Indycar’s Second Half- More of the Same Would be Fine

Update- Marti is improving as the medical team works out a treatment plan. Thank you all again for your kind wishes and concerns. We will get through this.

Photo: Alex Palou leads Colton Herta at Road America. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Indycar had itself one heck of a first half- seven different winners, including four first time winners; only two winners over the age of 30; dramatic finishes, and really good racing. Only two drivers have won more than once, and four of the top seven in points are under the age of 25.

Alex Palou holds the trophy for the REV Group Grand Prix. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Road America traditionally marks the end of the first half of the season, but with the cancellation of Toronto, which will not be made up, last Sunday was the first race of the season’s second half. The loss of the race, which is not a shock, narrows the field for the championship to three drivers-Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, and Scott Dixon.

I think the title fight comes down to a battle between Palou, the current points leader, and O’Ward. Only O’Ward and Palou have won more than one race. Palou has led seven of the nine races. Palou has been on the podium five times, O’Ward finished in the top three four times. The 28 point lead Palou enjoys is essentially the difference in points between the two drivers at the Indianapolis 500.

I think Palou will prevail this season. Here’s why.

O’Ward Oddities

Both of Pato’s wins came in the second race of the two double headers. He finished third in the first race of each double header, and he was on pole for the first race in Detroit. In both of his victories, O’Ward overtook Josef Newgarden late in the race.

There are no more double headers this season It seems the Arrow McLaren SP team needs a bit of a longer window to figure things out. I’m not sure O’Ward wins another race in 2021, and he may have trouble holding on to second place in the standings.

The Iceman Lurketh

Six time champion Scott Dixon sits on the verge of history on two fronts. His next win, which is very likely this season, will tie him with Mario Andretti for second place on the career win list with 52. Winning the title will tie him with A. J. Foyt with seven championships.

Dixon has been competitive, as always, but the car looks to be just a step behind the front runners. The Indianapolis 500, despite Dixon winning the pole, did not turn out well. Dixon is 53 points behind, and 49 points of that gap are from the 500. He has come from larger deficits to win take a couple of his titles, but I don’t see it happening this year. Still, dixon will continue an amazing string of finsihes in the top five in points.

More Winners

There will be more drivers winning a race this season. It is inveitable that Josef Newgarden and/or Will Power will win a race before the season ends. Newgarden has won the last two poles and has had victory in his grasp the last two races. He has lost the lead with three laps remaining in Detroit and with two laps left at Road America. Mechanical gremlins and tire strategy have kept Team Penske out of the winner’s circle so far in 2021, but I think we see that situation change in the next three months. It is hard yo believe we are nine races into the season and wondering when a Penske will win a race.

Look for another win by an Andretti Autosport driver as well. Either Colton Herta wins another time, or Alexander Rossi will finally break through. This team has been just as puzzling as Team Penske. Herta has been the only bright spot for the team.

Nice Surprises

The biggest surprise this year is the overall performance of Romain Grosjean. The former F1 driver has won a pole, took a podium spot, and has been overall competitive in his 6 races in 2021. Grosjean is an outstanding qualifier, starting in the top six three times and seventh twice. Missing the Indianapolis 500 and the two Texas races will probably cost him Rookie of the Year since the award is based solely on points. He would win it if the trophy were awarded based on his performance on track.

Dixon Leads Busy Carb Day After Delay

Photo of Scott Dixon by James Black, Indycar

Scott Dixon had the fastest lap in today’s rain delayed and rain shortened Carb day practice for Sunday’s 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. The session began more than two and a half hours late due to morning rain and ended about ten minutes short of the two hour time limit as more rain moved in.

Dixon parked his car for the day after 45 minutes of running. Colton Herta ended his day about 20 minutes early, Both drivers seemed very happy with their cars. Herta hopes for similar conditions on race day.

Rossi and fuel at Indy- Alexander Rossi experienced a fuel spill before the prasctice session began, delaying the start by about six minutes. Indycar assessed a five minute penalty on the 27 car. Rossi has had issues during the 500 with fueling the car, even in 2016 when he won. A longer than normal pit stop due to a fueling issue may have cost him the race in 2019,

“Let’s hope we got our fuel issues out of the way early in Indianapolis,” Rossi told NBC Sports.

From earlier:Indianapolis 500 Preview

Indianapolis 500 Preview- A Battle of Generations

Notes

Eight Chevys were in the top twelve today, including all four Penske cars. Chevys were virtually invisible during qualifications.

Personal observation- I liked the way and the seemingly easy way Herta and Graham Rahal were able to pass other cars.

Herta and Dixon exchanged the point for several laps, possibly a preview of what we might see Sunday.

The 33 drivers ran a total of 2,350 laps this afternoon.

The results:

19Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda228.323647
222Simon PagenaudTeam PenskeChevy227.1575789
32Josef NewgardenTeam PenskeChevy226.8568893
447Conor DalyEd Carpenter RacingChevy226.3995370
598Marco AndrettiAndretti Herta-Haupert w/Marco & Curb-AgajanianHonda226.3966465
612Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy226.223882
73Scott McLaughlinTeam PenskeChevy226.1922166
848Tony KanaanChip Ganassi RacingHonda225.929748
930Takuma SatoRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda225.7016594
1024Sage KaramDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevy225.5423661
115Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevy225.5115793
1259Max ChiltonCarlinChevy225.3488489
1327Alexander RossiAndretti AutosportHonda225.3244751
1414Sebastien BourdaisAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy225.1632733
1506Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda225.1611762
1686Juan Pablo MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevy225.1493354
171JR HildebrandAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy224.9453070
1818Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing with Vasser SullivanHonda224.9101271
1915Graham RahalRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda224.8728100
2028Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti AutosportHonda224.7193371
2129James HinchcliffeAndretti Steinbrenner AutosportHonda224.5461992
2210Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda224.5005871
238Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda224.4686184
247Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevy224.4282061
254Dalton KellettAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy224.0511954
2625Stefan WilsonAndretti AutosportHonda224.0477174
2745Santino FerrucciRahal Letterman Lanigan RacingHonda223.8841177
2826Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda223.6702678
2960Jack HarveyMeyer Shank RacingHonda223.664876
3020Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter RacingChevy223.6542461
3121Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevy223.0681056
3216Simona De SilvestroParetta AutosportChevy223.0232572
3351Pietro FittipaldiDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda222.1736488

How the Front Row Fares in the Race

The 2021 front row. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Starting in the front row has been a great place to begin the Indianapolis 500 over the last three years. There is no reason to think 2021 will be any different. the cars are basically the same, passing will be difficult, and the front row starting teams have shown great reliability over the course of an entire season.

Forty-four of the 104 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races have been won from the front row. The pole winner has won the most times, 21. Simon Pagenaud is the most recent driver win from the pole in 2019. His win from pole was the first win from the top spot since Helio Castroneves won in 2009. Since 2006, when Sam Hornish, Jr. won at the line from Marco Andretti, the race winner has started on the pole just three more times. In addition to Pagenaud and Castroneves, Scott Dixon won from pole in 2008. Pagenaud’s victory saved the 2010 decade from being just the third decade without a race winner starting from pole. The first decade of the race, 1911-1920, and the 1940s did not see the pole winner in Victory Lane.

Starting second has produced the fewest winners among the the front row starters, 11. That number seems pretty good, but only once since 1970 has the winner come from the middle spot of row 1. Juan Pablo Montoya won from the second starting spot in 2000. The 21 year drought has a decent chance of ending this year with Colton Herta.

The outside of the front row is the preferred starting spot for many drivers. Some say it presents a better approach to the first turn. 12 winners have started third, including Takuma Sato last year

.

A look at the chart below shows that starting places 1-7 have produced 68 of the 104 winners. The most wins further back than that come 15th, where four winners have emerged.

A 500 mile race is long, and many things happen. there have been pole winners who haven’t completed the first lap. Roberto Guerrero in 1992 spun into the the inside fence on the pace lap. Scott Sharp in 2001 crashed in turn 1 of the first lap. There are no guarantees, but if you are playing the odds, the pole and the third place starters are decent wagers.

Squeakers: Dixon Edges Herta for Pole; Simona Makes the Grid

Don’t play King of the Mountain with Scott Dixon. You will lose. Colton herta and Rinus VeeKay tried to knock Dixon off the pole for next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. They came close, but couldn’t do it. Dixon won his fourth Indianapolis 500 pole by just 0,0197 seconds, 0.03 miles an hour. Just moments before, Herta had knocked Rinus Veekay off the pole by 0.0966 seconds, 0.1 miles an hour.

Scott dixon pulls in after his pole winning run. Photo by Tim Holle, Indycar

It was a history making front row. It is the youngest front row in history, despite Dixon’s advanced age of 40.. VeeKay is the youngest front row starter in history. Today’s pole is Dixon’s fourth at Indianapolis, tying him for second place all time with A. J. Foyt, Rex Mays, and Helio Castroneves. Dixon also won the pole for the 500 in 2008, 2015, and 2017.

The rest of the Fast nine saw several drivers change spots from yesterday. Helio Castroneves went from sixth to eighth, Tony Kanaan went from third to fifth. Alex Palou moved from seventh to sixth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay went from eighth to fifth.

VeeKay had a big wiggle in turn 1 on his lap, but he saved it to complete the lap. The bobble may have cost him the pole. VeeKay qualified fourth last year and now starts third. He is the fastest Chevy in the field again.

The first three rows have a mix of drivers that represent former series champions and 500 winners and the younger generation of drivers. Five of the first nine drivers are 40 or older and represent six 500 victories. Three are in their early twenties. Marcus Ericsson is 30.

The Last Row- Power’s Close Call

In the Last Chance Shootout, the biggest drama came on Will power’s qualifying run when his right rear tire hit the outside wall. It was a glancing blow and he completed the run to qualify for the middle of the last row. I heard that the tow link was broken, which meant he would have had to withdraw his time to repair it and possibly not have another chance to make the field. next Sunday will be Power’s worst career start will be Power’s worst career start.

Simona DeSilvestro made her qualifying run, then sat in her car for the remaining hour of the Last Chance period to see if she would need to go again. Neither Charlie Kimball nor R C Enerson had anything close to her speed. kimBall took two shots at her time, but didn’t come close.

Kimball had started the 500 for 10 consecutive years through 2020. Enerson, a rookie, and his new team, accomplished a lot just by putting a car together and having it run a qualifying set.

DeSilvestro’s team, Paretta Autosport, is a team consisting 75% or women on the crew, some of whom will be working the pits on race day. It is great to have a woman back in the field for the 500.

Beth Paretta, team owner, watches nervously as Simona DeSilvestro qualifies.Phot by James Black, Indycar
Simona DeSilvestro waves to the crowd after clinching the final starting spot. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

I will have some thoughts on the qualifying weekend tomorrow. I wish to thank everyone for following along this weekend, which set a viewership record. I appreciate all of you.

Pole Fight and Last Chance Battle Involve Former Winners

Today’s Schedule; All Times eastern

Gates Open 9:00am 7:00pm

Last Chance Practice 11:00am 11:30am

Firestone Fast Nine Practice 11:30am 12:00pm

Last Chance Qualifying 1:15pm 2:30pm


1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET

Firestone Fast Nine 3:00pm 3:45pm


2:30 PM – 4:30 PM ET

NTT IndyCar Series Practice 5:00pm 7:00pm


4:30 PM – 7:00 PM ET

Grandstands open:

Paddock, Paddock Penthouse, A Penthouse, B Penthouse , E, E Penthouse, Tower Terrace, Northwest Vista and Deck, Southeast Vista and deck.

Note: only limited sections open in all stands.

Parking:

North 40 is free. All other lots are paid. $10

Four former winners have a shot at the pole this afternoon in the Fast Nine shootout. That is a routine occurrence. Onf ormer winner will fight to make the field. That doesn’t happen often.

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, and Ryan Hunter-Reay earned a chance to run for the pole this afternoon. Dixon had the fastest time yesterday, Kanaan was third, Castroneves sixth, and Hunter-Reay eighth.

I think the pole battle is between Dixon, Kanaan, and Colton Herta. Dixon is favored, but don’t dismiss Herta’s chances.

On the other end of the field, five drivers, including 2018 winner Will Power, need to qualify for the final three spots in the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Power had the 31st fastest time yesterday, but the if three of the other four can outrun him, the 2014 series champion will sit out next Sunday. Power, one of the greatest qualifiers in Indycar history, will get one of the spots, but it may be tight. The cars are competing just against each other today, and not against the rest of the field.

Also looking for a spot on next Sunday’s grid are Simona DeSilvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and R C Enerson.

Stay tuned. this will be a fascinating day at both ends of the field.

Some photos from yesterday:

Can Helio Castroneves win another pole?
Always nice to see Robert Wickens at the track
Simona DeSilvestro after her first qualifying run.

Dixon Holds Top Spot All Day; Power Looks to Make Race

Some thoughts on today’s action:

While Scott Dixon set the bar as the first qualifier, the hotter conditions as the day went on kept his closest challengers at bay. Tomorrow, Dixon will go last. His biggest challengers tomorrow will be Colton Herta ,Tony Kanaan, and Ed Carpenter. I would not be shocked to see Rinus VeeKay or Alex Palou make a strong as well.

Will Power had a tough day today and might have an even tougher day tomorrow. If I understand the rules correctly, power will be the fifth driver on track in the Last chance Shootout. The good news is he will know exactly what he needs. Still, Power sometimes puts a lot of pressure on himself. i hope he doesn’t allow that to get in his way.

It is a great achievement by Chip Ganassi Racing to get all four of their cars in the Fast Nine.

Helio Castroneves seems motivated to prove a point to his former team. he had a great qualifying effort today.

The fast nine by teams:

Gansssi 4

Carpenter 2

Andretti 2

Meyer Shank 1

I wonder how Alex Palou’s car will perform tomorrow after that hard hit he had on his second attempt.

Dalton Kellett played defense by making the late run with time running out. He prevented power from getting another chance.

I’m not sure Simona DeSilvestro has much more speed in that car. It would be a shame to see her miss the race. That team looks to be one of the more organized teams in the garage area.

Top Gun Racing achieved a lot just by having the car make a qualifying run. They don’t seem to have the pace to make the show. I hope they can build on their experience and come back in 2022 with a stronger program.

Disappointing runs- Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, Takuma Sato, Graham Rahal, and Pato O’Ward. I thought a few of theses drivers would in the Fast Nine.

Nice surprises- Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Fast Nine, Ed Jones and Pietro Fittipaldi qualifying 11th and 13th.

Something you don’t see every year- The highest Team penske qualifier was Scott McLaughlin in 17th. Something is not right in this camp.

The drama tomorrow centers on power. Can the former race winner make the field, or will he join other former winners in failing to qualify? Remember Team Penske with former winners Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi failed to qualify in 1995. Other former winners who have failed to qualify include Bobby Rahal, Johnny Rutherford, and Johnnie Parsons. Parsons did start the 1957 race as a last minute substitute.

Off Track

I hope the video boards and the scoring pylon work consistently tomorrow. For much of the day, timing information and standings were missing. Late in the day it would have been nice to have the time to beat displayed in the upper left corner of the screen.

It seemed to be a normal sized qualification day crowd.. Most people rehearsed for the June 7 lifting of the mask mandate in Marion County. IMS needs to step up enforcement. With general admission seating for the entire facility, social distancing was virtually non existent. IMS should have sold reserved seating for today and tomorrow.

It was nice to see the garage area come to life for the first time this week. there was a lot of energy among the teams, and I saw the most fans in gasoline Alley that i have seen all week.

The Fast Nine:

19Scott DixonChip Ganassi RacingHonda231.828
226Colton HertaAndretti AutosportHonda231.648
348Tony KanaanChip Ganassi RacingHonda231.639
420Ed CarpenterEd Carpenter RacingChevy231.616
521Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevy231.483
606Helio CastronevesMeyer Shank RacingHonda231.164
710Alex PalouChip Ganassi RacingHonda231.145
828Ryan Hunter-ReayAndretti AutosportHonda231.139
98Marcus EricssonChip Ganassi RacingHonda231.104

The five who need to qualify tomorrow. The fastest three make the race.

12Will PowerTeam PenskeChevy229.228
 24Sage KaramDreyer & Reinbold RacingChevy229.158
 11Charlie KimballAJ Foyt EnterprisesChevy228.401
 16Simona De SilvestroParetta AutosportChevy228.395
 75RC EnersonTop Gun RacingChevy227.283


Dixon Leads as Some Contenders Struggle

Scott Dixon qualified first and no one has been able to match his four lap average of 231.320 mph. Colton Herza, Tony Kansas, and Ed Carpenter put up a challenge for two laps, but their last two laps brought their average below Dixon’s.

The Fast Nine as of 3:15 Eastern:

Dixon

Herta

Kanaan

Ed Carpenter

Rinus VeeKay

Helio Castroneves

Alex Palou

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Marcus Ericsson

The botzom five, two of whom will miss the race:

Saze Karam

Will Power

Charlie Kimball

Simona De Silverstro

R C Emerson

Qualifications run until 5:50 Eastern. Coverage is currently on NBCSN as well as on Peacock

Dixon Goes 233; Pole Battle Wide Open

Photo: Scott Dixon by Chris Owens, Indycar

Scott Dixon had the fastest single lap of 233.302 mph on unusual final day of practice before qualifications start tomorrow for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. The lap was with a tow. Today is the second day this week that Dixon had the fastest lap.

It was a different type of practice day. The NNT Indycar Series allowed each car an additional 85-90 horsepower, which helped increase speeds by about five to seven miles an hour. Most of the day saw cars on track by themselves, or at most maybe two other cars also running. All the teams were doing simulated qualifying runs, and the drivers seemed to allow each other space to get their runs in. Each team hoped to do four or five runs today. In the final half hour several cars hit the track for a final shakedown. It was the busiest time all day.

The best lap results:

While a great single lap is nice, tomorrow it’s an average of four laps tha makes up the qualifying speed. The best four lap averages today:Marcus Ericsson – 231.950 mph

Colton Herta – 231.726 mph

Pato O’Ward – 231.522 mph

Alexander Rossi – 230.999 mph

Stefan Wilson – 230.844 mph

Takuma Sato – 230.819 mph

Ed Carpenter – 230.423 mph

Santino Ferrucci – 230.364 mph

Ed Jones – 230.251 mph

Rinus VeeKay – 230.234 mph

Qualifying happens with no other cars on track. here are the cars who were best running alone:

Alexander rossi had the best lap without a tow from another car.

Saturday’s qualifying will lock in starters 10-30. Qualifiers 1-9 will each get one qualifying run Sunday to determine the pole. The last rwo will also have a Sunday session among qualifiers 31st -35th, with the fastest three on Sunday starting the race.

Big Crowd, Race Atmosphere

Today was closer to a normal day at the track. The crowd was by far the largest of the week. It took me 30 minutes to park, something I used to experience on qualifying days. The B and E penthouse stands were quite full.

The Pagoda Plaza also had fans everywhere, much more like a typical day at the track. IMS will have more grandstands open tomorrow, including some in turns 2 and 4.

Pole Favorites?

We could sse the youngest pole sitter in history. We also might see the okldest pole sitter in history. This is a wide open battle. My Fast Nine picks who will be going for the top spot on Sunday are Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato, Marcus Ericsson, Conor Daly, Ed Carpenter, Alex Palou, Colton Herta, and Josef Newgarden.

Who’s Going Home?

Two drivers will not make the race. I think R. C . Enerson and Dalton Kellett will be on the outside looking in after Sunday.

I will be abck early in the morning with a preview of the day, including seating and parking information. I will also have the qualifying order.

Dixon Leads on a Day That Felt Like May

Photo: Scott Dixon by Chris Owens, Indycar

On a warm sunny day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a day that finally felt the way May should feel, Scott Dixon led Indianapolis 500 practice. His 226.829 mph lap was the best of the week. Ed Carpenter Racing teammates Conor Daly and Ed Carpenter followed Dixon. Daly was just 0.0801 seconds behind Dixon.

Dixon’s Chip Ganassi racing teammates, Marcu Ericsson, Tony Kanaan, and Alex Palou, also finished the day in the top 10. Ericsson was fourth, Kanaan, fifth, and Palou eighth. The third Ed Carpenter car of Rinus VeeKay just missed the top 10 with an 11th place result for today’s session. The carpenter and Ganassi teams have been the strongest overall for the first two days of practice.
Nineteen drivers turned more than 100 laps each.

The results for May 19, Practice Day 2::

Enerson Plays Beat the Clock

R C Enerson could not complete his rookie test yesterday because of a broken half shaft. Indycar allowed him to use the hour before practice began to complete the 20 laps he needed. Enerson need five laps at a speed between 210 and 215 mph, then 15 laps at 215 or better. He got through the five laps, but getting the fifteen above 215 was a struggle. When the hour was up, eberson was one lap short. Officials gave his Top Gun racing team a little more time to complete the lap. at 12:07 pm, Enerson passed his rookie test.

R C Enerson exits turn 1 as ghe completes his rookie test.

35 cars are now eligible to attempt to qualify for the 33 spots in the field on Saturday. Top Gun did not return to the track, but should be out tomorrow.

Shopping on Camera

After a leisurely lunch at one of Chez IMS’s splendid picnic tables, I noticed this small structure, the Indy Express Shop powered by Verizon. It is a merchandise and snack shop that I fear might become the norm. It is shopping with Big Brother.

To enter, you must download the Indy Express shop app and scan a reader at the door. Once inside, choose your items and leave. Cameras in the ceiling somehow bill your account. I find this a creepy concept. I guess the only good thing about it is the staff is not rude.

Photos

Here are some photos I took today.

Scott McLaughlin
Conor Daly
Colton Herta chats with some fans.