Sato Fastest Again on Fast Friday

Takuma Sato again ran the fastest lap of the day in the last half hour of Fast Friday practice. His 232.789 mph circuit beat Alexander Rossi’s speed of 231.883 set early in the day

. Tony Kanaan had the best four lap average of 230.517 mph, edging Sato’s teammate David Maluka, who ran four laps at 230.286. the rest of the top 12 drivers, in order- Sage Karam, Pato O’Ward, Sato, Jimmie Johnson, Simon Pagenaud. Helio Castroneves, Marcus Ericsson, Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden, and Felix Rosenqvist.

Tony Kanaan

Gusty winds made consistent four lap qualifying simulations difficult. Several drivers waited until late in the day to get on the track. Scott Dixon ran four laps after 5 pm. He had the fifth best lap at 231.530 mph.

Christian Lundgaard was the last driver to get on track in the last 30 minutes.

Malukas ran the most laps, 39, and Dixon and Alex Palou ran only four laps each. Malukas credited Sato with helping find the speed he ahs shown this week.

Top Twelve

Teams in the top 12 single laps today:

Coyne- 2

Andretti – 1

Penske- 3

Ganassi- 4

AMSP- 2

Notes

Ed Carpenter racing did not get a driver in the top 12, but I would not count them out tomorrow. Other than Coyne and Ganassi, today was difficult to judge the relative strength of teams. Conor Daly was 14th, just a half mile an hour slower than Palou in 12th.

Time Change-

A reminder about the revised schedule for tomorrow:

8 a.m. – IMS Gates Open
8:30-9 a.m. – Practice Group 1
9-9:30 a.m. – Practice Group 2
11 a.m. – PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying begins 

All action is on Peacock

. Qualifying is slated to run until the original stop time of 5:50 PM, weather permitting.

From earlier:

IMS Sustainability- Small Steps Now, Big Steps Later

IMS Sustainability- Small Steps Now, Bigger Steps Later

Sato Leads Practice 2

Takuma Sato turned the fastest lap of the day in the last few minutes of the afternoon practice session. Sato’s lap of 228.939 was the fastest of the day. Scott Dixon, the leader of the morning round, held the lead for most of the three hour session.

Eight Hondas were in the top 10. Rinus VeeKay in fifth and Josef Newgarden in eighth were the only Chevys in the top 10.

The session stopped three times, twice for debris and once when a quick brown fox jumped over the Speedway fence.

Scott Dixon cautioned against reading too much into today’s speeds.

“It’s just the first day,” he said.

Rinus VeeKay was fifth this afternoon, but he was first on the no two speeds. His Teammate Ed Carpenter had the second fastest no tow lap.

“I’m very comfortable in the car,” VeeKay said.

Teams of Note

Dale Coyne Racing cars were first and seventh with David Malukas finding speed late in the session.

All five Chip Ganassi Racing drivers were in the top 10. After Dixon, Jimmie Johnson was third, Marcus Ericsson fourth, Alex Palou sixth, and Tony Kanaan ninth. Dixon said they did do any group running today but plan to later in the week.

Notes

Stefan Wilson completed his refresher test then ran 10 more laps in the practice session.

A nice size crowd was on hand for today’s opening.

Results:

St. Pete Weekend Begins

The eighteenth Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg began late this morning with a gala luncheon. Drivers from each of the series racing on the downtown streets were present. Mayor Ken Welch, who will serve as the race’s Grand Marshall, welcomed everyone. The race expects a record crowd for the three day long event.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch

The drivers each gave brief remarks.

I chatted with Takuma Sato, David Malukas, and Kyle Kirkwood.

Sato is enjoying his new team, Dale Coyne Racing.

Takuma Sato

“I love it. Right obviously you know some nervousness but it’s a lot of excitement in a new team new boys engineers and you know, I’m happily settling. So very, very good.”

About his rookie teammate, Sato said,

“…he’s obviously the one of the upcoming young drivers, is very bright and cheerful and he’s been quick to learn so I think we have a really good opportunity to work together.”

Sato is excited for this weekend, but thinks there are a lot of unknowns.

“Well, I would say you know, re are little unknown factors but yeah, that’s how it is and in particular for the first practice for the day.”

David Malukas

Sato’s teammate, David Malukas is eager to begin his Indycar career. He ha d a lot of praise for Sato, who was on his radio during the first test day at Sebring.

“Sebring was great. I mean, the first day was amazing, I think we ended up being like P two on the time. It’s like I was always surprised. Second day, we tried many different changes, because the whole goal we’re not winning Sebring. We didn’t want to chase the car to try to get ready for today. And we found some pluses somewhere like confusing, but in the end we were exactly right. After three months off, I was like really impressed with the car. I was like, What do I do? Takuma has been a big help. Oh, of course. I mean, he has so much expertise and he helped me so incredibly. Like he helped me so much the first day; he didn’t actually drive so like he had the headset on and he was talking to me telling me some information like what I should do. He’s awesome. He’s so friendly.”

Malukas is concerned about pit stops and driving on the alternate tires. About the red tires, he said,

“So I hear rumors. I heard some rumors that like actually sometimes the car’s slower with it because it’s so much grip and it’s so hard that they don’t want you to stand on it, I don’t know. Hopefully we could see like, I mean, there’s a big jump with it. Hopefully we can figure it out and hope like I still hold on to the wheel. Because I heard it gets even heavier.”

Pit stops are totally new to Malukas, but he thinks the walls and the limiter may help him.

“Oh, that’s still very new to me. We did some practice and man I’m not gonna lie I was pretty bad. Takuma did it like perfectly every time so that’s gonna be, I think, the hard part for me is getting it right. I’ve never done that my whole life. So we’ll see how it goes. I think now you know that I like an actual wall and there’s people everywhere. I think it’d be a bit easier because you know, at Sebring we’re trying to simulate a situation with tires, everything and it just wasn’t good. So we’ll see.”

Kyle Kirkwood

Kyle Kirkwood is happy with how testing went last week and appreciates the help he has received from his A. J. Foyt Racing teammates, Dalton Kellett and Tatiana Calderon.

“Dalton has obviously a wealth of knowledge as well as engineering capabilities and Tatiana hsa a lot of experience. She n a lot of different cars, so there’s a lot of things that she’s been able to add to the team that are just like I’ve never really thought to do that.”

Kirkwood is uncertain how the alternate tires will perform.

“They changed this weekend. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I think from my knowledge, looking at the seat they’re gonna be quicker but they’re going to go away faster. I don’t know what made you know, I’ll let you know I’ve never driven on red tire so that’s what I was wondering. Yeah, anticipation. I’ll let you know after the first practice.”

Sato Joins Coyne/Rick Ware Racing

Image from Dale Coyne Twitter

It’s not a complete surprise, but two time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne for Rick Ware Racing in 2022. The car had Romain Grosjean behind the wheel last season. We are still waiting for Coyne to confirm David Malukas in the 18, likely in apartnership with Global HMD, Malukas’s father’s company . The announcement earlier this week that Vasser-Sullivan would not return I think is somewhat of a confirmation.

The announcement from Coyne:

Plainfield, IL (Thursday, December 9, 2021) – Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing has signed two-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Takuma Sato to drive its #51 Honda powered entry for the entire 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Dale, Rick and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing,” shared Sato. “With Honda an integral part of Dale Coyne Racing, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are very competitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were very impressive. I am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato brings 12 years of NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience with him to the team. In his 198 starts, he has finished on the podium 14 times and has six wins, including his two Indianapolis 500 victories. The 44-year-old driver has also started on pole position 10 times, has led 896 laps and has 70 top 10 finishes.

“Takuma has shown that he is one of the best drivers to ever race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Winning the famed Indianapolis 500 twice, we look forward to competing with our package of a good car with a great driver in the 500 next year. All of us on our team welcome the very talented Mr. Sato into our fold for 2022,” said team co-owner Dale Coyne.

Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Sato spent seven seasons in Formula 1 prior to his arrival in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2010. He most recently spent the last four seasons with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Team co-owner Rick Ware added: “I am excited to have Takuma join the Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Family for 2022. Takuma’s experience within motorsports is extensive, not just in the United States, but around the world. With Takuma’s experience, and vast knowledge of the cars, we are really looking forward to stepping up the program and having a successful season, and maybe even add another INDIANAPOLIS 500 win to his list of achievements.”

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off on the Streets of St. Petersburg February 25 – 27, 2022.

Sato Joins Coyne/Rick Ware Racing

Image from Dale Coyne Twitter

It’s not a complete surprise, but two time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne for Rick Ware Racing in 2022. The car had Romain Grosjean behind the wheel last season. We are still waiting for Coyne to confirm David Malukas in the 18, likely in apartnership with Global HMD, Malukas’s father’s company . The announcement earlier this week that Vasser-Sullivan would not return I think is somewhat of a confirmation.

The announcement from Coyne:

Plainfield, IL (Thursday, December 9, 2021) – Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing has signed two-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Takuma Sato to drive its #51 Honda powered entry for the entire 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Dale, Rick and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing,” shared Sato. “With Honda an integral part of Dale Coyne Racing, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are very competitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were very impressive. I am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato brings 12 years of NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience with him to the team. In his 198 starts, he has finished on the podium 14 times and has six wins, including his two Indianapolis 500 victories. The 44-year-old driver has also started on pole position 10 times, has led 896 laps and has 70 top 10 finishes.

“Takuma has shown that he is one of the best drivers to ever race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Winning the famed Indianapolis 500 twice, we look forward to competing with our package of a good car with a great driver in the 500 next year. All of us on our team welcome the very talented Mr. Sato into our fold for 2022,” said team co-owner Dale Coyne.

Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Sato spent seven seasons in Formula 1 prior to his arrival in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2010. He most recently spent the last four seasons with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Team co-owner Rick Ware added: “I am excited to have Takuma join the Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Family for 2022. Takuma’s experience within motorsports is extensive, not just in the United States, but around the world. With Takuma’s experience, and vast knowledge of the cars, we are really looking forward to stepping up the program and having a successful season, and maybe even add another INDIANAPOLIS 500 win to his list of achievements.”

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off on the Streets of St. Petersburg February 25 – 27, 2022.

Sato Reveals Borg- Warner Trophy Image

In an online show on IMS.com, 2020 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato got his first look at his second likeness on the Borg-Warner trophy. Sato is a two time winner of the race. He first won in 2017 and finished third in 2019.The race is 100 days from today.

The 30 minute program featured segments with Doug Boles and Rahal Letterman team owners Mike lanigan and Bobby Rahal. Last year was Rahal’s second win as a car owner. He also won the 2004 race with Buddy Rice driving. The third team owner, David Letterman, appeared in a prerecorded video.

The full program is available for viewing on YouTube.

A Good Sign for 500 Fans?

The NCAA this morning announced that the NCCA men’s basketball tournament games will allow 25% capacity at the games, which be played entirely in Indianapolis. The tournament will take place at several venues in Indianapolis as well as at Purdue and Indiana University. The 25% includes the teams and game personnel, which narrows the actual number of fans at each arena. As I am writing this, Purdue just announced 12-13% capacity for the tournament games.

The positive part is that this may signal some good news for fan attendance at the Indianapolis 500. Marion County has been the most restrictive county in Indiana at times, but this allowance may be a great sign for May.

Some Final Thoughts on the 104th Indianapolis 500

Photo; Indycar, Chris Jones

Takuma Sato becomes the 20th multiple winner of the Indianapolis 500. The two time club includes Tommy Milton, Bill Vukovich, Rodger Ward, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Jr., and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Since 2013 Alexander Rossi is the only driver under the age of 30 to win the 500. There may be a youth movement in the series, but the veterans own this race.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan is the first team other than Team Penske or Andretti Autosport to win the 500 since 2013.

Sunday was a rough day for Ed Carpenter Racing. Conor Daly crashed. Rimus Veekay ran well early until he came into the pits too hard and hit a crewman.Ed Carpenter needed a front wing replaced early and finished 13 laps behind the winner.

The aeroscreen once again helped keep the drivers safe. James Davison said it protected from the fire and fumes after his brake caught fire. It appeared that the screen kept debris out of the cockpit on some other incidents. I’m sure Indycar officials will have a look at spencer pigot’s car. it appears a suspension piece mat have poked through the screen. The aeroscreen was definitely scratched up.

Very glad that Pigot is okay after that hit.

The purse of $7,500,000 was the lowest since 1991. Sato’s take was $1,350,000.

The Finish

The NTT Indycar Series made the right call in finishing the race under yellow. A red flag would have meant a 60-90 minute delay for repairs. That’s too long to wait for just one green flag lap. When you watch a race, there no  guarantee that there will be a dramatic ending just as there is not guarantee that a basketball game will always end on a three pointer at the buzzer or a baseball game will end with a walk off home run. The majority of contests end rather routinely.

While finishes under yellow are disappointing, I don’t have a problem with them. Life doesn’t always work out how we want it to.

Moving On

The series moves to World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis for a double header this coming weekend. I will post the weekend schedule in a bit.

Scott Dixon now leads Josef Newgarden by 84 points, and looks to be in good shape for his sixth title. I’m not going to crown him yet, but with the schedule in danger of shrinking some more, Dixon is in good shape.

We are still waiting to confirm a date for Mid Ohio, and find out whether fans will be allowed. This weekend the track is allowing 20% capacity. This could possibly be the last Indycar weekend with fans this year.

Indianapolis 500- Quick Thoughts

 Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar

It is probably a good thing that there was a repeat winner this year. It would have been a shame if a first time winner didn’t get to hear the cheers from the fans as he drove around on his cool down lap.

I hope I never have to watch the race on live television again. The commercials came at inopportune times, Leigh Diffey mentioned the drivers’ kids in the middle of a first place battle, and they seemed behind on every accident. I feel sorry for those of you who have to do this every year. So much was missing.

In his last four Indianapolis 500s, Takuma Sato has two wins and a third place finish. Prior to his first win in 2017, Sato had never finished the race higher than 13th place.

It was eerie seeing the opening ceremonies taking place in an empty track. “(Back Home Again In) Indiana was still emotional.

I agree with Indycar’s decision not to throw the red flag. Lap 200 would have been the only green lap. utter chaos would ensue. The red flag should only be thrown if there can be at least three green flag laps remaining. The attenuator repair would take more than an hour. How many fans don’t NBCSN and would not be able to watch the finish?

I felt the penalty on Rossi was appropriate. I am surprised Sato didn’t get at least a warning for his move on Dixon.

It was a decent race with more passing than I expected. I really enjoyed the final two stints. They had great battles for position. Have to wonder what a green ending would have been like, but races have been shortened by rain with someone charging towards the lead.

It was a rough day for the rookies. Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou looked great early. P{alou crashed and VeeKay had issues in the pits. Pato O’Ward ended as the highest finishing rookie and will probably get Rookie of the Year.

Dixon now has an 85 point lead over Josef Newgarden for the series championship. He is in good shape with seven races left, none of which pay double points.

Dixon is now third on the all time Indianapolis 500 laps led list.

It seems that hat the accidents caused more fire and left more fluid on the track than I remember seeing in a while.

It’s been a while since Team Penske wasn’t a factor in the 500.

Sato improved to sixth in season points. will he stay in the top 10?

Indycar Season Review- Newgarden Reclaims Title and Rookies Shine

Photo: Josef Newgarden on his way to clinching the championship at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Kyle McInnes

In some ways 2019 was an unusual season for the NTT Indycar Series. In other ways, it was a typical season.

Some unusual items:

All three of the championship contenders heading to the final race had at least one finish of 15th or worse.

The seven race winners each won multiple times. I can’t recall that ever happening before. Seven winners seems like the lowest total in a few years as well.

None of the three contenders won a race after July 20.

Alexander Rossi did not lead a lap after his dominating win at Road America on June 23.

Typically, Team Penske drivers led more than 900 laps and won nine races. The team also enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the final standings.

Josef Newgarden combined  consistency and some great pit strategy by Tim Cindric to jump to an early points lead which he held most of the season. Rossi climbed to within 16 points after Mid Ohio, but the lead expanded in the following race after Rossi’s involvement in the first lap incident at Pocono. Simon Pagenaud saved his job with his two brilliant victories in May. He had a 4.8 finishing average over the last six races and came up just 25 points short of his second title.

Rossi was dominating at Long Beach and Road America. He finished second in the Indianapolis 500. The rest of the time he was good, but not great. I thought Rossi was more consistent in 2018. Since his Road America win, Rossi had an average finish of 7.7

Dixon’s Title Defense Stalls

Scott Dixon’s season was typical of his title defense years. He never got going. 2019 was just the second time he has finished outside the top three in the standings.

Dixon finished second three times and third once in the first five races. A 17th place in the Indianapolis 500 followed by a crash and 22nd place in the first Belle Isle race put Dixon  in a hole he could not climb out of. He did bounce back to win the second race at Belle Isle and also won at Mid Ohio. Dixon now has 46 career wins, just six short of Mario Andretti for second place all time.

Rookies Have Outstanding Year

The four rookies- Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, and Santino Ferrucci- collectively had a season that any rookie group would be thrilled with. The class earned  2 wins, 4 poles, and 6 podiums. Ferrucci had an average finish on ovals of 6.2. Rosenqvist’s street/road course average was a respectable 7.1. Herta took most of the headlines with his three poles and two victories, but mechanical issues and accidents suppressed his averages and kept him behind in the points standings.

wp-15691661470052641739800814825054.png
Felix Rosenqvist edged Colton Herta for Rookie of the Year. Photo: Kyle McInnes

Rosenqvist won the Rookie of the Year title with a fierce drive at Laguna Seca from 14th to fifth to edge Herta by five points. He served notice at St. Petersburg that the rookies meant business when he passed Will Power on a restart. With Rosenqvist staying at Ganassi and Herta moving to the main Andretti team, I see a future rivalry between these two in a couple years.

Surprises and Disappointments

The biggest surprise of the year was Takuma Sato winning two races and earning two pole positions. Sato had a big slump beginning at Texas and was blamed for the early accident at Pocono. It would be nice to see him put a full season together.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank racing deserve consideration for driver and team of the year. Harvey earned the team’s first podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. In just 10 races, Harvey had four top ten finishes, got into the Fast Six twice, and finished on the lead lap in seven races. They seemed to struggle after their long break following Road America. If their plan to be full time in 2020 works out, they should be even better.

Zach Veach was probably the most disappointing driver. After finishing 2018 strongly, I thought he would have a great year. He lingered in the back half of the field most weekends and finished 18th in points, ahead of only Matheus Leist and Ed Jones among the drivers who drove all 17 races.

The Best and Not So Best

Not every race can be great, and like most years a few races stood out.

For me, the best races were the Indycar Grand Prix, Mid Ohio, Iowa, and Gateway.

The worst races in my opinion were Pocono, Detroit 1, Toronto, and Portland.