Outside contenders at the IndyCar Bommarito Automotive 500

Following the dramatic conclusion of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar relentlessly ploughs on with frightening momentum into a double header weekend at the World-Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois.

Now two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato brings massive confidence to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a race he won last year after holding off a late-charging Ed Carpenter in the closing stages to win by a narrow lead of 0.0339 seconds. It was the closest finish in IndyCar history.

He will get the opportunity not once, but twice to win at Gateway again. It is a sight we have almost become accustomed to, with doubleheaders at Iowa, Road America and of course over in Formula 1 with double-headers at Austria and Silverstone.

Looking at the championship standings it is a grim picture for anyone who is not Scott Dixon. The New Zealander holds a commanding lead of 84 points over his next closest rival, Josef Newgarden. It paints a clearer picture of how dominant the five-time world champion has been this season when noticing third placed Patricio O’Ward is a further 33 points behind Newgarden. Can anyone stop the brilliance of Scott Dixon?

Frankly, outside Newgarden, O’Ward and Sato, you may think the chances are slim.

But alas, there are many other drivers looking to prove themselves at the famous ‘egg-shaped’ circuit. Here are my surprise candidates to achieve a good result this weekend:

James Black / IndyCar Media

Santino Ferrucci

However infamous this young driver may be, you can’t argue with the results he has been putting in this season.

A pair of sixth place finishes in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America road course doubleheader was certainly a standout. More recently, a fantastic fourth at the Indianapolis 500 following a late charge which saw him finish three tenths behind leader Takuma Sato and within touching distance of podium finisher Graham Rahal.

In three out of the last five races he has finished in the top six. You could therefore argue that the young gun is finding his feet comfortably in IndyCar, vehemently charged to change his reputation in global motorsport.

While the likes of VeeKay, Palou, Askew and O’Ward may be stealing most of the headlines, Santino will be looking to upset the status-quo. You only have to look back a year when he finished fourth at Gateway after leading almost one hundred laps of the famous egg-shaped circuit.

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

Conor Daly

Weeks have elapsed since a hilarious prank war between Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi, where the Andretti driver awoke to find his golf cart dismantled and relieved of its wheels. Since then, you could say Daly would have gladly swapped that same golf cart in place of his actual IndyCar over the last few races.

He has not finished in the top ten since the first race at Iowa and will be looking to bounce back in spectacular fashion.

Luckily for Conor, it seems he has a knack at Gateway. In his two race starts at the Bommarito 500 he has never finished outside the top six, a statistic that may give him confidence going into the weekend.

Bouncing between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing this year certainly will not have helped to form any sort of consistency needed for a title challenge. However, out of all his teammates he is currently tied with the most points alongside hotshot rookie Rinus VeeKay. If you were looking for a dramatic teammate battle, this one would be the one to watch.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Colton Herta

The young American has had something of a roller-coaster of a season. While he is win-less this year, a seventh, fourth and a pair of fifths in the opening four rounds of the campaign proves he has consistency as well as raw speed. He comes radiating confidence after finishing a tremendous eight at the Brickyard.

What has been most impressive this year has been his qualifying form. Since the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway his qualifying results have been as follows: Indianapolis (3rd), Road America Race 1 (7th), Road America Race 2 (2nd), Iowa Speedway Race 1 (4th), Iowa Speedway Race 2 (5th). He only barely missed out on the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout at the Indy500. In such a competitive field, such consistent qualifying pace is a solid indicator that Colton has the speed to match anyone in the series. I expect a similar solid qualifying run to occur, and with that, a potential for a good result.

If you need any more evidence, the Californian has made two Indy Lights starts at Worldwide Technology Raceway leading 69 of 75 laps in 2018 before settling for second. Herta finished one spot lower in his first race at the 1.25-mile oval.

Takuma Sato seizes second Indy 500 win

image Courtesy Of IndyCar

Takuma Sato seizes a second Indianapolis 500 victory from Scott Dixon during the closing stages of the race.

Dixon, who had led over one hundred and ten laps at The Brickyard was overtaken by the Japanese driver after the final round of pit stops and looked unstoppable as he continued to build over a second gap to the five-time IndyCar world champion.

Lapped traffic caused late drama as Sato lost a good amount of aerodynamic performance in dirty air. However, both Sato and Dixon cleared the troublesome backmarkers and It was looking to be a shootout finish.

That was until Specer Pigot brought out the final caution with less than five laps to go with a terrifying side on collision with the pit entry wall. Spencer was relatively unhurt by the incident and will go for medical check-ups immediately as a precaution.image Courtesy Of IndCar

Race officials refused to bring out the red flag, which had it been used would have given us a last-dash race to finish under an enthralling restart. Instead, Takuma Sato cruised to the finish line behind the safety car to be only the twentieth driver to take multiple Indy 500 victories, his first since 2017.

Dixon, was quick on his radio to suggest a red flag should be thrown, knowing his only chance of victory could have been snatched from him in that moment:

“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”

Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was closing in on the top two during the closing stages of the race only to cross the line in third.

Unfortunately for pole sitter, Marco Andretti, it was a day to forget as he rarely posed a threat to the front runners, tumbling down to thirteenth place. The search for another Andretti winner at 500 goes on.

For Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward he will take the coveted fastest rookie award crossing the line in seventh with a magnificent performance that saw him briefly leading the race. However, his performance will be bittersweet given circumstances of fellow teammates Oliver Askew and Fernando Alonso.

Following a caution caused by Dalton Kellet, a restart saw Conor Daly drop a wheel onto the concrete apron through turn four and fired his Ed Carpenter Chevrolet into the wall. Oliver Askew drove into the ensuing smokescreen and took avoiding action but lost control making heavy contact with both the wall and Daly.

image Courtesy Of IndCar

For two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, it was also a troublesome day where he struggled constantly with balance and clutch issues. He rarely appeared inside the top twenty eventually finishing in twenty first, crushing his dreams of taking the triple-crown on what may be his final attempt as he goes to race with the Renault F1 team for the next two years. However, he can take some solace that after two attempts, he has finally crossed the line to finish, what he may come to call ‘The Hardest Spectacle in the World’.

In this incident-filled race, there was eight non-finishers with James Davison, Marcus Ericsson, Oliver Askew, Conor Daly, Dalton Kellet, Alex Palou, Alex Rossi and Spencer Pigot all failing to cross the finish line.

Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi was running with frontrunners Dixon and Sato for the majority of the race. Indeed, it was Dixon and Rossi who were working together to pull away from the rest of the field during the second quarter of the race.

However, it was not to be for the 2017 Indy 500 winner, after an issue in the pits with a slow right rear caused Rossi to be released dangerously into the path of Takuma Sato. A subsequent investigation handed a penalty to Rossi sending him painfully to the back of the grid.

Clearly angered by the punishment, Rossi went straight on the attack making up five positions on the first lap of racing but his chances of victory quickly went from slim to zero as he became the latest retiree.

Losing the rear at turn two, Rossi slid the majority of the way down the wall on the back straight. In four previous Indy 500 entries, Rossi had a record of one victory and no finish lower than seventh. Now, he can add a DNF to that list.

Pit stops are always an opportunity for errors, but for Rinus VeeKay it was a constant early source of problems. The rookie Dutchman first stalled in a stop, but at the next stop earned a stop-go penalty for hitting team personnel – locking his brakes and sliding into the mechanics while entering for a stop.

However, the pivotal moment of the race may have come at lap 122, which saw Spanish rookie Alex Palou embrace the barrier at turn one, a similar incident to Marcus Ericsson 98 laps previously. The caution came at the wrong time to enable drivers to make it to the flag on one more fuel stop, but all drivers save for Felix Rosenqvist pitted for fresh tyres and none other than Sato and Dixon were at the head of this train, giving them an straight race to the finish.

Other noteworthy performances were of Santino Ferucci who finished in a magnificent fifth after a late charge saw him overtake defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. In addition, credit should be given to young star Colton Herta in eight and Britain’s Jack Harvey in ninth.

In the war between the engine manufacturers it was Honda that dominated with eight out of the top finishers. James Hinchliffe in seventh and Colton Herta in eight were the only Chevrolet powered cars in the top ten.

Top Ten Official Classification:

  1. Takuma Sato – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  2. Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing
  3. Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  4. Santino Ferucci – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
  5. Josef Newgarden – Team Pesnke
  6. Patricio O Ward – Arrow McLaren SP
  7. James Hinchliffe – Andretti Autosport
  8. Colton Herta – Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport
  9. Jack Harvey – Meyer Shank Racing
  10. Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport

Rinus VeeKay: “We are ready for the 500”

Rinus VeeKay image courtesy of IndyCar

The first time I took notice of this young Dutchman, he was leading the F3 Asian Winter Series competing with the likes of Williams test driver Dan Ticktum and F3 heavy-hitters David Schumacher and Ye Yifea. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was mightily impressed with his performances ultimately dominating the championship twenty nine points ahead of his nearest rival.

Now, he is starting fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the highest placed rookie.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for Rinus VeeKay to say the least, a name he adopted after coming to compete in the US, his real name: Rinus Van Kalmthout. Since his incredible performance in the Indy Lights series he has been catapulted into motorsport stardom with the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the NTT IndyCar series for the 2020 season.

For the Netherlands, it is a seismic moment. The first Dutch driver in top tier American Open wheel racing since Robert Doornbos in 2009. Doornbos and only four other Dutchman have ever raced in IndyCar including two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyundyk Sr, his son Arie Luyundyk Jr, Cornelius Euser and Jan Lammers.

Having waited so long for another star in the IndyCar series, they were treated to a miraculous sight last Sunday, seeing Rinus blasting through turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clocking in at just over 240mph. One of the fastest unofficial speeds ever recorded at the Indy 500.

The previous day he knocked many big names out of the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout, including the likes of Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso to name but a few. This is no mean feat. However, rather than let the pressure get to him, he put in a fantastic four-lap average (230.704mph) during the ‘Fast Nine’ to start on the fourth row alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe.

I was fortunate to sit down with Rinus on Wednesday 19th August, four days before he is due to take the starting grid in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’. The aim: to get an insight into the nineteen-year-old Dutchman, to reflect on his fantastic performance so far.

Adam (Q):

Hi Rinus! How are you feeling? Are you OK?

Rinus VeeKay (R):

Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s been a crazy few days, but I’m very happy with the result and it’s been a crazy weekend, but it’s also been the best weekend.

 Q:

So Rinus, first of all, congratulations on such a magnificent performance at your first Indy 500. Through to the ‘Fast Nine’, starting fourth, the highest placed rookie. That is the highest starting position for a Dutchman in 21 years since the 1999 Indy 500, which was your mentor, Arie Luyendyk, who started on pole that day.

That must be something you are immensely proud of. How do you reflect on such a fantastic debut performance?

R:

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course, I did not really expect it. Of course, I knew we had a good car, but the Hondas were looking strong and I was really happy to make the ‘Fast Nine’. But then, yeah, having such a good qualifying run; that almost front row was possible was amazing.

Q:

Absolutely and you’re the only Chevrolet powered car through to the ‘Fast Nine’, which is incredible as well. Many have commented on the lack of speed by Chevy and that you guys were running a low downforce set up in order to negate the power of the Hondas. However, you hit 240 miles an hour going through into turn one.

My question has two parts here. One, what was it like running at such an incredible speed? Have you experienced anything like that ever in your career?

And secondly, would you be running a similar low downforce set up during the race? And what can you expect to get out of the race with that?

R:

Well, it was amazing touching 240 miles per hour, that’s kind of a dream come true. It’s amazing speed, of course, I had a bit of a tailwind. It was cool, turning in to turn one staying flat to 240 miles an hour. Never experienced that before, but this definitely is my land speed record.

For the race, you need more downforce to run in traffic in the race, and the tyres will not last if we keep it on that low downforce. So yeah, we will go for more downforce on a kind of race trim that everyone will be on. And yeah, we have a really strong race car. I know that. And we are ready for the 500.

Q:

Fantastic. You seem to have had quite a lot of success at the Motor Speedway. You came third here at the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights and you seem to done well at the road course in both Indy lights and IndyCar. What is there about the Motor Speedway you find so special?

R:

It’s super special, it’s like the racing mecca. The feeling driving here, if you just drive through the gates, it’s just like heaven.

It’s amazing and I really enjoy driving here. Of course, you need a bit of luck to be successful, but I love the speedway and of course, also the IMS road course has been amazing this year with my highest IndyCar finish so far.

Q:

Some of our readers may be hearing about you for the first time, but they will be eager to learn a little bit about your amazing journey into IndyCar. So, you know, I’ve got a list here of some of your accolades.

  • Second in US F2000 National Championship (2017),
  • Second in the BOSS GP series (2017),
  • Third in  the MRF Challenge Formula (2017),
  • First in the Pro Mazda Championship (2018),
  • First in the F3 Asian Winter Series (2019),
  • Second  in the Indy Lights Series (2019).

Some may be wanting to know why you chose to go round the US motorsport route rather than the European circuit and follow people such as Max Verstappen going to Formula One.

What was it that drew you to America? And I have heard that there are some perceptions that it’s more down to talent in the US. Is that a fair assumption?

R:

Yes, that’s quite fair to say. The Road to Indy is known for their scholarship program and I won the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship and because of that I had the funding to go to Indy Lights. Then it just all happened from there on. So actually that win in 2018, made possible, by The Road to Indy, just made it possible for me to drive in my car eventually.

it’s been tough to go this way. It’s not always been easy but it’s been a great few years and to make it to IndyCar in this rapid way is great.

 Q:

One question I had from one of our contributors was about your time in the BOSS GP Open series. He wanted to ask. It’s one of the more lesser known categories, one could say, but it hosts so many historical sports cars. It sounds like such an amazing series to be a part of. Did you learn anything in particular in your time in that series? And what benefits did you find in doing it?

R:

Yeah, my goal to do that was, I was 16 years old, when I did that. I did a few races there I didn’t do the full season. But to get experience at that young age with, well, I had 680 horsepower. Wow. That’s something very educational. And it’s something important to master when you’re younger. And I think that’s really helped me getting used to high power, high breaks, high downforce when I was only 16 years old.

Q:

Fantastic. Do the likes of people like Max Verstappen, Robin Frinjs in Formula E, Nick de Vries who is F2 Champion, and of course yourself. Does that give you hope that motorsport in the Netherlands is on the rise? It seems like Dutch motorsport is in a really good place right now.

R:

Yeah, it really is. We have some great drivers. Robin Frinjs who is a great driver in DTM and Formula E. Nyck De Vries who is a great driver in Formula E. Max Verstappen of course and then on the other side of the ocean, it’s me in IndyCar. It’s great to have so many drivers in the top categories of open wheel racing, and it’s just great to be part of it.

Q:


It’s like you said, you don’t get many Dutchmen in IndyCar. What is it like trying to get the attention of motorsport fans from the Netherlands to watch you in IndyCar? Do you think that you have a lot of attention right now from the Netherlands?

R:

Yeah, the attention is really getting better and better. Of course, it’s been a little tough because everyone was super ‘Formula One minded’. Now they’ve seen my qualifying performance and of course now with the internet, Twitter, everything, it rolls like a snowball. Everyone starts to get really excited. I think most of the country is going to watch the 500 next weekend, so it’s going to be really cool. I think especially the attention towards IndyCar is really on the rise now.

Q:

It certainly has been with my family we’ve been sat around the whole sofa watching it for the past few weeks. So you’ve provided some fantastic entertainment, especially during lockdown.

In the lower categories, you had a competitive rivalry with the likes of fellow rookie Oliver Askew. You two alongside Alex Palou and Dalton and Pato will be going for the Rookie of the Year title on Sunday. Do those sorts of things motivate you as a driver? And will competing well against the likes of Oliver be an extra bit of motivation for you come the race on Sunday?

R:

I’ve had a long rivalry with Oliver. He’s a great driver and he’s always been a benchmark whenever you go to the track. We have a lot of quick drivers in IndyCar now so Oliver is a quick rookie but also Alex, Patricio, Dalton Kellet, they are super quick here. We’ve got some really strong rookies this year and it feels good to be kind of the best rookie and so that gives me a huge amount of confidence.

Q:

How would you rate your IndyCar season so far? You’ve had a few unfortunate accidents here and there but on the whole your performances have been really positive and certainly the qualifying here at Indy 500 surely should give you confidence for the rest of the full IndyCar season. So how would you reflect on the season so far and your hopes for the future? 

R:

Yeah it’s been a weird season. Of course with COVID to start off with and then my first race at Texas was very immature, very rookie, but I really learned from that. It was one of my biggest lessons in my career. And then from then on, as a driver I made huge steps.

Of course after that we had Indy IMS Road Course where I had my first top five finish. That was great with a great strategy. And then at Road America we struggled a little, I also had some engine issues in the race so that was unfortunate. And in Iowa we were on our way possibly to a victory in race 1 until, well you know what happened with Colton. That was very unfortunate. In race 2 we had some pit lane issues so it’s not been the luckiest year. But, well let’s hope we can make a turnaround from here.

 Q:

For all your prospective fans out there as I am sure after this weekend you will have many. What can we expect from you come this Sunday?

R:

I’m gonna just give it my all. I know we have a great race car. Of course a lot of the race is about strategy, so that will be important, a lot of thinking. But I think we can make the people at home, make then sit at the top of their seats and enjoy the race. I really want to make sure that this year, when there are no fans, they still really enjoy it.

Q:

And that’s another good point that there will be no fans this year at the 500. Does that feel a little bit strange do you think that’s going to be weird come Sunday?

R:

It feels a little strange yeah. You are so used to having so many fans here at Indy. The fans make the event what it is and you miss that. You can feel that the atmosphere is not like that. Of course, it’s still the 500, you still have the speed and the sensation but yeah the fans are a gift when they are here.

Q:

I mean I’m sure that even though they are not going to be there there’s going to be thousands more at home tuning in watching at home live so don’t worry there’s going to be lots of people supporting you back at home.

I think that’s pretty much all we have time for that’s the fifteen minutes. So thank you so much Rinus it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for giving up some of your time to speak to us. We wish you so much luck for the race on Sunday and we really hope you have a good turnout and a good result come this Sunday?.

R:

Thank you very much. I’ll make sure everyone will enjoy the race, and me too and hopefully drink the bottle of milk at the end!

 

 

Marco Andretti seals incredible first Indy 500 pole

image courtesy of IndyCar

Marco Andretti will start on pole position for the 2020 Indianapolis 500.

Marco, the grandson of Mario Andretti beat five-time world champion Scott Dixon by less than two hundredths miles per hour. Miraculously it will be the first time since the 1987 Indianapolis 500, thirty-three years ago that an Andretti has sealed pole position at ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’.

He was also able to set the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session, an utterly dominant weekend for the American. His father, Michael had famously never started on pole position or won the Indy 500.

“Actually, I thought of him because today when I walked out of the motorhome it was pretty windy,” Marco iterated of his grandfather. Sunday’s qualifying session was held in a crosswind. “He has a famous quote ‘within us. He doesn’t say it to many people, but he says, ‘the wind will scare you but it will never crash you.’ So today, he was right.”

Marco’s highest finish at the 500 was back in 2006 where he came second.

Starting alongside him will be championship leader Scott Dixon in the Chip Ganassi and Takuma Sato in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. All three will complete the first row on the grid.

Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Rinus Veekay qualified in fourth; he was the only Chevrolet powered car in the Fast Nine. His first season in IndyCar has been mired with bad luck with flashes of brilliance for the young Dutchman. He has often been overshadowed by the likes of Palou and Askew. But if you look back at young Rinus’s record in European single seater racing, this may not come as a surprise to many.

Completing the second row on the grid in fifth and sixth place are Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. This will be Hinchcliffe’s highest Indy 500 start since his famous pole position in 2016.

Another standout performance was the Dale Coyne Racing rookie Alex Palou who qualified in seventh place. The young Spaniard has enjoyed a magnificent rookie season so far and will be looking to compete for the Rookie of the Year title.

Completing the third row are Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in eight and Alexander Rossi in ninth who will be disappointed to be outqualified by his Andretti Autosport teammates.

Indy 500 Provisional Starting Grid:

Row 1: Marco Andretti (231.068 mph); Scott Dixon (231.051 mph); Takuma Sato (230.725 mph)

Row 2: Rinus Veekay (230.704 mph); Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.648 mph); James Hinchcliffe (229.870 mph)

Row 3: Alex Palou (229.676 mph); Graham Rahal (229.380 mph); Alexander Rossi (229.234 mph)

Row 4: Colton Herta (230.775 mph); Marcus Ericsson (230.566 mph); Spencer Pigot (230.539 mph)

Row 5: Josef Newgarden (230.296 mph); Felix Rosenqvist (230.254 mph); Pato O’Ward (230.213 mph)

Row 6: Ed Carpenter (230.211 mph); Zach Veach (229.961 mph); Conor Daly (229.955 mph)

Row 7: Santino Ferrucci (229.924 mph); Jack Harvey (229.861 mph); Oliver Askew (229.76 mph)

Row 8: Will Power (229.701 mph); Tony Kanaan (229.154 mph); Dalton Kellett (228.88 mph)

Row 9: Simon Pagenaud (228.836 mph); Alonso Fernando (228.768 mph); James Davison (228.747 mph)

Row 10: Helio Castroneves (228.373 mph); Charlie Kimball (227.758 mph); Max Chilton (227.303 mph)

Row 11: Sage Karam (227.099 mph); JR Hildebrand (226.341 mph); Ben Hanley (222.917 mph)

The Indy 500 will be live on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday 23rd August.

 

 

Entry list revealed for the 104th Indianapolis 500

IndyCar logo courtesy of IndyCar.

In a statement released by IndyCar on Monday 11th August, a 33-car field will enter the Indianapolis 500. Among those include eight past winners: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Takuma Sato (2017), Will Power (2018) and Simon Pagenaud (2019).

Castroneves, who retired from a full time IndyCar seat in 2017 will be aiming for his fourth win in an attempt to join an elite list of drivers with the same accolades including: A.J Foyt, Al Unser,  and Rick Mears.

The field will include six IndyCar champions including: Scott Dixon, Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud, and reigning champion Josef Newgarden.

Also joining them will be two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, who returns to the ‘500’ with the Arrow McLaren SP team. Alonso will be competing to become only the second driver in history, alongside Graham Hill, to achieve the ‘triple crown’.

Alonso had two previous outings at the ‘500’, which both saw him retire with an engine related issue and fail to qualify for the starting grid. Alonso will be hoping ‘three times the charm’, as Arrow McLaren SP have seemingly been on the rise with recent performances from Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew. Thus, the Spaniard may be in a good position to challenge for a win this time around.

There were initial worries that IndyCar may not have been able to stage a full field due to the current coronavirus pandemic. However, late entries from Ben Hanley (DragonSpeed Racing) and James Davison (Dale Coyne, Byrd Racing, Belardi Autosport and Rick Ware Racing) have ensured this will not be the case.

However, the purse for the event has been nearly slashed in half, following the news that the race will be held with no spectators for the first time in its history.

Five drivers will be competing for the rookie of the year title: Alex Palou, Oliver Askew, Pato O’Ward, Rinus Veekay and Dalton Kellet. O’Ward, will be aiming for redemption after failing to qualify in last year’s qualifying shootout.

Andretti Autosport has entered six cars, the most of any team.

Practice runs between Wednesday 12th and Friday 14th August. Qualifying is scheduled between Saturday 15th and 16th August. The final practice session, which has been extended to two hours will be held on Friday 21st August.

The Indianapolis 500 will be set to race at 2:30pm on Sunday 23rd August, with live coverage on Sky Sports F1 in the UK and NBC in the US.

Complete Entry List

1 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Chevrolet

3 Helio Castroneves Team Penske Chevrolet

4 Charlie Kimball AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet

5 Pato O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

7 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

8 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

10 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

12 Will Power Team Penske Chevrolet

14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet

15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

18 Santino Ferucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan

20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

21 Rinus Veekay Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Chevrolet

24 Sage Karam Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet

26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport Honda

27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Honda

28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Honda

29 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Honda

30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

41 Dalton Kellett AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet

45 Spencer Pigot Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

47 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

51 James Davison Dale Coyne Racing Honda

55 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing Honda

59 Max Chilton Carlin Chevrolet

60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Honda

66 Fernando Alonso Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

67 JR Hilderbrand Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet

81 Ben Hanley DragonSpeed Chevrolet

88 Colton Herta Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport Honda

98 Marco Andretti Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco Curb-Agajanian

 

 

Indianapolis 500 U-turn, closes doors to fans

The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place without fans for the first time in its history. This will arguably be the biggest impact “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has seen since the series of cancellations between 1942 and 1945 during America’s intervention in World War Two.

The US has been significantly effected by the Coronavirus pandemic, and while federal laws try their best to limit the spread of the disease, state laws can take matters into their own hands. It seems this is what has happened.

A few weeks ago, it had been reported that the 500 was to happen with spectator capacity capped at 50%. The speedway then lowered that number to 25%, releasing an 88-page document detailing the safety procedures that were to be implemented.

The seating capacity of the speedway holds upward of 250,000 people. Given this, the upward trajectory of fans would have been close to 62,500 people, not including staff, teams, media and drivers.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday reported an additional 836 cases and 14 deaths from Coronavirus, bringing the state’s totals to 69,255 cases and 2,794 deaths.

Indiana’s seven-day moving average positivity rate was 7.3% compared to earlier averages of 5%. Therefore, discussions were held between local and state governments and the speedway took the decision to remove the prospect of fans in the speedway so as to mitigate the risk of transmission.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Roger Penske, owner of the circuit, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the U-turn was:

“The toughest business decision I’ve ever made in my life.” “We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year, we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing,”

This will be financially devastating, as the circuit makes most of its revenue from the 500 and will inevitably come under economic pressure as a consequence.

Penske continued by saying: “We need to be safe and smart about this, obviously we want full attendance, but we don’t want to jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the community. We also don’t want to jeopardize the ability to hold a successful race.”

It was clear how the situation would unfold when IU Health, the state’s largest health care system and a partner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, publicly criticised the attendance of fans at the raceway.

“Until we sustain better control of this virus and its spread,” IU iterated, “we strongly encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August.”

This follows a wave of schedule alterations, including the cancellation of Portland, Laguna Seca and the postponement of the Mid-Ohio race scheduled for the weekend of the 8th August, with many races including at Road America and Iowa already holding races with fans in attendance, but at a reduced capacity.

Tim Holle / IndyCar MediaThe 500 is still scheduled to take place from Memorial weekend to August 23rd.

Feature image courtesy of Joe Skibinksi / IndyCar Media

Listen: PitCast interview with Sabré Cook

In the latest special episode of the PitCast, we caught up with Indy Pro 2000 and W Series driver Sabré Cook.

Fresh off the back of the second round of the Indy Pro 2000 season at Mid-Ohio, we spoke to Sabré about her Road to Indy journey, her W Series goals and involvement in their esports league, and her work with the Renault F1 team and Infiniti Engineering Academy last year.

Sabré is currently competing part-time in the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 championship with Team Benik and was due to race in the second season of the W Series before its cancellation earlier in the year.

You can listen to the latest episode of the PitCast below, and also here on YouTube. Catch up on all our past episodes here.

 

Three conclusions we can take from IndyCar’s opening six races

Can Anyone Stop Scott Dixon?

To some, the incredible form of Scott Dixon is nothing of a surprise. After winning at Texas, Indianapolis, and Road America he sealed his 49th career win, three behind IndyCar and Formula 1 legend Mario Andretti who stands at second on the all-time list. This will be his 18th consecutive season in American open-wheel racing with a win on his quest to achieve his sixth championship title.

Dixon proved his class on the restart of the season, finishing 4.411 seconds clear of rival Simon Pagenaud at Texas Motor Speedway where he led 157 of the 200 laps. What immediately followed was another dominant win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning by over 20 seconds over Graham Rahal. Finally, a win at Road America gave him his third consecutive win, with seemingly no let-up in sight.

Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Since then, we have had three more races: one other at Road America, and two at Iowa Speedway. Despite starting 17th in both races, Dixon rose to an incredible second and fifth place to solidify his lead at the top of the standings

How has Dixon done this? A mixture of raw pace, consistency, experience, and well-executed strategy calls. Interestingly, despite not starting anywhere higher than the third row of the grid five of the last six races he has finished on the podium four times, a testament to how good his race strategy and decision-making skills are.

However, all three Penske drivers are firmly in the hunt. Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden will be looking to stop Scott Dixon’s momentum heading into the second half of the season.

Dixon says that he is in impeccable form, in an interview he states:

“For me right now, I’m physically stronger,” he said. “Mentally, I’m in a better place than ever.”

Bad news for his competitors, but great news for race fans.

 

Safety is Key

A significant moment in IndyCar history was the implementation of the Aeroscreen, designed by RedBull Advanced Technologies. The engineering consultancy of the championship-winning Formula 1 team proposed the concept in 2016 only to be rejected for the Halo device.

The device improves the design of the Halo in a significant way. The polycarbonate ballistic windscreen protects the driver from any debris that would otherwise bypass the titanium frame. Additionally, the windscreen can withstand a hit from a 2lb (0.9kg) object at a speed of 220 mph (354kmh). Thus, pieces of a car, that for any reason, rise to meet the cockpit of a competitor are very unlikely to reach the driver inside, and we now have evidence to back this up.

During lap 144 at the Iowa Speedway, a botched pitstop left Will Power’s car with a loose left front wheel. Subsequently on lap 157 Power understeered into the wall, breaking the front suspension, and sending one of his tyres over the car itself. Luckily, the tyre deflected off the windscreen and away from the driver. Power heaped praise on the effectiveness of the Aeroscreen following the race:

“Man, I can’t thank IndyCar enough for everything they’ve done safety-wise with the Aeroscreen and halo inside the Aeroscreen,” he said. “You just saw Colton Herta go over the top of someone, and they’ve just done a tremendous job. It’s better than any other series that have invented something like it. Just a very good job,”

The crash he was referring to involved Colton Herta on lap 157. Due to a confusion during an aborted restart he accelerated into the back of Rinus Veekay. Horrifically, Herta can be seen being thrown into the air above Veekay. Luckily, the Aeroscreen kept the Dutchman safe as Herta’s car lands on top of him.

Without the Aeroscreen it is highly likely that both these incidents could have resulted in serious injuries for all the drivers involved.

The Aeroscreen, while still criticised for things such as overheating the drivers in the cockpits, is a positive contribution to safety in motorsport and certainly here to stay.

 

McLaren’s Rise to Prominence

Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Two years ago, McLaren were struggling in Formula One with a series of reliability issues with their Honda powertrain and a car that did not meet the team’s expectations. A disastrous campaign resulted in them losing two-time champion Fernando Alonso. However, it forced them to embark on a fundamental restructuring process that would lead them back to the front of motorsport.

Since then, it has been a remarkable turnaround for the team, with two podiums and two fastest laps to its name in Formula One this year.  McLaren also have been racing in IndyCar alongside Schmidt Arrow Peterson, rebranded as Arrow McLaren SP. This seems to have been a partnership made in heaven with a serious of impressive drives from both Patricio O’Ward and Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew.

An impressive race at Road America saw Patricio O’Ward score his first pole position, but unfortunately lose the win to Chip Ganassi star Felix Rosenqvist on the final lap of the race. Not too long after at Iowa Speedway both Arrow McLaren Chevrolets were among the fastest cars in the field even if the results for both cars did not reflect their outright pace.

Rookie Oliver Askew impressed with his first podium in Race 1 and an impressive sixth after a late stint on fresher tyres. Meanwhile, it was a case of what might have been for O’Ward.

After making some impressive overtakes using the high line he gained five positions, eventually hunting down race leader Josef Newgarden for the win. Unfortunately, a slow pitstop cost O’Ward the lead lap and ultimately the race win. He finished in 12th, arguably an undeserved result for such an impressive drive.

Oliver Askew now sits at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings (115 points) while his teammate is firmly in the championship hunt, sitting in fourth (162 points). Though, after narrowly losing two race wins, O’Ward may feel that he should be sitting in second place only below Scott Dixon in the standings had results gone his way. Pato remains cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances this year:

“We want to win races, be a contender in the championship,” he says. “Everyone is pushing the same way as I am, with the same amount of energy and motivation. We have a great group of engineers and the car has felt good everywhere we’ve been.

 

[Featured image – Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media]

IndyCar’s disgrace of an iRace

There was a lot to be enjoyed in the Esports races on Saturday. Firstly there was the second round of the Formula E Stay At Home Challenge, taking place on rFactor 2 with Studio 397’s own circuit Electric Docks which made for some incredible high speed racing. Then we had the first of a set of rounds that made up a new season of the All-Star Esports Series by The Race where Pros, Sim drivers and Legends all raced at Sepang to contend for their own championships and it even included brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Bentley, Aston Martin, Williams and Venturi officially taking part in it too. Finally, we also saw two races in Veloce’s Not The GP series where Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had some incredible battles on the Hockenheim circuit with some of the top names from the world of Formula 1 Esports and Online Content Creation.

But we are talking about the final round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, racing 70 laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. McLaren’s own Lando Norris was participating after making a guest appearance in last week’s race at the Circuit of the Americas, and despite spinning in the middle of the race, he still blitzed the field. This seemingly ruffled a few feathers.

Norris qualified second for the defacto ‘Indy 175’ to Aussie SuperCars champion Scott McLaughlin and despite never having done oval racing before, he was doing very good. He had put an immense amount of practice in with the help of his former F1 engineer Andrew Jarvis, who left McLaren’s F1 division to a new role in their upcoming IndyCar programme.

At one point in the race, a caution period had come out and Lando had just pitted so he had the grippiest rubber out of all the leading group so he looked to be in the best position to win. Ahead of him is reigning Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, who in all the previous IndyCar iRacing Challenge events, had won all the oval races and was looking to get a clean sweep.

Pagenaud and Graham Rahal were fighting for the lead and Norris went low on both of them, there was a noticeable gap between Norris and Rahal, but there is an unfortunate thing that happens in online racing called netcode, where there’s a slight lag in connection and subsequently, it feels like there is a collision when there isn’t. So Rahal unfortunately was netcode hit by Norris even though Norris didn’t do such a thing, and Rahal collided with Pagenaud and it ruined their races. A shame all round because I was looking forward to watching the battle between all these top-level professionals, but that term seems to not apply now, at least to Pagenaud.

Through I believe Pagenaud’s engineer’s Twitch stream, they seemed to joke about wanting to take out Norris and were badmouthing him as if he actually had done something wrong. But as clear as day in the video I’m going to provide of Lando watching a replay of that Twitch stream after the race, Pagenaud turned in on him heading into the last lap and what seemed to be an all-but-certain victory for Lando was taken from him. Pagenaud even tried to play it off as trying to go to the pits..

You’ll also hear in that clip, Lando was in an online chat with fellow Team RedLine sim racing drivers Graham Carroll, Bono Huis and Max Verstappen, and it was Max who suggested they settle these incidents with a boxing match. Rather amusing.

Not only what Pagenaud did, but on the last lap, McLaren’s two other drivers got involved in incidents. Patricio O’Ward tried to overtake Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson heading into the last corner but was way too overly ambitious and desperate, it was never on and it cost Ericsson the victory. So it was left to McLaren’s third driver Oliver Askew to win the race for the team, but it wasn’t to be as the polarising Santino Ferrucci swerved across him on the run to the line, and there to pick up the pieces despite not being anywhere near the front for most of the last few laps, was pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin.

An absolute mess. Inevitably you’ll hear the “Just a game” argument, both from people like Ferrucci (who has form for doing this in real world racing as well!) who pull a David Perel and say it’s okay to be dirty in the virtual world since nobody gets hurt, and then you have the people who see this as insignificant because it’s some immature boy’s hobby to play video games so what’s the fuss about?

I love my virtual racing but this has just left a sour taste in my mouth. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Simon Pagenaud, and I didn’t have any for Ferrucci anyway since he was said to have been racist to his then-F2 teammate Arjun Maini back in 2018 and also purposely driving into him on the cooldown lap.

It’s also been disappointing seeing IndyCar commentator Paul Tracy put on his tin foil hat and claim that Ferrucci’s steering conveniently had been hacked or glitched on the run to the line. It’s not surprising honestly, they love him on the IndyCar coverage.

This doesn’t ruin Esports and sim racing for me, I’ll always love it but it’s not surprising at all to know that people from outside the virtual racing bubble don’t take this seriously. With all the progress being made by Esports whilst we don’t have real racing, this has been a huge step backwards for both Esports and also IndyCar.

Image courtesy of IndyCar

Indy 500 Drama: Alonso Fails To Qualify

In pursuit of the Triple Crown (Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500) Fernando Alonso and McLaren returned to American soil for the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday was the day where the top 30 qualifying took place, with the fast nine to qualify again on Sunday for pole position and the six drivers out of the top 30 would also qualify again on Sunday, but with a higher stake.

After the two-time F1 World Champion did not make the top 30 (he ended up in 31st) it was time for ‘Bump Day’, where the last six drivers fight for the last three positions on the starting grid. The three slowest would pack up and go home. James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser were all in the danger zone.

First to put a time on the table was James Hinchcliffe. With an average of 227.543 MPH, he was almost guaranteed of a spot on the grid for next week’s race, having missed out on the race last year. Next in line was Max Chilton, and just like Alonso, with a Carlin car. His pace was way off, with a mere 226.192 MPH meaning his chances would be very slim to qualify.

The third driver to make his run was Alonso. His first lap looked promising for a good result, and he ended up with an average of 227.353 MPH, putting him in (at that moment) second place.

Zak Brown and Fernando Alonso watch and wait after their qualifying attempt. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

With three drivers to go, it would take just two of them to be faster than Alonso for the Spaniard not to qualify for the legendary race. The fact that Fernando was signing some autographs rather than watching the timings showed everything about his nerves. He just didn’t want to look, knowing full well that it would be very close.

Sage Karam surprised with a pretty quick average of 227.740 MPH, putting him on the top of the table. He pushed Alonso back to third place, just enough to qualify. But with two drivers left, tensions were rising.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Red Bull F1 junior, also drove with a Carlin built car, which showed; an average of 227.092 MPH put him in fourth, meaning he was done for this year. The last one who could attempt to qualify was Kaiser.

His first lap was the same as Alonso, but his second and third lap were slightly quicker than the Spaniard’s. With only one lap to go, Alonso once again went to sign some items of fans, too afraid of looking at the timings.

In a very dramatic manner, Kaiser – with his very small Juncos Racing team – beat the great (but new) McLaren Indy team to the last spot on the grid: 227.372 MPH. Just 0.019MPH quicker than Fernando.

Juncos Racing celebrate qualifying for the Indy 500, despite numerous setbacks. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

In a reaction on social media, Alonso said: “A difficult week, no doubts. We tried our best, even today with a completely different set-up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph+, and want more speed… We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing a better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren sporting director, apologized to Alonso, the team and fans. “This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team”, he said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress.  So you know, this is in my 35 years of racing – actually a few more – the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Even though Alonso will not be there, the show still goes on. The only Carlin car to qualify for the Indy 500 was Charlie Kimball in 20th. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud took pole and got a cheque of $100,000, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot lining up next to him. There will still be a fantastic race and all fans of motorsport should definitely watch it.

Simon Pagenaud accepts his pole award for his first ever Indy 500 pole. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar)