CP MOTORSPORTS - INDIANAPOLIS 500 NOTEBOOK
SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - MONTOYA SHRUGS OFF WEIRD START TO MONTH AND RACE TO WIN SECOND INDIANAPOLIS 500
The chain on the bicycle of Penske Team Manager Jon Bouslog broke, tossing him to the pavement and knocking him unconscious. His emergency trip to the hospital happened amid the swirl of skepticism and criticism of aero kits and skittish cars that seemed to flip over all too easily.
And team owner Roger Penske slogged through it, hoping it wasn’t going to be an epically disastrous month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His spirits lifted when his driver Helio Castroneves and crew won Friday’s lucrative pit stop challenge.
But Juan Pablo Montoya officially restored order for his orderly boss Sunday. He ignored the collection of calamities and masterfully fended off the best the Verizon IndyCar Series threw at him to win his second and Team Penske’s 16th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
The 1-2 finish for Team Penske came as Montoya, the versatile Colombian world-class racer, came from as far back as 30th place to foil Verizon Team Penske mate Will Power, the Chip Ganassi tandem of relative darkhorse Charlie Kimball and polesitter Scott Dixon, and hot-streaking Graham Rahal.
Penske lauded the quality of competition in this 99th running of the Memorial Day weekend classic, saying it was especially gratifying that it was “some race, when you think about how we started the month, all the issues, the negative things that came out about the cars, and what have you.” He marveled at the green-flag free-for-all that gave the sizeable crowd one of its most thrilling finishes.
“I’ve never been here where I saw 15 laps at the end there that could have been anybody’s race. They raced clean. They passed. So there’s something working,” he said. “I could see he was passing his way up [through traffic], and I knew he had a good car. He’s a fighter.”
Montoya scored his repeat victory a record 15 years after his first (ironically from the 15th starting position, like in 2000). After swigging from the traditional bottle of milk, kissing the famous yard of bricks that make up the start-finish line, and taking a victory lap in the pace car with his wife and three children, said, “This was a lot of work today. When you have to work for it that hard, it’s exciting.
“I know Will is probably disappointed right now he finished second,” he said. “But in a couple of months he’s going to look back and say, ‘Man, that was fun. That was a hell of a race.’ ”
As early as Lap 7, Montoya wound up back in the pits for repairs after Simona de Silvestro banged into him.
“That’s what happens when you qualify bad,” he said. “You find yourself with the wrong crowd. Simona didn’t do it on purpose. She wants to prove she’s that good. She has a lot of speed, but when you’re racing for a job, it’s a lot harder.”
Montoya said, “We kept adding downforce and adjusting the car. It was fun, because after the caution [one of six under sunny skies and slightly breezy conditions], when I was running like eighth, I could barely keep up with them. I’m like, ‘We don’t have anything.’
“As we kept adjusting the car, [I thought], ‘Oh, that’s a little better. That’s a little better,’ ” Montoya said, referring to the benefits of four-time winner and consultant Rick Mears’ direction.
Penske said, “They kept working on that car. That was the difference. His car got better. It wasn’t like he had the same car as when he started.”
Montoya said, “What really matters is the last 15 laps. That was fun racing, probably the best racing. Will and Dixon, we have a lot of respect for each other. We understand the risk, and we understand when they got you. So it makes it fun. I got a hell of a run. I think Will had a bit of understeer . . . and I think that really played into our hands, because he couldn’t get close to me out of Turn 2 [on the final lap].”
Power agreed. “Honestly, when I lifted in [Turn] 3 for the understeer, I knew it was over. There’s no way you’re going to get him. No way. It sucks.”
Meanwhile Montoya knew. “I got into Turn 3. I come out of Turn 2. Will pushed. I had to push. The gap got bigger. Turn 4 he wasn’t close enough.” That’s when he cackled to himself, “Ha ha ha! I got this!” Montoya said, “I was screaming. I was so happy.”
During that final run, Penske said, “you never knew who was going to lead the next lap, down the front, down the back. Once I saw our two cars pull away, Dixon was battling the 83 (his own teammate Kimball). I thought it gave us a real good chance. It was great for the fans. I hope that erases some of the negative publicity we got earlier in the month. That kind of racing, at 220-222 miles an hour, inches apart lap after lap, it shows you how good they are.
“To me, the fan noise is what it’s all about. When you look down that straightaway, never saw so many people. To think we’re on the platform is pretty special,” he said.
Rahal, who finished fifth after starting 17th in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Steak & Shake Honda, said, “I thought the racing today was great. I think the racing here in recent years has been phenomenal. You saw guys be patient till that last little bit. [With] 16 to go, everybody was going to hang it all out. They did. I hope everybody enjoyed it. It was thrilling for us.”
Kimball characterized the action as “a lot of intelligent, respectful racing” He said it “doesn’t mean it was not hard-fought right on the edge, but everybody understood what the situation was and was racing each other very cleanly.”
Montoya’s 0.1046 of a second victory margin was the fourth closest in a near-century of Indianapolis 500s. Only the 1992, 2006, and 2014 events saw closer finishes.
The Bogota native who lives in Miami became a two-time winner in only his third Indianapolis 500 appearance. Castroneves, his teammate, was the only one to do so quicker. He won in his first two starts in 2001 and 2002.
On a day with 10 different leaders (and 37 lead changes among them), Montoya paced the field on four separate occasions for only nine laps. That’s the third fewest laps led or a winner. Dan Wheldon led only one when he triumphed in 2011, and Joe Dawson was in front for just two laps in 1912.
Ryan Briscoe, subbing for the injured James Hinchcliffe, made the biggest improvement Sunday. He began the day 31st in the order and gained 19 positions to bring home the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Arrow-Lucas Oil entry home in 12th place on the lead lap.
Sixteenth-place Gabby Chaves, like Montoya a Bogota-born driver, was the top-performing rookie.
He said, “I remember being six years old. I woke up early in the morning, watching [Montoya on TV] in CART and Formula One. Congratulations to him. I’m sure the whole country is very proud and happy. Hopefully one day we can join him up there [on the podium].”
The other rookie, Stefano Coletti, took 25th place, thanks to an accident.
Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice-president for performance vehicles and motorsports said, “In addition to Juan Pablo Montoya's win, it was great to see Will Power, Charlie Kimball, and Scott Dixon deliver a 1-2-3-4 Team Chevy finish. I'm proud of all four of our major teams, each having at least one driver in the top 11.”
Penske’s previous Indianapolis victories came also with drivers Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Emerson Fittapaldi, Al Unser Sr., Al Unser Jr., Bobby Unser, Danny Sullivan, Rick Mears, Sam Hornish, and the late Mark Donohue.
Results Sunday of the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (15) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 200, Running
3. (14) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 200, Running
5. (17) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, Running
6. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
7. (5) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, Running
8. (10) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (9) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
10. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (31) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 200, Running
13. (24) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
14. (23) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (16) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 200, Running
16. (26) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 200, Running
17. (20) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 200, Running
18. (19) James Jakes, Honda, 200, Running
19. (18) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 200, Running
20. (11) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 200, Running
21. (6) Justin Wilson, Honda, 199, Running
22. (25) Pippa Mann, Honda, 197, Running
23. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
24. (28) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 175, Contact
25. (29) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 175, Contact
26. (4) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 151, Contact
27. (33) James Davison, Honda, 116, Mechanical
28. (32) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 116, Mechanical
29. (13) Oriol Servia, Honda, 112, Contact
30. (12) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 112, Contact
31. (30) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 61, Contact
32. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
33. (22) Conor Daly, Honda, 0, Mechanical
Winner's average speed: 161.341 mph
Time of Race: 3:05:56.5286
Margin of victory: 0.1046 of a second.
Cautions: 6 for 47
Lead changes: 37 among 10 drivers
DOING THEIR OWN THINGS – As much as people love People Magazine-ish speculation, IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and his NHRA headliner fiancée Courtney Force aren’t likely to wind up in the same racing venue. Rahal, like Force a second-generation driver, said “never” will he ditch open-wheel racing and defect to drag racing in favor of a Funny Car like the one his bride-to-be drives for a living.
“Typically, I like to control when things blow up in my face. You know, it’s just not me. It’s just not my thing. I’ll let her do her thing,” the Steak & Shake Honda driver from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing said. “She probably couldn’t even get out of the pits in an IndyCar, because it’s so much different, with the pedals and all that stuff. It’s a very weird thing to drive, typically, for a lot of people.”
He did relent and say, “I might drive a dragster, because at least the engine’s behind me.”
Rahal said he and Force don’t talk shop much, because their forms of motorsports are so wildly different.
“We don’t really talk about it much, because what we do is very different from each other. Four seconds in a straight line is different than three hours turning all the time. So typically we don’t get into it very much,” he said. I’m always there for support. Whenever she needs me, I’m always there and vice versa.”
No doubt she shared with him Saturday her achievement at the NHRA Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka. She tentatively set the Funny Car class’ national speed record at 325.06 mph in her Traxxas Chevy Camaro. It will be official by the completion of the event, provided no one tops that speed. She staked her claim to the record from her 16-time champion father John Force, who had owned the mark at 324.12 mph since February 2014.
“Once you are going faster than 300 miles per hour, you just get into a zone and you can feel when the clutch engages and the car starts pulling you to the finish line,” she said. “You can tell when your car is pulling hard and making a fast run, but once you get past 320 miles an hour, the runs all feel the same. It is exciting for the fans to see speeds like that.”
Although the comparison is not apples to apples, Rahal’s qualifying speed for the Indianapolis 500 was 224.290 mph, good for 17th in the 33-car lineup. Scott Dixon earned the pole position at 226.760.
STEWART STILL THE IRONMAN – Tony Stewart still is the only driver with a top-10 finish at the Indianapolis 500 and a top-10 performance in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on the same day. And he might become exhausted just thinking or talking about it.
“We’re still the only guy who’s completed all 1,100 miles of the double duty, which is something I’m really proud of,” Stewart said. “I think the best two finishes we had was sixth in the 500 and third in the 600. It makes for a very, very long day. When you’re done with the 600, after running Indy and the flight and helicopter rides and police escorts and all that during the day, you’re very, very content to lay your head on a pillow. And even when you do that, it still feels like it’s not stopped moving yet.”
No one is attempting the feat this year. However, NASCAR Sprint Cup star Jeff Gordon – who spent his teenage years in nearby Pittsboro, Ind., and has won five Brickyard 400 races here – will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 pace car before flying to Charlotte. There he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 as part of his final NASCAR season before retiring .
HEAR, HEAR! – Indianapolis 500 legend A.J. Foyt already is the toast of Speedway, Ind., and its world-famous two-and-a-half-mile oval. But the town has the perfect setting for any salutes to the four-time winner – or anyone or anything else, for that matter. The Foyt Wine Vault officially opened this past Thursday on Speedway’s Main Street, within a few blocks of the racetrack. It features a tasting bar for the Foyt Family Wines.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DRAG RACING . . .
Sebastian Saavedra (Bogota, Colombia) – “I became friends with Antron Brown back in 2009. That was my first and only drag race. That was pretty fun. I got to jump in his car and turn it on and feel it on the warm-up. It was intense. I wouldn’t say no to a 10,000-horsepower beast, right? I’ll do it in my younger years [rather than] in the older, for sure. Last year with [team owner] Jimmy Vasser . . . He’s very much into drag racing and he’s got this Camaro, about 4,000 horsepower. Maybe I like to try that. Don’t jump straight into the big boys. I have a lot of respect for that. They have the same level of commitment as any other driver: a lot of preparation, a lot of training. I know many good mechanics that have gone from IndyCar to the NHRA. A lot can happen in a few milliseconds.”
Sage Karam (Nazareth, Pa.) – “I went to Englishtown once. I loved it. It’s really, really cool to watch.”
Charlie Kimball (Camarillo, Calif.) – “I did the Nelson Hoyos Drag School at West Palm Beach. I’ve never felt anything kick, accelerate, that hard for that long. It was incredible, pretty special. I have a lot left to accomplish here in IndyCar and open-wheel racing. I’ve still got a lot of years in my career and I’m not sure if I get the opportunity to retire that I’d have the energy to fully commit to what it would take to do drag racing right.”
Bryan Clauson (Noblesville, Ind.) – “I’ve never thought of drag racing. I generally try to turn. But I would do it, absolutely. It’s not something I’m seeking out to do, but if somebody came to me and said, ‘Hey, try this,’ I would probably give it a go. I pride myself on driving anything.”
Ryan Briscoe (Sydney, Australia) - “I don't know much about drag racing. I've never sat in a car before. To me it looks like they're just wrapping their legs around a bomb, basically. It would be amazing to try one. The G-forces they pull are just incredible.”
Josef Newgarden (Hendersonville, Tenn.) – “I’d like to try drag racing that’d be fun. Any racing sounds like fun racing to me. I’ve got huge respect for those guys. It’s a different art. Every racing [form] is a different art. I don’t know anything about that world, but it’d be fun to learn about it, what those guys have to do, and what the process is for them with their series.” [As for speeding downtrack at 330-plus mph:] “C’mon, it’s only what? Four seconds? You can get over it.”
James Jakes (Leeds, England) – “Honestly, no, I haven’t thought about drag racing, because in England we don’t do it a lot. There’s only Santa Pod Raceway. It’s not something that I’ve had an interest in doing. That’s not saying that I wouldn’t want to try it. It’s just never been on my radar. To me, there’s no risk in going in a straight line. To me, it’s all about trying to get a car through a corner as fast as you can. It’s over too fast. I’m not saying I don’t have a lot of respect for those guys and girls. They have a lot of girls at the top of the sport. Maybe girls have better nerves. It’s great to see women be competitive, and I wish them all the best.”
COMPARING TIRES – Every race car in the Indianapolis 500 runs on Firestone tires. Goodyear reigns in NHRA professional drag racing. Here’s a simplified comparison between the tire specs for IndyCars and NHRA’s Top Fuel and Funny Car classes:
IndyCar rear tires:
27 inches in diameter
Top Fuel & Funny Car rear tires:
36.6 inches in diameter
Indy Car rear tire tread width:
Top Fuel & Funny Car rear tire tread width:
ALL-WOMEN TEAM – The Verizon IndyCar Series will have a brand-new team in the mix here next season, and what makes it unique is that it is an all-female team. Team principal Beth Paretta said the reason for forming this organization is “to create and inspire current and future racing champions, to get girls and young women excited about careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math], and hopefully to bring new fans to racing. The time has come for a real initiative to support women in all roles within the field of racing. We will create an environment that will welcome and train engineers, mechanics, and crew.”
Katherine Legge has signed on as driver, and she said, “I think it’s important to say in no way is this us being feminists. We’re aware we need the support of men, and we’re not being exclusive. We’re just trying to be equal opportunity and in a positive way.”
Catherine Crawford is the team’s race engineer, Lauren Forest Elkins the data acquisition engineer, Jessica Rowe is design engineer, and Barbara Burns is the communications/public relations specialist.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
OVERREACTION? - Three scary-looking accidents in preparation for the Indianapolis 500 and a fourth that was as ugly as it appeared seem to have pushed the panic button among the media. At least that’s what some of the 33 drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway contend.
Team co-owner and driver Ed Carpenter, one of the three who got airborne before qualifying 12th last week, said he was weary of the hashing and rehashing of the incidents. He said, “It’s being blown out of proportion a little bit” and said outright, “It’s getting tiring talking about it.”
He said, “For us driver, we understand what we do. We understand the consequences. We understand the risks. We’re still here. Anybody that isn’t OK with that, they’re free to go do something else or move on. I love what I do, especially with this race, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
Tony Kanaan, the 2013 winner of this race and inside Row 2 qualifier, wasn’t critical specifically of the media and the coverage, but he drove home the point that “every time we hop in that race car, we don’t know if we’re going to come out of it, if you’re going to come out of it in one piece, if something’s going to happen to you. That’s what makes us different than other people. That’s why not everybody can do this. This is the sport that we chose. And I believe – not trying to be rude to anyone in the field – but if people feel uncomfortable with that, you shouldn’t be in the race car. We’re wired different, and we have less screws in our head. That’s what makes us who we are. I’m going to keep repeating myself: This is the way that we are.” (Read the full article here)
STAYING THE COURSE - James Hinchcliffe’s brutal accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past Monday weighed heavily on team co-owner Sam Schmidt’s mind.
Once he knew Hinchcliffe was receiving excellent medical care and knew the cause of the incident that happened during post-qualifying practice for the Indianapolis 500, Schmidt shared the information with the other teams. He hurriedly secured Ryan Briscoe to drive the Arrow-Lucas Oil Honda in the 99th running of the Memorial Day classic. And he buoyed his crew’s spirits, for he knew they needed it after not only the crash but what he described as 250-300 hours of prep work for the world’s most celebrated auto race.
“We spent a lot of the first 24 hours reviewing to make sure that we had covered all our bases properly and that the rest of the paddock had whatever knowledge they needed for proper race changes,” Schmidt said. “First and foremost, I was really concerned that we had missed something or we’d made a mistake in preparation.”
He’s breathing easier, knowing that “we didn’t do anything wrong” and that Hinchcliffe astoundingly has been mobile at IU Health Methodist Hospital. The popular driver took short walks Friday and wisecracked about “knocking out 5Ks in no time.”
But lurking in Schmidt’s mind is the truth that this wreck could have had a grimmer outcome. He said a “perfect storm” of circumstances triggered it. But he also knew a perfect rainbow of quick and wise decisions by superbly trained IndyCar safety personnel and doctors and nurses at Methodist saved Hinchcliffe’s life. The driver used social media to call those individuals his heroes. (click here to read the full article)
POWERHOUSES UNITE - Expanding its reach into open-wheel racing at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," JEGS.com, the mail order high-performance parts giant, will ride in the Indy 500 with driver Graham Rahal.
The second-generation IndyCar driver, whose fiancée is NHRA Funny Car driver Courtney Force, will carry a JEGS.com in-car camera on his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda during the 99th running of the May classic at the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"I am thrilled to have JEGS onboard with me for the Indy 500," Rahal said. "As a fellow Central Ohio family, it's great to finally work together for a great race like this and for JEGS to expand into IndyCar racing. I am looking forward to having the yellow and black colors out on track with us for race day."
The partnership brings together two of Central Ohio's most prominent racing families. JEGS is headquartered at Delaware, Ohio. Rahal was born and raised in Columbus.
REALLY ON THE INSIDE – ESPN motorsports analyst Dr. Jerry Punch said, “For years we’ve been able to take viewers inside the car during a race, and now we will be able to take them ‘inside the driver.’ ” What he’s talking about is a special sensor that drivers James Jakes and Sage Karam will wear on the left side of their chest, near the base of the heart, during Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Data readings from the senor will be a part of the race car’s telemetry. So call this biotelemetry.
And of course, ESPN will have the graphics, in the words of human-performance expert Dr. Terry Lyles, to “offer an entire new dimension to race coverage and enhance the fan experience.”
Said Punch, “We’ll be able to show the viewers how a driver’s baseline heart rate can fluctuate under stress and anxiety levels during the race, under G forces in the corners, and how it changes when the driver is about to experience a pit stop. And as the race evolves and the intensity goes up in the final 20 laps, viewers will see how that’s reflected in heart rate and respiration.”
Lyles said, “Unless you are belted into the car, there is no better way to experience motorsports. From the first green flag to the checkered, these super athletes are pushed to their physical and mental limits.”
And ABC will bring it all to a global audience for the 51st consecutive year, starting with prerace programming at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. The start of the race is scheduled for 12:17 p.m. (ET).
LAST ROW DANCE - OK, here is where a race fan really has to pay attention. The Last Row Dance has scrambled the starting lineup considerably in less than one week. Following qualifying last Sunday, the 11th and final row on the grid consisted of Jack Hawksworth, Stefano Coletti, and Bryan Clauson.
By Tuesday, it was Clauson, Ryan Briscoe, and James Davison. Briscoe replaced the injured James Hinchcliffe, and Davison reclaimed his ride after Tristan Vautier qualified the car. At the Indianapolis 500, the car, not the driver, officially qualifies. Substitutions send the car and driver to the rear of the 33-car pack.
Then by Friday, it changed again with the news that Colombian Carlos Huertas had an inner ear problem and was not medically cleared to race Sunday. So Huertas’ Dale Coyne Racing hired Vautier to fill in. According to Speedway historians, not since World War I had a driver qualified one car and competed in another at this event. Vautier vaulted over Davison based on points already accumulated in the series.
So Davison was out because he had another racing commitment at Mosport in Canada on qualifying day. Hinchcliffe, Huertas, and Vautier were out. But Vautier is back in, and so is Davison – who has to bring up the rear and see Vautier start a spot ahead of him.
Clauson said he considers himself the luckiest of all. “Let’s see, at this rate, I should be up in the front row by next Wednesday!” he joked.
Vautier said, “I would rather be famous for other records that have not been achieved before. But this is something unusual, so that is good.” The French driver was supposed to be racing in the GT series at Silverstone in England this weekend. However, he secured a release so he could be at Indianapolis.
PENSKE RULES CARB DAY – Team owner Roger Penske had an outstanding day Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He made $50,000 when Helio Castroneves and his No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ crew aced out Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball in the finals of the $100,000 TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge. Then he saw his driver Will Power, the No. 2 starter, lead the field on Carb Day for the final practice before Sunday’s race. Power, the reigning series champion, recorded a fast lap of 229.020 mph in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet.
"(Being fast today) means nothing, really,” Power said. “It's just a big draft. It's more about how you can get through traffic than anything. You know, we'll see on Sunday. The further back you get in a train, the harder it is. But there's quite a few good cars out there that are going to make their way to the front.”
The pit stop challenge results made history and heightened the long-running epic battle between Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing. Castroneves’ victory marked a record 15th for Team Penske. The Brazilian favorite owns the most TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge titles by a driver with seven. When he won the Pit Stop Challenge in 2002 and 2009, he also won the race. He’ll be going Sunday for his fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. He would join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears in that elite group.
"This is just perfect," Castroneves said. "We started the month great and had a little blip on the radar with that accident going out, but we're back on track. The Shell V-Power car was unbelievable and these guys, it's unbelievable. For us it's nerve-wracking, because you don't want to screw up. Just a great effort from Team Penske."
As for whether he’ll continue his luck Sunday, he said, “I tell you what, I believe in any omen right now. And if that's where it takes it, I'll believe it. But at this point it's just great, fantastic effort by the Shell V-Power Nitro+ boys."
NO. 300 - Tony Kanaan didn’t win a race in the series until his 30th start and didn’t win the Indianapolis 500 until his 12th appearance at The Brickyard – which was his 281st career start. Sunday he’ll be making his 300th career start, driving Chip Ganassi Racing’s NTT Data Chevrolet from the inside of Row 2. Of his 17 total victories, he said, “The 2013 Indianapolis 500 is the all-time best. Even if I win again, I don’t think we can beat the whole story of 2013. Everything from the beginning of the month until the win, there were so many special things. You can’t script that. T do it again this year, that would be a new story . . . but I’m extremely humbled already just to be able to be at 300.”
‘I JUST FELT TOTALLY VIOLATED’ – Dreyer & Reinbold - Kingdom Racing driver Townsend Bell has been good friends with drag racers Jon and Ron Capps, since they all were growing up in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Jon Capps was Bell’s go-kart coach when they hung out at the track at Santa Maria. He later became better acquainted with Ron Capps and one day at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona found himself a guest in the Funny Car ace’s pit. Just watching Ron Capps warm up his 10,000-horsepower, nitro-gulping race car, Bell said, “My eyes were watering and I couldn’t breathe. I’m already intimidated, if not concerned.” After such a disturbing introduction, he’s still wondering how he let Capps talk him into standing by the Christmas Tree during fuel-car qualifying. But there he was, and he never will forget it. Said Bell, “I have never felt more violated than standing next to a Top Fuel car as it launched. It’s utterly terrifying, and I have no desire to do it again. I can’t imagine what it’s like sitting inside. The only way I can describe it was I just felt totally violated.” And this is from a fellow who has no qualms about driving a race car 224 miles an hour and dicing in and out of traffic with 32 others trying to win the world’s biggest and most prestigious automobile race.
TWO-AND-A-HALF-MILE OVAL BRINGS BIG LEARNING CURVE - Even the casual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race fan will remember J.R. Hildebrand as the driver who almost won the race in his rookie year in 2011 but crashed suddenly while leading with just a half a straightaway to the checkered flag. The victory went to Dan Wheldon. Hildebrand long ago has made peace with the heartbreaking incident.
“It doesn’t haunt me. It’s certainly part of the story – my story - here,” the Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet driver said. “To be that close in my rookie year and the only thing that keeps us from making it happen being something like a totally weird circumstance . . . That’s not something that’s happened at any racetrack between now and then. I don’t really anticipate it happening again.
“I’ve learned a lot, not even from that, but just since then, running more Indy 500s,” Hildebrand said. He said he has gotten used to “kind of the flow of the race, the rhythm of the race and what I need from the race car to be there at the end, to put it a little bit more in my own hands.”
GENTLEMEN, STAHT YEH CAHS – The Verizon IndyCar Series has found a new venue to fill its Labor Day weekend schedule. It will head Northeast, along the South Boston Waterfront, in September 2016 for the Grand Prix of Boston. The 11-turn, 2.25-mile temporary street course that surrounds the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center will usher in a multiyear agreement that’s IndyCar’s first in the Boston area.
"The level of enthusiasm we have received from the Boston community has been phenomenal and we look forward to showcasing the Verizon IndyCar Series on Labor Day weekend in 2016," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "There has been a tremendous amount of work from community leaders and Grand Prix of Boston officials and those efforts led to this key addition to our 2016 calendar. We're thankful to Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Grand Prix of Boston CEO Mark Perrone and many other supporters who were instrumental in making today's announcement possible. Establishing INDYCAR racing in the northeast is an integral part of our strategy for growing our national fan base."
HE’S A WHAT? – Indianapolis 500 rookie Stefano Coletti is a Monégasque, and a third-generation one, too. So what exactly does that mean about the 26-year-old GP2 Series graduate? (Trivia within trivia: The GP2 Series is a feeder series to Formula One.) A Monégasque simply is a native of Monaco. Despite the rich racing history in this tiny principality on France’s Côte d’Azur, Coletti in 2013 became the first native driver since Louis Chiron in 1931 to win a race on the homeland course. Coletti, of KV Racing, is making his oval career debut from the middle of Row 10 (the 29th position). Coletti’s sister, Alexandra, is a professional skier who is set to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in the Downhill and Super Combined events.
HOORAY FOR THE DEADMAN – It’s not uncommon for drag-racing fans to see a nitro-class driver mixing his or her own fuel and pouring it into the tank before a qualifying or elimination pass. Fuel consumption in the Verizon IndyCarSeries is a completely different consideration. And the crew member who keeps the Sunoco fuel-grade ethanol flowing during pit stops is the one often listed as “Deadman.”
It's not what it sounds like. "Deadman" refers to the deadman valve. The pit crew member assigned to the deadman valve stands underneath the fuel drum and opens the valve so fuel can stream into the car during a pit stop.
Ryan Briscoe, like millions of others around the globe, saw video of NHRA Top Fuel driver Larry Dixon’s spectacular broken-and-airborne-dragster crash from Gainesville, Fla., in March. The veteran Verizon IndyCar Series racer from Sydney, Australia, has seen plenty of nasty-looking wrecks.
He also has seen his colleagues walk away from those dreadful-looking incidents, relatively unscathed at that. So his reaction to James Hinchcliffe’s fiery, flipping practice accident this past Monday was not one of alarm. “He’ll walk away from that. They usually do,” he said he figured.
“That was my first thought,” Briscoe said.
Little did he know he’d be making his 10th Indianapolis 500 start Sunday, with less than a week’s preparation.
Briscoe had no idea that the popular Hinchcliffe nearly bled to death but survived only because of the swift and sure work of the IndyCar Series Holmatro emergency medical crew and the Methodist Hospital trauma team. He had no idea of the severity of the situation. He hadn’t heard that a steel “wishbone” piece of the car’s suspension snapped as the rocker broke, shot through Hinchcliffe’s right leg, and pierced his left thigh before lodging in his pelvic area. He had no idea at first that his friend was undergoing delicate surgery about five miles down 16th Street.
“When I saw Hinch’s crash, I honestly didn’t think he was badly injured at the time,” Briscoe said. “The news hadn’t come out. Then I started getting some phone calls Monday afternoon.” (Click here for the complete story)