Quick Thoughts- GMR Grand Prix Race 1

We could see history tomorrow. Scott Dixon could win his 50th race. Only two other drivers have reached and surpassed that number.

The second half of the race was quite interesting. Newgarden’ s stall in the pits began to turn the race around. The yellows really made for an exciting finish.

What is going on with Team Penske pit stops? They have had problems e every race this year.  They aren’t the only team with pit issues, but the bar is much higher for them. I wonder if the compressed event schedules are contributing to the pit errors.

Drive of the day goes to Alex Palou. The rookie’s podium finish came after starting 14th, having a long pit stop, and making a nice pass on Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Colton Herta are not being mentioned much, but they are quietly having very good seasons. Herta is third in points and Hunter-Reay is sixth.

Today pretty much ends Alexander Rossi’s title hopes. It was his second straight finish in the twenties.

Conor Daly’s crew has a long night ahead of them repairing his car for tomorrow. Daly may skip qualifying and start last. His accident is the bad part of double headers. My concern is a car getting badly damaged next Friday in the first Iowa race. Would that team be done for the weekend?

After no cautions for two years, today’s race tried to make up for all that lost time. The three cautions came within seven laps of each other.

Turn five saw lots of passing and attempted passing, lots of tire smoke from locked brakes, and several near collisions.

I hoe tomorrow’s race, on NBC, is just as entertaining as today’s race was.

I will have just post tomorrow, in the morning. I will be driving back to Indianapolis as soon as tomorrow’s race is over. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Traditions Smashed: Quick Thoughts on the GMR Grand Prix

Photo: Indycar, James Black

Two traditions of this race went down n flames today- A clean first lap for the first time in race history, and the biggest tradition-the two winners club was intruded upon by Scott Dixon. It was only the second time a Team Penske car did not win.

Five drivers with less than three years of Indycar experience finished in the top 10.Colton Herta finished fourth, Rinus VeeKay came home fifth, Marcus Ericsson was sixth, Pato O’W  and Santino Ferrucci ended up in eighth and ninth. VeeKay started 18th. His 13 spot improvement was second to Simon Pagenaud who moved up 17 positions from 20th to third.

Scott Dixon should have at least 50 career  victories by season’s end. He is now just four behind Mario Andretti for second place.

What is going on with Will Power and pit stops? There have been issues in both races this year.

The yellow for Oliver Askew’s crash hurt Graham Rahal. His two stop strategy was working perfectly until then. It was nice to see Rahal fighting for the win again.

It was a great day for Ed Carpenter Racing. In addition to VeeKay’s fifth place, Conor Daly finished 12th. Daly had been in the top 10 for much of the race. I hope to see more of this kind  of result from the team the rest of the year.

Andretti Autosport  struggled overall for the second straight race. Except for Herta, the rest of the team was not a factor. In Texas Veach was the lone bright spot. They need to turn things around at Road America next week.

Think it’s boring watching Dixon win the first two races? We are watching one of the best ever. As someone who has been lucky enough to watch Foyt, Andretti, Jones, Mears,  and the Unsers, I am telling you Dixon belongs with this group. appreciate him that you can watch someone with his skill.

A few people gathered outside the fence of IMS around 23rd and Georgetown Road to watch the race on the video board and soak in the sounds of the race. It was weird just getting tiny glimpses of the cars, but it was better than sitting at home.

I will be back with a more detailed wrap up later tonight or tomorrow.

Enjoy your holiday. wash your hands and mask up. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

Dixon Fastest in Warm Up: Andretti Cars Struggle

Scott Dixon turned the quickest lap in this morning’s warmup for the GMR Grand Prix. Dixon’s best lap of 1:11.0771 came near the end of the 30 minute session. It was an adventure filled period for several cars. the escape roads in turns 1 and 12 saw a lot of traffic.

Five minutes into the session, Marco Andretti stalled. The issue was a CV joint which also gave the team problems yesterday. Alexander Rossi missed the first 10 minutes of the practice with fuel pressure issues. He finished seventh but complained of the rear of the car being loose.

With about two minutes to go Charlie Kimball slid in turn 10, briefly got into the grass, then got the car straightened out and continued. the track stayed green. Colton Herta had several issues with brakes locking up.

The top five:

Scott Dixon    1:11.0771

Josef Newgarden  1:11.2178

Ryan Hunter-Reay  1:11.2380

Graham Rahal  1:11.4352

Felix Rosenqvist  1:11.4380

Turn 12 could be a trouble spot in the race. The temperature should be at least 10 degrees warmer at race time. Back after the race.

 

Quick Thoughts- Genesys 300

Nice that NBC acknowledged what is going on in the country at the start of the broadcast.

It was a race. It was a nice distraction from everything else happening in the world. We got through it. Not the best race ever, but drama was beginning to build near the end. Rosenqvist made a poor decision to pass when he did.

Scott Dixon now has a chance to get his 50th career win this season. I hope it comes at a race where fans are allowed.

I was surprised there weren’t more cautions. VeeKay and Palou’s accident I thought would be the first of rookie accidents all night.

This was probably not the best race to showcase on NBC.

Passing seemed to improve as the night wore on. I hope that high part of the track can be improved for next year.

A 5-7 lap window to require tire changes might have put more strategy into the race. There was mor strategy than i expected with the yellows and teams deciding to pit early. Thanks to NBC for keeping track of tire laps on screen.

Solid runs for Veach, Carpenter, Daly, Askew, and Kanaan.

Kimball lost what would have been a terrific debut for A. J. Foyt Racing. It was nice to see the Foyt cars competitive.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had an amazing run recovering from the issues at the start to finish eighth and on the lead lap.

Conor Daly is the best thing that has happened to Carlin racing since they entered Indycar.

Oliver Askew is exactly what I thought- patient and steady. It was a great job for a rookie at Texas to move up 11 places.

I can’t remember seeing so many cars have issues on the grid before engines fired.

Pit crews were rusty from the layoff, but they will get back into form next month.

I’ll be back tomorrow with some more detailed thoughts. I’m just glad that there was a live race to watch, it was a safe night, and that we all had a taste of the normal for a few hours today.

Thanks for following along today.

 

 

Dixon Leads Practice; Tough Day for ECR

Scott Dixon moved to the top of the speed chart with two minutes left in the two hour practice session for tonight’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. The session in very warm temperatures was interrupted three times for incidents. Two of the stoppages were caused by cars from Ed Carpenter Racing.

About 15 minutes into practice rookie Rinus Veekay drove too far below the white line in turn 2 and crashed hard into the outside wall. The car suffered heavy left side damage, including the gearbox. The crew is trying to get the car ready for qualifying at 5 pm Eastern time. they may use some parts with Air force branding from Conor Daly’s road course car.

With about an hour left, Ed Carpenter spun on the exit of turn 4. He made very light contact with the wall and punctured a rear tire. Carpenter complained of understeer just before the spin.

Two minutes after practice resumed, Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed in turn 2. There was some damage to the car, but it should be ready for qualifying.

Hondas dominated the session, at one time holding the first six spots. Three Andretti Autosport drivers, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, and Colton Herta, swapped the lead for about 15 minutes. With two minutes left in the session, Scott Dixon  moved to the top with a lap of 215.995 and held on until the checkered flag.

The top 12:

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Notes

A big concern for tonight’s race is the dark sections of the track where a traction compound was put down for the NASCAR race. There is no grip in that area and drivers had a difficult time holding on if they got too much of their car in it. I hope this doesn’t cause the race to be a single groove processional show.

Tony Kanaan’s 7-11 car looks amazing.

Pato O’Ward had the quickest Chevrolet and third fastest in the session.

Five teams had drivers in the top 10.

It was nice to see Charlie Kimball in a Foyt entry finish 11th.

Three Andretti drivers were in the top 10. Alexander Rossi and Hunter-Reay were not two of the three.

The six newest drivers in the field have an average age of 21 years, 4 months. All are in their first or second year in the series. The full field average is just over thirty years,  Kanaan and Takuma Sato raise it to that level.

Race preview from yesterday:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2741819644

 

 

Rossi and Dixon Looking for Better Seasons in 2020

Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon hope Friday practice at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg helps them find out how the aeroscreen will affect the cars in race like conditions. In a teleconference this afternoon, Rossi said the brief testing time the team has had leaves a lot to figure out. Dixon wondered about how the extra weight and higher center of gravity will affect handling.

According to Dixon, “The adjustments have been made. The cooling at least was very sufficient for us. Handling-wise I think the CG is a little higher, the car is heavier, definitely one of the areas we’ve really got to try and turn around because we keep adding weight to this car, which especially for accidents is not a good thing. It’s the same for everybody as far as the handling issues. We haven’t seen too much of a difference for us. Springs and dampers and things like that. But every team is unique on that side of things, too. ”

Rossi is still not sure what to expect. “… we’ve really only had at Andretti a day and a half with the weather at COTA. That was kind of a half day. Sebring is kind of its own unique animal. I don’t really know that we know, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s definitely different, but the extent of that won’t become clear to us until probably at least Friday night in St. Pete.”

Both drivers think the expansion of their teams will help them have a better season. Rossi explained,

” I think it’s really cool to be able to bring Colton on kind of into the fold full-time I guess. He was kind of already there with the Harding Steinbrenner Andretti relationship we had last year. We have already noticed a positive difference having the engineering staff back in the office and everyone kind of under the same roof, being able to just more efficiently kind of bounce ideas off each other, just progress the whole team forward. ”

Dixon added,

“We added actually a lot of people this year, probably four or five on the engineering side, then the depth of the whole GT program coming over has helped as far as management and also crew people as well. I think personnel-wise the team is probably in the best situation I’ve seen it in the last maybe five or six years. So I think off-season development has been really good. Also the change of mindset. I think we kind of got stuck there a lot of times just doing the same thing and looking for different answers, which just wasn’t working…”

On the influx of young, talented drivers entering the series, Rossi said, ” Racing is a very difficult sport in the sense that you’re only as good as your last race. You’re constantly having to go out and reprove yourself regardless of what you’ve accomplished in the past. There’s so many guys coming in, your job security really doesn’t exist.”

Dixon replied, “Never think that you know everything. I think that’s the worst position you can be in. You’re constantly learning, it’s constantly changing. I think the sport, even over the last 19 or 20 years that I’ve been a part of it, how much it evolves and changes from season to season is pretty impressive. It’s cool to see. I think it’s fantastic to see the amount of young guys coming in now. There was some pretty good influx probably five to six years ago, as well, with a lot of the guys. You can see their performance, how they’ve adjusted, how quick they’ve been. It’s extremely important for the health of the sport. Hopefully they can keep charging. ”

Electronic Flagging at Laguna Seca

One news item that came out of the conference is that Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca will use an electronic flagging system in 2020.  Formula 1 uses this system in their races and I’m glad to see it coming to an Indycar track.

 

Drivers Branching Out- A Good Thing

Photo: James Davison at Indianpolis in 2018

What used to be routine is now causing a stir. Several drivers made  news last week when they announced deals to drive a few races in a series other than their main one. To me, this is not a big deal. Drivers used to be itinerant gypsies, driving several times a week in different kinds of cars.

It wasn’t unusual to see the winner of the Indianapolis 500 in a sprint or midget race three days after collecting his check at the Victory banquet, then heading to Milwaukee the next weekend for another Indycar race. I seem to recall a year when A. J. Foyt led the standings in Indycar, USAC sprints, and USAC midgets. Foyt also won the Daytona 500 and LeMans. Mario Andretti also won Daytona and the F1 world championship. Lloyd Ruby and Dan Gurney had success driving almost anything.

Those days are pretty much gone now, but it seems as if drivers are starting to look for rides in different series again. In the past 12 months, Alexander Rossi has driven in Indycar, the Baja 1,00, and the Bathurst 12 hour race. I like that racers are starting to fill gaps in their schedules with more races. Fans find a newseries they enjoy while their favorite competes inanoher form of racing.

Outside of Indycar, Fernando Alonso left his Formula 1 ride to drive in the World Endurance Championship full time. He also drove for the winning Wayne Taylor Racing entry in the 2019 Rolex 24. Alonso has one Indianapolis 500 start on his resume and will participate n the Dakar Rally.

The most fascinating announcement last week concerned James Davison, mainly because he will have the same sponsor in both the Daytona 500 and at Indy. I think we may be seeing the beginning of a sponsorship trend.

I would like to see more arrangements like this for these two races. It gives potential sponsors two races instead of one. Sponsors also get great exposure from the two largest U.S. events on the racing calendar.  We also get to see a driver run in both NASCAR and the NTT Indycar Series.

To recap last week’s announcements:

Indianapolis 500 veteran James Davison will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. The effort is part of Jonathan Byrd’s Racing. Byrd’s, led by David Byrd, has paired with Davison the last two years at Indianapolis.  Oilfire Whiskey will be the primary sponsor at Daytona and an associate sponsor in May.

Davison has four start in NASCAR’s Xfinity series, all on road courses. The Daytona 500 will be his first drive in a Cup Series race. Davison has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He had a career best finish of 12th in 2019.

Dixon Gets a Ride Near Home

Scott Dixon will drive in the Bathurst 12 hour in Australia. In 2019, Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe teamed up in this race. Dixon will drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 car sponsored by Castrol. The race is just a week after the 2008 500 winner participates in the Rolex 24 with Wayne Taylor Racing.

After the Indycar opener in St. Pete in March, Dixon will have driven in three different series in seven weeks.

Bourdais, Leist Focus on IMSA

As of now, Sebastien Bourdais will drive full time in IMSA. He may get an Indycar drive or two.

Matheus Leist, who drove for A. J. Foyt Racing the last two seasons, will join JDC-Miller car 85 as the extra driver for IMSA’a four endurance races- the Rolex 24, 12 Hours of Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit LeMans. Leist will not drive for Foyt. I don’t see him getting any Indycar rides except possibly in May. In two Indianaolis 500s, Leist finished 13th in 2018 and 15th in 2019.

Thoughts for Bill Simpson

Safety innovator Bill Simpson suffered a major stroke this weekend. Please keep him in your thoughts.

 

Richmond Raceway Excited for Indycar Return

Photo: Team Penske car ready for the aeroscreen  test at Richmond Raceway. Josef Newgarden drove the car in today’s sessions. The  aeroscreen looks much better painted. Photo from Team Penske

You could hear the excitement in track president Dennis Bickmeier’s voice as he talked about the NTT Indycar series returning to Richmond Raceway.

“…it’s really exciting to hear the sound of IndyCars going and Richmond Raceway again. A buzz around town, a luncheon around here with some of our invited guests, some of our partners, hopefully some of our potential new partners as well that are getting a glimpse of seeing IndyCars back on the track here at Richmond Raceway after a decade. Certainly exciting. Much quicker than even I anticipated. Again, given my previous history watching open cars around two-mile tracks, this is a different experience.”

“The track has sold tickets to fans in 26 states and two areas of Canada for the June 28 race. After the season ticket renewal period ends, more seats will be available for the Indycar race.

I asked Bickmeier to explain how Indycar’s return to the schedule happened. He  said discussions began in 2018.

“But really it was about trying to find an opportunity in
the schedule. We were open to a lot of different dates.
This June date is more along the traditional date where
IndyCar raced here before. We love this date. It works
well between our two NASCAR races. For us, it really
presents kind of a big cadence to our year as we’re
promoting all of our racing events here at Richmond
Raceway…
one of the most
asked questions I got in the time I’ve been at
Richmond is, When are the IndyCars coming back? I’m
happy to say we’re able to answer that question now.
It really wasn’t that complicated. These guys made it
easy, Jay and the team, to discuss the possibilities of
having IndyCar return. I’m just thankful we were able to
get it all together.”
It looks to be a promising successful event for the series.

Morning Testing Session Focuses on Tires

The morning part of the Richmond test was mainly  dedicated to Firestone tire testing. Today was Josef Newgarden’s first time in the car with red Bull Advanced Technologies Aeroscreen. He found the transition pretty seamless

“It was my first time with the screen. Just getting a feel
for that. It honestly was pretty seamless. Honestly
didn’t feel that different. Perception-wise it was a little
different when I got in. It took maybe 30, 40 laps, after
that you’re used to it. It feels kind of normal at this
point.”
Newgarden said the track was like “a smooth Iowa.”
“I’m hoping a second lane comes in. If it does, I could see it
racing very similar to that place.”
Scott Dixon said the car felt pretty much the way it did at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. he thinks the oval configuration is fine. Dixon believes lap times may be slightly down because of the added weight, but thinks overal there will be a net zero effect on performance.
The final aeroscreen test will be at Sebring  November 5 with Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe driving. The test there will be the closest the series can come to testing on a street course.

Harding Steinbrenner Releases Al Unser, Jr.

Al Unser, Jr. announced in a Tweet this morning that he has been released from Harding Steinbrenner racing. The release is part of the ongoing transition of the team as it becomes part of Andretti autosport. I wish Al well and hope he can find another team with a young driver to help.

 

 

 

Power: Car with Aeroscreen Could Race This Weekend

In a mid afternoon press conference  NTT Indycar Series Jay Frye said today’s Aeroscreen test “exceeded our high expectations. We learned a lot; we have lot of work to do but the foundation is set.” Frye said the cars will visually be different when teams do their own things to blend the new device into their liveries.

If necessary, the AMR  Safety Team will be able to remove piece “within seconds,” Frye said. “They already have a piece they are practicing on,” he added.

The day long test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw drivers Will Power and Scott Dixon log 600 miles by 3 pm. Both drivers agreed that the test was seamless . Both drivers commented on how quiet it was in the cockpit. “I can hear my radio,” Dixon said.

Power was impressed with how quickly the project came together.  “When you’ve driven it for a day you’re going to feel naked without it, ” he said. Asked if this car could race this weekend, Power responded, “you could race this weekend; no problem, no issue.” Dixon agreed.

Power and Dixon still believe some adjustments need to be made with the tear-offs and air flow adjustments. They both think reflections need work as well.  Dixon sais there are some optional and driver’s personal preference items that need to be looked into as well.

Tire wear was not a concern today. Power said the car was more forgiving. The new weight distribution helped, he said. Dixon said on his long run the speed fall off was about the same as this year.

Following the press conference Power and Dixon returned to the track to do simulated “qualifying runs.”

I started the day skeptical of the aesthetics and how the Aeroscreen would work. I am ending the day impressed with the new safety piece. Safety is the first priority and this is a step in the right direction. As the piece blends in with the cars, it won’t be noticeable. It should be even less noticeable on the new chassis in 2022, when it is an integrated part of the car.