Indy500

Japan Win With Honda & Sato but Alonso’s Curse Continues

One of the most intense, exciting and memorable Indy 500 races has happened this year, we enter a new century of races in the 101st run of the event and what a way to start them. Takuma Sato, the Japanese driver who was born in Tokyo became first the Asian-born driver to ever win the historic race. Interest was heightened with one of the best drivers of the world, who can be described as that due to his performance in the race, Fernando Alonso taking part for the first time. An estimated 300,000 people were at the speedway which would of officially made it 65th largest American city in terms of population. Just how did Sato win and how did Alonso do in his debut?

Qualifying Recap

Qualifying happens a week in advance very similar to Formula 1/MotoGP style with Q1/Q2 format, the top nine, which make the top three rows took part in their own session on the following day following the first run times. The top five drivers on the grid were quadruple Indycar champion Scott Dixon took pole, and Ed Carpenter who returns only for ovals in his own racing team second, and 2016 champion Alexander Rossi started third. Eventual winner Takuma Sato started fourth and the one everyone was interested in, Fernando Alonso in 5th.

The other side of the grid was truly mixed up with some heavy hitters languishing in the midfield and towards the back of the field. Ryan Hunter-Reay started 10th, if he got in to the qualifying shoot out, he would have placed himself in 7th. Two-time Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya was 18th, three time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves was 19th and championship leader Simon Pagenaud qualified in a lowly 23rd. Another one to note is for James Davison started last, filling in for Sebastian Bourdais, who had that major crash on qualifying weekend, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Bourdais was trackside for the 500.

The Race

It was a clean start with front row keeping their places,.Fernando Alonso though, he fell back down the order, maybe needing a bit of time to adjust to the settings. Championship leader Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves were the early movers, creeping up the field. Tony Kanaan, who started 7th, had great speed, managing to get up with Carpenter and Dixon.

The race settled, and with that Alonso and Rossi began to make their presence felt, former Indycar champion Will Power tipped heavily for the win struggled, and was falling down the order. Kanaan and Dixon were trading the lead early on, drafting each other to save fuel, whilst behind Carpenter and Rossi stayed in touch. Kanaan was the first to stop on lap 29, showing that leading the race with no draft takes up much more fuel than anywhere else on the grid. Alonso during this phase got past Dixon who seemed to be hanging on at the end of the first stint and Ed Carpenter took the lead. Juan Pablo Montoya showed skill by going 3 laps longer, pitting on lap 32, but coming out of the box he stalled his car and his work was undone. The top five after the first stint was Carpenter, Rossi, Alonso, Kanaan and Sato.

On to the second stint, Alonso began to spread his wings and took the lead on lap 37. It seemed in the first stint he observed others, while in the second he started by passing Rossi and both passed Carpenter, the amendment he made on pit road didn’t seem to do him any favours. Rossi and Alonso – both teammates – were trading the lead, drafting each other saving fuel. Team Owner Michael Andretti over the radio to Alonso ‘You and Alex can play here’ which pretty much confirmed the fuel saving strategy. This continued and were easily the two fastest cars on track.

Hunter-Reay, trying to catch team mates Rossi & Alonso made a last minute move on lapping Jay Howard. This resulted on Howard getting onto the the marbles, and pretty much a passenger, hitting the wall and breaking his front right suspension. He then under no control veered back onto the track and polesitter Scott Dixon had nowhere to go, hurtling straight into his Dallara chassis, flying and hitting the inside catch fence and landing sideways on the barrier. Both men walked away from a frightening accident. Castroneves to avoid contact actually went underneath Dixon on the grass, causing minor damage to his rear. The catch fence was broken and it was red flagged to fix and clear sheer amount of debris on the track. The top five at the show of the flag were Alonso, Rossi, Sato, Carpenter and Hunter-Reay.

20 minutes after the incident were back on track again, Alonso leading them off pit road. They then opened the pit once more, and the whole field rushed into the pit, all 31 cars still running down taking fuel and tyres. They went round for two laps behind the safety car and off they went. Alonso with a mega restart kept the lead although the two-time F1 World Champion Alonso began to fall back on lap 63. Andretti team mates Hunter-Reay and Rossi nearly hit each other trading the lead at Turn 1.

Montoya, trying to make up for his awful pit stop managed to overtake Pagenaud, Daly and Kimball on the back straight. Daly tried to follow him on the outside around Kimball but the gap closed, and the third caution was out. English driver Jack Harvey collected debris, albeit few laps down had to retire due to damage too. This brought about a change in fuel strategies and some such as Hinchcliffe, Chilton, Power and Pippa Mann pitted mid-stint. Pippa was doing well in her rookie Indy 500, keeping it clean and competitive. Helio pitted a lap later under the safety car, and during the period found out he received a drive through due to jumping Daly at the previous restart.

The race went green on lap 65, and Rossi took the lead. On the restart they went four wide in the midfield, championship leader Pagenaud still continued to struggle and was swamped by those three men. Kanaan began to get closer in his hunt for a second victory, battling with Alonso. Alonso broke the toe, and went after Hunter-Reay.

Caution 4 came because of debris on the front straight, part of Marco Andretti’s wing came off, flying up high and landing on track. All drivers under this safety period hit the pits, this left the people who decided to pit earlier on in the lead. Sato’s team made an error in the pits – a dropped wheelnut dropping him to 17th. Max Chilton led the restart, followed by Power & Castroneves – Hunter-Reay and co. now running from 4th onwards.

Chilton started well getting away from Power in P2. Hunter-Reay and Andretti teammates began to use their fresh tyres to their advantage and were much quicker around the corners. Chilton was keeping his own, using the knowledge he has gained from Indycar legend Dario Franchitti to good effect, whilst Power began to fall back, passed by veteran Castroneves and the Andretti drivers. Rossi took the opportunity to get past everyone to take the lead once more. Rossi and Castroneves seem to be trading the lead, a common trend for leaders across the whole race, Castroneves led on lap 100, after starting in 18th.

On lap 104 Castroneves took to the pit lane, quite remarkable considering he had to take that drive through he was still leading. He pitted much earlier than the rest of the leading back, but they all came back out fighting to stay on the lead lap, amongst the battle for the lead. On lap 113 Rossi pitted with Alonso and Hunter-Reay a lap later, with very slow stops for Rossi and Alonso compared to Hunter-Reay, after it all settled down on lap 116 he had a 3.5 second lead. The top 10 after the stops were Hunter-Reay, Alonso, Rossi, Castroneves and Power. Sato had got back up to P7, alongside with Montoya in P10, whilst Chilton had dropped to P13.

A spree of yellow cautions began with Buddy Lazier, the 49 year old coming back for a one-off race was racing well but he lost it and collided with the wall, bringing out the full course yellow once again. He was uninjured. Chilton decided to pit under caution once more, dropping to the back of the field. It looked like they were about to bring the yellows in, but Chilton had one less to deal with as Sage Karam stopped with mechanical difficulty and had to retire. They went green for two laps but more debris was found on the track, Pagenaud was the only one noticeable to pit once more, everyone else stayed out under this caution.

It was green again lap 135 and Alonso began to once more strategically share the lead with Hunter-Reay, until down the back straight on lap 137 the American’s Honda engine failed, familiar scenes for Alonso. Honda have tried to get a few extra horsepower over Chevrolet rivals, but reliability just like Formua 1 is something they have begin to struggle with. Don’t forget Alonso had to change his engine prior to qualifying. The 2014 Indy 500 champion was out, and yellows were out once again, the majority of the field decided to pit leaving the likes of Chilton and Davison. There were poor stops for Alonso and Rossi dropping to 12th and 21st respectively.

After a short green flag period as Carpenter lost his rear end, hitting the side of Russian Aleshin, severely damaged the Russian. Alonso managed to get to 9th place before the flag was shown. Kimball managed to jump Chilton during that brief period too into 1st. The green flag followed shortly once more, an amazing 5 wide on restart, Pagenaud once more being swallowed up by the field. Kimball and Chilton had a massive fight as the race entered its last quarter. On lap 163 Chilton pitted, and with 36 to go in similar circumstances to Rossi last year. Luck was in for the Englishman as he just managed to get the stop in, and more alarm bells began to ring again for Honda drivers, as Kimball’s engine also gives up.

Several drivers decided to pit under the caution, but as a result Chilton still leads, Sato managed to get himself back up into the mix, whilst Castroneves after a face full oil from Kimball was in the mix. Alonso, albeit with a clean stop once more dropped to 9th and time was running out for the Spanish driver as the race went green again with 29 laps to go. Chilton now had his mirrors full of Castroneves, chasing his fourth Indy 500 victory.

In cruel but not unfamiliar circumstances, Fernando Alonso’s engine gave up, bringing out another caution. All Michael Andretti could do on the radio is apologise. He got out of his Dallara, and all 300,000 people gave around of applause, more so than Dixon when he walked out of his crash. If this was a way to keep Alonso’s faith in Honda, they have only dug themselves a deeper hole.

In the battle for the lead, former F1 drivers Max Chilton and Takuma Sato were hard at it. Noth would be winning their first Indy 500, Chilton would be winning his first ever Indy race, whilst Sato would be winning his second, a 4 year wait since his win at Long Beach. Alonso bringing out the caution was short lived, and back under way, but once more not for long, a 5 car pile up at Turn 1. Oriol Servia tried to pass Davison, ended up collecting him and both hit the wall, Power and Hinchcliffe innocent victims. Hinchcliffe’s poor run at Indianapolis continued, whilst Josef Newgarden lost it on his own on the infield.

In the dying laps Castroneves saw Sato lose his momentum after failed overtakes on Chilton, and relegated the Japanese driver into third place. Castroneves, now set his sights on Chilton. Castroneves passed Chilton and looked for all the world to be the favourite while Sato quickly followed him. On lap 197 Sato, ignoring the ghosts from 2012, knocked Castroneves back to second – far from the move he made on Franchitti on lap 200 5 years ago which resulted in him ending up in the wall.

Sato was able to hold off the Castroneves assault in the final three laps and won his first ever Indianpolis 500 and his second Indycar race at the scene of his only Formula One podium back in 2004.

Race Result, Top 5

P1 Takuma Sato
P2 Helio Castroneves
P3 Ed Jones (R)
P4 Max Chilton
P5 Tony Kanaan

Selected others

P6 Juan Pablo Montoya
P7 Alex Rossi
P14 Simon Pagenaud
P17 Pippa Mann
DNF Fernando Alonso
DNF Ryan Hunter-Reay
DNF Scott Dixon

Drivers comments

Sato – ‘Unbelievable, the best feeling’ – He just couldn’t thank the team enough, he still with 3 laps had doubt that he could do it.
Castroneves – ‘We fight together but today wasn’t my day’ – He felt god was looking after him after his avoidance, and was just a little too hard for him.
Alonso – ‘One of the best experiences in my career’ – He pushed hard and clearly loved being competitive.

Dixon ‘It sure was a wild ride’ – He could not thank enough for the safety of Indycar, just held on and hoped for the best, looked so calm, you couldn’t tell he was in such a scary crash.

By Chris Lord

Image courtesy of Eric Barnes

Who’s Who? Indy 500

The 101st running of the Indy 500 is just around the corner. The interest seems to be at an all time high due to Fernando Alonso bucking the trend and missing the Monaco Grand Prix to take part in the prestigious event. Some may know all the drivers in the series, some may only recognise a few of the drivers from the past when they raced in different series, but some people have always raced in America. There are 33 drivers in the race Sunday, but who is actually racing?

Here we have a short preview of each driver competing in the Indy 500 based in grid order for the race, looking at livery, so cars to keep an eye for, current form and history at Indianapolis if they have raced before at the brickyard, or at all in the Indycar series.

ROW 1

#9 Scott Dixon
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: New Zealander
Livery: Dark/Light Blue
Championship Position: 2

First up we have Scott Dixon, an Indycar legend, securing pole for an event he won nine years ago. He is a quadruple champion of the series, and the leading non-American in all time list of wins. Scott is known for his speed, winning on his debut back in the season of 2003, and put this forward even more securing pole for this year. Scott currently sits second in the championship after finishing second in the previous round on the Indianapolis road course. Can he put pressure on the leader of the series, and win in the brickyard for the second time?

#20 Ed Carpenter
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Dark Green/Gold
Championship Position: 22

Ed is an owner of his own racing team, and has decided to take part in events at his own leisure. He has only so far this season been involved in one race, and that was the first oval of the season at Phoenix which he finished 7th. Ed has won on an oval in the past, but it would be a first at Indy. He looked calm and collected during the days of practice. His recent races at Indianapolis have been very disappointing, classified no higher than 27th in the last 3 years. He is capable of more, so lets see if he can put forward qualifying pace into the race.

#98 Alexander Rossi
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: Dark Blue/Yellow
Championship Position: 9

Alex has taken to the Verizon Indycar Series like a duck to water. Rossi has shown it can be done, he won the Indy 500 in his debut season last year. He started 11th and through amazing fuel management managed to avoid entering pit road like other drivers. Fernando Alonso can take hope from that. He finished 11th in the series last year, and has built upon that. Although he has been competitive but through car faults isn’t as high as he should be in the championship. Runs well at Indy, could he win back to back?

ROW 2

#26 Takuma Sato
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: Japanese
Livery: Dark Blue/White
Championship Position: 10

Takuma has been racing in the Indycar Series since 2010, after a short hiatus following the fold of Super Aguri in Formula 1 in 2008. He is known for his consistency in the Formula 1 series. It is a first season with Andretti Motorsport after several seasons with AJ Foyt. He is most famous and respected in the Indycar Series for going for broke in the 2012 running of the Indy 500,on the last lap trying to pass Dario Franchitti for the win. The move did not come off, and the Japanese driver ended up in the wall. A very solid so far in the season, can Takuma push for his second win in the series, at Indycar’s grandest stage of them all?

#29 Fernando Alonso (R)
Team: Mclaren-Honda-Andretti (Andretti Motorsport)
Nationality: Spanish
Livery: Orange
Championship Position: N/A

Fernando Alonso, the main man, maybe why most Europeans will be switching over in the evening to watch the event after the Monaco Grand Prix in the early afternoon. Fernando hasn’t had the best of luck in Formula 1 in recent years, with non competitive cars, not being able to show his true potential, he has outdrove the car that McLaren have provided him. Unlike Formula 1 the chassis that the drivers use in Indycar is all the same, the Dallara DW12. Jokes were made before qualifying after the team decided to make a precautionary engine change, he qualified 5th after never racing on an oval before. With a level playing field, could Alonso unleash his skill, and win the second of the Triple Crown of Motorsport?

#21 JR Hildebrand
Team: Ed Carpenter Racing
Livery: White/Dark Blue
Championship Position: 14

JR is a great driver in the Indycar Series, he debuted in the 2010 season, and has been a great spectacle since. He has yet to taste victory, but at Phoenix this season he achieved his best ever result in third. In recent seasons JR has been a part time driver, only taking part in the Indianapolis events and albeit missing the third round of this year, it is the closest he has been to a full season since 2012. Nothing could be better than winning the Indianapolis, and even yet it being your first ever win, could it be the turn of JR at victory lane?

ROW 3

#10 Tony Kanaan
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: Brazilian
Livery: Light Blue
Championship Position: 11

Tony is a seasoned veteran of the series, racing before in the series of Champ Car before it merged to become the Indycar series. Tony has tasted the milk at Indy before in 2013, and last year finished fourth in the 100th running. He had a terrible race last time out at the road course due to a collision, and could not recover from it, so has a point to prove. His most recent win was in 2014 at California, also on an oval and he has the experience at 42. Could he use that to be only one of few to win the event twice?

#27 Marco Andretti
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Light Blue
Championship Position: 18

Marco is third generation of the famous Andretti Motorsport family, and currently drives for the family team. Marco as of yet in his career is yet to match his father/grandfather, with his most recent victory back in 2011. Luck has not been on Marco’s side this year, the season looked good after finishing 7th at the season opener in St. Petersburg, but since then finishing no higher than 16th at the road course has left Marco far away from the series lead. His grandfather won the race back in 1969, whilst his father never won, could he match his grandfather and show how his dad, the team boss, he can win once more?

#12 Will Power
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Australian
Livery: Silver
Championship Position: 5

Will is the driver on form, winning last time out on Indy’s road course comfortably pushing himself back in to championship contention. He has won the series once in the past with Team Penske in 2014, and was runner up last year and on three other occasions. He has yet to taste victory in the Indy 500 albeit winning twice prior in the road course. Will has won at ovals in the past but street circuits are more of a forte, tied with the most amount of victories. A driver that on his day cannot be beaten, can Will put his pace from the road course onto the oval, and win for the first time?

ROW 4

#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay
Team: Andretti Motorsport
Nationality: American
Livery: Yellow/Red
Championship Position: 8

Ryan is a previous Indycar series champion back in 2012, in his first season with Andretti Motorsport. He has been racing since 2003, with multiple race victories, including his Indy 500 victory in 2014. Ryan is a very thoughtful driver and has run with number 28 since 2011, it being 28 due to the amount of predicted million people with cancer after his mother fighting the disease. In good form heading into the event after finishing third in the road course, bettering his season best 4th at the season opener. Ryan was the fastest of the rest out of the fast nine, could he win for a second time and be fastest of them all?

#19 Ed Jones (R)
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Blue/Red
Championship Position: 12

Ed is the sole full time rookie in the 2017 Indycar series, after winning the support series Indy Lights in 2016. Ed looked strong in practice and qualifying and looked like he would make the fast 9 for a chance for pole but narrowly missed out. He has a series best finish of 6th at Long Beach but lacked pace at the road course. in the Indy Lights he won at the Indy road course race, and came second in their version of the Indy 500. Alex Rossi showed a rookie can win the race, can Ed repeat that?

#16 Oriol Servia
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Nationality: Spanish
Livery: Yellow/White
Championship Position: N/A

This is Oriol’s first race of the season, a part time driver for the Rahal team, taking part in races 6-8 of the 2017 series. He has sporadically taken part in the series and not done a full season since 2011 with only the Indy 500 being the only, if not one of the few he raced in the seasons. Oriol is yet to win in the Indycar series, and does currently have other interests that may distract him, he did run in the Formula E championship with Dragon Racing and since become a managing director. His best finish in the races at Indianapolis has been 4th, could he improve that, put Formula E aside and win for the first time?

ROW 5

#7 Mikhail Aleshin
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: Russian
Livery: Red/Black
Championship Position: 17

Russian Mikhail comparing to the majority of the field could still be seen as a rookie, racing with the same team since 2014, and taking a gap in 2015, he has only raced in two Indy 500’s. A lacklustre season this time round, victory at the Brickyard would transform his season. Is he ready to shock everyone on raceday?

#15 Graham Rahal
Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Red
Championship Position: 13

Rahal has been racing in Indycar since its inaugural season, with solid 4th/5th finishes in the last two seasons. Graham won last year at the Texas Motor Speedway, and has come close to winning the Indy 500 on multiple occasions, in the top 5 in recent couple years, at best 3rd in 2011. Relatively young considering for the experience he has in the series, Rahal does know how to win in the Indycar series and finished in 6th at the road course. Could he continue with this momentum of the best result of the season and win for the first time?

ROW 6

#8 Max Chilton
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: British
Livery: Dark Blue/Blue/White
Championship Position: 15

Max Chilton joined the Indycar series in 2016 after being promoted from Indy Lights in his rookie season, following his departure from Marussia in Formula 1 due to their collapse. Retired Indycar legend Brit Dario Franchitti has taken Max under his wing to improve him for the season ahead. He had a very quiet rookie season with his best finish being on an oval early in the season at Phoenix. It seems that the help from Dario is improving him, except for his collision at Phoenix he has solid results. His best finish was last time out on the road course, could Max finally deliver on the big stage?

#83 Charlie Kimball
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Black/Lime Green
Championship Position: 19

Charlie is a good reliable and consistent driver, last season he had a spree of top 10 finishes in the latter half of the season. He has raced with Chip Ganassi since the beginning as a full time driver. His form on ovals looks good, finishing 8th at Phoenix this season and his last two races on the oval at Indianapolis have seen him finish in the top 5, 3rd and 5th respectively. He has won once in the series back in 2013 in Mid-Ohio, will he be able to add to this, and improve further on his streak of impressive results?

#5 James Hinchcliffe
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: Canadian
Livery: Brown/Black
Championship Position: 6

Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe is in good spirits ahead of the race, looking good prior, especially winning the second race of the season around the streets of Long Beach, the first time winning since 2015 at Louisiana. He has history at the event, in 2014 he was hit by debris, causing concussion and needing medical clearance to race again. In 2015 he suffered a suspension failure causing an enormous near fatal crash in practice, causing him to miss the rest of that season. He bounced back to secure pole last year, but can he finally taste victory after all the history James has had at the brickyard?

ROW 7

#18 Juan Pablo Montoya
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Black
Championship Position: 23

Seasoned veteran Montoya has been around a long time, now reaching 41, this could be one of the few times we see Montoya racing again. He has been around in near enough every big racing series, beginning in CART/Indycar then moving to Formula 1 to NASCAR and then back to Indycar. Montoya albeit now a part time racer, after being ousted by Penske last year may not take racing as serious as he once did. He finished 10th on his return on the road course last time out. Juan has won the Indy 500 twice now, but his most recent ended in the wall when he lost the car in the middle of the race. Can he show he still has it, and win for the third time?

#3 Helio Castroneves
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: Brazilian
Livery: Teak/White
Championship Position: 4

Helio has been racing non-stop in Indycar since 2001, and with Team Penske all the way. He is the nearly man in terms of the outright championship, runner up on 4 separate occasions over his career and never winning the title. He is only 1 of 5 drivers to manage to win the Indy 500 in consecutive years, and they were his first two attempts. Helio manged to win for a third time in 2009, 7 years after that feat in 2002. He is looking very strong, with all races this season finishing amongst the top 9 drivers, albeit it has been a while since he tasted victory. With current form, knowing how to win at the brickyard and strong rapport with his team, could we see Helio join that illustrious group of 4 time winners?

#77 Jay Howard
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Nationality: British
Livery: Blue/White
Championship Position: N/A

This is a one off for Jay, after a 6 year hiatus from the series, financed by Tony Stewart. He last three races of that year were all ovals, and has raced at Indianapolis before. Jay seems to have improved two-fold especially with his qualifying position. The closest he has come was in 2011 running up the front of the field, but then a puncture resulted him falling multiple laps behind. Can Howard try to get a full time seat for 2018 by winning this season’s race?

#24 Sage Karam
Team: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Black/Yellow
Championship Position: N/A

This is a one off for the team of Dreyer & Reinbold, and Sage Karam. The 2013 Indycar Lights champion managed to secure his seat with this time for third time in the last 4 seasons albeit taking part in the 4 recent 500’s. He has been a full time driver for one season with Chip Ganassi, but elsewhere has only done this event. The team only take part in this event since 2013 as they were unable to secure stable sponsorship. Sage hasn’t seen the glory days like his title win, and disappointingly being classified 32nd in the last two races. Can Sage return to the glory days and win?

ROW 8

#2 Josef Newgarden
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: American
Livery: Black
Championship Position: 4

Josef is entering his 6th Indy 500 and his 1st with Team Penske after making the switch from Ed Carpenter Racing last year. He has his strong and weak tracks, and he seems to enjoy the Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama, having achieved podiums in the last 3 years, and importantly winning in 2017. He has good form at Indianapolis progressively getting better, taking third last year. Josef finished 4th in last year’s standings, and third at Indy, if he keeps managing to improve could he win the race, and push on for first title too?

#1 Simon Pagenaud
Team: Team Penske
Nationality: French
Livery: Yellow
Championship Position: 1

2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud is one of modern day Indycar’s best, always pushing up front for victories, and never give up attitude. Simon does have one flaw and it seems to be his form on ovals, all wins prior to this year at Phoenix, were on street or road courses. The Frenchman as of yet has not finished outside the top 5 at all races, and looks very certain to be in the mix for his second title. He was close to winning the 2015 Indy 500, but tailed off late on due to tyres. Simon currently sits first in the standings but a lowly qualifying may hinder his chances at increasing the lead, as well as winning the Indy 500 for the first time. Could he build upon the fact he managed to win on an oval for the first time in his career this season, and win the 500 for the first time too?

#14 Carlos Munoz
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Red/White/Blue
Championship Position: 16

Carlos is a solid racing driver, and has been strong throughout the young years of his Indycar career, now settling into his 4th full season, after races here and there after his progression from Indy Lights he has always been one to keep an eye on. His Indy 500 form is really good too, in the four attempts he has finished runner up on two occasions, once being last year. Current season form has lacked, and currently not living up to expectations after his move from Andretti Motorsport which he raced for last 3 seasons. He has come so close to winning the Indy 500, can he manage to finally go one better this time?

ROW 9

#88 Gabby Chaves
Team: Harding Racing
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: White/Light Blue
Championship Position: N/A

Gabby is entering his first event, of the three that himself and Harding Racing have decided to enter this year, from the selection of races it seems that they are solely interested in the thrill of ovals, with Indianapolis, Texas and Pocono being the races. The team see this as a taster for maybe a full term season in 2018. Gabby has raced at Indianapolis previous, in the last two years, finishing in the midfield. With Harding Racing possibly looking for a full time driver for next season, what better way could Gabby put himself forward by winning the Indy 500?

#4 Conor Daly
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: American
Livery: Red/White/Blue
Championship Position: 16

Conor is in his second full time seat in the Indycar series, after moving around from the GP3/GP2 series, it seems he has finally found a footing and a base where he can settle and improve. His Dad, Derek, was a previous Indy/F1 driver, so racing is in his blood. He had some great races last year, finishing on the podium for the first time at Detroit, the race after the Indy 500. This will be his fourth Indy 500, and as of yet from previous results his season has really yet to start, could this a be the turning point? His form at the event isn’t very good, but things can change, does Daly’s season start here?

#50 Jack Harvey (R)
Team: Michael Shank Racing (Andretti Motorsport)
Nationality: British
Livery: Black/Yellow/Pink
Championship Position: N/A

Jack is entering his not only first Indy 500, but his first ever Indycar race. He has been racing in America for the last few years, in 2014 & 2015 in the Indy Lights support series he classified second in both final standings. For the team that Jack is representing, it is also a first time they are taking part in the event, they were looking back in 2013, but nothing was finalised in time. The British driver won at his last visit to Indianapolis in the Indy Lights in 2015, yet to perform on the big stage, could he pull one of the shocks of all time and win his first ever race, being his first Indy 500?

ROW 10

#63 Pippa Mann
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: British
Livery: White/Pink
Championship Position: N/A

Pippa is the sole woman driver in this year’s running of the Indy 500, she has taken part in 5 of the last 6 races, finishing in 4 of them. This is her sole chance to shine in 2017 as she isn’t expected to take part in any other events in the series this year. Pippa has tasted victory on an oval in America in the Indy Lights series at Kentucky, so knows how to win. As of yet there has never been a female winner, could Pippa become the first ever woman to win the race?

#11 Spencer Pigot
Team: Juncos Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: Green/White
Championship Position: 21

Spencer races for owner/driver Ed Carpenter, and as owner Ed has decided he wishes to race in the Indy 500. Spencer therefore lost his seat. This would be Spencer’s only second time entering the race, his 2016 participation didn’t end well, finishing considerable amount of laps down due to running out of fuel during a caution. Spencer has taken part in the event, and experienced the sheer speed of the cars around the brickyard. He is known as a road course driver, could he put his argument across a full season drive with a win?

#44 Buddy Lazier
Team: Lazier Partner Racing
Nationality: American
Livery: White
Championship Position: N/A

Buddy at the tender age of 49 is entering his 20th Indy 500, and it is once more like the previous 5 attempts the only race he will take part in within the series. He has won the Indy 500 in the past, the 1996 race, it was his first of many race wins in the Indycar series. Buddy won the series in the year 2000. At the age of 49 if he were to win the event, he would break the record of the eldest driver to win the event, eclipsing the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Al winning at age 47. Could Buddy break those records and win for the second time?

ROW 11

#17 Sebastian Saavedra
Team: Juncos Racing
Nationality: Colombian
Livery: Green/White
Championship Position: N/A

The second entrant for the race for the Juncos Racing team, Sebastian like the team is running in his only event of the 2017 season. He has raced at Indianapolis before on many an occasion. He has raced in 2 full seasons in Indycar, with a best finish of 8th, his last outing at Indy in 2015 ended with an accident that saw him being taken by ambulance to the medical facility on track. The crash resulted in him being unable to exit the car under on his own steam, and needing assistance to do so. Sebastian has raced at Indianapolis before and finished the race, experienced the lows of crashing out, but could he experience the high of winning it for the first time? It may get team bosses looking at him for a full race seat for 2018?

#40 Zach Veach (R)
Team: AJ Foyt Enterprises
Nationality: American
Livery: White/Purple
Championship Position: 24

Zach has had experience in Indycar once so far in his career, and that was at Alabama road course earlier on the season, replacing the injured Hildebrand. He has raced at Indianapolis before in the support series Indy Lights, but this is his rookie season. He is slowly coming to grips with the extreme changes between the two series. He finished 19th at Alabama, and his three races in Indy Lights at Indianapolis he finished solidly in the top 10. Albeit last qualified, anything is possible, could Zach win for AJ Foyt?

#18 James Davison
Team: Dale Coyne Racing
Nationality: Australian
Livery: White/Red
Championship Position: N/A

James is replacing the injured Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who suffered a frightening crash during qualifying, which left him needing surgery after a 220mph impact. James is rumoured to keep Sebastian’s seat until the end of the season. He has raced in the Indy 500 on two previous occasions, albeit no higher than 16th finish. Could James win, make the most of what a great opportunity he has been given? If he does though, you have to feel for Bourdais, he looked untouchable in qualifying.

I do hope these little insights do help everyone in terms of a bit of background information on each driver, and highlights of some of the previous Indy 500s. As a whole we have a few rookies, various winners and some true Indycar legends in the field for the 101st running of the Indy 500. What is needed is pure commitment, speed and a pinch of luck to win at the brickyard, will it be someone new? or will it be someone adding to their name to select few of winning in multiple times. We shall see, but I for one am thoroughly looking forward to the race.

Chris Lord
Image courtesy of Eric Barnes

Why Alonso racing in Indy is great for everyone

courtesy of McLaren Honda F1

Why Alonso racing in Indy is great for everyone

If you are anything like me, or us, then you can’t help but be thrilled to watch a solitary car, running lap after lap, on the least interesting track circuit you could ever design. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a step up from a straight drag strip, but not a scratch on the Senna S or the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel series.
This weekend Fernando Alonso will be swapping the streets of Monaco for the oval of the Indy 500. It’s a move which has got people talking and tuning in. The move is a smart on from McLaren, Alonso and Zac Brown. Yes, Alonso is missing the biggest publicity and marketing race of the year, but there are so many positives to come out of it.

1) Over two million fans tuned into watch Alonso going around the Indy circuit. He was by himself. Lap after lap, all on his lonesome. Just one car on the whole circuit. Yet two million people chose to give up their time. To find the website or channel which was showing the practice session. Then to watch with intermittent commentary and long delays between action. The fans brought into the whole idea from the moment it was announced.

2) The difference in Alonso is obvious for absolutely everyone to see. He must have been getting bored of answering the same old engine questions after every trip to the track. How many different ways can you try and put a positive spin on having the worst engine on the grid by a large chunk. Then how do you put a positive spin on not even making it to the lights to start a race. But every word out of Alonso’s mouth is now positive and you can see the rejuvenation of the man right in front of our eyes. He should return to the F1 grid with a new spring in his step.

3) There has been a swell of positive press towards McLaren because of the Indy angle. If you have a look through all of the racing sites and magazines, there isn’t enough space to put the negative stories about McLaren or Honda. Every inch is filled with the orange decals of Alonso’s Indy car. The retro scheme has been warmly welcomed by everyone from the professional drivers, the press and the fans. People are talking about McLaren in a positive light again.

4) McLaren’s recent upturn in positive publicity might be the key to them finally getting a few more high profile sponsors. Dare we even dream of them finding a new title sponsor, just like Ron promised all those years ago. Honda, Jonny Walker, Chandon, Hilton Hotels and SAP have all been given this little extra push and are going to be reaping the rewards of the extra publicity and screen time. There is even a great article in Forbes exactly on this theme. A title sponsor or even just a major new sponsor could be the key push that McLaren and Honda need to break into the points sooner.

5) We get to see Jenson Button racing again. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge Jenson Button fan, the man is one of the best respected people in the paddock and has always been jovial on camera and at public events. It just seems like he is a genuinely nice man. A British World Champion, driving for a British F1 team is always going to get the British fans behind him, then team that up with his public persona and there was only one man to support for those years. His last race at the end of the 2016 season was met with the feeling that we didn’t know if we would see him race again or not.

6) Motorsport has been making front page news, it’s made Radio 1 news beat and non-racing people are talking about it. The publicity generated from one man, doing one race, all the way over there in America, has been huge. The more column inches and time spent during the news talking about motorsport is only going to be good for the sport. We’ve just had the tragic news of Nicky Hayden, and it’s a shock to the system, but the best way to bounce back and to recover is to look at the positives. Alonso in Indy is a huge positive for every aspect of motorsport.

7) Alonso has a chance to show how great a driver he is again. How and why is a two-time world champion, struggling to drive the paint of a car which is barely worthy of even being on the grid. McLaren have actually produced a very competitive car, their pit-crew can now change an engine wearing blindfolds and oven gloves, but nothing makes up for a power unit which is seriously lacking power. Now for one weekend only he has been given a competitive car and surprise, surprise he is the top rookie. He’s qualified in fifth in his first every oval race and has barely put a foot wrong. He’s grazed the walls in turn two a few times, but he’d be doing the same in Monaco this weekend. It’s called pushing the boundaries. We’ve yet to see what will happen over the weekend, but getting the car home will be a success in our book.

8) It has completely taken the pressure off of Honda for a few weeks. No-one has even mentioned Honda’s lack of engine power as the attention has been taken off of their F1 woes and transferred over to the Indy success. Hopefully, they have been able to use this time to produce a highly competitive engine which can return McLaren to the points at the very least. Honda have spent the last few years getting a shoe-in from the press due to their lacklustre engine, but these weeks have been a turn-up in fortune and press for them.

9) Ron Dennis was a great figure head for McLaren, from the moment he came in from Project 4 and took them to multiple world champions, he was amazing. He was the right leader at the right time and he steered the ship in an amazingly successful way. But the time came for him to move on and the new bosses are remarkedly different to the old guard. Would Ron have let Alonso miss Monaco? Would Ron have allowed him to run in a car which wasn’t simply called a McLaren. Zac Brown has ushered in many changes at McLaren and a lot of little differences have been noticed from the outside. From as simple as employees posting photos of their offices and the MTC on social media, right up to Fernando’s American trip.

10) The best thing to come out of Fernando racing in the Indy 500 is the extra time we get to sit watching racing this weekend. We can pretty much go from Saturday morning at 8:45 until well into Sunday night. The more racing we can watch on a weekend, the better.

Whilst Alonso racing in the Indy 500 might just seem like a driver trying his hand at another race, but the positive merits are being felt far further afield than just inside Alonso’s cockpit. However it ends on Sunday night, it’s been a success if he can return to McLaren and race for some points in Canada.

Andy Robinson

 

Why Alonso Has To Win The 500

(c) formula1.de

 

Is it the desire of McLaren to win their first Indy 500 since 1976 (Johnny Rutherford) or the desire of Fernando Alonso to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’? That is the question of many questions.

There are two current drivers who can achieve the Triple Crown. The only person to grab hold of this elusive title is Graham Hill.

That fact is quite historic.

The ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ to those who know better includes the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, not the F1 World Championship. There is a thought that it is the F1 World Championship instead of the Monaco Grand Prix, but that is just a modern way of thinking (in the eyes of this writer and many other motor racing fans).

Base the theory on the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans and this year two drivers go head-to-head as the only two people in the world who can achieve this feat.

Fernando Alonso and Juan Pablo Montoya.

The only man to complete the Triple Crown (in real terms) is Graham Hill.

Alonso has won the F1 Monaco Grand Prix in 2006 and 2007. Montoya has won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003 and the Indy 500 in 2000. Montoya has one more race to complete the set, whereas Alonso has the Indy and Le Mans.

Now, we all know Alonso wants to race Le Mans, we also know that Montoya is gearing himself up for Le Mans and this, aside from any racing fan-ship, poses a fantastic option.

Which of these two, if any of them, will grab it?

McLaren in association with Andretti Motorsport have recently announced their inclusion for the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso. That, in itself, should raise some interest in the motor racing family. Some may look back and comment and think it slightly strange.

Take stock for one moment what I said before, there is only one other driver in the history of motorsport who has completed this task, Graham Hill. Now wonder at the thought that there are two drivers who could do this, now in our modern time right in front of our eyes.

McLaren, as a team, last entered the Indy 500 in 1979, their last win was 1976 when Johnny Rutherford won, having won in 1974 and the team finishing second in 1975. A great era.

But what of now?

McLaren in Formula One aren’t doing so well, they want to do better as do their fans, but they aren’t.

Is this some kind of PR stunt? Maybe.

Is it a platform for Fernando Alonso to complete the near impossible at the end of his career? I think it might be.

It is not a hidden fact that Alonso is not the happiest bunny in the world when it comes to the Formula One World Championship, but can McLaren be competitive at the Indy 500?

Can McLaren be competitive at the Indy 500 when they can’t compete at the top in Formula One? Different series, different regulations and different rules.

If Alonso is, and it is strange to say this about the double world champion, as a rookie could win the Indy 500, he would then be on par with Juan Pablo Montoya.

The records:

Juan Pablo Montoya won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2003, he also won the Indy 500 in 2000. He has won two of the Triple Crowns.

Fernando Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice in 2006 and 2007 but is yet to win an Indy 500 and like Montoya, a Le Mans.

They are both yet to win the toughest race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Both men want to race Le Mans but only Montoya is in a place at this time to achieve this. Are McLaren putting all their eggs in one basket and putting Alonso out there?

It is no secret that Zak Brown loves Le Mans and the Indy 500 and if Honda in Formula One are not delivering and their ageing, experienced and still talented driver in Alonso is delivering then why not look at another series or race? To see a McLaren team at the Indy 500 is an amazing sight and, if they intimate, to see them at Le Mans would be fantastic.

Zak Brown loves his Formula One history, he is American, he has pedigree in sportscar racing and he likes to make a difference. Based on this information it is not beyond the impossible that Fernando Alonso winning the Indy 500 and then competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That is not fantasy, that is fact.

I put Juan Pablo Montoya into the equation. He has two of the titles and is readily experienced to win the third, the toughest and the hardest to get. The 24 Hours. He is testing cars for this.

Make no mistake, it does not matter whether you are an IndyCar groupie, a WEC fan, a Le Mans veteran, a Formula One addict or a racing fan in general. The battle in mainstream racing is not F1 and Ferrari vs Mercedes or Vettel vs Hamilton, this year or next it is whether the Triple Crown can be equalled and there are only two drivers who can currently achieve this. But who and when? That are the questions.

Montoya and Alonso.

So…..when it comes to the 500 this year, it just got a little more interesting for Alonso and McLaren and for Montoya….well, we all know that pout and that bravado of the man that is Montoya and he will think, ‘All I need to do is win Le Mans”. Alonso will readily accept the 500 challenge and look ahead.

Are McLaren going for the Triple Crown or will Montoya beat them to it?

It won’t be answered this year, but it does pose many other questions, among those, are McLaren moving over to sportscars again?

That is for another article.

For now, where would your money go, Montoya or Alonso?

But what if Alonso won the 500 this year, one of the most difficult races to win? What then?

If Alonso and McLaren win the 500 then it is just Le Mans to win and then THAT is driver vs driver…..Alonso vs Montoya…..Manufacturer vs Manufacturer and a sponsors absolute dream.

McLaren fans will obviously be willing Alonso on, IndyCar and NASCAR fans will be courting Montoya, but proper racing fans and neutrals will be hoping Alonso wins the 500.

Why?

Because if Alonso wins the Indy 500 then the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans just got a whole lot more interesting and the only other drive aside Montoya and apart from Graham Hill, would be in contention to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport.

Whether you are a Formula One, IndyCar or Le Mans fan I can only offer one piece of advice. Grab your favourite beverage and snack…sit back and watch. You may well watch history in the making. You may not, but you never know.

Alonso vs Montoya. Pick your seat.

And on that…..I will see you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

WSBK Australia Preview: And The Lights Go Green

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The first round of the 2017 World Superbike season is coming from Australia and the Phillip Island circuit, located around 850km away from the capital, Canberra. Three of the top ten closest finishes in the history of WSBK have come from the Australian track, including the most recent one, in race 2 in 2015, when Leon Haslam won from Jonathan Rea. With a series of changes coming in both the series and within the teams, 2017 has all the credentials to be yet another vintage season.

The preseason favourites are without doubt Kawasaki and more-so Jonathan Rea, the reigning double champion. Aiming to become the first ever rider to win three championships on the bounce, the Ulsterman has won at least one race at the track since he joined the Kawasaki Racing Team back in 2015. Rea hasn’t won since the second race at the Lausitzring last season, and if Chaz Davies’ form is anything to go by, then it might not be all in the recently-turned-30-year-old’s favour.

His teammate, Tom Sykes, set a new pole record at Phillip Island last year but came away with nothing better than a 5th and 6th place after the races. Phillip Island is one of only a handful of the current circuits that Sykes hasn’t won at and he will be looking to put an end to that statistic. Having not been on the podium at the track since 2014, he will want a return to form, as he needs to bag points early on to have a real chance of beating Rea. Can the Huddersfielder do it? Only time will tell.

Chaz Davies has been in the top three for the past two seasons, and comes into 2017 as the rider in form. Seven wins from the last eight races in 2016, the Aruba.IT Ducati Team have got every faith in the Welshman to deliver the number one plate direct to Italy. 30-year-old Davies won more races than anyone else last season, but inconsistency – crashes at Phillip Island, Donington Park and Laguna Seca most notably – lead to the bronze medal position in 2016. Having set the fastest lap in at least one race at Phillip Island since 2014, he will be looking to convert one lap speed for consistent race pace, to take his first victory at the track.

Marco Melandri has won at Phillip Island, back in 2006 in MotoGP on the Fortuna Honda. The Italian has been on the podium every season in WSBK at the track since joining the series back in 2011 and has potential to become the first Italian pole-sitter in the history of WSBK at Phillip Island. The last Italian winner was Max Biaggi in 2012 and Melandri will be hoping to rewrite that record. Ducati will also be looking for success, having not taken a victory at the Australian venue since 2012 with Carlos Checa. Melandri could become one of a select group of riders to win on four makes of bike if he manages a victory at some point this season. Keep your eyes on the #33.

Honda are sporting a new look in 2017, revamped with their new bike and with their striking appearance – fashioning a Red Bull livery – it could be love at first sight for their riders. Nicky Hayden took the old Honda Fireblade to its first victory since Portugal 2014 last season at Sepang, on his way to securing a solid 5th place in the championship. The American will be looking to add to that tally, as he begins his 2nd full season in the WSBK category after leaving MotoGP in 2015. Hayden’s best result at Phillip Island was a 4th place in race 2, although this year, the Kentucky Kid will hope for a taste of the champagne.

Joined by fellow former MotoGP star, Stefan Bradl will partner Hayden at Red Bull Honda. The 2011 Moto2 champion begins his career in WSBK at Phillip Island, a circuit he has never won at although he took 2nd in his Moto2 championship season. The German has adapted quickly during in testing for the series but expects to be playing catch up with the new Honda until Aragon in April. On his journey this year, the son of former GP winner Helmut Bradl, will be encountering new circuits such as the Chang International Circuit, Imola, Portimao, the Lausitzring and Magny Cours. Can the German be a threat?

As well as the top three manufacturers from last year, teams such as Althea BMW and Milwaukee Aprilia will be searching for victories throughout the campaign, with former GP stars such as Jordi Torres and Eugene Laverty in the mix for both teams respectively. Alongside them are Markus Reiterberger (BMW) and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) – neither of which have scored their first WSBK podium.

The Pata Yamaha Team operated by Paul Denning of Crescent Racing retain Alex Lowes for a fourth straight season and introduce Dutchman Michael Van Der Mark into the fray, as Sylvain Guintoli heads back to BSB. Leon Camier stays on the MV Agusta for another season, hoping to also achieve the team’s first ever podium. He achieved a great 7th place at Phillip Island last season, wanting to do better this year no doubt.

Other riders such as Xavi Fores, who was quickest in testing Down Under, make up the grid. Alex De Angelis switches to the oldest team in the paddock at Team Pedercini Kawasaki, with Ondrej Jezek and Ayrton Badovini joining the Grillini Kawasaki outfit. Roman Ramos remains in the GoEleven Kawasaki team, the Spaniard being the only full time rider last year to finish every race he took part in. Leandro Mercado represents the whole of South America, as the Argentine teams up with Ioda Racing who in turn become a one-man outfit for this season. The grid is rounded out with Italy’s Ricardo Russo on the Guandolini Yamaha, as the team return to the championship, and by former GP star and World Supersport race winner at Phillip Island in 2016, Randy Krummenacher, who steps up to the World Superbike class with World Supersport champions from last year, Pucetti Racing.

21 riders, 13 rounds, 11 countries and over 40 international and national titles between them, it’s hard not to see competition levels on show this year. With new sponsors, new teams, returning riders and tracks, not to mention new, longer-lasting qualifying tyres and the race 2 grid system, World Superbikes is set to have a renaissance in 2017. After the conclusion of the first weekend, we will have a rough idea of who is hot and who most certainly is not, as well as knowing how good the new system for race 2 grid positions will be. The only absentee from proceedings this weekend is Leandro Mercado, who nurses an injury following a testing incident – the team opting not to replace him.

You can follow the season with us this year, with every round covered to the highest standard. Follow us online for exclusive interviews and polls, as well as competitions and live updates from events – our handle is @PitCrew_Online. You can follow me too, for all things bikes, whether it be WSBK, BSB, MotoGP, CEV or the Shell Asia Talent Cup! @MotoGPKiko is where to find me!
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko

A modern look for a classic track

Every racer has their favorite track, as does every fan—and indeed every journalist. Mine would be Phoenix. Phoenix International Raceway, otherwise known as PIR, is one of the most fun tracks NASCAR visits. Nestled into the foothills of the vast Arizona desert, the one mile oval produces some of the best racing the series has to offer.

Phoenix is a classic track. It hosts IndyCar, NASCAR, the sprints and midgets for the Copper Classic, along with a number of other series and races. The greats—Foyt, Andretti, Earnhardt—have charged down its low banks and battled against its walls. In the early days of the track Native Americans would watch the race sat on horseback in the surrounding hills, and you had to be careful walking in the infield because it was filled with rattlesnakes. It was a track with character, charm, and just a touch of the Wild West. There was no lifting at PIR—it was flat out racing, and it was incredible.

In recent years, the track had undergone scrutiny. The death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon brought mutterings of an out-dated track that were heard within several series’. However, the track continued to hold two NASCAR events annually and remained a fan favorite. Still it was a surprise when officials announced that the historic Speedway was going to undergo a major facelift—one that would carry the track into the future.

Included in the renovations will be a revamping of the infield that will include a fan zone and hospitality area. Seating will also be improved, including a new pedestrian tunnel, to give fans a more complete experience and the ability to see most all of the race from the infield or their seats. The plans also held what the officials referred to as “Canyons” which consist of elevators and escalators to increase the fan experience by giving them additional access to restroom facilities and the new expanded concessions located in a newly created midway area.

In addition, the start finish line will be moved to what is currently Turn 2 to accommodate the changes that are coming. The entire structure is going to get a make over, with increased safety features for drivers, teams, and fans.

Phoenix is one of those classic tracks. It has helped shaped the history of not only NASCAR, but IndyCar and other series’ as well. Andretti’s last win; dodging rattlesnakes in the infield while waiting for the Copper Classic to start; watching the entire field of stock cars wrap around the perfect oval—it has memories for me, and for many race fans, that comprise some of the fondest moments of our lives and helped fan the flames of our passion for racing.

To some it will be hard to see the classic track change, especially the moving of the start finish line—there is always something about that changing that particular aspect of a track that is unsettling. It is important we hang onto those memories and enjoy them, without forgetting that time marches on, and racing is always evolving. The renovations of PIR are moving it into the future—they are modernizing a classic—and in so doing preserving the past while embracing the future.

Tonia Attard

Anybody got a calculator? Who can still win the IndyCar title?

The Verizon IndyCar season finale takes place this Sunday at the GoPro GP of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in the wine country of northern California.

Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud has nearly an insurmountable lead over his teammate Will Power who is 43 points behind the Frenchman that has had the lead in the Championship battle for nearly the entire season.

It is not a total lost cause though as was the case last season, the final race pays double points. Last year that fact allowed Scott Dixon to catch Juan Pablo Montoya in points and snatch the title away from him as JPM tried desperately to pick up one more spot on the track to hang on to the points lead. Much like Pagenaud this year, JPM lead all of last season right up until the final checkered flag flew.

The scenarios are this:

If Pagenaud finishes ahead of power, it’s over. There’s nothing Power can do even if he grabs all of the available bonus points. Bonus points work like this:

  • 1 point for winning the pole
  • 1 point for leading a lap
  • 2 points for leading the most laps
  • 4 total bonus points available, max

Now if Power wins the race and collects the double points for the win, that would give him 50×2 or 100. If he grabbed all 4 available bonus points, that 104 points would put him up on Pagenaud by 61 points, forcing Simon to finish P4 or higher to hold on to his title. P4 in a double points race is worth 64 points so Pagenaud would win by 3 points.

P5 in a double points race is worth 60 points, so if Power wins, gets his 4 bonus points, but Pagenaud also picks up a bonus point by leading a lap and finishes P5, they finish tied on 616 points and Will Power would be the Champion by virtue of his 5 race wins to Pagenaud’s 4.

Bonus points could be big, but if Pagenaud finishes P4 or higher, he’s the new Champ even if Power gets them all and Simon gets none.

Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves are both 104 points behind Pagenaud tied for 3rd, but even if either of them were to win, collect all 4 bonus points, and Pagenaud DOES NOT DRIVE IN THE RACE, they would still only be tied in points and would not win the title because Pagenaud has won more races.

Got it?

Good. There will be a test later…

Image courtesy of indycar.com

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Dixon Dominates at WGI

The Verizon IndyCar series returned to the iconic Watkins Glen International Raceway for the first time in 6 years this past Sunday.

With the IndyCar GP at the Glen being the penultimate round of the IndyCar championship battle, there was much at stake.

Simon Pagenaud’s season long points lead was down to 28 over Penske Racing teammate Will Power despite Power missing the first race of the season with what was determined to be an inner ear problem. Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter-Reay were still looking for their first win of the season. Josef Newgarden, the series’ biggest free agent was still looking to show he deserved a top ride next year.

The lightning fast repaved Watkins Glen was the perfect setting for a championship showdown.

And then Scott Dixon rolled his #9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevy powered Dallara off the truck and on to the track. It quickly became obvious the race would be for second place.

Dixon was fastest in every practice session, cruised (albeit with a little excitement) into the Firestone Fast 6 then blistered the track with the fastest lap ever at WGI and the second fastest road course lap in the history of IndyCar on his way to the pole.

Will Power was just a tick slower for a P2 starting spot, just missing out on a valuable championship point but still 5 spots in front of championship leader Pagenaud.

At the drop of the green flag, Dixon was gone. Power slid into P2 and Pagenuad, with an exceptionally bold move into turn one, snatched away P3. Dixon would go on to lead 50 of the 60 lap race, but the end was not without some drama.

Power’s championship hopes took a hit (as did Power himself) when he and Charlie Kimball got together coming out of the esses, pushing Power hard into the outside armco barrier and destroying his race car. Power was initially not cleared to drive fearing a concussion but has since been cleared to resume driving by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar medical director, after the Team Penske driver successfully passed concussion testing protocol today.

Power’s crash set up a round of pit stops that allowed everyone to pack their fuel tanks full and get 4 new tires.

The green flag came out with 18 laps remaining, the exact number that had been determined to be the maximum anyone could stretch a fuel run.

Well, mere mortals anyway. A group that does not include Scott Dixon.

Dixon has almost a miraculous ability to save fuel while turning faster laps than anyone else. And when the green came out, he resumed his position at the front of the field and as his competitors dialed back their boost and coasted and clutched and STILL needed fuel, Dixon, out for a Sunday drive through upstate New York, won easily.

Josef Newgarden nursed his car home to the second step on the podium, and Helio Castroneves took P3 by driving as hard as he could and stopping for but 2 seconds of fuel.

It was heartbreak for the second week in a row for James Hinchcliffe as his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda coasted to a stop on the backstretch, out of fuel. Hinch lost in Texas last week to Graham Rahal by 0.008 seconds on a last lap, last corner pass.

Pagenuad didn’t take as much advantage of Power’s crash as he could have but still managed a seventh place finish, building his points lead to 43 heading into the double points, season finale in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway in northern California’s Napa Valley.

Click here to see the full run down.

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

…To be continued

11 weeks ago on June 11 the Verizon IndyCar series had just wrapped up a double-header in Detroit and was looking to the high banks and high speeds of Texas Motor Speedway and the Firestone 600.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

First rain delayed the scheduled Saturday night race to a Sunday afternoon start.

71 laps into the 248 lap race, it became a washout.

With the field behind the pace car after a huge crash involving Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, the skies opened and the race was postponed until this Saturday night.

It marked the first time since Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2011 that an IndyCar race started on one day and would be completed on another. That one wasn’t quite 3 months!

James Hinchcliffe was leading the race when the red flag came out.

The cars will restart the race in Saturday nbight in the same order in which they were scored at the completion of Lap 71. The big deal in all of this is that Josef Newgarden, currently 3rd in the IndyCar Series points battle, and fastest car on the circuit when he crashed, will not be involved since he was taken out of the race prior to the red flag in the horrifying crash with Daly.

Feelings on the topic were mixed. Many drivers wanted to just restart the race from the green flag and run the full 248 laps. This would have allowed both Newgarden and Daly to compete. But with Newgarden being so strong in June and last week at Pocono and dominating the short oval at Iowa, the other key players in the title chase, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Helio Castroneves, as well as Scott Dixon from Target Chip Ganassi Racing may end up thankful that IndyCar officials decided to pickup where they left off.

Not to mention The Mayor of Hinchtown, who will start as the leader.

Regardless we know that the remaining 177 will be action packed. TMS is a great track for IndyCar always producing wheel to wheel racing at 215+MPH.

The schedule will be incredibly condensed on Saturday with the cars hitting the track for their only warmup from 5:30 to 6:00PM CDT (10:30 – 11:00PM GMT) and the race resuming at 9:15PM CDT (2:15AM GMT)

The race most likely will have a major impact on the points battle. Simon Pagenuad’s crash combined with Will Power’s win at Pocono last week tightened the battle between P1 and and P2 to but 20 points.

Power will restart in P4 while Pagenaud is down in P15. Here is how the field will line up for the restart:

  1. James Hinchcliffe
  2. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  3. Mikhail Aleshin
  4. Will Power
  5. Ed Carpenter
  6. Gabby Chaves
  7. Helio Castroneves
  8. Charlie Kimball
  9. Carlos Munoz
  10. Juan Pablo Montoya
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Graham Rahal
  13. Alexander Rossi
  14. Scott Dixon
  15. Simon Pagenaud
  16. Tony Kanaan
  17. Takuma Sato
  18. Marco Andretti
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Jack Hawksworth
  21. Conor Daly
  22. Josef Newgarden

On thing for sure…it’s gonna be fun!

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442