Indianapolis 500- Quick Thoughts

 Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar

It is probably a good thing that there was a repeat winner this year. It would have been a shame if a first time winner didn’t get to hear the cheers from the fans as he drove around on his cool down lap.

I hope I never have to watch the race on live television again. The commercials came at inopportune times, Leigh Diffey mentioned the drivers’ kids in the middle of a first place battle, and they seemed behind on every accident. I feel sorry for those of you who have to do this every year. So much was missing.

In his last four Indianapolis 500s, Takuma Sato has two wins and a third place finish. Prior to his first win in 2017, Sato had never finished the race higher than 13th place.

It was eerie seeing the opening ceremonies taking place in an empty track. “(Back Home Again In) Indiana was still emotional.

I agree with Indycar’s decision not to throw the red flag. Lap 200 would have been the only green lap. utter chaos would ensue. The red flag should only be thrown if there can be at least three green flag laps remaining. The attenuator repair would take more than an hour. How many fans don’t NBCSN and would not be able to watch the finish?

I felt the penalty on Rossi was appropriate. I am surprised Sato didn’t get at least a warning for his move on Dixon.

It was a decent race with more passing than I expected. I really enjoyed the final two stints. They had great battles for position. Have to wonder what a green ending would have been like, but races have been shortened by rain with someone charging towards the lead.

It was a rough day for the rookies. Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou looked great early. P{alou crashed and VeeKay had issues in the pits. Pato O’Ward ended as the highest finishing rookie and will probably get Rookie of the Year.

Dixon now has an 85 point lead over Josef Newgarden for the series championship. He is in good shape with seven races left, none of which pay double points.

Dixon is now third on the all time Indianapolis 500 laps led list.

It seems that hat the accidents caused more fire and left more fluid on the track than I remember seeing in a while.

It’s been a while since Team Penske wasn’t a factor in the 500.

Sato improved to sixth in season points. will he stay in the top 10?

It’s Race Day!

After 455 days, the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 2:30 pm this afternoon. Many will be watching live on television for the first time in Indianapolis. There are several historic events on tap today.

Of course, the the biggest thing is no fans are allowed in for the first time in history. The track has always been open to fans every day cars run, including test days. It will make for a strange atmosphere at the track and on television.

For the first time since 1955, a member of the Hulman-George family will not give the command. Roger Penske will give the command as the Speedway’s new owner. My  understanding is he will begin the command with the word, “Drivers.” I disagree with that, but will reserve further comment until later this week.

For the first time three generations of one family will be on track at the same time. Mario Andretti will drive the 2 seater with Michael Andretti as his passenger. Marco Andretti starts on the pole.

The Schedule:

1 p.m: All Cars on Grid

1:20 p.m: On the Banks of the Wabash”

1:47 p.m: Driver Introductions

2:09 p.m: Invocation – Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, Archdiocese of Indianapolis

2:10 p.m: Rifle Volley

2:11 p.m: Taps

2:12 p.m.: National Anthem – “Singing Surgeons” Dr. Elvis Francois & Dr. William Robinson

2:14 p.m.: First Flyover – U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

2:14 p.m.: “Drivers, To Your Cars.” – Dave Calabro

2:20 p.m.: “Back Home Again in Indiana” – Jim Cornelison

2:22 p.m.: Second Flyover – U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

2:22 p.m.: Command To Start Engines – Roger Penske

2:30 pm: Green Flag waved by Dan Towris

Of note in the schedule: a rifle volley and two flyovers by the US Air Force Thunderbirds.

This schedule of ceremonies is a nice, compact lead up to engines starting. I hope the Speedway will look to keep it this way in the future. I think the opening ceremonies have gotten way too long.

I hope for a safe, clean race. It’s only 280 days until the 105th running, which I hope fans will be allowed to attend.

The Starting Lineup:

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Drivers Salute the Fans at Meeting and Home Visits

Photo: Indycar, Chris Jones

An emotional drivers’ meeting followed by an impromptu parade and home visits made what was supposed to be Legends’ Day a little easier to take.

The live streamed drivers’ meeting began with drivers sitting in the seats of longtime ticket holders and telling the fans how they missed them being there this year. I and some other fans I talked to today were affected by a mysterious dust storm that occurred at this moment. We all had to stop and wipe our eyes.

The meeting is on You Tube at this link:

The best line of the meeting was marco Andretti’s when ;leigh diffey asked how special it would for grandfather Mario and father Michael to be in the two seater on the pace laps.

“I can’t believe I’m on the pole and I’m still starting behind these guys,” Marco quipped.

The meeting took place on the Pagoda Plaza with masked drivers sitting in chairs at the proper social distance. Diffey introduce the drivers in groups of 11 at various points in the proceedings. Their 500 participation rings lay in boxes underneath each driver’s chair.

I thought the meeting was great although it was the first time for me that the reality of not being at the race solidly hit me.

After the meeting, the drivers took 33 official cars and paraded down Main Street before driving to the homes of local long time ticket holders.

IMS is doing everything they can to show the fans how much they are missed abnd what they mean to the drivers. If you have ever doubted that the drivers care about the fans (which i didn’t) today should put that idea to rest. I can’t think of another sport where something like this would happen.

I’ll be back tomorrow mornign with a quick preview of the day and then Quick Thoughts after the race.

O’Ward Leads Carb Day

Photo: Indycar, Matt Fraver

Pato O’Ward led an incident free Carb Day practice session as the 33 drivers in the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 completed the final tune up session. Scott Dixon was second, followed by Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato. O’Ward’s teammate Oliver Askew was fifth.

About 150 fans were on 16th street listening to the cars and following along on the video boards.

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In keeping with Carb Day tradition, the fans applauded at the end of the session.

I gained a new perspective just listening to the engines without the visual of the cars. I paid more attention to the sounds, which is hard to do in a packed grandstand. I could tell when a car was on the pit exit road, when they slowed for turn 1 or when they were close to another car. the difference between the two engines was distinct.

It is hard to imagine doing this on Sunday. I know some people plan to, but I will stay home and watch from the comfort of my den, surrounded by racing memorabilia. Since this is the first time I have watched the 500 live on television, I should probably put rookie stripes on my satellite box.

From earlier:

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/08/21/the-104th-indianapolis-500-past-and-future-meet-before-empty-stands/

The top 12:

The 104th Indianapolis 500- Past and Future Meet Before Empty Stands

Photo: Indycar, Joe Skibinski

It is finally time. The Indianapolis 500 will run Sunday as a very different event than we normally witness. It’s been delayed three months, a safety plan developed, and attendance was limited then done away with. Now the race is set.

The field is mixture of current and future stars of the series. Two rookies start in the first three rows surrounded by long time veterans. The rookie class has done very well this season, and I look for some of them to do quite well Sunday. I think one of the veterans will win, but I expect three rookies in the top ten at the finish.

Here are some things to look at for the 104th running:

Last Rides?

Sunday may be the final 500 for some popular drivers, particularly Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso. Castroneves is in the final year of a three year deal to drive in the 500 with Team Penske. With the disbanding of Penske’s IMSA team, Castroneves has nothing secure for next season. he is looking for a full time Indycar ride. Penske said the other day he would not rule Castroneves out for next year. The team looks like it will be pretty full already. Castroneves has been one of the greatest drivers in 500 history with three wins and three second place finishes.

Alonso’s contract with Renault in formula 1 for the next two seasons precludes him from racing in the 500. He has said he will come back after his Renault contract ends, but he will be 42 years old then.

Could Ryan Hunter-Reay be retiring at the end of this year? His contract is believed to be up, and DHL’s sponsorship agreement also ends after this season. Will he come back for Indianapolis one offs?

Watch and enjoy these three drivers Sunday. We don’t know if they’ll be back.

Charging from the Back

Will Power starts 22nd, Simon Pagenaud rolls off 25th, Castroneves starts 28th. despite the poor qualifying runs, look for the three penske drivers to be near the front by the end of the race. Pagenaud has not qualified well all season. He won at iowa after starting last, but this is a different situation.

Watch for the Ed Carpenter and Conor Daly to im prove from their sixth row grid positions. The ECR cars disappointed a bit in qualifying, but they should be good for the race..

Passing

Drivers are saying passing will be difficult and may take four to five laps instead of two or three. Today’s practice might give us a hint. Passes need to be planned and executed wisely. Team penske cars appeared to have little trouble passing cars during the first two days of practice.

Pits- Strategy and Mistakes

We have seen virtually every team have an issue in the pits through the frist six races. The mistakes could be from the delay in starting the seaon and the lack of practice time for crew members. A mistake Sunday could be costly, especially on one the later pit stops.

Will a team gamble on fuel strategy? It depends on how the race plays out with the cautions. How much  will the 58 pounds of the aeroscreen affect fuel mileage and tires?

The Rookies

Rinus VeeKay qualified fourth and Alex Palou starts seventh. VeeKay has improved since his shaky debut in Texas, but I’m not sure what to expect from him here. Driving for Ed carpenter racing is a plus at IMS. He should end up in the top ten.

Palou has been fast, and I am interestef to see how he handles a longer race. He needs flawless pit stops and smart strategy calls.

Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew start a bit further back than i expected. If they can avoid trouble, look for the Arrow McLaren SP cars to move up steadily during the first half of the race. At Iowa both cars stuck to their plan and were contending.

And the Winner Is…

While Marco Andretti wowed everyone with his dominant pole run, I am going with Scott Dixon to win his second Indianapolis 500. Dixon has been steady all year in winning the first three races to begin the season. He has been quietly quick during practice and qualifying. This team is prepared to go to Victory lane. A win would would put Dixon in a favorable spot to win his sixth championship.

Could Scott Dixon win his second 500 and 50th Indycar race Sunday?

For Rookie of the Year, look for Rinus VeeKay to take the honor. th 19 year old loves the speedway. Carpenter said he has taken to the track quicker than Josef Newgarden did.

 

 

Penske Addresses Fans; Other News and Notes

Roger Penske’s letter to the fans this morning:

penskeletter

I appreciate Roger reaching out to the fans. There is still hope that fans may be able to attend the Harvest Classic races October 2 and 3. meanwhile, Gateway is still expecting fans. They are limiting tickets to 20% of capacity. If you are thinking of going, I would call the ticket office. their website was doing some strange things yesterday. World wide Technology raceway is opening general admission seating in the first turn grandstands to help space fans out.

Will the Grid Get Older in 2021?

Helio Castroneves is looking for a full time Indycar ride next year, and Jimmie Johnson is seeking a two year deal to run the road and street courses beginning in 2021, with the Indianapolis 500 a possibility in 2022.

Penske has not ruled out Castroneves driving for him in the future, although with Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, and Will Power returning to Team Penske next year, and the likely addition of Scott McLaughlin, I can’t see Penske running five cars full time. Helio will be 45 by next season, and he has signed with the SRX program run by Tony Stewart for 2021.

Johnson, a seven time NASCAR champion, may draw some new fans for his first few races, but probably not long term. I think the novelty of seeing him in an Indycar on a road course will wear off quickly. A lot will depends on which team signs him. Would Ganassi go to a fourtrh car?

Should Castroneves and Johnson join the grid next year, it will reverse the trend of the youth movement that has occurred the last two years. The sport needs more new blood, but having stars race is never a bad thing.

Virtual Drivers’ Meeting

Saturday at 10 am the annual 500 drivers public meeting will be live streamed on IMS.com, @Verizon Twitter, and  You Tube. 

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Race Preview Tomorrow

Look for my 500 Mile Race preview tomorrow to find out which driver I will jinx by picking him to win. I think it will be an interesting race with lots of talent starting in the back of the field.

From Yesterday:

Thunderbird Flyover Highlights Indianapolis 500 Prerace

https://thepitwindow.blog/2020/08/19/thunderbird-flyover-highlights-indianapolis-500-prerace/

Andretti Rides the Wind to Capture the Pole- Quick Thoughts

The shifting winds brought part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s legends back today as Marco Andretti just edged Scott Dixon to win the pole for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The last time an Andretti won the pole was 1987 when Mario led the field to the green flag.

Andretti Autosport seemed to be floundering this season until the got to IMS. The team certainly has its act together here.

It appeared the wind shifting from turn 4 to turn 2 after Dixon’s run would help him stay in the top spot, but Marco found just enough speed to continue  his dominance of the week.

Marco’s dad Michael never won the pole at Indianapolis. Maybe victories skip a generation as well.

Marco is in good shape for the race with Brian Herta calling his race. Herta has now put a driver on the pole as well as bringing two other car 98s to victory lane (Wheldon 2011 and Rossi 2016).

Where would Alex Palou end up if he hadn’t had a problem with the weight jacker? He could be a sleeper in the race.

Rinus VeeKay in fourth is the fastest rookie in the field.  VeeKay could be another player next Sunday.

Graham Rahal had a couple of wild rides today. I hope they can balance the car better for the race.

Car 98 has now won four poles and four races. Just three drivers have won poles in the 98- Walt Faulkner, Parnelli Jones (twice), and Marco Andretti.

I don’t know if there were any poles won by a smaller margin, but 0.0113 seconds and 0.017 mph is pretty close.

Marco also started on the front row in 2013, when he started third.

It was frustrating when NBC didn’t immediately show the lap times because they were too busy playing with their graphics. Give the audience the information it needs at the time they need it.

No matter how the race ends, it will be great having an Andretti lead the field at the start.

Qualifying results, including all attempts from yesterday:

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 Thanks for following this weekend.

 

Pole Day-Will Marco Stay on Top?

Photo: Indycar, Walt Kuhn

Today’s schedule:

11-11:30 am – Fast 9 Practice NBC Gold

1:15-2:15 pm – Fast 9 Shootout NBC (1-3 pm coverage)

3:30-6 pm – Practice (NBCSN at 4 pm)

Good morning from the IMS northwest media center annex. This is an interesting and talented Fast Nine, and definitely one of the most unusual ones since the beginning of the pole shootout.  The field has four former race winners, two rookies, two former pole winners, and drivers from five different teams. Andretti Autosport has four drivers who advanced to today and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has two.

The odds of having a first time polesitter are good. Marco Andretti showed yesterday that he is fast regardless of the time of day and the track conditions. While Scott Dixon’s late run yesterday was simply a show of strength, he won’t be running with the shadows on the track.

Rinus VeeKay is a rookie driving for Ed Carpenter Racing. VeeKay loves to go fast. The ECR team  has been a perennial member of the Fast Nine.  I look for the only Chevy in the Fast Nine to be on the front row.

As for predictions, I hate to jinx someone, but this is Marco’s pole to lose.

Notes:

What’s missing from today’s shootout? Penske cars. Josef Newgarden was the fastes on the team in 13th. Will Power  is 22nd, Simon Pagenaud is 25th and Helio Castroneves is 28th.  Pagenaud has been a poor qualifier all season, but has come from the back to contend for the win.  I am puzzled by Chevrolet’s overall lack of speed.

Scott Dixon will increase his points lead today by at least 1 point and as many as 9. he currently leads Pagenaud by49 points and Newgarden by 51.

I think the fastest driver on Saturday should receive at least a point.

James Hinchcliffe’s mask is creepy.

I saw a lot of anger on social media toward Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon for their late day runs. While I wished they hadn’t done it and given drivers who needed a shot a chance, these late day qualifying games have been played for the last 70 years. Watch film of Bump Days in the past and see what went on in the last 90 minutes or so. You’ll see pretty much what you saw yesterday.  They were playing by the rules they were given.