Fans Allowed in May at IMS. Who Gets to Go?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 May 30. The number allowed is still a work in progress. With the race still htree months away, time is on the speedway’s side. Positive rates and deaths from COVID-19 are declining in Indiana, and today the state opened vaccine eligibility to people aged 60-64.

The consensus from what i hacve heard is that 50% capacity will be the target. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which will take place mainly in Indianapolis, will allow 25% of capacity attendance. That number is a bit deceiving, since team members, game support personnel, and invited team guests- approximately 420 per game-count towards the 25%. I estimate that leaves room for about 1,700- 1,900 fans per session, depending on the venue.

If IMS follows this capacity pattern, there could be possibly 75,000 or a bit more watching the race in person. The question is who gets to go and who doesn’t? The 2020 race ran without fans, although plans were made to accommodate some spectators. The track ultimately decided to keep the stands closed. Last year, IMS gave fans a choice to keep their tickets or defer them to 2021. They could offer that option again.

My feeling is I missed one race, and I don’t want to miss two in a row. I’m sure many fans feel the same way. I don’t envy the speedway’s position. The question of how many and which fans to let in coukl be a public relations nightmare.I have a couple of suggestions. Of course IMS has not listened to me in the past. Maybe this time?

Survey fans and offer the deferral option again. This will give those fans who still don’t feel comfortable attending the option of waiting another year. The track will have an idea of how many want to attend.

Fans who have held reserved seats for several years should have priority.

Limit general admission and employ the eight foot circles as Iowa did at their races last summer. The circles worked well at Iowa, and the hill accommodated quite a few fans.

I trust Doug Boles and Roger Penske will come up with a fair plan. They have more latitude than they had last year, and pandemic restrictions will probably be a bit looser by May.

Sato Reveals Borg- Warner Trophy Image

In an online show on IMS.com, 2020 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato got his first look at his second likeness on the Borg-Warner trophy. Sato is a two time winner of the race. He first won in 2017 and finished third in 2019.The race is 100 days from today.

The 30 minute program featured segments with Doug Boles and Rahal Letterman team owners Mike lanigan and Bobby Rahal. Last year was Rahal’s second win as a car owner. He also won the 2004 race with Buddy Rice driving. The third team owner, David Letterman, appeared in a prerecorded video.

The full program is available for viewing on YouTube.

A Good Sign for 500 Fans?

The NCAA this morning announced that the NCCA men’s basketball tournament games will allow 25% capacity at the games, which be played entirely in Indianapolis. The tournament will take place at several venues in Indianapolis as well as at Purdue and Indiana University. The 25% includes the teams and game personnel, which narrows the actual number of fans at each arena. As I am writing this, Purdue just announced 12-13% capacity for the tournament games.

The positive part is that this may signal some good news for fan attendance at the Indianapolis 500. Marion County has been the most restrictive county in Indiana at times, but this allowance may be a great sign for May.

Bob Jenkins Reduces May Role as He Battles Brain Cancer

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Bob Jenkins, longtime broadcaster at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, shared on Doug Boles’ new show “by the Bricks’ that he has brain cancer. The video is linked below. He begins talking about how he discovered the cancer around the 19:45 mark. The entire video is worth watching.

I have seen two very important people in my fight cancer, and I have a friend who is fighting it now. I know what Bob has ahead of him and I wish him the best.

I have copied two Tweets. The first has an address where you can send a card to Bob. The second has the link to the video. Please keep Bob in your thoughts.

500 Field Update- How Many Beyond 33?

We are just 104 days from the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, and the entry list for the race stands 29 confirmed cars and drivers. This is a great number for this time, and while bumping is not guaranteed yet, it seems more possible then it ever did in 2021. Here is a rundown of who has committed:

Chevrolet

Team Penske (4)-Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Scott McLaughlin

A. J. Foyt Racing (3)- Sebastien Bourdais, Dalton Kellett, Charlie Kimball

Carlin Racing (1)- Max Chilton

Arrow McLaren SP (3)- Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Juan Pablo Montoya

Ed Carpenter Racing (3) – Ed Carpenter, Rinus VeeKay, Conor Daly

Paretta (1)- Simona De Silcvestro

Honda

Andretti Autosport (5)-Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti

Chip Ganassi Racing(4)- Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, Tony Kanaan

Dale Coyne Racing (1)- Ed Jones, 2 TBA

Meyer Shank Racing (2)- Jack Harvey, Helio Castroneves

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2)- Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal

Other entries may come from a third Rahal entry,

Other entries may come from a third Rahal entry, Dreyer and Reinbold with one or two cars, and possibly a sixth Andretti entry. These possible additions would get the field to 33 or 34.

It would be great to have at least 35 cars and have a bit of a battle for the final two spots. How qualifying is set up this year remains to be seen. I will discuss my ideas in a later post.

Kimball Joins Foyt for May in Indy

Photo of Charlie Kimball by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Charlie Kimball will return to A. J. Foyt Racing for two races in 2021, entering the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 15 and the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 May 30. Kimball brings his Tresiba sponsorship to car number 11 this season.

In a full time ride with Foyt in 2020, Kimball had best finish of eighth in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg finale. He ended 2020 18th in the final standings. The COVID-disrupted scheduled cost Kimball and the team valuable input from Sebastien Bourdais, who was cheduled to begin the year with Foyt and help get the cars set up. Bourdais is with the team full time for the new season.

Kimball will be attempting to qualify for his 11th 500 mile race. In 2020 he finished 18th after starting 29th. He finished third in 2015 and fifth in 2016 and has two other top 10 results in the 500.

Today’s announcement brings the confirmed entry list for the Indianapolis 500 to 28. Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing should announce their two drivers fo May, which raises the total to 30. Getting to 33 should not be an issue. I’ll discuss the field and possible entries more next week.

In a teleconference this afternoon, Larry Foyt said he was happy to get to work with Kimball again.

“Charlie was awesome to work with last year. We know Charlie and we trust Charlie.”

KImball hopes to build on how last season ended with Foyt.

“The results at St. Pete showed the progress we made as a team. We hope to be able to build on results of that last race.”

Kimball added, “I’m very comfortable heading back to Foyt. I feel I have unfinished business. We have built a solid foundation”

Kimball regrets that series races at long Beach and Toronto were cancelled last season.

Foyt said there are no plans to run a full time third car in 2021.

“We’d love to have Charlie full time, but going to 3 full time cars would have to be a really good situation. We are just focused on results this year.”

In the past few years, Foyt said the team has had ” too many changes, no consistency in drivers or engineers. I feel like its all headed in the right direction now. The Indycar field is really strong. Getting top 5s and top 10s is the goal.”

 

 

 

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Indycar field is really strong. getting top 5s and top 10s is the goal.

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Looking For a Few Good Oval Drivers; Ferrari Says No

The full time grid for the 2021 NTT Indycar Series is pretty much set with 24 cars. Andretti Autosport will field one less car, but an additional car at Team Penske and another entry at Chip Ganassi Racing gives the field a net gain of one car. Two teams are still looking for someone to drive the oval portion of the schedule.

Dale Coyne Racing with rick Ware will Romain Grosjean in the 51 for the road and street courses. The team has not announced who will drive at Texas and in the Indianapolis 500. Grosjean has not ruled out driving at Gateway. Carlin Racing needs a driver for Texas and Gateway.

Cody Ware will probably drive some ovals for Coyne/Ware, but whether he is in the 51 or the part time 52 remains to be seen. It is possible that Santino Ferrucci returns to the team for the 500. In Ferrucci’s two Indianapolis appearances with Coyne, he has finished 7th and 4th.

Carlin Racing has the same situation as 2020. max Chilton will drive the road and street races as well as the 500. Conor Daly may return to drive for the team at Texas and Gateway. Daly will drive the number 20 for Ed Carpenter on the road and street races. Last year Daly won the pole at Iowa for Carlin. He earned four top 10s in his five races with Carlin.

In addition to the 24 full time entries, races other than the 500 will have additional cars. Helio Castroneves will run six races for Meyer Shank Racing. Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing said they will have a third car at 4-5 races besides Indianapolis. Dreyer and Reinbold may also enter some events.

The full time Grid (Road/street only drivers in bold, oval only drivers in italics:

A. J. Foyt Racing:

Sebastien Bourdais

Dalton Kellett

Andretti Autosport:

Alexander Rossi

Colton Herta

Ryan Hunter-Reay

James Hinchcliffe

Arrow McLaren SP:

Pato O’Ward

Felix Rosenqvist

Carlin Racing:

Max Chilton (road/street/ Indianapolis 500)

Chip Ganassi Racing:

Scott Dixon

Marcus Ericsson

Alex Palou

Jimmie Johnson

Tony Kanaan

Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

Ed Jones

Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing

Romain Grosjean

Ed Carpenter Racing

Rinus VeeKay

Conor Daly

Ed Carpenter

Meyer Shank Racing:

Jack Harvey

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:

Graham Rahal

Takuma Sato

Team Penske:

Josef Newgarden

Will Power

Simon Pagenaud

Scott McLaughlin

Ferrari Stays Home

In an announcement which surprised absolutely no one, Ferrari will not be the third OEM for Indycar. I never thought the Italian company was serious about their negotiations. Ferrari has a history of entertaining and exploring options as leverage to get what they really want.

Indycar is talking to other companies about becoming the elusive third OEM. Will there be one for 2023? The time window is closing rapidly. A third engine would pull some of the burden off of Chevrolet and Honda, especially for the Indianapolis 500. It will not necessarily create an expanded grid. This is a topic to explore whent the third OEM becomes a reality.

Back in a couple of days with a deep plunge into 500 history.

Paretta Autosport Brings Female-Led Team to Indy; DeSilvestro Returns to the 500

Simona De Silvestro returns to the Indianapolis 500 with Paretta Autosport, headed by Beth P.aretta. The team will receive technical support from Team Penske. More details later.

The announcement from Indycar:

Paretta Autosport, a new NTT INDYCAR SERIES race team spearheaded by female automotive and motorsport executive Beth Paretta, has announced its entry for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

2010 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Simona De Silvestro has been announced as the driver for Paretta Autosport, which will utilize Chevrolet power and run the No. 16 for this year’s legendary “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The 32-year-old from Switzerland is a veteran of five Indianapolis 500 starts.

The team is an extension of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s “Race for Equality & Change” announced last July. Team Penske will provide technical support to Paretta Autosport in assisting in the preparation for competing in the race Sunday, May 30.

Paretta Autosport will integrate women in the team to ensure that it provides opportunities, including competition, operations and administrative roles such as logistics, marketing and public relations.

“Today is the beginning of a commitment to gender equity in sport, to encourage women to work hard so they can earn their seat at the table or spot on the grid,” Paretta Autosport Team Principal Beth Paretta said. “INDYCAR has been a leader and a welcoming place for women for many years because of the hard work of many women and men before us, but now we have a stronger commitment with INDYCAR’s ‘Race for Equality & Change’ to make sure opportunities continue in the future.

“Our team, along with our technical alliance with Team Penske, will work hard to give Simona the best car we can provide so she can achieve her best results. Competition drives us. The Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world, and one day soon we hope to have a woman’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.”

Said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp.: “We are pleased to welcome Beth and her Paretta Autosport team to INDYCAR this year. Her team’s addition to the INDYCAR ‘Race for Equality & Change’ program this year will ensure that INDYCAR and the Indianapolis 500 continues the legacy of having a female driver qualify for the 2021 Indy 500. Of course, it will be up to Simona and the team to qualify the car for the grid, but knowing Beth, I know that her team will be up for the task.”

Paretta has a long history as an automotive and motorsports executive in leadership roles with some of the most respected performance brands, including SRT (Street and Racing Technology) at FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), where she was the first female director to lead a performance brand and motorsports for an original equipment manufacturer. In that role, she led successful racing programs that earned three national championships: the NASCAR Cup Series championship for Dodge with Team Penske in 2012, the IMSA GTLM championship with the factory Viper GTS-R program in 2014, and the Trans Am championship with the Dodge Challenger TA2 in 2014. She is also a board member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

In addition to her Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, De Silvestro also captured the Tony Renna Firestone Rising Star Award for her 14th-place finish. Her accomplishments throughout the motorsports world are numerous after competing in Australian Supercars, as a Formula One development driver, in Formula E, the IMSA SportsCar Championship and, since 2019, as a factory driver for Porsche.

“I am very excited to have this incredible opportunity to return to Indianapolis and the Indy 500 with Paretta Autosport this year,” De Silvestro said. “My career really took off through my time competing in INDYCAR and the Indy 500, so returning to compete with Beth and her new team in alliance with Team Penske is a special and rare chance in my career. Being part of the goal of diversity and inclusion for everyone, and especially women in INDYCAR, and in motorsports in general, is very important to me and how I would like to see the future of racing. I want to thank the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for taking such an important leadership role in providing gender and overall diversity inclusion in motorsports.”

Pat Patrick, Car Owner, CART Founder, Dies at 91

Pat Patrick, who began his involvement in Indycar as a team sponsor and became one of the founders of CART, died Tuesday, January 5, at the age of 91 in His home in Phoenix. Patrick’s team won the Indianapolis 500 three times in his twenty seven years of ownership.

In 1967 Patrick’s oil company became a sponsor for Walt Michener’s team. In 1970 he became the co-owner of the team,with Johnny Rutherford driving. Rutherford just missed the pole of the 500 that year by0.01 second to Al Unser. Patrick owned the Indianapolis winning cars of Gordon Johncock in 1973 and 1982, and Emerson Fittipaldi’s victorious machine in 1989. The Wildcat chassis that Johncock put in Victory Lane in 1982 was the last American made car to win the 500. A Patrick car entered the 500 every year from 1970-1995. Patrick’s last entry At IMS was in 1994 with Al Unser, Jr. driving.

In 1979, Patrick and Roger Penske formed Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and by 1982 the organization sanctioned all Indycar races except for Indianapolis.

Patrick invested in what is now Indy Lights, and he was instrumental in Firestone’s continued involvement in the series.

John Paul, Jr., 1960-2020, Won in Two Eras

John Paul, Jr. began winning at 19 years old when he made the SCCA Runoffs, then immediately took IMSA by storm. He won the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring in 1982 on his way to the IMSA GT championship. In 1983 Paul won the CART Michigan 500, passing Rick Mears on the final lap. I’m hard pressed to find someone else who won a race that way. He raced in two eras of Indycar, and also tried stock cars.

The Muncie, Indiana native had all the makings of a rising star. His career came to an abrupt halt in 1986 when he was convicted on a drug trafficking charge. Paul spent 2 and a half years in prison. When his racing career resumed, the bigger teams and sponsors shied away from him.

He drove in seven Indianapolis 500s, scattered over a period 16 years. Paul’s rookie year, 1985, ended with a lap 164 accident. His best finish was his final 500 when he was seventh in 1998.

Paul won the IRL race at Texas in 1998 driving for Team Pelfrey. He also had a brief foray into NASCAR in 1991.

Paul retired in 2002 after contracting Huntington’s disease.