Hunter-Reay Leads Practice 2

Finally a veteran took charge. Ryan Hunter-Reay had the quickest time in Practice 2 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey this afternoon. Two of the rookies who led the morning practice were right behind him. The morning practice was led by three rookies after Colton Herta led yesterday’s second test period. Felix Rosenqvist finished just 0.02 seconds behind Hunter-Reay and Herta was third, 0.001 seconds after Rosenqvist.

“It’s a very narrow window to get it right,” Hunter-Reay said, “I’m not resting on this one.”

The title contenders had mixed results. Simon Pagenaud finished 4th, Josef Newgarden 6th and Alexander Rossi was 23. Rossi had a software issue this morning.

The only red flag was for Scott Dixon who went off track and stalled between turns 10 and 11.

Rossi led the just completed pit stop/warm-up period.  Hunter-Reay was second, followed by Herta. Rossi still feels he will be okay for tomorrow and Sunday.

Notes

You can see almost the entire track from the top of hill near the Corkscrew. The cars carry a lot of speed into the top of the Corkscrew turn.

Hunter-Reay’s livery looks as if his nose was damaged and was replaced by one they just happened to have around. I love tribute liveries but this one has just gone halfway. It’s my least favorite livery this weekend.

Some Photos

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From Kyle McInnes

CHERTP1LS

Miles Happy with Series’ Growth

“In almost every metric our marketing, promotional, and commercial initiatives are growing the sport and hopefully gaining more fans,” Mark Miles,  president of Hiulman and Company,  began the state of the NTT Indycar Series media availability this morning at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Miles noted the solid, consistent car count and the growth of entries for the Indianapolis 500 and race attendance.   Eight races have shown a year over year increase and four events set weekend records More than 1,5 million fans have attended the first 16 races this season.

Miles said that 97%  of sponsors in place for 2020.  He expects to add another meaningful sponsorship  before the end of the year.

On the television side,  1.129 million viewers have watched  through the first 15 races. Eleven races have experienced growth.

Miles does not see an Indycar/ NASCAR doubleheader before 2022. He believes it would work best at a track where both series race. He is still looking to add two races outside the United States in February. Nothing is imminent, however.

Jay  Frye, Indycar president, said the aeroscreen tests scheduled for October are the final sign off. He doesn’t believe there will be any issues on track.  The tests are October 2  at IMS, October 7 at   Barber, and  October 15  at Richmond.

Frye said there are 10 Requests for Proposals out for the hybrid component expected to debut in 2022. He is excited about the cars being able to restart themselves and the added horsepower the unit will help produce.

Back after today’s second practice

 

 

 

 

Herta Leads Rookie Parade in Practice 1

Colton Herta continues to be the fastest at Weather Tech Raceway as he led two other rookies in the NTT Indycar Series first practice. Herta’s fast lap of 1:10.7235 was just a tick slower than his fast time yesterday. Felx Rosenqvist was second and Santino Ferrucci was third. Rosenqvist leads Ferrucci by 26 points for Rookie of the Year. Herta is 49 points behind Rosenqvist.

Alexander Rossi completed just 4 laps and had the slowest speed in the session. Simon Pagenaud in 6th was the quickest of the title contenders.  Points leader Josef Newgarden was 9th.

There was one red flag during practice for Tony Kanaan who spun off the track and could not restart. Colton Herta spun in the corkscrew as time expired.

The top 12

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I talked to some local fans this morning who told me they were very happy that Indycar has returned to this track. One said he attended every CART and Champ Car race. The fans reminded me of the fans at Road America in 2016 when the series returned to Wisconsin.

Back after a press conference with Mark Miles and Jay Frye.

 

Good Morning from Weather Tech Raceway

My first impression of the track is how steep it is. The track is on top of a mountain. Unlike Watkins Glen, it appears to be built into the mountain. The drop off in the corkscrew is one of the most impressive sections  of track I’ve ever seen. There are other areas that seem like pretty big climbs and drops as well. I will do more looking around before and during the morning practice.

Colton Herta led yesterday’s test session. Among the title contenders, Josef Newgarden was fourth fastest in the afternoon practice.  In the morning test, Ryan Hunter=Reay did seven in laps in Alexander Rossi’s car to see if he could find something to help his teammate this weekend.

I was not aware that pit out and turn 1 go uphill. That will make out laps interesting on cold tires.

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I’ll be back after the first practice. Mark Miles and Jay Frye will give a state of the series address at 11:45 and I will include that as well.

Today’s Schedule:

10:30 -11:15 Practice 1

2:10- 2:55  Practice 2

3:10-3:40  Pit Stop Practice/ Warm up

All of today’s sessions will be on NBC Gold.

The Three Headed Race – Laguna Seca Preview

It seems as if we get to the NTT Indycar Series finale sooner every year. St. Pete was just three weeks ago, wasn’t it?  Yet, we enter this weekend with a race to decide the series championship.  Three drivers have the most reasonable chance to win the Astor Cup thanks to the double points awarded for this race.

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey marks the return of Indycar to Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca after 15 years away. CART raced here from 1983 -2003, and Champ Car sanctioned the final race in 2004. Only four active drivers, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Tony Kanaan have raced here in an Indycar series.  Bobby Rahal won four straight races from 1984-1987 and was also  the winning car owner a couple of times.

The entire field’s lack of experience on the 2.258 mile track makes this race a wildcard as far as picking a winner. It’s probably not the best place to determine a champion. A February test was not helpful because of the very different weather conditions.  The six hours of testing today could give us an idea of what the weekend holds.

There are three races contained in this one event. Besides the battle for the championship, there is the race itself and the fight for rookie of the year. Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by 41 points and Simon Pagenaud by 42. Newgarden needs a fourth place finish Sunday to win the title no matter what anyone else does. The lower that Rossi and Pagenaud finish, the lower Newgarden can finish and stay safe.

Felix Rosenqvist leads Santino Ferrucci by 26 points for Rookie of the Year. Ferrucci has completed the second most laps this season, but natural road courses have not been his strength. The rookie class has been outstanding this year. I’ll talk more about their great year in my season review.

And we have the race itself. I feel sorry for the raqce winner of the season finale because of the focus on the championship. The winner usually gets a quick celebration and then is whisked away so the season championship can be celebrated. I don’t mean to take anything away from the series champion, but a race win deserves proper honors.

Qualifying Key, Passing at a Premium?

In past Indycar races here, passing was difficult. Other than the infamous Alex Zanardi pass on Bryan Herta in 1996, there has not been much passing to talk about. I have maintained from the time it happened that the  pass was illegal.

Tire degradation may help make passing possible. the IMSA drivers said last week that tire degradation was the worst they had seen.

Qualifying may determine how the race goes. Staring position could determine a contender’s chances at the title. I look for a great battle for the pole on Saturday. The bonus point for starting first may turn out to be valuable on Sunday.

Down to the Final Race Again

2019 is the 14th straight year that the championship has not been decided until the final race.  Since 2013, only once has the points leader entering the season finale not won the title. In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya came into the final race at Sonoma with a 34 point lead over Graham Rahal. Scott Dixon,  42 points behind as the race started, won the championship on a tiebreaker over Montoya by winning the race.

Newgarden is in a very good position. He needs to avoid the mistakes he has made at Detroit in Race 2 and at Mid Ohio this year. Rossi has been good but not great this season. He almost needs another race like he had at Road America in June to have a chance. Pagenaud has been mainly a steady top ten finisher this season and will need to contend for a podium. I think Newgarden will do enough to take his second title in three years.

For the actual race, I think either Rossi or Dixon will win.  Dixon needs for Newgarden to have a very bad day to even have a sniff at repeating last year’s title. A Rossi win will just narrow the margin but not be enough for him to overtake the points leader.

Season Ending Goodbyes

The end of the season marks the end of ABC Supply Co.’s 15 year association with A. J. Foyt Racing. The company will still sponsor the number 14 car at the Indianapolis 500, but that is all. I want to thank them for their support of Indycar for more than a decade.

Could this be Tony Kanaan’s last drive as a full time participant in the series? Kanaan wants to run one more season, but will he get that opportunity? I could see him driving a one off for the 500 for a few more years.

Harding Steinbrenner racing may be no more after Sunday.  Colton herta is expected to join Andretti Autosport next year in a fifth car. George Steinbrenner is expected to come with him to Andretti.  Will Mike Harding still field a car? We might get some answers this weekend.

Reminder- the race is on NBC. If you have set your DVR to record the series on NBCSN, you need to set it to record the race on NBC. You’re welcome.

I will be on site beginning Friday with reports on all sessions and any news that happens.

 

 

 

 

Indycar Schedule- Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

All Times Pacific

Thursday, September 19

9:15-11:15- Open Test

1:30-5:30    Open Test

Friday, September 20

10;30 Practice 1

2:10  Practice 2

Saturday, September 21

10:00  Practice 3

1:35   Qualifying

Sunday, September 22

!2:15   Green Flag for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

 

Practices will be on NBC Gold. Qualifying is on NBCSN. The race is on NBC. You may need to set your DVR to record on NBC.