Honda Indy Toronto- Quick Thoughts

Photo: Kyle McInnes

I don’t know what was the best part of Robert Wickens driving the parade lap- the smile on his face or Karli’s reactions. It was a great way to start the day. I’m glad my eyes cleared up for the start of the race.

Thank you, NBC, for showing just a few still photos of the beginning of Wickens’ crash.  It was just enough to get the idea across, although most of us didn’t really need the reminder.

Too much time was given to the Bourdais-Sato incident from yesterday.

The series is on a pace to have the fewest different race winners in a while. There have only been six so far, and I think the top contenders could win the remaining races. Josef Newgarden has won three times. Simon Pagenaud matched that total with today’s win. Alexander Rossi has won twice. Three other drivers, Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, and Colton Herta have one victory each.

The lack of cautions made for a very straightforward race. The top five starters finished in the top five with just some minor shuffling of positions.

I’m now convinced Will Power will not win a race this season. He just doesn’t seem to have that edge which made him so successful.

The race started to get interesting the last 20 laps as Dixon closed in on Pagenaud, but overall it was the least interesting Toronto race in a few years.

While Ed Carpenter Racing has improved their road/street race qualifying, they still can’t seem to put a decent race together. Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot each finished six spots lower than they started. Banging wheels with your teammate and damaging your teammate’s wing does not help.

We have a three , possibly four, driver points battle now. Rossi has closed to within four of Newgarden, and Pagenaud is now just 39 behind. Dixon is 86 points down, but could make up more ground in Iowa. The yellow on the last lap helped Newgarden keep fourth place. Rosenqvist was closing quickly on Newgarden’s damaged car.

NBC Can Do Better

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad NBC is the exclusive home of the NTT Indycar Series. There are some things they can do, or in this case stop doing, to improve the broadcasts.

First, please dump the Danger Zone phrase. We get it. The situation doesn’t even come up that often.

We don’t need weekly speculation on where Rossi will drive next year.  He is driving this year and fighting for a championship. Let us just enjoy that.

fewer NASCAR inserts would be great. I don’t watch that series, so i don’t know if there are as many Indycar inserts in those broadcasts. If there are, that’s fair.

It seems as if each race broadcast we see fewer laps and more periphery shots of the area where the race is held. Yes, the Toronto skyline is beautiful. Show it in the prerace.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow. Thanks for following this weekend. I will be on site at both Iowa and Mid Ohio.

Pagenaud Fastest in Practice 3; Qualifying Groups Set

Simon Pagenaud led the final practice before qualifying with a lap of 59. 365 seconds. He will lead Group 2 in Round 1 of qualifying this afternoon.  Pagenaud also led yesterday’s second practice session. Felix Rosenqvist had the next best time at 59. 4 seconds. Rosenqvist has finished each practice period in the top three.

The session was green until Ryan Hunter-Reay slid into the tires just before pit in with 12 minutes left. the session resumed with eight minutes and ten seconds remaining. Graham Rahal slid into the tires in turn 1 with four minutes left. Time expired but Indycar allowed one more flying lap.

Qualifying begins at 2pm EDT on NBCSN.

Tentative Qualifying Groups

Group 1

Rosenqvist

Ferrucci

Andretti

Bourdais

Pigot

Rahal

Power

Chilton

Sato

Leist

Karam

Group 2

Pagenaud

Hunter-Reay

Herta

Rossi

Hinchcliffe

Ericsson

Newgarden

Dixon

Jones

Kanaan

Veach

Back after qualifying with Quick Thoughts. Going to try to write some during qualifying.

 

Pagenaud Fastest In P2; Three Drivers Break 60 Second Mark

Turn 11 continued to be tricky in the afternoon session as Simon Pagenaud led Practice 2. The winner of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 had the day’s first sub-60 second lap with a best time of 59. 871. Felix Rosenqvist was second quickest 0.06 seconds behind. Sebastien Bourdais ended the period third 0.116 seconds slower than Pagenaud.

Turn 11 again was a busy spot with contact by Takuma Sato,  Marcus Ericsson, and Alexander Rossi.  Ericsson had another contact incident in turn 5.  Rossi hit the turn 9 wall and damaged the left front tire.There was no suspension damage and he returned to the track, but finished 14th.

Pagenaud, Bourdais, and Rosenqvist looked strong in both sessions. Scott Dixon, who led the morning practice, was fifth this afternoon. The Ganassi pair of Dixon and Rosenqvist join Pagenaud as the only three drivers in the top five of both sessions.

Notes

Spencer Pigot was fourth in practice 2 as he continues to seek a breakout race performance.

The cars of Marco Andretti and Colton Herta look a lot alike from a distance. It will be good to know their starting positions to help watching them in the race. I hope they don’t end up in the same row.

Both of Rossi’s wall contacts happened in the first 20 minutes of the session. The car looks like it needs some work overnight.

Tomorrow’s practice session is at 10: 20 am ET. Qualifying begins  at 2 pm ET. The practice is on NBC Gold. Qualifying is live on NBCSN.

Lessening Post Race Depression by a Day- The Victory Banquet

Last year I decided to attend the Victory Banquet. It is something I have always wanted to do and the time was right. I knew after five minutes 2018 would not be my one and only Banquet.  The best thing about it is that it delays the post race blues for another day.

This year my good friends Frank and Nola Proctor joined me for the first time. Marty was planning to go, but had to change her plans at the last minute. The Proctors were awestruck.  They loved the proximity to the drivers.

This year featured tributes to Mari Hulman George and Mario Andretti on the 50th anniversary of his 500 win. A. J. Foyt gave a touching tribute Mrs. George.

There were humorous moments. Conor Daly pretty much did a stand up comedy routine.  Colton Herta said His $351, 000 prize would allow him to move out his parents’ basement. James Hinchcliffe warned him that since Herta lives in California, that wasn’t enough money to move.

The evening’s most awkward moment of the night occurred when Helio Castroneves seemed to be pleading for Roger Penske to let him drive in next year’s race. I thought he had a three year agreement for the 500. Penske did not seem to be smiling. The room got eerily quiet. while Castroneves spoke.

Santino Ferrucci received the Rookie of the Year Award. This rookie class was so close that I thought it would come down to which rookie had the highest finish in the race. Ferrucci finished seventh. No other rookie finished any better than 22nd.

The Banquet Format Needs Work

The one thing I don’t like about the banquet is that some drivers come to the podium to speak and others, sometimes two at a time, sit in chairs and have a late night talk show type chat with a different host.  This format sets some drivers apart as being more important than others.

I especially don’t like when they talk to two drivers at once. the banquet should be a chance for each diver to talk about his day and thank his sponsors and others.  The two driver portions diminish each driver’s accomplishments.  We don’t learn how much prize money some of the drivers get.

Here are some photos from the banquet. Tomorrow look for my Detroit preview on Wild fire Sports.  The thing I like about Detroit is that I get to incorrectly pick two winners instead of one.

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A. J. Foyt remembers Mari Hulman George
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Mario Andretti talks about winning the 500 in 1969
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Santino Ferrucci receives the Rookie of the Year Award from Speedway President Doug Boles

gets

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Simon Pagenaud gets the checkered flag signed by the other drivers.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500

Photo:     Kyle McInnes

That was an exciting ending to an otherwise mediocre race.

The red flag and the excessive yellow laps afterward saved Pagenaud from a race killing fuel stop.  If the track wasn’t ready, why did they put the cars back out there?

Great runs by Takuma Sato, Santino Ferrucci, and Pippa Mann. Sato moved up 11 places to 3rd, Ferrucci started 23rd and finished 7th, and Mann went from 30th to 14th. This is Mann’s best finish in the 500.

Cotlon Herta finishes last again. I hope the team can find a solution next weekend in Detroit.

Conor Daly finally got a top 10 result in the 500. He drove a great race and ran as high as fourth.  I hope he gets a couple more races this uy.

This was one of the messiest races in the pits I can remember.

Nice to see that the Speedway put banners over the seats in the south short chute that they haven’t been selling. It had to improve the look on television.

Opening ceremonies continue to be too long. Please cut two of the musical selections and let’s tighten it up.  Also, “Taps” should follow the Jim Phillipi speech.

I was happy to hear , “Lady and Gentlemen, start your engines.” again.

This was not the weather we were promised. I for one am darn glad.

Pagenaud won despite poor fuel mileage.

Zach Veach’s disappointing season continues.

Look for my full race report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow afternoon and more thoughts here tomorrow as well.

 

The Front Row

I don’t normally get into historical statistics, but this front row fascinates me for several reasons. First Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter are will make the3ir second straight front row starts on Sunday.  Their positions are reversed from 2018. Spencer Pigot’s car number, 21, is the switched number of last year’s third place starter, eventual winner Will Power, 12.

Cars starting in the front row have won 43 of the 102 Indianapolis 500s to date. The pole position leads with 20 victories, the middle of the first row has won 11 times, and the outside staring slot owns 12 wins. Some think the third spot is the best place to be at the start. It was somewhat advantageous in the roadster era, but I’m not sure it works with today’s cars and the jump the pole car seems to get.

It seems odd that all three front row cars carry a number in the 20’s. The top three with a little change in order could have been 20, 21, 22. The last time the entire front row consisted of cars all numbered in the 20s was 2013.  Carpenter (20) on pole, Carlos Munoz (26) in the middle, and Marco Andretti (25) stared on the outside.Carpenter finished 10th, Munoz second, and Andretti 4th.  From my research, that was the only other time the front row cars all bore numbers in the 20s.

I found some other notable cars numbered in the 20s that began the race in the front row, including some race winners- Dario Franchitti (27) in 2007; Emerson Fittipaldi (20) from the pole in 1989, back when he still drank milk. Floyd Roberts (23) won in 1938  also from the pole; and Mauri Rose (27) in 1947.

Fred Agabashian had two front row starts in 1950 and 1952 with car 28. he started second in 1950 and won the pole at a then record speed in 1952. Unfortunately, the Cummins Diesel did not fare well in the races. Agabashian finished 28th and 27th in those races.

I don’t know what the track has in store for these front row starters with the numbers in the 20s on their machines. History looks to be a mixed bag. i think we’ll see a couple of them up front near the end. one of them is looking to be my pick for the win.

 

 

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.

Quick, Well, Day After, Thoughts- Day 2 Qualifying

The format did provide drama. James Hinchcliffe and Fernando Alonso had to wait until the final two qualifiers ran to see if they made the race.

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James Hinchcliffe pauses as he gets out of the car his Sunday run. He seems to be wondering if the time will be good enough.

Some of the old Bump Day flavor was back with rumors swirling about deals and shared parts and information. the rain delay may have had something to do with it, but it was a fun atmosphere.

Every 100 years, a driver from France wins the pole. That’s not good news for Sebastien Bourdais.

Qualifying Weekend Tweaks

For next year I would like to see Bump Day  be a timed period, say 90 minutes, for cars not in the race to make a maximum of three attempts to make the field.

As far as the Fast Nine, it is a dinosaur concept intended to be filler when there were only 33 cars. It may be good for television, but I think an extended Bump Day as I proposed would be a better use of that brief network TV window. Let the pole winner be the fastest qualifier on Saturday. That’s your Saturday TV drama.

Limit cars to three attempts per day.  Several cars went out to use runs as practice time. If teams have exclusive use of the track, it should be for a serious run.

Other Thoughts

I was surprised that the track didn’t open for practice in the middle of Saturday afternoon.

Even in defeat, Fernando Alonso was gracious enough to come to the media center with Gil DeFerran to discuss their week.

Yesterday I think was the first time I nave ever seen Sage Karam smile. He was more at ease in interviews than I’ve seen him after his run. His best comment, referring to Hinchcliffe and the stress of the last two days, “I’m surprised James hasn’t had a heart attack yet going through this two years in a row.”

The new sealant seems to help dry the track quicker, which would be a good thing on Race Day. I just hope we never have to find out on that day.

I’ve seen some people say this year’s qualifying was a good argument for guaranteed spots. I  think it was a better argument against it. Would have great stories like Dragonspeed and Juncos with guaranteed spots? It would be hard if more full time teams join the series.

I have never seen so little attention paid to who wins the pole. I didn’t mind it. I think the pole should be decided first, like on Saturday. The true story of qualifying is in the smaller teams who make the field, sometimes at the expense of a bigger team or champion driver.

Today’s Schedule

Practice -12-2

Bronze badge holders have pit access today.

I will have a summary of the session later today.

 

 

A Weekend for the Little Guys

Above: Sage Karam celebrates making the race.

The Spirit of the Indianapolis 500 is the small teams who come here hoping to make the race in spite of huge odds. Ben Hanley and Dragonspeed comfortably made the field on Saturday. But today a new team with longer odds appeared and became the story of the week.

It was the last run for the last row. Kyle Kaiser, who had suffered a hard crash Thursday afternoon drove the rebuilt Juncos Racing car into the field, bumping two time world champion Fernando Alonso. Forty straight hours of work by the Juncos crew paid off as the backup car finally found the speed to make the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.  The celebration on pit lane was pole winning, almost race winning worthy.

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Some of the crew who worked close to 30 straight hours to get the Juncos car ready after Kaiser put the car in the race.

Fernando Alonso could only watch as his chance to return to the 500 slipped away.

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Hinchcliffe first Out

Hinchcliffe went first in the Last Row shootout and had to watch as five other drivers tried to beat his time. James Hinchcliffe’s time stood up, and he returns to the field after being bumped last year.

Sage Karam was fastest of the six and will start 31st after a tense Saturday when the car just couldn’t find speed.

But today belonged to Kaiser and Juncos.  We’ll get to him in a minute. It is fitting that we’re spending more time talking about the last row than the pole winner. It has been that way since the entry list came out. The two biggest stories of the weekend involved the two smallest teams. That is how Indy should be.

Pagenaud Wins Pole; Penske’s 18th

Simon Pagenaud is quickly becoming another title contender. He backed up his win in the Indycar Grand Prix with three laps over 230 mph. Pagenaud is beginning to return to the type of driver he was when he won the season championship in 2016.

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Simon Pagenaud is the first driver from France to win the pole since Rene Thomas in 1919. Photo by Kyle McInnes

Ed Carpenter starts second. Carpente’r teammates, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones will line up third and fourth.  While it was a bit of a surprise not to see Carpenter on the pole, having his team starting together still shows a lot of strength. Carpenter did not seem too concerned about not winning the pole.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the fast Nine was Will Power.  The defending race winner  starts sixth after dropping four spots from his run on Saturday. Colton Herta is the fastest Honda in fifth. Sebastien Bourdais improved to seventh. Alexander Rossi dropped to ninth. I can’t recall this much movement in the Fast Nine in previous years.

Notes

As my friend George Phillips from Oilpressure pointed out, who made the race got more attention all week than who would win the pole. It was definitely like that today.

Gil de Ferran said McLaren will not be looking to buy their way into the race. “You have to earn it,” he stated. There were rumors floating today that McLaren had talked to some teams about that possibility. I will sign off for tonight with another of photo of Kyle Kaiser receiving congratulations after qualifying.

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I will have my quick thoughts on the weekend tomorrow. I guess they won’t be so quick but watch for them anyway. Thanks to everyone who followed along this weekend. m