Archive for May 27, 2016

Tony Kanaan leads Simon Pagenaud through Turn 1 during practice for the 100th Indianapolis 500 -- Image by Chris Owens.jpg

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.”

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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

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.”

Castronevescrew wins pit stop challenge record eighth time

IndyCar Pit Stop competition - Image by Mike Harding

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.”

Hondas 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’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.”

Hondas T.EMcHale 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

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.

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The 1976 Indianapolis 500 souvenir section produced by the Indianapolis News – Image by Jeff Majeske

By: Jeff Majeske

Something I always looked forward to each May was the Fuson Form Chart. This page of analysis was penned by Wayne Fuson, sports editor of the Indianapolis News, which was the afternoon paper in Indianapolis.

It was included in the souvenir preview section and was a staple of pre-race coverage. He had an engaging, unique style patterned off horse racing forms that was eminently readable and entertaining. It rated the jockey (driver), horse (car) and stable (team), advising readers how and where to place their bets in a good-natured, humorous manner.

Wayne Fuson's predictions for 1976 - Image by Jeff Majeske

Wayne Fuson’s predictions for 1976 – Image by Jeff Majeske

Mr. Fuson died in 1996. I had hoped his contributions would have been recognized during all the hoopla surrounding the 100th Indianapolis 500, but, sadly, I did not see anything about him and his Form Chart.

So consider the following a bit of a tribute to Mr. Fuson:

Car 3 Helio Castroneves 3-1

Jockey out of classy Team Penske stable looks to be the fourth four-time winner in 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Horse looked a bit lame in qualifying, but bet the rent money to see if the Yellow Submarine surfaces in Victory Lane.

Car 9 Scott Dixon 3-1

Jockey is reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ & former 500 winner (2008). Chip Ganassi stable has been underwhelming this month, but never count him out. Dig deep in your shopping cart for a big bet.

Car 22 Simon Pagenaud 4-1

No mistaking this jockey’s mount – it’s the familiar fluorescent yellow of Menards cars of the past, though it’s out of the Team Penske stable. Jockey has been the hottest in the Verizon IndyCar Series with three consecutive wins entering the 500. As the young people might say, go big or go home.

Car 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 4-1

Jockey knows his way around the venerable oval with two wins in 3 starts, including last year. Another strong contender out of the Team Penske stable, the classy Colombian is a strong bet across the board.

Car 5 James Hinchcliffe 4-1

Canadian jockey made triumphant comeback after near-fatal crash last year to claim first Indy pole. Never mind the exchange rates; wager high.

Car 28 Ryan HunterReay 5-1

Jockey delivered ultimate prize for Andretti Autosport two years ago after thrilling duel with Helio Castroneves. His car is yellow, but you shouldn’t be when it comes to placing your bet.

Car 12 Will Power 5-1

Jockey had to settle for Place in last year’s race and has his sights firmly set on Win. Go Down Under your mattress if you need to find the cash to place on this determined Australian.

Car 21 Josef Newgarden 5-1

Young jockey ousted from pole spot by James Hinchcliffe at the end of qualifying. Chevrolet mount has been quick all month. Bet the mortgage money and maybe you’ll burn your mortgage after the race.

Car 15 Graham Rahal 8-1

Son of 1986 champ Bobby would love to add to the family legacy. Goes to the post 26th, not an ideal spot but not impossible, either – Johnny Rutherford won his first 500 from 25th. It’s only money.

Car 27 Marco Andretti 8-1

It’s been 10 years since jockey was pipped in the final few hundred yards by Sam Hornish Jr. in his first 500. The Andretti Curse doesn’t date back to the first Indianapolis 500 – it only seems that way. Dig up that can of money in the backyard if you must. You might be drinking more than Snapple after the race.

Car 20 Ed Carpenter 10-1

Jockey, a two-time pole winner, has had a quiet month out of his own stable. Stepson of Tony George could keep some of the winnings in the house, so to speak, if he can pull off a victory. Don’t imbibe too much Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka before deciding how much to wager.

Car 29 Townsend Bell 10-1

Jockey runs only the Indianapolis 500, with a fourth in 2009 and a ninth in 2012. Part of resurgent Andretti Autosport stable.

Car 26 Carlos Munoz 10-1

Consistent jockey at Indianapolis. Probably not the winner, but if you can get a bet down for a top 10, take it.

Car 42 Charlie Kimball 10-1

Mount has new look and number for jockey out of Chip Ganassi stable. Underwhelming month, which may mean something or nothing – he finished third last year. Bet on a top 10.

Car 7 Mikhail Aleshin 12-1

New version of the Mad Russian executed (got away with?) some incredible lines in qualifying. Comes out of easy-to-root-for Schmidt Peterson stable. Put down a ruble or two. Can’t hurt.

Car 6 J.R. Hildebrand 15-1

Jockey was one turn away from glory as a rookie in 2011. If you believe in redemption, redeem a few cans and bottles and place your bet.

Car 10 Tony Kanaan 15-1

The 2013 500 champ seems to be rounding into form after lackluster month – and season. Put a few bucks on his nose for old time’s sake.

Car 14 Takuma Sato 18-1

Nearly won in 2012, winding up in the wall in the closing laps after duel with Dario Franchitti. His A.J. Foyt stable has struggled mightily this May, though this Japanese jockey has been a bright spot. If you have a yen for nostalgia, bet him across the board.

Car 11 Sebastien Bourdais 20-1

Frenchman out of KV stable won the Champ Car Series title four years in a row, but has been less than spectacular on ovals. Only if you have a spare franc or two.

Car 77 Oriol Servia 20-1

Capable jockey part of Schmidt Peterson stable, which features Hinchcliffe. Place a top 10 bet if you can.

Car 18 Conor Daly 20-1

Like Ed Carpenter, jockey has a connection to Brickyard royalty – he’s the stepson of IMS prez Doug Boles. Bacon-sponsored car went up in smoke before the green flag last year, so this year has to be better, right? Go easy.

Car 98 Alexander Rossi 20-1

Rookie Jockey has one of the most beautiful cars in the field, and his number (98) has proud winning heritage (Troy Ruttman, Parnelli Jones, Dan Wheldon). Bet on him for Rookie of the Year, but save the heavy stuff for the future.

Car 24 Sage Karam 20-1

Promising young jockey on comeback trail after losing his ride at the end of last season. Give him time.

Car 61 Matt Brabham 25-1

Rookie jockey has fine bloodlines – granddad Sir Jack ignited rear-engine revolution in the 1960s while dad Geoff was an Indy regular for more than a decade. Someday, maybe.

Car 19 Gabby Chaves 30-1

Scout’s honor: second-year jockey could surprise. If you like long shots, Gabby might be your guy.

Car 41 Jack Hawksworth 33-1

Owner A.J. Foyt certainly knows the way to Victory Lane. Put a bob or two down on the young Englishman if you like because of A.J.

Car 4 Buddy Lazier 33-1

1996 champ has been saddled with subpar mount the past few years. If you’re the nostalgic type, take some of the money you would’ve used for that new Delta Faucet and put it on Buddy to Show.

Car 63 Pippa Mann 33-1

Lone female jockey racing for very worthy Susan G. Komen Foundation. Perhaps you should use your money for that instead.

Car 8 Max Chilton 33-1

Rookie jockey out of Chip Ganassi stable made a few waves after the Phoenix race by questioning intelligence of his fellow competitors. Then he said hello to the walls at IMS on first day of qualifying. Easy does it.

Car 35 Alex Tagliani 33-1

Former pole winner has had a rough month out of the A.J. Foyt stable. Capable jockey deserves better. Save your money for another year.

Car 16 Spencer Pigot 33-1

Rookie jockey has come through the ranks after winning Indy Lights title last year. Give him time.

Car 88 Bryan Clauson 33-1

A real racer, jockey stays busy on the short tracks. Perhaps you should spend your money at Jonathan Byrd’s instead.

Car 25 Stefan Wilson 33-1

Brother of Justin Wilson making his first 500 start. Englishman has slick-looking car, but save your quid.

Editors Note: Speedway Sightings is grateful for the opportunity to publish Jeff Majeske’s work through special arrangement. To read more of Jeff’s efforts please visit his site by … Clicking Here