Herta Continues Rookies’ Great Weekend; Weather Update

Colton Herta led the morning warm-up session. The Andretti cars seemed to have found some speed. Marco Andretti was 6th, Zach Veach 10th, Alexander Rossi 10th, and Ryan Hunter-Reay 12th.

Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist finished 9th in the session. Defending race winner Will Power was 13th. Max Chilton was the fastest Chevy in 7th. I can’t remember a weekend when Team Penske cars weren’t the fastest Chevys.  Josef Newgarden led the team in 8th.

Pato O’ Ward didn’t turn a lap and his car went back to the garage during the session.

Weather

A brief rain shower is expected in the area in a few minutes.  I have received reports of moisture in turns 6A and 7.

The latest radar has rain coming after 5:30.

Back with another update when tire choices come out.

 

 

Hinchcliffe, Herta Top Practice 3

For the second straight session, James Hinchcliffe and Colton Herta finished 1-2 on the speed chart. Hinchcliffe improved his time from yesterday afternoon to 1:08.7351, about two tenths quicker than his Practice 2 time. Herta was 0.27 seconds behind him. Spencer Pigot was once again the fastest Chevrolet with the seventh fastest time.

The session was interrupted by three red flags.  The first was Zach Veach, who locked up the brakes and slid into the gravel trap in turn 5.  When action resumed, Jack Harvey put his right side wheels into the dirt in turn 2, throwing grass and dirt onto the track. Ryan Hinter-Reay was the next car through and went off track in turn 3 but continued. Marcus Ericsson followed but was not as fortunate. He slid into the ARMCO in turn 2. The car suffered front wing damage. Following a restart, Graham Rahal also locked up and slid into the turn 5 gravel trap.

The session timed out but Indycar allowed the field one flying lap.

 

Some Notes and a Drive for Dyslexia

I found out late last week about Driving for Dyslexia, a fund raising event for the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. The late Justin Wilson worked with the students who received services, once hosting a group for a tour of his transporter at the speedway before practice. I don’t know if the kids or the parents were more impressed. As always, Justin was generous with his time helping kids who had the same issue he did.

The event is April 26 from 6 pm to 9pm at Speedway Indoor Karting. Tickets are $100 to drive and $20 just to watch. Kids 8 and under are free. More information is at this link

https://donate.diin.org/event/2019-driving-for-dyslexia/e224062

I have signed up to drive, so for just $20 you can watch me look foolish. Or you can just read my blog and watch me look foolish for free.

More 500 Entries?

Oriol Servia has said he is close to finalizing a deal to enter the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.  My guess is this will be the third car at Arrow Schmidt Peterson.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing has begun calling drivers for their second 500 entry.

If these two cars become a reality, I have thirty five entries. A. J. Foyt Racing may have a third, which would be 36. I think that will be the final number of entries.

J. R. and Salesforce?- J. R . Hildebrand and Salesforce sent out a cryptic tweet last week about their exciting plans for May. No car was mentioned, but a photo of the car Hildebrand drove in 2018 was in the photo. I’m not counting this as an entry yet.

 Winning Is Good for Business

Following Colton Herta’s win at the Indycar Classic in Austin last week, Team owners Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner IV told Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star, that there is interest from possible sponsors. Harding sounded optimistic that they may have an announcement soon.

In 2010 Ryan Hunter-Reay was driving for Michael Andretti on a part time arrangement. After Hunter-Reay won at Long Beach, DHL began a sponsor relationship that kept Hunter-Reay on track the rest of the year and continues to this day. I hope HSR and Herta have the same good fortune.

Game Changers?

Jay Frye mentioned a while ago about two game changing announcements coming in May. Everyone assumes one is the elusive third engine manufacturer. The assumption has led to wild speculation. Cosworth has stated they are not involved.  The favorite seems to be a German manufacturer, Which one?

As for the second announcement, I have no idea.

Pruett- Indycar May Return to Watkins Glen

The most exciting news item last week came from Marshall Pruett who said there is a rumor that Indycar may be racing at Watkins Glen again, sooner rather than later. The Glen is a track Indycar needs to run. It is classic and fast. Going to Watkins Glen was one of my favorite race trips.

2020 Schedule

I look for some significant changes in the schedule for 2020. I’m basing this partly on Nascar’s schedule reshuffling and wondering how NBC had a hand in it. I have no knowledge of anything imminent.

This is why a return to Watkins Glen would make sense next season.  I’m not sure how long Iowa can remain without a title sponsor, but that is one race I hope never leaves the schedule.

Some COTA Leftovers

Some things from last weekend I didn’t get to:

I understand why the checkered flag has a Speedway logo on it. I am not opposed to having a sponsor logo on the flag, but this one seems larger than most. I found it a bit invasive on the purpose of the flag. Can we make it just a bit smaller?

NBC ran what I suppose was a promo for the Indianapolis 500, but it looked like it was more a promo for the fact Danica Patrick was going to be part of the broadcast.  I get that NBC thinks she will help ratings (maybe), but to make her out to be bigger than the race I found distasteful.

I have nothing against her being on the broadcast. I’m neutral on Danica. I just thought that promo could have been done better with more focus on the race and event itself.

Back Thursday with a Barber preview. I will be reporting for Wildfire Sports on site next weekend, but will still have my notes and quick thoughts here.

 

 

 

 

 

Indycar Classic at COTA- Quick Thoughts

That was an entertaining and dramatic race. Good battles throughout and quite a twist of fate at the end for Will Power.

Congratulations to Colton Herta and the Harding Steinbrenner team. They have had this track figured out since the February test.  The win was a great team rebound from a rough Friday.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV looked stunned in the post race interview.

The rookies at fun to watch. What a great move O’Ward put on Rahal.

Great job for Jack Harvey with a second straight top 10. Meyer Shank Racing is doing a steady solid job this year.

Having the blend line right at the entrance to turn 1 made for some interesting moments.

Weird to see Ganassi struggle as a team like they did today. Yet somehow Dixon is third in points. He will be a factor by the halfway mark of the season.

Rahal had his best race in quite a while. This is the most comfortable I’ve seen him in the car since the UAK was introduced last year.

The no track limits call helped the racing and made for some great action. This rule can be COTA’s unique feature.

The caution period seemed to last longer than necessary.

O’Ward and Carlin need to practice pit stops. He lost at least two spots with his slow releases.

Power and Rossi got burned sticking to their strategy. This is not the first time Team Penske has been burned by a caution by not pitting early.  Rossi got caught out by this situation at Portland last year as well.

NBC Coverage

Great camera work on a very photogenic facility.

Does every pit stop by every driver need to be shown? A great pass was missed because NBC was showing a backmarker’s stop.

There were too many and too long replays of the start of the race and too many in race recaps. This isn’t F1 where there is nothing happening on track.

I like the side pylon where the whole field is shown at once. I like that the board shows the tire choices and the push to pass time remaining.  It’s way better than nothing than the intervals  all the time.

 

Look for my full race report tomorrow on Wildfire Sports. Back here next week with some Indycar news and another  Indianapolis 500 program feature.

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts on The Rolex (RainX?) 24

The weather at Indycar’s Barber race last season seems like a minor sprinkle compared to today’s deluge at Daytona. Weather situations like this put sanctioning bodies in a bind. Where do participant safety considerations end and wanting to satisfy the fans begin? When possible, the must meet in the middle. I think IMSA maybe erred a bit too much in favor of the fans.

While I and the other fans want to see racing, we want it to be safe for the competitors. I felt the both red flag came later than when needed, and the race resumed before the competitors could race safely. I understand racing in the wet carries more responsibility, but these drivers are professionals of highly seasoned near pros.

I’m not sure what IMSA’s protocol for situations as today is, but I hope it is reviewed at the end of the season. Yes fans want a show, but they want a safe one.

A big thank you to all involved for trying hard to get the race finished. I give special thanks to the pit crews who had to perform their jobs under very difficult conditions. Also the track workers and flag marshals who were stuck at their posts during the delays deserve a lot of gratitude.

The early ending stopped what was going to be an interesting three way battle between the number 7 Penske Cadillac Acura, the number 31 Action Express, and the eventual winner number 10 Cadillac from Wayne Taylor Racing. Pit and driver change strategies were lining up for a great cat and mouse game in the last 90 minutes.

Fernando Alonso showed why he is still one of the best drivers in the world. His stints in the rain late were amazing. Alexander Rossi also did a great job as he nearly won the Rolex watch for the second year Penske team. An added bonus for Indycar fans is that both Alonso and Rossi will be in the Indianapolis 500. If you were still on the fence about Rossi’s skills or think Fernando has lost his championship form, re-watch this race.

It was great to watch Alex Zanardi race, especially in yesterday’s rain. Is there anything he can’t drive? The team’s early race steering issue may have cost him a decent finish.

The all female team from Henricher/Meyer Shank Racing battled strongly all race until a spin during the restart took them out of a chance at a top five. Still, it was nice to see Simona and Bia on the track again.

Indycar drivers Colton Herta drove for s winning car. Herta in the GTLM winning number 25 BMW for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Former series driver Sebastian Saavedra was driving the LMP2 winning car as the race was called. The victory came despite a heavy crash just before the second red flag.

Rossi reached the podium with the number 7 Penske Acura.

I am completely exhausted so will end here. Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. I’ll be back in this spot later this week with an Indycar news roundup.

Some Off Season Thoughts

The first week of the off season brought the exciting news that Harding racing will partner with Steinbrenner Racing in 2019. The new Harding Steinbrenner Racing team has signed rookies Pato O’Ward, 2018 Indy Lights champion, and Indy lights runner-up Colton Herta. Very few details other than the driver announcements are known at this time. There is a technical partnership with Andretti Autosport which will provide shocks, dampers, and engineering help.

The big question is which engine will Harding Steinbrenner use? Harding had Chevrolet power in 2018, and Andretti is a Honda team. For these teams to work together, the engine needs to be the same. If HSR goes with Honda, would that rule out a possible third car at Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing?

One of the greatest things about this new team is that the two team owners come from outside of racing. My friend Steve Wittich wrote an excellent article for Trackside Online about how Indycar needs diversity in its ownership. I hope we see more owners from outside racing. they should provide a fresh perspective on the business of racing.  You can find his article on Trackside Online.com. It is a site worth subscribing to.

New Title Sponsor?

There has been no word on a new series title sponsor. Things have gone rather quiet about who it will be. That could mean it’s wrapped up ready to be announced, or Indycar is still searching. It would have been good to have an announcement at Sonoma, and have some sort of handing over ceremony to thank Verizon for their sponsorship.

The Mysterious Third OEM

Is there someone ready to jump in for 2021? There has been some talk of one or two manufacturers, with one name mentioned more than others, but again, things seem very quiet on the new engine front right now.

McLaren News in November?

We may not know Mclaren’s plans until November. It would be great to have McLaren in Indycar, but this is turning into racing’s version of General Hospital. First Honda says they will not help Mclaren, then reports have come out saying yes they still might. Alonso has not made a decision. My guess he is in for the 500 only. Stoffel Vandoorne, considered a candidate for the seat when Alonso doesn’t drive, is rumored to be close to having a contract in Formula E. That could mean McLaren will be here for the 500 only as well.   Stay tuned.

Coyne’s Car 19

Dale Coyne has talked to some former Formula 1 drivers about driving the 19 car next year. he continues his quest to have one driver for the entire season in that ride. Apparently neither Zachary Claman De Melo or Pietro Fittipaldi will return. Too bad. They both have some potential to be decent drivers.

October Coming Attractions

Next month I have several columns planned for here and on Wildfire Sports.

A review of Born Racer.

A book review of Gentleman, Start Your Engines.

Look for  another month of May review via the official program for that year.

Commentary on off season news and the big announcements that could be coming will be posted as needed. In addition to a title sponsor, I am most interested to see which races will be on NBC network. I’m guessing there will be a lot in May and very early June. They didn’t ask me (again) but I think one Detroit race would be enough.

Look for a column on things Indycar might want to change for 2019.

The 2019 Indycar Schedule; News and Comments

Some thoughts on the Indycar schedule released today:

I like that the huge gap between the first and second race is gone. Having three weeks between Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis is probably more appropriate. It allows for testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a time closer to the 500.

I hope the three weeks between Portland and the Laguna Seca final is just a one year arrangement. IMSA races at Laguna Seca September 15.

Team members have two three week stretches of races plus the four week grind of May and the Detroit doubleheader.

Will Barber return to its traditional date next year? Easter falls on the usual Barber weekend necessitating the change.

I’m excited that Indycar is going to Circuit of the Americas. My first though when I went there for the inaugural Formula 1 race was  that it would be a good track for Indycar.  My concern is attendance. COTA is a huge property. Like IMS, what would be a decent crowd at most places will make the track seem empty. F1 is the only series that has had good attendance in Austin.

While I’m sad to see one less oval on the schedule, I’m happy that Iowa will again be a Saturday night race. That track was made for Indycars on Saturday night.

Attendance at Laguna Seca could also be a concern with IMSA holding an event the weekend before. These two series need to work together and hold joint events.

Television Schedule Still to Come

We know all, the races will be on an NBC network. The question is, which race on which network? I will go out on a huge limb here and say the Indianapolis 500 will be on NBC.

Seven other races will appear on the big network. My guessses:

St. Pete- season opener; introduces audience to Indycar

Long Beach- historic track and event

Indycar Grand Prix- prelude to the 500; promotes the 500

The 500

Road America- another classic track; spectatcular scenery

Iowa- Saturday night racing showcases Indycar roots

Pocono- another 500 race; usually one of the best races of the year

Laguna Seca- season finale allows season recap and promotes 2020 season.

I’m sure I have one correct. I left off the Detroit doubleheader. With a limited number of network appearances, putting half of that schedule in a four week span creates a large gap until the next network race.

Harding’s Future?

Last weekend at Portland Harding racing announced that 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and Lights runner up Colton Herta will drive in the Indycar finale at Sonoma. Herta tested with Harding earlier this season and O’Ward will test with the team Thursday.

We might be seeing the future of Harding Racing begin. Gabby Chaves, who began the year with Harding and has a contract for next year, may be out of a ride.

Talk still is going on about MclAren taking over harding and some uinvolvement with Andretti Autosport. Both O’Ward and Herta drove for Andretti in Indy Lights.

However this situation turns out, I admire Mike Harding for putting a team together, hiring good experienced people, and running the entire season with older equipment. This was a low budget operation. Small teams like this are what the series needs more of.

Fred Watch

On Wednesday, weather permitting, Fernando Alonso is scheduled to test an Indycar at Barber Motorsports Park. He will drive an Andretti Autosport car, the one Carlos Munoz drove in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Alonso has not announced where he will drive next year. The Indycar schedule has no conflicts with his WEC commitments for 2018. The WEC opener for 2019 is the same weekend as Portland.