Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan leads Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud through Turn 1 during practice for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 — Image by Chris Owens
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 27, 2016) – He may be starting 18th in Sunday’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but Tony Kanaan believes he has a car that can win the historic race.
Kanaan, who will start on the outside of Row 6 in the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, was fastest in today’s Miller Lite Carb Day practice with a best lap of 226.280 mph on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
Carlos Munoz was second at 224.772 mph in the No. 26 United Fiber & Data Honda, just ahead of Kanaan’s teammate, Scott Dixon, third at 224.606 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
“I’m happy with my car,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner. “Obviously, I have to pass 17 people before I get really happy with my car. After the struggle in qualifying, we really focused – me and Dixon – on the race. And you can see both of us at the top there.
“If anybody counts us out (for Sunday’s race), it will be a big mistake.”
Munoz, who will start the race from the middle of the second row, said Carb Day practice confirmed the strength of his car.
“Today was just a check to see the car was running good,” said Munoz, who finished second to Kanaan as an Indy 500 rookie in 2013. “Everything was running good. The conditions will be different on Sunday. Every practice and qualifying I’ve been on the top of the charts, but that doesn’t matter.”
Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud, riding a three-race winning streak, was 22nd in today’s practice with a speed of 222.581 mph in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevy.
Juan Pablo Montoya, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and two-time race winner, was 13th at 223.571 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy. Teammate Helio Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 winner, was 10th at 223.959 mph.
Will Power, runner-up to Montoya in last year’s race, had the fourth-fastest speed (224.384 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fifth (224.327 mph) in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
Pole sitter James Hinchcliffe was 12th fastest at 223.925 mph in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. More than 1,300 laps were turned in the 70-minute session, with Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball (No. 42 Tresiba Chevy) each logging 52.
The only incident of the session came when Pippa Mann spun and crashed in Turn 4, backing her No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda into the SAFER Barrier. Mann was uninjured.
“I’m absolutely fine,” Mann said. “I really feel sorry for the crew. I was trying to find clean air in pack running there, got a little too low on the inside. Dropped the ball and gave them work to do overnight.”
“The good news is the damage wasn’t too bad,” Mann added. “Hopefully it’s the right rear corner, rear attenuator, rear wing and that’s all we have to fix.”
The 33 cars now sit idle until Sunday’s epic race. Coverage on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network begins at 11 a.m. ET Sunday.
Stoneman wins Freedom 100 in closest IMS oval finish in history …
Andretti Autosport’s Dean Stoneman beats Ed Jones by just two thousandths of a second in the Indy Lights Freedom 100 – Image by Walt Kuhn – IMS
Dean Stoneman edged Ed Jones by 0.0024 of a second to win the Freedom 100 in the closest finish in Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval history, in the premier event on the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires schedule.
Starting fifth, Stoneman pushed his way to second place by Lap 9 in the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara IL-15. He passed pole sitter Jones for the lead on the next lap and, while Stoneman led 30 of the final 31 laps at the start-finish line, the pair swapped the point numerous times throughout the race.
Jones took the lead on the final restart, a one-lap shootout following a caution to retrieve the stopped car of Heamin Choi. Stoneman and Jones raced side by side heading into Turns 3 & 4 on the final lap, setting up a drag race down the frontstretch to the checkered flag. The margin of victory, a few inches.
“It was an amazing race,” said Stoneman, who collected his second straight Indy Lights win after capturing the second race of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis doubleheader May 14. “On that last lap it was pretty close. I knew in the race I was consistent and knew where to position my car to finish the race in the lead.”
Afterward, Jones felt he should have taken the outside line for the race to the checkers.
“I probably chose the wrong lane, it was my fault,” Jones said. “I feel like if I had gone outside maybe I would have held momentum and been able to hold him off. Unfortunately, I made the wrong call. That’s what cost us.”
Castroneves‘ crew wins pit stop challenge record eighth time …
IndyCar Pit Stop competition – Image by Mike Harding
Team Penske and driver Helio Castroneves won the TAG Heuer Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge, earning a $50,000 prize. Castroneves celebrated his eighth win in the contest by climbing the fence in front of the Tower Terrance grandstand.
Castroneves beat Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson with Team Pelfrey in the final round. This is the 17th win for Team Penske in the annual competition for Indy 500 pit crews that started in 1977. The winner of the competition has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently with Castroneves in 2009.
“I went for it. I was able to stop really deep,” Castroneves said. “I was able to slide in just perfect. The Pennzoil boys, the Team Penske boys, really. … they are the fastest. All the credit to those guys. Very happy to be part of this organization.”
The crew for Castroneves in the contest was made up of members from the cars of Castroneves and teammate Simon Pagenaud.
“This team has been outstanding in the pit stop competition,” team owner Roger Penske said. “They work every day at the shop. We took our best guys and put them together on the two cars. … This gives us momentum for Sunday.”
Honda‘s focus on Indianapolis 500 paying off …
With cars running up front all month in preparations for the 100th Indianapolis 500 and eight of the top 12 starters in Sunday’s race, Honda officials are feeling confident. Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, said today it has been a yearlong process involving engine development and improving its superspeedway aero kit under off-season rules that permitted changes in up to three “volume boxes.”
“We really worked hard, for 12 months really, on this particular race,” St. Cyr said. “We used two of our three allocated boxes for an aerodynamic standpoint on the race. We have a pretty major upgrade in our engine specification for this race.
“As you have seen, it’s been fairly competitive at this point. Our whole goal is to get all of our teams with a package that is capable of winning this race. All that you can hope for as a manufacturer is to have all of your teams really having a good package for this race.”
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is the first Honda driver to win the Indy 500 pole since Chevrolet re-entered Verizon IndyCar Series competition in 2012. The manufacturers have split the past four Indy 500 race wins, so the competition is intense.
“Part of Honda’s existence is to win at racing,” St. Cyr said. “It’s always our goal. It’s always our challenge. Whether we are behind, or whether we are ahead, we really work forward to try to win these races. Obviously, this is a big race for us, so we’d be very happy (to win.)”
Indy 500 Teams Salute Legend Rutherford on final weekend as Pace Car Driver …
Johnny Rutherford’s last Indianapolis 500 as the Pace Car Driver will be on Sunday — Image by Jim Haines
Johnny Rutherford, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and longtime driver of the pace car in the Verizon IndyCar Series, was honored prior to Miller Lite Carb Day practice by drivers and crew members on a ceremonial lap along pit road.
Rutherford is turning over pace car duties following Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 to Sarah Fisher. He also received a special award from Firestone Racing commemorating “54 great years at Indy – 500 winner, driver coach and Pace Car driver” and a banner signed by all 33 drivers in the 100th running.
“(It was) a total surprise to me,” Rutherford said of the honorary lap around IMS. “I thought we were just going to go out and to do a radio check with the pace car. We did accomplish that, but when I pulled her out and saw all the crews and all the people (on pit road), it was fantastic. I was in total shock.
“When I retired (as an Indy car driver), I had the opportunity to start driving the pace car. It meant a lot to me because I can stay up close and personal and I get to lead the field. This year’s race will be something; it will be a dandy.”
Honda‘s T.E. McHale and Dan Layton share Jim Chapman Award …
Michael Knight, T.E. McHale, Dan Layton and Paul Page during the presentation of the Jim Chapman Award
T.E. McHale and Dan Layton, longtime representatives for Honda’s racing programs including the Verizon IndyCar Series, are co-recipients of the 2016 Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations. McHale and Layton were presented plaques for the honor this morning in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s media center, where a new permanent trophy was unveiled and will remain.
The Chapman Award honors the legendary PR executive and innovator who worked with Babe Ruth and was named Indy car racing’s “most influential man” of the 1980s.
McHale has been American Honda’s motorsports communications manager since 2003. He also reported on motorsports for the Mansfield (Ohio) News Journal from 1978-95 and worked on the public relations staff for CART through 2001.
Layton is in his 22nd year representing Honda in Indy car racing. He has also handled public relations duties in sports car racing and Formula Atlantics, among other series.