Fewer Venues, More Doubleheaders on Revised Schedule

The NTT Indycar Series released another new schedule this afternoon in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in hopes of getting in as many races as possible.  To do that, Detroit has been cancelled and Iowa and Laguna Seca will host doubleheader weekends.

Texas is now the scheduled opener on June 6. Toronto remains on the schedule, but the city’s closed order going until June 30, I don’t see how there will be enough time for the track build. The situation remains fluid, but I think the series might be better served to hold off on schedule announcements until necessary. There will likely be more changes. I could see the Indianapolis 500 becoming the opener with a compacted schedule rather than the one previously announced.

What is good about the new schedule? The two night races at Iowa, one of which is on a Friday night. The October race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway brings back a hint of the Harvest Classic race meet run at IMS in  the fall of 1916. The October race shares the track with the previously scheduled sports car program. Both road course races at the Speedway will share time with other racing disciplines. I love the concept of seeing multiple series on the same weekend. We might see the beginning of a trend here.

St. Pete is still listed as an October TBA and will possibly be the finale. Including St. Pete, the schedule is now 15 races at 12 venues. I’m glad the race count stays where it is, but I don’t like the limited number of venues. I realize these are extraordinary circumstances.

I don’t think this schedule is done yet. Stay tuned.

The schedule as of today:

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The Greatest 33 Non-Winners: Final Grid- A Reader Request Post

Editor’s Note: This is the first reader request; originally published May 9, 2017

What a fun project this turned out to be! It was fascinating seeing how much those who submitted grids both agreed and disagreed. Some drivers got just one mention, while others appeared on every ballot.  There was near unanimous placement for some drivers, and some drivers were near the front on some grids and near the back on others. The driver nearly everyone agreed should be on the pole is Michael Andretti (pictured above, from 1992).

I  noticed the rankings were along age lines. Older fans close to my age seemed to have near identical grids,  and younger fans as a group submitted similar lineups.  Many drivers from long ago in general fared better on the lists from the older group. I was surprised how well the current drivers stacked up against the racers of the past. Another interesting detail is that all 50 driver finalists had at least one mention. I didn’t expect that.

To rank the drivers, I assigned points to the drivers corresponding to their spot on each person’s grid. A driver on pole got 1 point, the last driver got 33. If a driver was listed on pole on five grids, his total was 5. The lowest total won the pole. If a driver did not appear on someone’s grid, he/she was given 34 points. To my shock, there were only two ties. I resolved placement by averaged each driver’s highest and lowest rank of all the grades, with the lowest average getting the higher spot. One of the ties was for 32nd and 33rd. It was just like qualifying for the 1963 500.

The front row- Michael Andretti, Rex Mays, and Ted Horn, is strong. These drivers were in the top 10 on everyone’s grid. Andretti led 431 laps, the most by any non-winning driver. he started on the front row three times and had 5 top 5 finishes.  Rex Mays, in the middle of the front row is the only other driver to lead more than 200 laps and not win. Mays was on the pole four times. Ted Horn, on the outside of the front row, finished in the top five 9 times in 10 starts.

So here they are, the Greatest 33 Non-Winners of the Indianapolis 500:

Row 1

Michael Andretti

Rex Mays

Ted Horn

Row 2

Harry Hartz

Marco Andretti

Lloyd Ruby

Row 3

Gary Bettenhausen

Ralph Hepburn

Roberto Guerrero

Row 4

Scott Goodyear

Carlos Munoz

Robby Gordon

Row 5

Eddie Sachs

Tony Stewart

Jack McGrath

Row 6

Wally Dallenbach

Tomas Sheckter

Will Power

Row 7

Danica Patrick

Tony Bettenhausen

Joe Leonard

Row 8

Jimmy Snyder

Ed Carpenter

Danny Ongais

Row 9

Pancho Carter

Mel Kenyon

Kevin Cogan

Row 10

Vitor Meira

Russ Snowberger

Paul Russo

Row 11

Tom Alley

Johnny Thomson

George Snider

it’s kind of fitting that Snider is last on the grid. his trademark was jumping into a car on Bump Day and getting into the field starting near the back. Thanks to everyone who submitted a grid. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and reasoning as to how yo put your grids together.

I will be back tomorrow with some 500 news and a report on my visit to the A. J. Foyt exhibit at the Speedway Museum. The cars were great to see, but the memorabilia was even more amazing to me. Thursday I will have my Indianapolis Grand Prix preview with my normally inaccurate winner’s prediction.

 

 

 

 

 

A Gem in Nebraska

When I think of racing  and automobile museums, I normally don’t think of going to Nebraska. How wrong I was.  I was wondering how to spend the day before the Iowa 300. The Knoxville Sprint Hall of Fame looked like a great place to go.  But before I left for Newton, I saw that my friend Janay Martin posted on Facebook that she was going to the Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Nebraska. I asked her if I could tag along.

The museum began as a project of Speedway Motors owner “Speedy” Bill Smith, who began collecting anything racing or automotive related a long time before opening the exhibit hall in 1992. The three story, 150,000 square foot building is virtually an American speed and auto time capsule. Smith’s Speedway Motors began as an engine shop, then also did fabrication, and now sells all auto parts for road cars and race cars.

The Museum is an even three hour drive from Iowa Speedway. We got there when the museum opened at 9. As soon as we walked in, six year old me came back to life. I couldn’t believe what I saw.

The first car inside the entrance is a 1960’s Indy roadster, a Shrike from 1965, and Al Unser’s 1970 winner. Then I came to the gate above. If I saw nothing else in the place after I walked through that gate, I could have gone back to Newton happy.

There sat Bill Vukovich’s 1951 rookie car, the Central Excavating Special. The car sits outside a mock up of the old IMS garages.  The car started the race in 20th. Vukovich moved quickly to seventh before retiring after 29 laps. wp-15645384090222648452678329700045.jpg

I got the same chills I get whenever I see the Boyle Maserati and the Fuel injection Special at the IMS Museum. I find it thrilling to be in the presence of cars driven by such legends.

The IMS area also contains other memorabilia from the Indianapolis 500, including engines, uniforms, and a lot of photos. Because of our limited time, I couldn’t linger here. This was just the beginning.

Two other areas of note on the first floor were a room dedicated to engine builders. There were tribute plaques honoring Harry Miller and Fred Offenhauser.wp-15645384754763065514754140285142.jpg

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In the opposite corner is a tribute to A. J. Watson, whose cars ruled at IMS in the late 50s and early 60s. the car Jim Rathmann drove at Monza is the centerpiece of this space.

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The first floor also has a diorama dedicated to the SAFER Barrier, which was developed at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and a sprint car area. The star of the sprint car gallery was the Black Deuce, Bobby Grim’s famous car.

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Another section had engines, including the 1994 Ilmor Beast that powered the Penske cars which dominated the Indianapolis 500 that year. Other engines in the collection include a Gurney Weslake and a Judd.

The classic car area featured a rare Tucker, the short lived car of the late 40s.

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The third floor is mostly dedicated to toys and very realistic pedal cars. I saw a toy car I had as smaller kid. There is an alcove between the second and third floors lined with vinyl album covers which had automotive related themes. There are some signed guitars, including this one signed by the original Beach Boys. I was not allowed to play it.

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The walls of each floor are lined with cases of auto parts from hood ornaments to manifolds to cigarette lighters.

I highly recommend that while you are waiting for the hopefully later start to the Iowa race, that you drive over to his beautiful place. It’s a trip back in time.

For more information on Speedway Motors, go to

https://www.speedwaymotors.comhttps://www.speedwaymotors.com

For more information on the museum,

https://www.museumofamericanspeed.com/

 

 

 

Was Final Practice a Race Preview?

In a furious final warm-up for the Iowa 300, Simon Pagenaud set the tone early. The polarizer turned a lap at 174..462. For most of the session no one was within four miles an hour of that speed.As shadows began to cover the front stretch and turn four, other drivers crept closer. Eventually four others= Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon, and Conor Daly, posted times in the 170 range.

We may have seen a glimpse of what tonight’s race will look like. Pagenaud has a huge advantage in speed and will try to build an early lead. He will need that cushion when his cars handling changes with the creeping shadows.

I watched most of practice from the outside of turn 3. It’s a great view watching the cars exit turn 2 and set up for turn 3. Cars appear to be able to go side by side coming out of the second turn, but one car needs to back off a bit in turn 3. The action on the backstretch is a mad scramble to get Set up for the next corner.

As always at Iowa traffic for the leaders will be challenging. The rear of the field might see the frontrunners after 10 laps.

Notes

In a move to help fans the driver’s autograph session wasps moved to beneath the grandstands. I talked to a fan who dreaded standing in the heat and sun for the session.

Marcus Ericsson backed up his 10th place qualifying by ending the practice session in 7th.

It will be interesting to see how full the grandstands are at the beginning of the race. The stands were nearly all in shadow by the end of hour long final practice.

Back after the race with Quick Thoughts.

Pagenaud Continues Title Quest with Iowa Pole

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi can hear the footsteps louder now. They faded for a bit after May, but are now coming faster. Simon Pagenaud won the pole for tomorrow night’s Iowa 300, beating his Penske teammates who will start second and third. It is Pagenaud’s third pole of the season and second consecutive top staring spot.

Pagenaud snatched the pole from teammate Will Power, who posted a two, lap time of 35.8418 seconds. Pagenaud then completed his two laps in 35.7455 seconds. Newgarden was the last driver to attempt to qualify. He appeared to have trouble negotiating turn 4 and will start third Saturday.

The three Penske cars were the only cars in the 35 second range. Takuma Sato in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda was the only driver besides the top three to post a single lap less than 18 seconds. Sato had just taken the provisional  pole from James Hinchcliffe before the first Penske car took the track.

Hinchcliffe had claimed the top spot from his Arrow Schmidt Peterson teammate Marcus Ericsson. Seven drivers failed to top Ericsson before Hinchcliffe’s run. Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay eventually topped Ericsson’s time ahead of Sato qualified. Hinchcliffe, the defending race winner, starts fifth tomorrow.

Andretti Cars Lack Outright Speed

Alexander Rossi starts sixth and Ryan Hunter-Reay rolls off ninth tomorrow. Andretti Autosport has seven victories at Iowa but trail the Penske cars by half a second. The good news is the Hondas get better fuel mileage than the Chevys, although tire degradation may prevent them from taking advantage of that edge.

The caution periods will need to play out in Rossi’s favor for him to have a shot at his third win of the year.

Notes

Pagenaud said qualifying was “very intense… I’m still shaking, but that’s what Indycar is all about.”

He said he is “living in the moment” this year, focusing on the next task once the last one is finished.

The cars from Ed Carpenter Racing qualified a disappointing 17th ( Ed Carpenter) and 19th ( Spencer Pigot).

Indycar has a final practice session at 7 pm Eastern time tonight.

Qualifying Results

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Iowa 300 Qualifying- Quick Thoughts

Simon Pagenaud is definitely back in the title chase now. He now has three poles and three wins. The bonus points he is accumulating are helping him gain ground quickly.

The title could come down to whoever wins their fourth race of the year first.

Josef Newgarden missed turn 4 on his first qualifying lap. He seemed to brake and turn a hard right. That is the moment he lost a chance at the pole.

It was an interesting qualifying session with several drivers at the top throughout the session.

Carlin Racing had a respectable qualifying effort with Sage Karam in 14th and Conor Daly in 16th.

Pagenaud said tire degradation will be the key to the race tomorrow.

The polesitter has never won at Iowa. That is not a reason to discount Pagenaud’s chances tomorrow.

It was nice seeing the two Arrow Schmidt Peterson cars at the top of the pylon for a few minutes.

Team Penske looks formidable this weekend.

The next Chevy after the Penskes in the top three spots is Tony Kanaan in 13th.

The starters in fourth through ninth could win. Fuel strategy will be crucial for the Honda cars.

Several cars had lots of understeer.

A full story on qualifying will follow in a bit.

Final practice for the Iowa 300 is from 7-8 EDT.

 

Newgarden Leads Penske Sweep in Iowa Practice 1

Photo: Kyle McInnes

Josef Newgarden led most of the first practice session for the Iowa 300 this morning.  Ryan Hunter Hunter-Reay led briefly during the middle portion of the NTT Indycar Series practice period. In the final 20 minutes, Newgarden’s teammates Simon Pagenaud and Will Power moved into second and third.

Newgarden’s fastest lap was 17.8961 seconds, 179.838. Pagenaud finished 0,1308 seconds behind. Alexander Rossi, Newgarden’s closest competitor for the series championship, struggled early but came back to finish fourth in the session, 0.2 seconds behind. Rossi was third fastest without a tow.

Following the three Chevys were three Hondas. After Rossi was Dixon and the Hunter-Reay. Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, Felix Rosenqvist, and Zach Veach complete the top ten.

Qualifying begins at 2:15 EDT on NBCSN.

 

Notes

Cars were lifting in the turns. Some of it could be due to traffic, but it was noticeable when there was no one in front of a car as well.

Indy Lights driver Rinus VeeKay will test with Ed Carpenter Racing August 7 at Portland International Raceway. VeeKay won the Indy Pro 2000 in 2018.

Colton Herta has blank sidepods.

It is not difficult to tell Dixon’s and Rosenqvist’s cars apart.

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts and a full report.