Pagenaud Leads Short Session

Simon Pagenaud jumped to the top of the pylon with his last lap, jumping ahead of teammate Josef Newgarden. His fast lap was 228.441.  The Team Penske drivers nudged ahead of three Honda cars that had led most of the two hour practice. James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, and Alexander Rossi each had the fast time for awhile. Hondas seemed more competitive in race trim than they did in qualifying.

Pagenaud said Rossi will be a force to be reckoned with on race day. He also mentioned that Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot will also be contenders. Pagenaud said the warmer temperatures predicted for race day will change the way the cars act.

Tony Kanaan said the times today are insignificant because no one knows what tire or fuel combinations anyone was running.

I have heard from a reliable, non-team related source that Juncos will have a sponsor on the car by race day. I will share all information when Juncos announces it.

Kudos to Clauson-Marshall and Pippa Mann

While everyone was talking about the efforts of Dragonspeed and Ben Hanley and Juncos and Kyle Kaiser, it seems Clauson Marshall Racing and Pippa Mann have been forgotten. This team  came together in The team owners are new to Indycar, which is always an issue. Their alliance with A. J. Foyt Racing helped, but still it was a great achievement to get the car in the race.

I will have more later tonight.

Clauson-Marshall Racing, Pippa Mann Enter Indy 500

Pippa Mann will get another shot at driving in the Indianapolis 500. Clauson-Marshall Racing, one of the most successful dirt car teams at the moment, announced their entry for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Tim Clauson, father of the late Brian Clauson, said he and partner Richard Marshall are continuing Brian’s legacy of short track drivers racing in the 500.

The team has a technical alliance with A. J. Foyt Racing. The Foyt team  did have speed at IMS last year. Tony Kanaan qualified 10th and Matheus Leist started 11th.  Kanaan led 19 laps and was a contender for the win until a tire issue put him toward the rear of the field. He eventually crashed. Leist finished 13th.

Driven2 Save Lives will be the primary name on the car. Mann said several of her sponsors from last year will be back as well as at least three new backers. Mann was one of two drivers bumped from the field in 2018. Mann has participated in six Indy 500s, debuting in 2011. Her best starting spot is 22nd in 2014 and her best finish is 17th in 2017.

 

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Pippa Mann speaks at the Clauson-Marshall announcement.

The car will carry number 39, Brian Clauson’s number.  Clauson and Mann were teammates at Dale Coyne Racing in 2016.

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The car has similar colors as last year’s Driven2SaveLives entry.

Thoughts

Despite the partnership with Foyt, who did find some speed last year, the team faces long odds of making the race. With 36-38 entires expected, the one off teams could have a difficult time cracking the fastest 33.

I like Pippa. She is a great ambassador for the sport and works tirelessly on behalf of health causes and to help women in racing. She adds a lot to the paddock. However, I think a new team would want a more seasoned driver to have a realistic chance at lining up race morning.  It will be great if she drives on May 26, but I fear the same result she had last year.

It’s always great to have a new team and more entries at Indy.

The Drama Everyone Hoped For; The Results Nobody Wanted

Fans hoped that the return of bumping would bring drama back to qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There was plenty to go around. As the gun sounded, however, many were not happy with the results. Two perennial favorites, Pippa Mann and James Hinchcliffe, were out of the field for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500, while another favorite, Conor Daly, fought his way onto the grid-twice.

James Davison, who had a hard crash Friday afternoon. sat for the last hour waiting to see if he would be bumped. His crew completed repairs around 2 am. Bob Lazier loaned the team  parts to rebuild the gearbox.

Davison was in a difficult position. He couldn’t withdraw his time until he was bumped. He had a spot and had to keep it. Mann wasn’t fast enough, and Hinchcliffe didn’t get another chance.

Conor Daly”s first attempt of the day ended with a 22.684 average. He was eventually bumped. His second effort put him back in the field. Oriol Servia, who was having a difficult day himself, bumped Daly on his third attempt of the day. Daly went out a third time and bumped Hinchcliffe out.

Servia had a problem on his first run and it was called off after laps of 201, 196, and 194. His second had two respectable laps in the low 220 range, but after he dropped to 217 on the third, the crew stopped the effort. He finally bumped his way in near the end of the day’.

In what would be Hinchcliffe’s final attempt of the day, he felt a vibration as he pulled out of pit lane. It went way, but it returned in turn 3 and he decided to pull in. The problem was a tire sensor broke and was rattling around inside the wheel. Hinchcliffe got back in line, but time ran out before he could get another try.

Press Conferences- Highs and Lows

The post qualifying press conferences ranged from silly to emotional. Foutr members of the Fast Nine- Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Ed Carpenter, and Danica Patrick- spoke. They mostly joked around and all expected to be on the pole tomorrow.

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James Davison talked about how hard his crew worked to get the car ready after the crash on Friday.

“The only way to repay them (the crew) was  to make the race,” he said, “We owe them immensely.”

He sees no point in running hard Sunday to improve his position.

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Pippa Man and James Hinchcliffe also spoke in separate appearances. they both came from several rounds of on air interviews and team discussions. They both looked emotionally drained. I admire them both for making one last stop to talk to the media.

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In her brief emotional remarks, Mann said she knew Friday they might be in trouble when the car, which had performed well Wednesday and Thursday was not fast yesterday morning. Everything on the car was changed.

“We tried everything, obviously it wasn’t fast enough. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

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Hinchcliffe was subdued and direct. ” This was our fault. Nobody failed us We failed us,” he told the media. His comments seemed pointed at those on social media blaming ABC, the drivers who went out just before him, and anyone else they could think of for his not getting into the race.

“This track has done worse to me in the past and we came back swinging,” he said, referring to his crash in 2015 followed by winning the pole the following year.

As to speculation that he might replace Jay Howard in the race, “I will do what Sam (Schmidt) and Rick (Peterson tell me to do, ” he answered.

 

As I said in a previous piece, the current qualifying format was designed for a field of 33 entries only. The rules need to be changed when there are more entries. We knew two cars were going home. We can’t be angry at the system because our favorite drivers are the ones left out. Sad for them, yes; disappointed, absolutely. More on this topic tomorrow.

I will post an update when I get to the track. The weather this afternoon looks iffy.