You know who else owns cars in Global RallyCross? Andretti Autosport, which enters two cars and Bryan Herta Autosport. Easily, these three rallycross operations could be four more cars on the Lights grid but these teams are businesses looking to make a profit and they see Global RallyCross as a better option than Indy Lights. Andersen and IndyCar management have to work to make Lights a more desirable option especially for IndyCar teams.

This is only year one of the IL-15 chassis and growth takes time but if Indy Lights is still stuck on a dozen cars this time next year, something has to be done.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Juan Pablo Montoya, Nico Rosberg, Jack Harvey, Stoffel Vandoorne and Richie Stanaway but did you know....

Carl Edwards won the Coca-Cola 600.

Jérôme d'Ambrosio won the Berlin ePrix after Lucas di Grassi was disqualified. It is his and the American Dragon Racing's first victories. Dragon Racing is owned by Jay Penske. Not a bad weekend for the Penske family.

Hiroki Ishiura scored his first Super Formula victory in his 45th career start at Okayama and he takes the championship lead after two races.

Tom Sykes swept the World Superbike weekend at Donington Park. British riders have won all 12 races this season. Kenan Sofuoglu won his fourth consecutive race in World Supersport. American P.J. Jacobsen finished fifth in the Supersport race.

Rob Bell, Shane van Gisbergen and Kevin Éstre won the Blancpain Endurance Series event from Silverstone. It is the first victory for the McLaren 650S GT3.

Jari-Matti Latvala scored his first victory of the World Rally Championship season as the Finn won Rally de Portugal.

Weiron Tan won the Pro Mazda Freedom 90 from Indianapolis Raceway Park on Saturday. Jake Eidson won the U.S. F2000 Freedom 75.

Austin Dillon won the NASCAR second division race from Charlotte.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar heads to their only doubleheader of the 2015 season at Belle Isle.
IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge will also be at Belle Isle.
MotoGP returns to Mugello.
DTM heads to Lausitzring.
NASCAR will head to Dover.
Le Mans Test Day takes place.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

99th Indianapolis 500: First Impressions

1. That was a beautiful race as Juan Pablo Montoya won his second Indianapolis 500. He led only nine laps and had to make a comeback, twice. First, after Simona de Silvestro tapped his rear-wheel guard, causing damage. The second after running over his air hose when he slid through his pit stall. Montoya is the greatest driver of his generation. He is greater than Michael Schumacher. He is greater than Sebastian Bourdais. He is greater than Jimmie Johnson. He is greater than Lewis Hamilton. If his name was Jack Moore and from South Carolina, the mainstream media would mention him with A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti daily. He has won two Indianapolis 500s, seven Formula One Grands Prix including wins at Monaco and Monza, he won in NASCAR, he has won the 24 Hours of Daytona three times and he has an IndyCar title and is in prime position for a second. What driver in the last 25 years has had that type of success across as many disciplines? Nobody. He is our generations Foyt. He is our generations Andretti. Folks, we are witnessing something special and we don't know when it will ever happen again.

2. Will Power had a good day but came home second. It has to suck for him. Defending champion and that Indianapolis 500 victory is the last thing he needs on his résumé. As long as he keeps winning races for Penske he will have many more opportunities to win at Indianapolis.

3. The top Ganassi car was Charlie Kimball. He had a pit stop go his way. He came in, the caution came out as his teammate Tony Kanaan hit the wall and he exited the pit lane just ahead of the leaders after running at the back end of the top ten most of the race up to that point. This was a good day for him. We know he is competent but he isn't Power, he isn't Montoya, he isn't someone who dominates but he can hold his own.

4. Scott Dixon really looked in position for his second victory. He dominated the first half, trading the lead with Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud. He was rarely outside the top five. In fact, outside of during pit cycles, Dixon was in the top five all day. I think Power is the only other driver who can say that.

5. Graham Rahal finished fifth in what was another tough day for Honda. It was Penske and Ganassi domination. Honda has to be frustrated. They weren't a factor all day and now they head to Chevrolet's backyard with only one victory to Chevrolet's five. Rahal has been the top Honda driver, which is surprising considering Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was the worst team last year. Rahal could win a race this year but he will either need Honda making a great leap or catch Chevrolet sleeping.

6. Marco Andretti finished sixth. Another year, another top ten in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti. Ten starts and six top tens with three consecutive top tens. He's only 28 and has a lot of time to get that elusive Indianapolis 500 victory for his family.

7. Hélio Castroneves faded late. At one point he fell all the way to 13th but made a late charge to 7th. He was up in the top five for the first 165 laps but perhaps made the wrong adjustment on the final restart and it cost him.

8. Another year and another result J.R. Hildebrand can super-glue to John Barnes' front door. Eighth after finish tenth last year. If only Hildebrand can get a break and a full-time ride. He had a good race on the IMS road course before a mechanical failure. He is only 27. Plenty of time left for him.

9. Josef Newgarden quietly finished ninth despite starting ninth. He went up and down a few times but made a late charge and made it five Americans in the top ten. That's not bad. Sure, it would have been nice to see an American win but five of the top ten isn't that bad.

10. Simon Pagenaud nearly ran over Justin Wilson, lost a lot of time, fell to 21st and came back to finish 10th all in the final 30 laps. He led the second-most laps today behind only Scott Dixon. If it wasn't for nearly running over Wilson, Pagenaud might have been in contention for the victory.

11. Sébastien Bourdais finished 11th. He, like Newgarden, went from the back half of the top ten to just outside the top 20 at one point but recovered and got a solid finish.

12. Hats off to Ryan Briscoe finishing 12th on short notice and overcoming being run into by James Davison in turn one, lap one, causing him to spin and stall and nearly falling one lap down. How he doesn't have a full-time ride is beyond me. Will he be the replacement until James Hinchcliffe returns? He has the Le Mans test day next week as IndyCar goes to Belle Isle for a doubleheader. He is free for Texas and has to run the 24 Hours of Le Mans the weekend IndyCar goes to Toronto. Maybe he get a few more starts this season but we will have to wait and see. He surely deserves a full-time ride.

13. Takuma Sato finished 13th but if IndyCar is consistent he will take only 9 points from this race. He made a bonehead move in turn one, lap one and it ended Sage Karam's day. Sato went three laps down but ended up on the lead lap. He gets 34 points for finishing 13th since this race was worth double points while Karam gets only 10. At NOLA, Ryan Hunter-Reay took out Simon Pagenaud and he was deducted three points so he scored one point fewer than the Frenchman. Castroneves took out Dixon in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Brazilian deducted nine points so he had one fewer than Dixon. If IndyCar is consistent, Sato should have a 25-point deduction waiting for him.

14. Good day for Townsend Bell finishing in 14th. I am sure he wanted better. He was in the top ten at one point. Today was just a good outing for him and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. We need Bell to run a few more IndyCar races each year and we need Dreyer & Reinbold back as a full-time team.

15. Ryan Hunter-Reay wasn't a factor all day but he tried to go off strategy to get him into contention but it didn't pan out. It's been a frustrating season for him so far. Fifteenth at Indianapolis isn't great but it's not terrible. He just needs to put it behind him.

16. The top-rookie finisher was Gabby Chaves in 16th. He will likely win Rookie of the Year honors and he had a good month in general. At one point he was in the top ten!

17. Alex Tagliani nearly didn't make the start as he struggled to get the car fired. It did and he did lead a few laps after Kanaan's accident because of the pit cycle. Second consecutive year for him leading laps in the Indianapolis 500.

18. James Jakes quietly finished 18th and other than when she got into Montoya's rear, Simona de Silvestro had a quiet race and finished 19th.

20. Carlos Muñoz finished 20th. When the leaders made their final stops with just under 30 to go, Muñoz stayed out and lead a few laps and those were the first laps led by an Andretti Autosport car this season. Justin Wilson also stayed out and he led at least one lap as well. Both ended up pitting with two to go. They each must have done close to 40 laps on their final stints. Yes they had cautions play into their favor but they nearly made it and both nearly had top ten finishes. Muñoz was the final car on the lead lap while Wilson came home in 21st.

21. Pippa Mann finished three laps down in 22nd but it was a rough day for Dale Coyne Racing. James Davison charged into the top 20 early in the race but he was released too soon from a pit stop, made contact with Mann, which send Davison into a few of Coyne's third driver, Tristan Vautier's pit crew. Two crew members were one. One was checked and released; the other had to go to the hospital. Truly unfortunate for that team. Davison and Vautier finished 27th and 28th respectively, both retiring after the pit lane incident.

22. Sebastián Saavedra, Jack Hawksworth and Stefano Coletti all got together late in the race as the field checked up in turn four, causing Hawksworth into the back of Saavedra, spinning the Colombian into the path of Coletti and the Monegasque driver just had nowhere to go. Saavedra has a left foot contusion and will need to be cleared before getting back into the car.

23. Tony Kanaan finished 26th after his accident. He had a really good car but got caught out on cold tires after a pit stop. Last year it was Dixon who had an accident while in contention. This year it was Kanaan. He will be back.

24. Oriol Servià and Ed Carpenter took each other out in turn one. Both were just outside the top ten for the 112 laps they were in the race. All three CFH cars went up and down like a yo-yo and when Carpenter got into Servià he had just fallen to about 15th after being in the top ten. Both are good drivers and it's a shame they didn't get to see this race to the finish.

25. Bryan Clauson had an accident end his day. He was the slowest qualifier and he just needs more seat time. It was nice seeing the Jonathan Byrd name back in the Indianapolis 500 but if they want Clauson to be their driver and be in the race, they are going to need to get him more seat time because next year there might be 35 or 36 cars entered and it won't just take beating Buddy Lazier to make the race.

26. Sage Karam. He has to be angry seeing Sato finish 13th while he second Indianapolis 500 end after one corner. Seeing how all the Ganassi cars raced, it would have been interesting to see if he could have worked his way to the front. He needs a break. He is only 20. He has a lot of career ahead of him. Ganassi just needs to be patient.

27. Then there was Conor Daly. He had a fuel cell leak end his race before he could even take the green flag. He spent a year putting this deal together with Smithfield's and they didn't even get to see their car take the green flag. How can Daly and Schmidt Peterson defend that? Shit happens but that doesn't mean sponsors will stick around. Daly has been working so hard to break into a professional series full-time and it has yet to come. If Briscoe isn't able to race at Belle Isle due to the Le Mans test day, Daly might get to drive the #5 for a handful of races but that isn't guaranteed as Daly isn't the only driver on the outside who should be full-time. Not only is Daly fighting with Briscoe for the #5 but also Wilson, Servià, Tagliani and who knows whom else.

28. I thought Straight No Chaser did really well with "(Back Home Again In) Indiana." We had a weird moment with the command to start with Mari Hulman George. She is getting up there is age. Does she decide to step down from doing it or does she do it until her final day? And who succeeds her? One of her daughters? Tony George? We can worry about that later.

29. I liked how after the finish the ABC booth let the moment breathe. They let the natural sound of the scene take over. Allen Bestwick let it breathe. Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear didn't add a stupid comment. It was nice. To be honest, this wasn't a bad race for the ABC booth. Was much better than the Grand Prix of Indianapolis but they are streaky. Next week will likely be a step back. Pit road guys did great. ABC has the right trio in Jon Beekhuis, Dr. Jerry Punch and Rick DeBruhl.

30. On another note, ABC has to update their graphics. Look at their side-by-side compared to NBC's side-by-side for Formula One and IndyCar. ABC wastes space while NBC makes the most of it. The ABC graphics haven't been updated since at least 2008. With the 100th Indianapolis 500 up next, it would be nice if the graphic were improved for next year.

31. I thought the racing was great. Surprised there were 38 lead changes. I thought we would see around 25 lead changes today but we got more than that. Passes didn't appear to be as easy as previous years but they could still be made. I don't think IndyCar should revert to the 2014 aero package for the remaining ovals this year. They should stick with the 2015 aero package. It was actually pretty good today.

32. I want to end by saying thank you to everyone for a great month of May. To all the drivers and team owners. To IndyCar brass and Indianapolis Motor Speedway brass. I am going to single out IMS president Doug Boles because he just seems like a cool guy who loves motorsports and cares about the fans. IndyCar needs more people like Doug Boles. To Kevin Lee, Curt Cavin and Donald Davidson for spending each night in the background. To Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett for keeping everyone updated on To everyone who had discussions with on Twitter about everything under the blue moon about IndyCar and other forms of motorsports. Just thank you to you all and I look forward to the rest of this season.

33. 371 days until the 100th Indianapolis 500.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ranking Potential 99th Indianapolis 500 Winners

No matter who wins the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar still has a long way to go in growing common knowledge about the series. IndyCar won't have their "messiah moment" this weekend but there are drivers who if they win would be a greater baby step forward in getting IndyCar into the public eye and then there are drivers who if they win will just go over everyone's head.

This ranking does not list drivers from who I think are least likely to win the Indianapolis 500 to the most likely to win. This ranking looks at whom I believe would be the best Indianapolis 500 winner for IndyCar and the driver who would be the 33rd best Indianapolis 500 winner for IndyCar. We will start with 33 and work our way to the best.

Just to get this out of the way, feel free to disagree. There might be a driver I think would be good for IndyCar that you might think might not be as good and vice versa. There are no right answers.

33. Sebastián Saavedra
Saavedra is not a full-time driver and his best career finish entering this year's race is ninth. He's young but after this race he isn't scheduled to appear again until the season finale at Sonoma. Saavedra winning would be an upset but not the type that would get people's attention.

32. James Jakes
Jakes is a full-time driver but outside a second at Belle Isle and a third in the abomination at NOLA this year, he's never been a contender. He has six top tens in 55 starts. Once again, Jakes winning would be an upset but not the type that would get people's attention.

31. Tristan Vautier
This could be the final IndyCar race of Tristan Vautier's career. Granted he could be in the #18 at Belle Isle but he is on a race-by-race basis. He isn't full-time and the only reason he isn't last is because of the last-minute substitution narrative. Vautier winning would be an upset and might get a little attention but will be quickly pushed to the side.

30. James Davison
With all the movement at Dale Coyne Racing in the last month explaining the story to an average person would sound like Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" Davison is a talented driver and he pace just shows how much better Dale Coyne Racing can be if he hired real drivers. However, because he is just signed for Indianapolis, it would not be good if people tuned into Belle Isle only to fine out he isn't there. He actually will be at Belle Isle but in Pirelli World Challenge, not IndyCar.

29. Stefano Coletti
Coletti is a talented young driver; a winner in GP2 but the general public doesn't have a damn clue about junior formula series. This isn't like baseball, basketball, hockey or soccer where prospects are closely followed from when they are teenagers. The diehard motorsports follower might be happy to see him win but to the infrequent observer, it would stick as much.

28. Alex Tagliani
This could be the final IndyCar race of Alex Tagliani's career. He won one race in 2004 and won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole position, other than that, he has had an average career. This would be an upset and because he is Canadian, he might get a little more attention. Plus he and his wife just welcomed their baby daughter into the world and everyone loves babies. And he drives for A.J. Foyt, another positive.

27. Oriol Servià
Servià might be the most underrated driver in the last twenty years in IndyCar but that doesn't mean the general public will get that. While he has a pretty good track record at Indianapolis, he is just a one-off and won't be at Belle Isle and it would not be good if people tuned into Belle Isle only to fine out he isn't there.

26. Gabby Chaves
Positive: Young, full-time driver who could be in IndyCar for a while. Negative: Young, full-time driver who hasn't been around for a while. Chaves could develop and have a nice IndyCar career but right now he is an unknown and I am not sure he is an unknown people want to get to know.

25. Bryan Clauson
Clauson is the longest of long shots but his nationality helps him. An American short-tracker, cutting his teeth on dirt tracks in small towns across the country and making driving a race car into a career. Plus, he is a local boy. A Hoosier hasn't won since Wilbur Shaw in 1940. That would be a nice story but the negative is Clauson probably won't be in an IndyCar again until Indianapolis next year.

24. Jack Hawksworth
Hawksworth is kind of like Chaves. Young, full-time driver who could have a nice career but the problem is he hasn't been around long enough. He is talented but will people latch on to him? Drives for A.J. Foyt, which is a positive.

23. Takuma Sato
Sato is probably known by the average motorsports fan around the world and his one blip of glory in the United States is his failed attempt to take the lead on the final lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500. It would be a popular win for the folks back at Honda's headquarters and he drives for A.J. Foyt. The drawback is he someone the average viewer will be find relatable?

22. Carlos Muñoz
Muñoz is a talented driver and has finished second and fourth in his two previous 500 starts. He is fast but like Sato, is he someone people can relate to? To the full-time IndyCar follower, Muñoz winning makes sense but to the average viewer, Muñoz winning would probably just go over there heads.

21. Sébastien Bourdais
Four-time champion but he has one win since returning to IndyCar in 2011. Like Muñoz, a full-time IndyCar follower would understand Bourdais winning but the average person wouldn't. The other negative is if only his car owner was Paul Newman, then that would definitely get some coverage but Paul is gone as is Newman-Haas.

20. Justin Wilson
Starting sixth but only a one-off. Wilson is a very good driver but was shafted out of a full-time ride. He might be at Belle Isle as a substitute but that isn't a guarantee and he falls into that boat all the other one-offs are in. The Rolling Stones livery might catch people's attention but for how long? After all, like Wilson, that livery is a one-off.

19. Townsend Bell
We all love Bell as he tells it like it is but this is it for him in terms of driving an IndyCar. He will be at Belle Isle but in the IMSA race. He will be at most of the remaining IndyCar races but as a broadcaster. Being a broadcaster might be a minor positive as at least people will get to hear his voice and see his face but I am sure people would be tuning in to see him race, not talk.

18. Conor Daly
Daly benefits from being a local boy. Daly winning would be a very popular victory and it would have to put him in the catbird seat to be substitute for James Hinchcliffe at Belle Isle and would probably get him the full-time ride he has been waiting for. Plus, he knows how to use social media and that is something that the younger generation can relate to. The negative is he isn't guaranteed to be at Belle Isle and he probably won't be in a car again this year if he doesn't win.

17. Charlie Kimball
Kimball is a quiet guy. He isn't flashy. He isn't seeking attention but when people want to talk to him, he is friendly and engaging. If anything, he is the IndyCar driver who should be out there more talking to the media. A positive for him is he drives for Ganassi and that might lock Kimball down in a respectable ride for sometime to come.

16. J.R. Hildebrand
This is the redemption story we want to see. Four years after having an Indianapolis 500 victory within his grasp only to slide across the line in second with his right side tires gone, Hildebrand winning would make that memory go away. It would be the comeback story we would all love to see. The negative is he isn't full-time and while CFH Racing might be able to get him in more races, can they get him entered for the rest of the season? 

15. Simon Pagenaud
Pagenaud is undeniably talented and could be a championship in the next few years, especially since he is driving for Penske. If wins this year's 500, it could be the domino to set off an amazing career. If he wins at Indianapolis he could go on to win three or four more races this year and people love winners. At only 31, Pagenaud could be around for the next decade and someone the average person can come to know.

14. Tony Kanaan
Kanaan is a fan favorite and he tells it like it is. He is just one of the good guys. He just won and two Indianapolis 500 victories in three years would get people's attention. People love to be front-runners. They want to tune in and pull for the favorite and if Kanaan wins this year, here is their front-runner to pull for. The negative is Kanaan is 40 going on 41. How many more years will he be around? And if he is gone after two or three years, will those people find another driver to latch onto or move on to something else?

13. Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya is the greatest driver of this generation. He already has an Indianapolis 500 victory, he has an IndyCar championship, he has won in Formula One and he has won in NASCAR. Another 500 victory would just add to his legacy. Plus, he has some Verizon sponsorship on his car and while he isn't their #1 driver, if he wins Verizon has to celebrate the fact that they were on his car. The negative is I think Montoya will retire at any moment. He leads the championship and if he wins another Indianapolis 500, he would be in prime position to win another title. If he were to do that, what else would he have to prove? He is turning 40 this September and he might decide that this is it.

12. Ed Carpenter
Local boy. Kind of. He was born in Illinois but he has lived in Indiana most of his and is a Butler University graduate. He has been a staple in IndyCar for over a decade, which is hard to believe but it's true. He only races on ovals, which is a negative because he only races six times all year and wouldn't be racing at Belle Isle but he would be there as a car owner and at least he would be at every race.

11. Ryan Briscoe
Like Vautier, this is the underdog, who has the last-minute substitution narrative on his side. He is the driver who wasn't suppose to be there who now has a shot at history. The other positive is his wife Nicole works at ESPN as a SportsCenter anchor. If he wins, he will get attention. He has an in and has a hell of a story to tell. And Schmidt Peterson would have no choice but to have Briscoe be the substitute for Hinchcliffe until the Canadian is ready to return.

10. Hélio Castroneves
You are probably surprised that a potential fourth Indianapolis 500 victory for Castroneves is so low. Well, people love history and it would get people's attention but will a fourth 500 be the thing to finally get people to stop pronouncing his name "Hee-lio?" If the first three didn't do that than what makes you think a fourth will? Another negative is he is 40. How long will he be around? We all know that if he gets fourth he will want to a fifth but at what point would he settle with four?

9 and 8. Pippa Mann and Simona de Silvestro respectively
You cannot deny that the first women to win the Indianapolis 500 as a driver would be a massive story, especially if it isn't Danica Patrick. Mann and de Silvestro would go down in sports history. Neither are full-time drivers but what sponsor would say no to them if they were to win the Indianapolis 500? It would have people talking. Mann benefits from having a great cause in the Susan G. Komen on the car. I put de Silvestro ahead of Mann because de Silvestro has been a competitive driver while Mann has never been close to a full-time ride.

7. Josef Newgarden
Newgarden just won at Barber, he has a bigger sponsor on the car in Century 21, he has Sarah Fisher as a co-owner, he is young and he is an American. What else could you ask for? Granted, Century 21 will probably be gone after Indianapolis even if he wins but that would open the door for someone to bounce on the young driver and make him there own.

6. Sage Karam
Should Karam win, he would become the youngest Indianapolis 500 winner. IndyCar wants younger fans? Nothing would be better than the youngest driver winning the biggest race. Karam is someone the fans can grow up with. As they go through different stages in their life, they could have the one constant of watching Sage Karam race. He is active on social media; he is driving for one of the best teams, like Newgarden, what else could you ask for?

5. Scott Dixon
People love winners and here is the active leader in IndyCar victories who already has three titles and he is starting from pole position. Dixon has been around for over a decade but he only 34! He will be around for at least another five or six years and he could make an assault on the all-time IndyCar win list. He probably won't catch A.J. Foyt's 67 victories but he sits on 36 victories. Al Unser will be caught, as Dixon is three back of him. Michael Andretti sit son 42 and he might be caught toward the end of 2016 or early 2017. Next would be Mario Andretti. Could Dixon end his career second all-time in IndyCar victories? Perhaps new fans would want to tag along just to fine out.

4. Marco Andretti
It's all in the last name. Andretti. Andretti winning. It would turn heads. It would feel like a rite of passage, a passing of the baton. Perhaps this opens the floodgates for Andretti. Perhaps getting the Indianapolis monkey off his back will see him become a championship contender and winning on a regular basis. That isn't a guarantee but you can't pass up an Andretti winning at Indianapolis.

3. Will Power
Power is the defending champion, driving for the most successful team in IndyCar history and just happens to be sponsored by the series sponsor. If he wins, Verizon will get him attention. People love winners and at 34, he could also make an assault on the all-time IndyCar win list. He has 11 victories fewer that Dixon but who is to say he won't end with his name mingled in with the Unsers and Andrettis? And like Dixon, perhaps a few new fans would want to tag along just to fine out where Power lands.

2. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Defending Indianapolis 500 winner and an American. Having a familiar face for the public to get to know would be great for IndyCar. Not only is Hunter-Reay the defending Indianapolis 500 winner but a past champion. He already has the résumé for people to love him, now IndyCar has to promote him but a second Indianapolis 500 victory, especially if he becomes the sixth driver to win back-to-back 500s could cement him as the figure that comes to people's minds when they hear IndyCar.

1. Graham Rahal
Rahal has the name. His sponsors seem to love him. He has the wind under his wings after consecutive runner-up finishes. He has the people around him in Bobby Rahal and David Letterman. Letterman might have retired but perhaps he could use his connections to get Rahal prime television appearances. Rahal has the looks. He has the fiancé in Courtney Force, as they are the motorsports power couple. And he is young. He's been around for a while but he is 26 years old. He could easily be around for the next 15 years and become the driver for a generation.

Regardless of who wins the 99th Indianapolis 500, IndyCar has to promote them. If IndyCar wants their drivers to become public figures, show them off to the public and let them know whom the faces of IndyCar are.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Track Walk: 99th Indianapolis 500

It's That Time Again
It is happening. The 99th Indianapolis 500 features twenty-eight drivers looking to join the pantheon of legends while five look to add their likeness to the Borg-Warner Trophy one more time. Seventeen Hondas and sixteen Chevrolets will take the green flag.

Channel: ABC
Time: Coverage beings at 11:00 a.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET.
Announcers: Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear will be in the booth. Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl and Dr. Jerry Punch will work the pit lane.

The Starting Grid
Row 1:
Scott Dixon
This will be Dixon's 13th Indianapolis 500 start.
2008 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #9 has won the Indianapolis 500 four times with Dixon's 2008 victory being the most recent.
Scott Dixon is the 19th driver to win multiple Indianapolis 500 pole positions. Eighteen times has the pole-sitter won the race, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2009. Dixon's 2008 "500" victory came from pole position.

Will Power
This will be Power's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best Finish: 5th (2009)
Car #1 has won the Indianapolis 500 seven times, the third-most victories but has not won since Al Unser won in 1971.
Power will start second. Eleven times has the winner started second, most recently Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000.

Simon Pagenaud
This will be Pagenaud's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 8th (2013)
Car #22 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Pagenaud will start third. Eleven times has the winner started third, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2010.
Pagenaud looks to become the third Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500.

Row 2:
Tony Kanaan
This will be Kanaan's 14th Indianapolis 500 start.
2013 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #10 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dario Franchitti 2010.
Kanaan will start fourth. Six times has the winner started fourth but not since Bobby Rahal in 1986.
This year's race also marks Tony Kanaan's 300th IndyCar start. He will become the eighth driver to make 300 career starts.

Hélio Castroneves
This will be Castroneves' 15th Indianapolis 500 start.
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner (2001, 2002, 2009)
Car #3 has won the Indianapolis 500 eleven times, the most victories. Castroneves' 2009 victory is the most recent victory for car #3.
Castroneves will start fifth. Seven times has the winner started fifth but not since Buddy Lazier in 1996.

Justin Wilson
This will be Wilson's eight Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2013)
Car #25 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Al Unser 1987.
Wilson will start sixth. Five times has the winner started sixth, most recently Dan Wheldon in 2011.
Wilson looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500 joining Dario Resta, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti.

Row 3:
Sébastien Bourdais
This will be Bourdais' fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 7th (2014)
Car #11 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Tony Kanaan 2013.
Bourdais will start seventh. Five times has the winner started seventh but not since A.J. Foyt in 1961.
Bourdais looks to become the third Frenchman to win the Indianapolis 500. Jules Goux and René Thomas won in 1913 and 1914 respectively. Goux won the 1913 race from seventh on the grid.

Marco Andretti
This will be Andretti's tenth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2006)
Car #27 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recentlyC with Dario Franchitti in 2007.
Andretti will start eighth. Twice has the winner started eighth but not since Kenny Bräck in 1999.

Josef Newgarden
This will be Newgarden's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 25th (2012)
Car #21 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Newgarden will start ninth. Only once has a winner start ninth, Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993. This is Newgarden's third start from the third row in four starts.

Row 4:
J.R. Hildebrand
This will be Hildebrand's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2011)
Car #6 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times, most recently with Sam Hornish, Jr. in 2006.
Hildebrand will start tenth. Twice has the winner start tenth, most recently Gil de Ferran in 2003.

Carlos Muñoz
This will be Muñoz's third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 2nd (2013).
Car #26 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dan Wheldon 2005.
Muñoz will start 11th. Twice has the winner started 11th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2001.

Ed Carpenter
This will be Carpenter's 12th Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2008)
Car #20 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989.
Carpenter will start 12th. Twice has the winner started 12th, most recently Tony Kanaan in 2013.

Row 5:
Oriol Servià
This will be Servià's seventh Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2012)
Car #32 has won the Indianapolis 500 twice but not since George Souders in 1927.
Servià will start 13th. Four times has the winner started 13th, most recently Hélio Castroneves in 2002.
Servià attempts to become the first Spaniard to win the Indianapolis 500.

Charlie Kimball
This will be Kimball's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 8th (2012)
Car #83 has never won the Indianapolis 500. The only time a car numbered in the 80s won was Jim Clark in 1965 in car #82.
Kimball will start 14th. Only once has a winner started 14th, Bob Sweikert in 1955. Like Sweikert, Kimball is a Californian.

Juan Pablo Montoya
This will be Montoya's third Indianapolis 500 start.
2000 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Car #2 has won the Indianapolis 500 eight times, the second-most victories but has not won since Al Unser won in 1978.
Montoya will start 15th. Three times has the winner start 15th but not since Graham Hill in 1966.

Row 6:
Ryan Hunter-Reay
This will be Hunter-Reay's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Hunter-Reay will attempt to become the sixth driver to win back-to-back Indianapolis 500s.
His victory last year was the first Indianapolis 500 victory for car #28.
Hunter-Reay will start 16th. Twice has the winner started 16th, most recently Dario Franchitti in 2012.

Graham Rahal
This will be Rahal's eighth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 3rd (2011)
Car #15 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently with Buddy Rice in 2004.
Rahal will start 17th. Twice has the winner started 17th but not since Eddie Cheever in 1998.
Graham Rahal looks to become the third driver to win the Indianapolis 500 after finishing second in his prior to starts. Rodger Ward did it in 1959 and Bobby Unser did it in 1981.
Rahal could tie Salt Walther and George Snider for most 33rd-place finishes this year. Rahal has finished 33rd twice.

Simona de Silvestro
This will be de Silvestro's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 14th (2010)
Car #29 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
De Silvestro will start 18th. The best finish for the 18th-starter is second in 1920 by René Thomas and in 2009 and 2010 by Dan Wheldon.
De Silvestro attempts to become the first Swiss national to win the Indianapolis 500.

Row 7:
James Jakes
This will be Jakes' third Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 15th (2013)
Car #7 has won the Indianapolis 500 twice but not since Bill Holland in 1949.
Jakes will start 19th. Twice has the winner started 19th including last year's win by Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Jakes looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Alex Tagliani
This will be Tagliani's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 10th (2010)
Car #48 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Bobby Unser 1975. Car #48 is the only number in the 40s to win the Indianapolis 500.
Tagliani will start 20th. Three times has the winner start 20th but not since Al Unser in 1987.
Tagliani looks to become the second Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500 joining Jacques Villeneuve.

Sage Karam
This will be Karam's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 9th (2014)
Car #8 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times but not since Pat Flaherty in 1956.
Karam will start 21st. Only once has a winner started 21st, L.L Corum and Joe Boyer in 1924.

Row 8:
Conor Daly
This will be Daly's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 22nd (2013)
Car #43 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Daly will start 22nd. Twice has the winner start 22nd but not since Kelly Petillo in 1935.

Townsend Bell
This will be Bell's ninth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 4th (2009)
Car #24 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Graham Hill 1966.
Bell will start 23rd. The best finish for the 23rd-starter is second in the 1933 race by Wilbur Shaw.

Takuma Sato
This will be Sato's sixth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 13th (2013)
Car #14 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently with Kenny Bräck in 1999.
Sato will start 24th. The best finish for the 24th-starter is fourth in 1967 by Denis Hulme, in 1969 by Mel Kenyon, in 1972 by Sammy Sessions, in 1995 by Eliseo Salazar and in 2009 by Townsend Bell.

Row 9:
Pippa Mann
This will be Mann's fourth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2011)
Car #63 has never won the Indianapolis 500. Twice has a car numbered in the 60s won, Mark Donohue in 1972 in car #66 and Hélio Castroneves in 2001 in car #68, both owned by Team Penske.
Mann will start 25th. Only once has the winner started 25th, Johnny Rutherford in 1974.
Mann looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Gabby Chaves
This will be Chaves' first Indianapolis 500 start.
He becomes the sixth Colombian to start the Indianapolis 500.
Car #98 has won the Indianapolis 500 three times, most recently with Dan Wheldon in 2011.
Chaves will start 26th. The best finish for the 26th-finisher is third in 1956 by Don Freeland and in 1960 by Paul Goldsmith.

Sebastián Saavedra
This will be Saavedra's fifth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 15th (2014)
Car #17 has won the Indianapolis 500 once, Dario Resta 1916.
Saavedra will start 27th. Only once has a winner started 27th, Fred Frame in 1932.

Row 10:
Jack Hawksworth
This will be Hawksworth's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 20th (2014)
Car #41 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Hawksworth will start 28th. Twice has the winner started 28th but not since Louis Meyer in 1936. No winner has started worse than 28th.
Hawksworth looks to become the sixth British driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

Stefano Coletti
This will be Coletti's first Indianapolis 500 start.
He is the second Monegasque driver to start the Indianapolis 500. Louis Chiron started 14th and finished 7th in 1929.
Car #4 has won the Indianapolis 500 five times but not since Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1993.
Coletti will start 29th.  The best finish for the 29th-starter is second in 1911 by Ralph Mulford and Paul Tracy in 2002.

Bryan Clauson
This will be Clauson's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 30th (2012)
Car #88 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Clauson will start 30th. The best finish for the 30th-starter is fourth in 1936 by Mauri Rose.

Row 11:
Ryan Briscoe 
This will be Briscoe's tenth Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 5th (2007 and 2012).
Car #5 has won the Indianapolis 500 six times but not since Arie Luyendyk won in 1997.
Briscoe will start 31st after James Hinchcliffe qualified 24th. The best finish for the 31st-starter was fourth in the 1951 race by Andy Linden.

Tristan Vautier
This will be Vautier's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 16th (2014)
Car #18 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Vautier will start 32nd after Carlos Huertas qualified 18th. Huertas is out with due to an inner ear condition. The best finish for the 32nd-starter is second by Jim Rathmann in 1957 and Mario Andretti in 1981.

James Davison
This will be Davison's second Indianapolis 500 start.
Best finish: 16th (2014).
Car #19 has never won the Indianapolis 500.
Davison will start 33rd after having Tristan Vautier qualify the car. Vautier qualified 21st. The best finish for the 33rd-starter is second in 1980 by Tom Sneva and 1992 by Scott Goodyear.
Briscoe starts ahead of Davison, despite the #19 qualifying better than the #5 because of IndyCar rule

Road to Indy
A dozen cars are entered for the Freedom 100. Ed Jones enters with 168 points and an eight-point lead over Jack Harvey and 12 clear of Spencer Pigot. Max Chilton trails his Carlin teammate by 42 points with RC Enerson rounding out the top five on 117 points. Félix Serrallés sits on an even 100 points, six ahead of Scott Anderson and nine ahead of his Belardi teammate Juan Piedrahita. Kyle Kaiser and Shelby Blackstock round out the top ten with the most recent winner in Indy Lights Sean Rayhall and Ethan Ringel tied on 81 points.

Belardi Auto Racing has won the last two Freedom 100s with Peter Dempsey and Gabby Chaves. Last year's race saw a record tying nine lead changes. Wade Cunningham holds the one and two-lap qualifying records at 190.456 and 190.177 MPH respectively. The Freedom 100 is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET on Carb Day.

At Indianapolis Raceway Park, both Pro Mazda and U.S. F2000 will take to the track the Day Before the 500.

In Pro Mazda, Santiago Urrutia heads to the short track with the championship lead on 195 points. Neil Alberico is 24 points behind the Uruguayan. Timothé Buret is 42 points back in third. Weiron Tan sit 70 points back of Urrutia with Pato O'Ward five back of the Malaysian in fifth. Ten points separate O'Ward Florian Latorre, Will Owen, Garret Grist and Jose Gutierrez for fifth in the championship. Daniel Burkett rounds out the top ten with 99 points.

Dalton Kellett, Rauol Owens, Kyle Connery, Alessandro Latiff and Parker Nicklin round out the 15-car entry list for the Freedom 90.

For U.S. F2000's Freedom 75, Nico Jamin enters as the championship leader with 206 points and has won the last three races. Jake Eidson trails by 19 points and is six ahead of Aaron Telitz. Anthony Martin and Parker Thompson round out the top five in the championship with 145 and 110 points respectively.

The Freedom 75 will take place at 12:15 p.m. ET on Saturday with the Freedom 90 following at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Fun Facts
The last two Indianapolis 500s have been the fastest two Indianapolis 500s.

Americans have not won consecutive Indianapolis 500 since 1991-92 when Rick Mears won his fourth and Al Unser, Jr. won his first.

Should A.J. Foyt Racing or Chip Ganassi Racing win, they will move into a tie with Lou Moore for second-most Indianapolis 500 victories for a car owner at five victories.

This year's grid features:

Eleven Americans

Four Colombians.

Four Brits.

Three Australians.

Three Frenchman.

Two Brazilians.

One Canadian.

One New Zealander.

One Spaniard.

One Swiss.

One Japanese and...

One Monegasque.

The pole-sitter has failed to win the last five Indianapolis 500s, the longest streak since the pole-sitter failed to win six Indianapolis 500s from 1998-2003.

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

This will be the 66th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone. Firestone has won every Indianapolis 500 this millennium.

This will be the 15th Indianapolis 500 victory for Dallara. Dallara is the all-time leader in Indianapolis 500 victories for chassis manufactures.

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

Should Chevrolet win it will be their ninth Indianapolis 500 victory.

Five times has the Indianapolis 500 taken place on May 24th (1981, 1987, 1992, 1998 and 2009). Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Eddie Cheever and Hélio Castroneves were the winners. Team Penske has won three of those five Indianapolis 500s.

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, Ed Carpenter or J.R. Hildebrand end up in victory lane. Maude Yagle was the winning car owner of the 1929 Indianapolis 500 with Ray Keech as her driver.

Graham Rahal becomes the 12th driver to enter the Indianapolis 500 after finishing second in his previous two starts. The other eleven occasions are:
Roscoe Sarles: Second at Beverly Hills and Fresno in 1921. Finished second in the 1921 Indianapolis 500.
Deacon Litz: Second at Altoona and Syracuse in 1930. Finished 17th in the 1931 Indianapolis 500.
Mauri Rose: Second at Detroit and Syracuse in 1933. Finished second in the 1934 Indianapolis 500.
Manny Ayulo: Second at Phoenix and Las Vegas in 1954. Lost his life in practice for the 1955 Indianapolis 500.
Johnny Thomson: Second at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Sacramento in 1995. Finished 32nd in the 1956 Indianapolis 500.
Rodger Ward: Second at Daytona and Trenton in 1959. Won the 1959 Indianapolis 500.
Jim Hurtubise: Second at Phoenix in 1960 and Trenton in 1961. Finished 22nd in the 1961 Indianapolis 500.
Roger McCluskey: Second at Phoenix and Trenton in 1967. Finished 19th in the 1967 Indianapolis 500.
Mario Andretti: Second Sonoma and Trenton in 1970. Finished 6th in the 1970 Indianapolis 500.
Bobby Unser: Second at Mexico City in 1980 and Phoenix in 1981. Won the 1981 Indianapolis 500.
Bobby Rahal: Second at Long Beach and Phoenix in 1991. Finished 19th in the 1991 Indianapolis 500.

Scott Dixon needs to lead 128 laps to become the eighth driver to reach the 4,500 laps led club.

Ryan Briscoe needs to lead 65 laps to become the twenty-seventh driver to join the 1,500 laps led club.

Marco Andretti needs to lead 70 laps to join the 1,000 laps led club.

Takuma Sato needs to lead ten laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Ed Carpenter needs to lead 97 laps to reach the 400 laps led milestone.

Simon Pagenaud needs to lead 15 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Graham Rahal needs to lead 24 laps to reach the 200 laps led milestone.

Charlie Kimball needs to lead 16 laps to reach the 100 laps led milestone.

Sébastien Bourdais needs one podium to reach 50 career IndyCar podiums.

Can you name the winners of The Jigger Award?

We are going to see a first-time Indianapolis 500 winner. We will see fewer than 34 lead changes. The first caution will come prior to halfway. Fewer than 17 cars will finish on the lead lap. At least four drivers will lead their first lap of the season this weekend.