Rolex 24 Prep Begins at Roar Before the 24

Preparations begin today for next week’s 60th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at the Roar Before the 24, a practice and qualifying weekend before next Saturday’s 24 hour race. The biggest field since 2014, 61 cars have entered the event. Nine Indycar drivers, most in the top DPi category, will take part.

Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, and Marcus Ericsson will drive for Ganassi. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves will also drive for their Indycar team, Meyer Shank. Jimmie Johnson will drive for the Ally team, and Alexander Rossi returns to Wayne Taylor Racing.

Pato O’Ward runs in the LMP2 class, and Kyle Kirkwood will drive a Lexus for Vasser Sullivan in GTD Pro.

This preliminary weekend began as a practice weekend in early January. It has turned into an event. A few years ago, qualifying for for garage spots was added to the program. This year the qualifying is for Sunday’s 100 minute race to set the starting lineup for the 24 hours.

The weekend will also see the return of Robert Wickens to a competitive driving situation. Wickens was paralyzed in a 2018 accident at Pocono. His road to recovery, which he has sharded through social media, continues to be inspiring. Wickens will drive the number 33 Hyundai Elantra in the TCR class in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series for Bryan Herta Autosport. Their first practice is at 9:45 EST today.

Nice to see Robert Wickens in a driving suit again. Teammate Mark Wilkins on the left.

The weekend IMSA Weather Tech schedule:

Sunday’s qualifying race will be streamed on Peacock. Check back for updates throughout the weekend.

Tatiana Calderon Joins Indycar with Foyt, ROKiT

Does A. J. know how to celebrate a birthday or what?

A. J. Foyt Racing announced this morning Tatiana Calderon will drive car 11 in road and street events with ROKiT sponsorship. This has been brewing since Calderon tested for the team at Mid Ohio last July. According to the announcement, the car will be full time, and Foyt is looking for a driver for the ovals. Kyle Kirkwood will also be in a ROKiT car.

The press release from Foyt:

ROKiT Group Expands Its Program with AJ Foyt Racing; Tatiana Calderón Hired for 2022

INDIANAPOLIS (January 17, 2022) — ROKiT Group is expanding their marketing partnership with AJ Foyt Racing for 2022 as the team will enter two ROKiT-branded Chevrolets in the NTT INDYCAR Series with Tatiana Calderón hired to drive the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet.

The agreement expands AJ Foyt Racing to a three-car team with the previously announced Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet and veteran Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.

A.J. Foyt, who turned 87 yesterday, will be experiencing another first in his iconic career which spans eight decades. Calderón becomes the first female driver to compete for the legendary Texan. The 28-year-old Colombian native is set to drive the street and road courses. No driver has been signed for the oval tracks to date.

“I’m thrilled and very thankful to Jonathan Kendrick, ROKiT and AJ Foyt Racing for the opportunity to race in the NTT INDYCAR Series!” exclaimed Calderón. “Ever since I started my single seater career in the United States eleven years ago, INDYCAR has been a reference for me and it’s a dream come true to be on the grid this year! I can’t wait to get to St. Petersburg for the first race of the season! I’m well aware of the challenge ahead, but this is the chance of a lifetime and I’m keen on making the most of it.”

Entrepreneur Kendrick, the Co-founder and Chairman of the ROKiT Group of Companies, has supported Calderón’s career since 2020 when she competed in the World Endurance Championship and Super Formula Japan.

“One of our fundamental principles in the overall marketing of the ROKiT brand worldwide is our support and promotion of women in motorsport and, as part of that principle, we’ve supported Tatiana for a long time now,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick listens as Foyt answers a question at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

“We recognized her talent and charisma early on,” he continued, “which we’ve seen grow and develop, so we’re very excited to be expanding our partnership with Larry and the AJ Foyt Racing Team by having Tatiana drive the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet alongside Kyle Kirkwood in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet this season. We know Tatiana is already a role model to many young female drivers around the world and we think the huge exposure of the NTT INDYCAR Series will serve only to increase her reach even further to become an inspiration to many more women to get involved in motorsports.”

Calderón spent the last two seasons competing in Super Formula in Japan for Threebond Drago Corse and for Richard Mille Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. She has been a test driver for the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team for the past four years. Her extensive resume includes stints in Formula 2, Renault Series Formula V8 3.5 where she was the first female on the podium in Bahrein in 2017, GP3, European Formula 3, and the British Formula 3 Series, where she was the first female to score a podium.

Calderon testing at Mid-Ohio in July.

Born in Bogota, Colombia and currently living in Madrid, Calderón tested the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio last July which prompted talks of competing for the team in 2022.

Those talks resulted in Team President Larry Foyt signing an extension and expansion of the ROKiT sponsorship along with the hire of Calderón who impressed Foyt.

Foyt said, “I’m thrilled with the continuation and expansion of the ROKiT AJ Foyt Racing Team. We welcome Tatiana Calderón in car number 11 joining Kyle Kirkwood in car 14, both in the very cool ROKiT liveries. Tatiana showed a lot of potential in her test at Mid-Ohio. With Dalton Kellett in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet, I think our three-car team is in for an exciting season.”

Calderón will test with Kirkwood in Sebring, Fla. this week. Kellett is planning to attend in an advisory role.

Calderón and Kirkwood, the 2021 Indy Lights Series champion, will make their INDYCAR Series debut in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on February 27th which will be broadcast on NBC starting at 12 noon ET. Kirkwood and Kellett will compete in all of the races while Calderón will run in 12 of the 17 races on the schedule.

About ROKiT ROKiT Group is a next-generation global media company engaged in multiple aspects of content production and distribution, including movies, television, sports, music, drinks, and mobile entertainment. ROKiT leverages each of these business units, independently and together, to create content across all mediums, giving consumers what they want, when they want it on their mobile phones.

Wickens Races Again

It has been a long, torturous path for Robert Wickens since that awful July day at Pocono in 2018. He will be back in a race car in two weeks at Daytona, driving a Hyundai Elantra for Bryan Herta Autosport in the Michelin Pilot Challenge Series. The race on January 28 is a preliminary event to the Rolex 24.

It isn’t Indycar, but it is thrilling that Wickens will be back ina race car competing again.

Announcements from the team are below.

The announcement from BHA:

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 14, 2022 – Three-time International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Michelin Pilot Challenge (IMPC) Champions, Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) and Hyundai Motor North America, announced they have signed international racing star, Robert Wickens to co-drive the #33 Elantra N TCR racecar. Wickens will drive with fellow Canadian champion Mark Wilkins in the 2022 IMPC.

“Today is a monumental day for us as a team and as fans of Robert Wickens,” said Bryan Herta, president of BHA. “We have followed along with Robert’s rehabilitation and marveled at his determination and dedication, along with his many, many fans. To now announce that he will be making his professional motorsports return in one of our Hyundai Elantra N TCR cars is truly incredible. We thank Hyundai for their amazing support and helping us build a path for Robert to get back to where he belongs.”

In May of 2021, Wickens successfully evaluated the BHA #54 Hyundai Veloster N TCR using hand controls. It was his first time driving a race car after 989 days of rehabilitation following an IndyCar accident that left him paralyzed in 2018. Wickens will return to competition, taking the green flag at the IMPC season opener, a four-hour endurance race commencing the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 28.

“I’ve spent a lot of nights thinking and dreaming of this moment, and with the support from Bryan Herta and Hyundai it is all becoming a reality,” said Wickens. “I am hungrier now than I was before my accident to compete for wins again! I’m really looking forward to incorporating myself with the entire Bryan Herta Autosport team and finally get my first taste of the Hyundai Elantra N TCR.”

Wickens, a former Formula One test driver, took the American IndyCar scene by storm as a rookie in 2018. He won the pole position and led all but two laps in his first IndyCar race, went on to score four podium finishes and earned the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honor, all in his first 12 IndyCar races in 2018. Race number 13 of his stellar rookie IndyCar season changed his life forever. Wickens was involved in an accident on lap 7 at Pocono Raceway, where he suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion. Since the accident, Wickens’ perseverance and persistence has led to triumphant breakthroughs in his relentless regimes of physical rehabilitation and therapy that continues daily. Wickens and his team of therapists and trainers have become trailblazers in developing innovative technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.

The #33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR has been fitted with a custom hand-control system designed by BHA Technical Director David Brown and Development Technician Jonathan Gormley. The system features a custom metal ring connected to the brake pedal by a series of rods specifically tailored to the Elantra. The ring is attached behind the steering wheel that is pulled with fingers to activate the brake. Two linked throttle paddles and shift paddles, all attached behind the steering wheel, allow the driver to accelerate, shift and make steering inputs. The system also features a switch for Mark Wilkins when he takes over the cockpit in pitstops that deactivates the hand throttle. The Elantra will accelerate and brake using the traditional foot pedals when Wilkins is driving.

Wickens and Wilkins join the previously announced 2022 BHA driver lineup featuring six Elantra N TCR entries to defend the team’s trifecta of series titles, and they will vie for Hyundai’s third straight manufacturers title. The 2022 season kicks off with the season opening test days, the “Roar Before the Rolex 24,” at Daytona International Speedway, Jan. 21-23, 2022. Round one of the 2022 IMPC season takes place the following weekend with the BMW Endurance Challenge, a four-hour race during the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race weekend on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Hyundai Motor America

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Indycar, Dallara Announce Multi-year Extension

Not really a surprise. Here is the announcement from Indycar:

INDYCAR has announced a multiyear extension with chassis manufacturer Dallara, continuing a relationship with one of the longest-running partners in the series.

The contract runs parallel to the current agreements with engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda, furthering an era of continuity for North America’s premier open-wheel racing series.

“Dallara is a tremendous partner and instrumental in everything we do on the racetrack,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “An important part of the success and growth of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES can be directly traced to Dallara’s collaboration with our entire paddock.

“This extension provides INDYCAR and its teams continuity and a stable platform as we look well into the future.”

Dallara, an Italian company, first supplied driver safety cells for the INDYCAR SERIES in 1997 and has been the sole chassis supplier since 2008. In 2012, the manufacturer expanded its U.S. operations by opening the Dallara INDYCAR factory in Speedway, Indiana, where the company produces and assembles chassis for a variety of racing series.

Since 2015, production has included the chassis for INDYCAR’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. In 2018, Dallara began manufacturing the current universal body kit (AK-18) for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. 2022 marks the company’s 26th consecutive season with INDYCAR.

“Dallara is honored to have been part of this journey for 26 years and counting,” said Andrea Pontremoli, Dallara Group CEO. “We understand the responsibility that comes in extending our partnership with INDYCAR over the course of the years to come and are excited to be part of this long-term plan.

“Being such an integrated partner to INDYCAR, we feel the inspirational leadership of Roger Penske, along with the management of Jay Frye, has allowed the series to have a continuous focus on safety while always providing an exciting atmosphere for all of our competitors and fans.

“This partnership will continue to fall in line with Dallara’s core values and what we want to see our technology and innovation developed for – adding emphasis to safety and sustainability for the future. It is a great time for INDYCAR, and Dallara is proud to continue as the chassis manufacturer.”

The 17-race 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season opens Sunday, Feb. 27 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. NBC will provide live coverage from the Streets of St. Petersburg as part of a record 14 races on broadcast television next year, including the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29. All races are also available on the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Audi Comes Back for Dramatic 8 Hour Win           Indianapolis Motor Speedway Press Release Audi Team Rallies to Dramatic Victory in Indianapolis 8 Hour Sports Car
Race Results

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021) – Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock of Germany and Patric Niederhauser of Switzerland teamed to drive the No. 25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS GT3 to a dramatic victory Sunday in an unpredictable, chaotic Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS.
The French-based No. 25 Sainteloc team beat the No. 89 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Raffaele Marciello of Italy, Daniel Juncadella of Spain and Timur Boguslavskiy of Russia by 11.958 seconds after eight hours of competition on the 2.589-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course layout.
The No. 3 KPAX Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo shared by Jordan Pepper of South Africa and Andrea Caldarelli and Mirko Bortolotti of Italy finished third, 22.853 seconds behind the winners.
Team Sainteloc’s victory came after an improbable rally from a one-lap deficit with less than an hour to go. The Sainteloc team also overcame a large gap three hours into the race after the team was assessed a drive-through penalty for undercutting its minimum pit stop time
.Only Haase and Niederhauser were able to celebrate at the famous IMS Yard of Bricks and Victory Podium after the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli endurance sports car race, as teammate Winkelhock left the track before the end of the race to fly home to Germany because his partner was due to give birth. Haase and Niederhauser talked with their absent teammate on the phone from pit lane.
“I don’t really have words,” Niederhauser said. “In the end, we simply never gave up after the Safety Car came right out after the pit stop. I thought it was game over, everything is done. We just kept fighting and finally, finally got that win.”
Said Haase: “The difference was to stay as low as possible on mistakes, and I think that’s what we did. Thanks to the Audi Sport Team and Sainteloc Racing. They did a fantastic job. This is a dream come true, 8 Hours of Indy. I was dreaming of that.
”NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Callum Ilott of Great Britain, one of the brightest stars of the day, drove the No. 71 AF Corse-Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 to the lead with one hour, 33 minutes remaining by passing the leading Marciello in the No. 89 Mercedes and the second-place No. 25 Audi of Niederhauser with a dive under both cars at the end of the back straightaway.
Ilott and Niederhauser then engaged in a spirited battle for the lead as they wove through lapped GT3 traffic and the slower GT4 class cars, with Ilott’s lead only three-tenths of a second with about an hour to go.
The eight-hour race turned on its head with 52 minutes to go. Team Sainteloc decided to pit Niederhauser for the final stop for its No. 25 Audi. It was expected the AF Corse team would do the same on the next lap for Ilott so the Audi wouldn’t gain time on fresh tires and undercut the pitting Ferrari for the lead.
But Ilott never made it to the pits. His dreams of Indy victory ended in Turn 1 on that lap when his leading No. 71 Ferrari and a slower Aston Martin GT4 car made contact while Ilott tried to pass on the outside entering the corner, inflicting damage to the right front of Ilott’s car.
The No. 32 Audi Sport Team WRT car driven by Dries Vanthoor of Belgium made a stop for fuel only during the Safety Car period triggered by Ilott’s crash and ended up in the lead, followed by the No. 99 Mercedes-AMG Team Craft-Bamboo Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 driven by Jules Gounon of France. Niederhauser was third but a lap down.
With 36 seconds left, the No. 99 Mercedes driven by Gounon was eliminated from victory and podium contention after colliding with the No. 59 Crucial Motorsports McLaren 720 S GT3 driven by Ben Barnicoat of Great Britain. Vanthoor was on the lead lap alone, with fellow Audi driver Niederhauser elevated to second.
But there was even bigger drama to come. Vanthoor was assessed a drive-through penalty with 26 minutes remaining for failure to follow instructions from Race Control. That pushed Niederhauser to the lead, which he kept to the checkered flag.
“Right now, to be fully honest with you, I have never been so unhappy for a second position because I felt like that was not racing out there,” a bitterly disappointed Juncadella said.
“I couldn’t understand how many Safety Cars were out there. So many reasons, but it played not in our favor. I love this place, so much history, but this kind of racing is not what I signed up for.”A total of 41 laps were run behind the Safety Car, totaling two hours, one minute of the race’s eight-hour time.
The pole-winning No. 51 AF Corse-Francorchamps Motors Ferrari 488 GT3 shared by Alessandro Pierguidi of Italy, Nicklas Nielsen of Denmark and Come Ledogar of France finished fifth.
Class winners included the No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 in Silver Cup (fourth overall), the No. 75 SunEnergy 1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Pro-Am (10th overall), the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 in Am (16th overall) and the No. 36 Bimmerworld Racing BMW M4 GT4 in GT4.

Jones Brings Experience to New Role as Director of Indy Lights

Veteran racer and USAC executive director Levi Jones is the ew director of Indy Lights. The program, the top step on the Road to Indy ladder series is now part of Indycar and Penske Entertainment. Jones is an excellent choice for this position. The new release from indycar:

Veteran Motorsports Executive Jones
Named as Director of Indy Lights
INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, Oct. 11, 2021) – Veteran United States Auto Club (USAC) executive and champion driver Levi Jones was named as director of the Indy Lights series, INDYCAR officials announced today.Jones will oversee all operations and competition of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step for drivers in the Road to Indy ladder that prepares drivers for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. INDYCAR adds the role of promoter to its duties as the sanctioning body of Indy Lights on Nov. 1.
“My entire career has been in racing and moving to INDYCAR and Indy Lights is the perfect next step,” Jones said. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue to grow Indy Lights and expand its legacy and position as the ideal final step before the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
It’s hard to put into words what joining an organization like INDYCAR really means. When you’re in racing, you always want to be a part of the biggest and the best. This is a dream come true.”
Illinois native Jones, 39, comes to his new role after working in competition and executive positions with the United States Auto Club since 2015.Jones started his USAC administration career in 2015 as the national series competition director, leading the planning and operation of more than 75 USAC events around the United States in the Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget National Championship series.
In 2019, Jones was promoted to USAC executive vice president, helping to diversify the sanctioning body’s activity beyond open-wheel racing to youth racing, off-road competition, rally and sports car racing. During his tenure, Jones was responsible for a wide array of tasks, including maintaining and executing annual rule books, managing sponsorship for each series, negotiating sanctioning agreements, personnel management and working as race director for the Camping World SRX Series in its inaugural season in 2021.
“Because of his broad experience in and out of the cockpit, Levi is the perfect choice to become the director of Indy Lights,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “Levi is well respected in the racing industry and knows every angle of the sport as a driver, team owner, racetrack operator and sanctioning body. We are excited to have Levi on board and look forward to the new era of INDYCAR operating Indy Lights.”
Jones began racing 410 Sprint cars at age 16 and built one of the most decorated driving careers in USAC history. He won seven USAC national championships, including a record five Sprint Car titles (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011). He also won consecutive Silver Crown titles (2010-11).All but the 2005 Sprint title came when Jones drove for Tony Stewart Racing, owned by the legendary NASCAR Cup Series and INDYCAR SERIES champion and two-time Brickyard 400 winner. During his USAC career, Jones won 35 feature races between the Sprint Car (28 wins), Midget (four wins) and Silver Crown (three wins) series.

Andretti F1 Could Shake Up Indycar Grid- in 2023

Photo: On which side of the Atlantic will Colton Herta drive in 2022?

Marti Update: I am happy to report that Marti will be coming home Wednesday. She is strong enough that she will be safe at home. It has been a long road, and I thank everyone for their support these past four months. It has meant a lot to us.

Just my opinion:

Michael Andretti is about to take control of the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team. The news, first reported by my good friends at Pit Lane Parley, gained momentum this weekend with reports from several news outlets. Immediately fans w began hand wringing over Indycar losing Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward for 2022. Relax. I think both will still be around next year, and both drivers should contend for the championship. 2023 might be a different story.

First, O’Ward is only getting n F1 test as a reward for his first Indycar win. I don’t believe McLaren has an opening. There is an open seat at Alfa Romeo for next year, and thus we have the panic about Herta jumping into it.

My first thought is Herta does not have enough points toward the FIA Superlicense needed to drive in F1. While that is technically correct, he can still obtain one.

A Superlicense requires 40 points, obtained through winning series championship and and winning races. Herta currently has 32 points. Driver who have more than 30 points can receive a special dispensation to drive in F1 next year.

The one good thing that could come of Herta jumping to F1 is that the 26 car would be open for 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood. Kirkwood’s spot on the grid is uncertain at the moment, though I have heard some vague talk about a possible partnership coming together for him. Kirkwood is every bit as good as Herta, and it would be a shame if he were not on the 2022 grid.

I still don’t think either Herta or O’Ward will be in F1 next season. 2023 is more realistic. Whenever they leave, it will be a blow to Indycar to take out two of the best young drivers in a year which could also see retirements among some the older veterans. Will Power will be ending his two year contract with Team Penske in 2023, Scott Dixon will be 42 years old, and Simon Pagenaud will be 39. Helio Castroneves will be 48 after 2023, assuming he is still driving full time after next year.

Rain Cuts ROP Short; Grosjean and Johnson Have Long Wait to Finish

The on again, off again rain finally cut short Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway around 4 pm this afternoon, leaving Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson short of completing their rookie tests. The drivers, who just completed their first season in Indycar, will have to wait until the open test in April to finish the final laps of phase three of the 40 lap test. The afternoon stoppage was the second one of the day, and there was not enough time to get the track dry for more running.

These photos by Joe Skibinski of Indycar sum up the day. Race cars and dark clouds

Grosjean needs two more laps at 215 mph or better, while Johnson needs about five laps.

Johnson had a bit of an advantage as he remains with his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Grosjean not only had the stress of his first time driving on the IMS oval, but also the concerns of his first day with a new team. It was his first day as a driver for Andretti Autosport.

Romain Grosjean photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Asked about the stress, Grosjean said,

“I think really the most stressful part was to know what my first lap speed was going to be. You grow up or move from there. I had no idea what to expect to get to 205. Then it went pretty smoothly, enjoyed
it. When you have to go above 215, that’s where the fun starts. ”

Grosjean felt at ease with the support he received

“I got some good explanation, some good tip from the guys, from the engineers also, James Hinchcliffe came in the morning, which I appreciated a lot. Michael was there, as well. When you’ve got those guys, they know what they’re talking about, so that was great to
be with them and to know what to do.”

Jimmie Johnson photo by Chris Owens Indycar

Johnson fuflilled a childhood dream by running the oval in an Indycar.

“… just a special day to drive an INDYCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have truly, truly enjoyed it. It was a childhood dream come true. The experience is more than expected and something that I really, really enjoyed.”

He said today has heightened his interest in driving in the 500.

“(My interest) Definitely, definitely increased. I think
the look I had at Texas increased it and brought me here.
A little short on laps for what I wanted to experience today.
As comfortable as I felt my interest is at the highest it’s
been, certainly my comfort is at the highest it’s been. All
that said, there’s still a lot of work between now and really
pulling through with this opportunity.”

In an interview just after the day ended, Johnson’s face lit up when he was asked if today made him want to run the 500. While he admitted there is “still a lot of work to do” for him to be able to run in May, he seems determined to make it happen.

It was an exciting day to see two veteran drivers turn their first Indycar laps on an oval. For Grosjean, it was just the second time he had seen open wheel cars on the oval. Johnson, who has won at IMS four times in NASCAR on the oval, I enjoyed watching him run in a different type of car.

The rookie class for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 could be very deep in talent and numbers. In addition to Grosjean and Johnson, there could be up to four drivers from this year’s Indy Lights Series, plus maybe a current NASCAR driver.

Race Day-A Glorious Season Ends with a Bit of Drama

Today’s schedule: Times Eastern

Indycar’s last race day of the season is always bittersweet. We celebrate the season champion while a touch of sadness comes to our hearts as the cars go silent for five months. I take consolation in knowing the off season is shorter than usual.

Yesterday’s qualifying created a little drama for the race. Josef Newgarden, a distant third in the standings, will lead the field to the green flag at 3:45 Eastern. He has the opportunity to lead the most laps and win the race. points leader Alex Palou can still win the championship by finishing 11th or better to cover second place Pato O’Ward. To cover Newgarden, Palou just has to finish the race.

After qualifying, Palou said,

 “Yeah, I think we are in a good position. We have a really fast car. Obviously we didn’t get through because of that yellow flag, as others. We are fast. I think we have lots of chances, but we still need to finish the job tomorrow. It’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of fast drivers here, lots of good cars. There’s some drivers starting up the back as well.

We’ll try to have a good run and overtake some cars before that.”

Newgarden is thrilled for the chance to win, but concedes,

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I really don’t. Alex has been extremely strong. I think if he sticks to his program, he should be in good shape. He’s been very resilient this year and done a tremendous job. Really the same with Pato. I don’t see him making a lot of mistakes, he’s always a charger.

If they have a normal day, I don’t expect too much craziness to happen. But like I said, it’s unpredictable. You just don’t know in these events. We’ll see what we get tomorrow.”

O’Ward has had an up and down weekend. He wasn’t happy with his car on Friday, but yesterday he just missed the Fast Six. He feels good about today’s race.

“We definitely have a better car than what we’ve had, at least last weekend. Yeah, happy about that. I think the guys have done a great job in being efficient with changes, just working together to make everything just go a little bit better.

But, yeah, I mean, it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of really quick cars out there. We’ve got champions in the front, people that know how to win races, people that know how to win championships.

Yeah, it won’t be easy. But we’re definitely going to send it tomorrow. ”

Enjoy the race. I’ll be back after the race with a wrap up.