Kanaan Leads Carb Day Practice

Tony Kanaan led the field for Sunday’s 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The session start was delayed 15 minutes because of morning rain.

The 90 minute final practice was clean. Graham Rahal brushed the wall in turn 4 but kept going.

I think the practice was indicative of what the race will be like.  Passing in groups of three or four, no passing in a larger group.

Alexander Rossi looked very strong  Honda’s dominated the top 10.

More later. There was a serious crash on lap 2 of the Freedom 100

The race is currently under a red flag.

 

Jarrett Andretti Added to Freedom 100 Field

Jarrett Andretti will become the latest member of one of racing’s most famous families to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The son of John Andretti will drive an Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car in the Freedom 100 on  Carb Day,  May 24.

Andretti, 26, has won championships in karts, USAC midgets. an Indiana Sprint Car series.  He joins Andretti Indy Lights drivers Oliver Askew, Robert Megnnis, and Ryan Norman in the Andretti Indy Lights Field. Jarrett currently competes for Andretti Autosport in the Pirelli GT4 America program. He has also competed in the Pirelli World Challenge TCR class.

It is always great to have another Indy Lights car in the field, and adding another Andretti is big for the series. No plans for additional Indy Lights races were mentioned at this time, but Michael mentioned this could be first step to more participation in the series. It seems like a logical presumption  for someone with his last name.

Hunter-Reay leads Practice 1 Honda Parade

Hondas had the top seven times in this morning’s first practice, led by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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Claman De Melo Returns to Indy Lights with Belardi

Above: Zachary Claman De Melo practicing for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Zachary Claman De Melo has signe3d with Belardi Racing for the 2019 Indy lights season. DeMelo drove in Indy Lights in 2017 and also had one Indycar race that year at Sonoma. In 2018 he drove nine Indycar races for Dale Coyne. He had several more races than anticipated as he substituted for the injured Pietro Fittipaldi. De Melo’s best finish was 12th at the Indycar Grand Prix on the IMS road course.

Zach Veach returned to Indy Lights in 2017 in hopes of garnering enough attention to land a full time Indycar ride. His efforts paid off with a three year deal with Andretti Autosport.  De Melo has potential. For the Indianapolis 500 he qualified 13th and finished 19th.

More Lights drivers need to consider a return to the series to at least gain some more open wheel experience to prepare for Indycar.

IMS Museum Plans Major Renovations- Some Thoughts

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported last week on renovation plans for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. The full article can be read here:

https://www.ibj.com/articles/71234-getting-up-to-speed?v=preview

Highlights of the project, which at this time has no definite timeline or cost projection, include many interactive displays, virtual reality activities, a 3-D theater, and a racing simulator. Costs could run into the 10s of millions of dollars.The building will be double its current size with two wings and a partial third floor. There is talk of  some glass flooring offering a peek into part of the mysterious basement, which only a few outsiders have been privileged to see. For most race fans, the museum basement has been the IMS equivalent of a pharaoh’s tomb.

I think the museum is long overdue for a change. Up until a few years ago, displays rarely changed. The space had remained pretty much as it was when the first museum opened in the building at the corner of 16th and Georgetown. Even with their new approach of special exhibits and the additional display space in the north part of the building, the museum still is far behind other museums. The additional display space has added some improved experience, but they are still limited in what can be done.

I hope that keeping the current winning cars on display  is still part of the plan. I have always found comfort in seeing the cars when I first enter the museum proper. Several of my favorite cars of all time live there. It’s like visiting old friends. Yes, the museum needs to attract new and hopefully repeat repeat visitors. At the same time, they need to remember their older, frequent visitors like me.

On a snowy, rainy day like Indianapolis is having today, I like to go to the museum just to look at the cars. I’m not sure I’d be as tempted to go out to the new version just to hang out. A peaceful, meditative walk through history suits me just fine.

I celebrate the renovation plans, but I ask the people in charge to please consider retaining some of the current place’s charm.

The Pit Window and Wildfire Sports Going to PRI

The Pit Window and Wildfire Sports will be attending the PRI show the first week in December. Look for daily reports on Wildfire Sports and for commentary on the event here at the end of the week.  I’m excited to finally get to this show.

Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.

Contact:

tickets@gpstpete.com

pir@portlanoregon.gov

Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video:

 

 

 

Indycar Developments and Non Developments

Some Indycar developments this week have sharpened the 2019 picture a bit, but the big announcements are still to come.

International Media  Rights In House

Indycar has created Indycar Media, a new organization in house distribution of the series’ global media rights. Indycar media plans to make deals with more than 24 licensees representing more than 100 countries. This gives Indycar flexibility to tailor content to specific needs, Sweden might want more features on Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, Should a certain Spanish driver enter the Indianapolis 500, Spain and a lot of Europe would want more stories about him.

This is a good deal for the series. There is potential for good income growth here.

 

Road to Indy Prize Packages

The Road to Indy and Andersen Promotions revealed their scholarship and cash awards for 2019. A combined total of $2 million is available to the champions of the three series.

The Indy Lights champion receives $1.1 million which goes toward three Indycar races in 2020, including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. Winning the Pro Mazda title nets $596,700. $500,00 of the prize is scholarship money for Indy Lights, and the rest is for entry fees and Cooper tires at the next level.

USF2000’s top driver will have $305,600- a $250,000 scholarship and $55,600 for tires and entry fees in Pro Mazda.

My spending other people’s money segment today-

I think the top three drivers in points should get some scholarship award, even if it means they spend another year at the same level.

Juncos- 2 Cars, No Drivers

Juncos Racing has purchased a second Dallara chassis. They plan to use the second car to enhance their test days. As far as the race schedule, Juncos will again be a part time team. They may run more races with just one car or fewer races with two cars. It’s great to see teams buying extra cars.

Juncos has not signed any drivers fort he season or for testing as of today.

South America?

A video from Brazil today announced an Indycar race will take place on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in2020. The video showed the track layout and an  animated Indycar in Verizon livery driving the circuit. Signage included Verizon, Toyota, and DHL.  There is a slight glitch to this plan. Neither Mark Miles nor Jay Frye have signed an agreement for this race. Indycar says there no plans in motion to hold this event.

Speculation about a race in Uruguay also has been discussed. I can’t envision two Indycar races in South America in a season. They would have to be run either on consecutive weekends, or within a span of three weeks.  That is a long time away from home for all involved. Compensation needs to be well worth everyone’s effort.

My guess – one of the two is likely, no earlier than 2020. Waiting until 2021 and the new engine and possibly chassis package might be a better idea.

Title Sponsor?

Still no word on a title sponsor for Indycar.  I was hoping we would know something by Thanksgiving, but that may be optimistic.

 

 

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.