Archive for May 13, 2014

AJ Watson

INDIANAPOLIS – The second day of practice for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 began on a sad note, when I arrived early in the morning at the IMS Media Center and I learned of the passing of legendary IndyCar mechanic and car builder A.J. Watson. I was fortunate to spend some time with Mr. Watson, a Month of May not so long ago during an Indy 500 Old Timers gathering along with my good friend, and a peer of Watson’s, Ray Nichels.

Watson was American auto racing royalty.

His four Indianapolis 500 team victories (Bob Sweikert in 1955, Pat Flaherty, 1956, Rodger Ward in both 1959 & 1962) and six as the winning car builder in 1956, 1959 & 1962; plus 1960 (Jim Rathmann), 1963 (Parnelli Jones) and 1964 ( A. J. Foyt) were indeed what legends are made of. Watson’s passing was a loss for the entire IndyCar community. Speaking for many, Doug Boles, the President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway said: “AJ Watson was one of the most innovative and successful mechanics and car builders in the 105-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Watson roadster that was so prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s remains one of the most iconic racing cars ever constructed. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Indianapolis Motor Speedway organization are with the Watson family and the many friends and fans of A.J. Watson, who will always remember him for his passion for racing and his friendly and approachable personality.”

Getting back to the business of the day, the second full practice at the world’s most prestigious speedway proved to be fast and furious.

Indy 12-5

On the day, a grand total of 2286 laps equaling 5,715 miles were covered  by thirty entrants in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Not one “T” or backup car was used during the session. At the beginning of practice, a track temperature of 97 degrees, coupled with a 78 degree ambient temperature and relative humidity of 71%, made for a Brickyard full of grip. “Happy Hour” was unusually busy as the threat of rain over the next 3 days has teams greatly concerned about track time when it comes to both working on qualifying and race setups, let alone the ability to run in traffic.

For the second day in a row there were no on-track incidents.

A handful of yellow flags for light rain and some debris did little to keep the car s off the track and as the day went on the speeds began to ratchet their way higher.  Late in the session, Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport DHL Dallara/Honda, laid down the fast lap of the day, and the only lap above 225 miles per hour.

The top five drivers of the day were as follows:

Rank  Car  DriverName  C/E/T  Time  Speed  Diff  Gap  Best Lap  Total Laps
1 28 Hunter-Reay,Ryan D/H/F 00:39.9955 225.025 –.—- –.—- 85 113
2 25 Andretti,Marco D/H/F 00:40.1719 224.037 0.1764 0.1764 23 88
3 3 Castroneves,Helio D/C/F 00:40.2441 223.635 0.2486 0.0722 82 96
4 19 Wilson,Justin D/H/F 00:40.2484 223.611 0.2529 0.0043 57 64
5 2 Montoya,Juan Pablo D/C/F 00:40.2874 223.395 0.2919 0.0390 27 117


The quickest Target Chip Ganassi entry was Tony Kanaan in the No. 10 car, running a total of 131 laps with the quickest coming on lap 107 at 222.635 mph.  Twenty six drivers ran faster than 220 miles per hour.

It was clear that the five Andretti drivers were working together quite well throughout the session. “We’ve got five quick cars, and it was great to all work together.” Hunter-Reay said. “It was nice to be fastest on a practice day for a change. But tomorrow’s Tuesday; we’ve got a long week to go.” During a lighter moment in the after-practice press conference, Hunter-Reay joked that the NASCAR driver Kurt Busch keeps asking for more “wedge” in his setup. “It’s getting annoying.”

Second fastest on the day, Marco Andretti in the No. 25 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda said: “We got to get going a little bit today. We only did like a shakedown run and a pretty conservative (engine) map yesterday. Things are feeling pretty good, but as Ryan (Hunter-Reay) said it’s still very early days. We could have a fantastic car tomorrow, roll that same car and it’s totally different, so we’re prepared for that. Hopefully we can just keep up with the track and make the right moves at the right time.”

Indy 12-4Helio Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Team Penske Chevrolet, perspective on the day and his concern for practice late in the week was noted: “I feel that the weather is the biggest contribution here. Sounds like tomorrow and Wednesday and even Thursday possible rains. So yea, exactly that’s why you want to take a chance with the hot weather conditions for the race plus when you put the turbo number, we’re going to put more pressure on turbo so the speeds going to go up and we’re still going to go with that kind of scenario so right now I’m very happy with our car. I think everybody is getting draft so that they understand what their car is doing in traffic. But at this point, the name of the game is the same for all of us. We’re just trying to put some mileage, especially on the engine and go for it.”

Helio’s teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya added: “It was good to get out there and run a lot of laps today, which was important because we don’t know what the weather will be like for tomorrow. I will definitely sleep good tonight because that was a workout. I think the No. 2 Verizon Chevrolet showed good improvement from yesterday. We picked up some time, as did some other drivers. It’s all part of the step-by-step process to get to where we need to be for the race. All in all I think things are going according to plan.”

One of the more insightful comments on the day came from a rookie, Mikhail Aleshin (R) driving the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda:  “Today felt amazing out on track. We had a little bit of rain throughout the day, but we got a lot of laps in. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has prepared a very fast car. We plan on using the car’s potential to try a few different things on set-up, but we’re off to a great start. I’ve only been on the oval for two days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but I can already tell that this is a very tricky place. There are so many different things you need to learn. When you think everything looks good and you get comfortable, that’s when you could get in trouble. Above all, this track demands respect.”



 — Twenty-One Indianapolis 500 Veterans in Special Feature — 

The field of Indianapolis 500 Mile Race veterans for the June 8 Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) “Indy Legends Pro-Am” race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has nearly reached its promised 24 entries with the addition of four more great names. Jaques Lazier, Robby McGehee, Scott Harrington and Jack Miller are all set to return to competition at IMS. They join an impressive field of previously announced Indianapolis 500 veterans in this special feature of the SVRA’s June 6 – 8 “Brickyard Invitational” vintage race weekend.

The SVRA, America’s premier vintage racing organization, is creating a return to competition for the famous drivers with a 40 minute race of American muscle cars on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course. The cars for the Pro-Am will be 1967 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of “Group 6,” with an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches. The Indianapolis 500 veterans will be paired with amateur drivers, each taking a 20-minute stint. Five minutes will be allotted for driver change.

The four latest entries join 17 others previously announced: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., 1992 Rookie-of-the-Year Lyn St. James, Willy T. Ribbs, Mark Dismore, Geoff Brabham, Alex Lloyd, Johnny Parsons Jr., Davey Hamilton, Robby Unser, Pete Halsmer, Rocky Moran, Eliseo Salazar, Dick Simon, Rick Treadway, Spike Gehlhausen, Billy Roe and John Hollansworth. Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, will pace the field as part of his duties as Brickyard Invitational Grand Marshal. Bobby Unser was recently announced as the leader of the Brickyard Invitational high-speed oval experience.

Jaques Lazier is a six-time starter of the Indianapolis 500 and holds the distinction of being the race’s most recent relief driver when he filled in for Robby Gordon who had to depart for Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte after rain delays in 2004. Lazier, the brother of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier, drove for a number of top teams during his Indy car career including Target-Chip Ganassi, A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Team Menard. He won the Chicagoland Speedway Indy car race in 2001 for Menard.

McGehee, a five-time starter in the Indianapolis 500, won the race’s 1999 Rookie-of-the-Year trophy. Harrington began his motorsports career on two wheels earning success in both AMA Motocross and Supercross. He transitioned to four wheels racing in Formula Atlantic and SCCA Can-Am, where he won the 1992 series championship. He earned a starting spot in the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and later won the Rookie-of-the-Year award for the series in 1999, his first year running the full season. Jack Miller, also known as the “Racing Dentist” because he is a practicing dentist, competed in three Indianapolis 500s from 1997 through 1999 as well as five seasons in the Indy Racing League and five more in Indy Lights.

“The interest in our Brickyard Invitational and our feature ‘Indy Legends’ Pro-Am is so rewarding,” said SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella. “While the Pro-Am continues to exceed expectations and we will have more announcements so look for news about the cars and drivers of the other road races and the oval experience as well. I think fans are going to be surprised and delighted.”

The “Brickyard Invitational” weekend promises to be the largest gathering of race cars that has ever been assembled for competition in America. The SVRA has 11 groups of cars spanning 100 years of vintage machines and all will be in action at IMS.

The exciting array of entries include exquisite examples of select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and endurance prototypes as current as 2009. The storied 2.5-mile oval will be utilized as well with high-speed exhibition runs by a wide variety of cars including several of the crowd-favorite 1950’s-vintage Indianapolis 500 “roadsters.” Race fans can enjoy every minute of the action by taking advantage of overnight camping inside the Speedway.

The Pro-Am cars and drivers will also participate in a Fan Walk through the starting grid prior to the opening ceremonies allowing fans to see the cars up close, take photos and chat with the drivers. Driver pairings and starting positions will be determined by a lottery. Entries to this event will be limited and all entry fees will be donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum Foundation.

Brickyard Invitational ticket information: A three-day general admission pass including Friday, June 6 through Sunday, June 8 costs $40. Single day general admission tickets are $15 on Friday, June 6, $20 on Saturday, June 7 and $25 on Sunday, June 8. Children 12 and under are admitted free each day when accompanied by an adult. Existing ticket customers to any 2014 IMS event are eligible to receive discounted general admission three-day passes for $30 until May 1 (save $10). Tent camping passes in Turn 3 of the IMS infield are available beginning Thursday afternoon, June 5 for $30, with RV camping available in the Northwest gravel lot for $60. Fans can order Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational tickets at, by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday or by visiting the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.

MAY 12, 2014 — BY SVRA