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.

Power Leads First Day

Photo: James Black, Indycar

Will Power ran the fastest lap on the opening day of practice for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. with a speed of 226.470 late in the afternoon portion of the day. The fist two hours of veteran practice had two rain interruptions in the first hour, and a third stoppage near the end of the session. Practice never restarted. The Rookie and refresher tests, scheduled to begin at noon suffered a two hour delay.

Graham Rahal led the early practice round. Stefan Wilson and J. R. Hildebrand completed their refresher tests. R. C. Enerson still has one phase to complete of his rookie test due to a mechanical issue. Indycar will allow him to finish the test at 11 am tomorrow, ahead of the noon start of the six hour practice period.

Power was asked if he felt casrs would be able to follow more closely and have more opportunities to pass this year. He thinks so

“…as far as stuck in traffic I felt pretty good just running with two or three cars in front. Felt more comfortable than I have for awhile.That was promising, and yeah, I think cooler conditions can make everything feel pretty good. I think when the heat comes it’ll certainly change everything and become harder to follow.I think adding that downforce is certainly going to help theracing. I think you’re going to have one of the old style races where the front three are just swapping positions constantly because you can follow so close now. I think,yeah, it’s good for the fans,” Power answered.

Today’s results:

Rank Car Driver Name C/E/T Session Time Speed Total Laps
1 12 Power, Will D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.7403 226.470 87
2 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan D/H/F Practice 2 00:39.7578 226.371 55
3 30 Sato, Takuma D/H/F Practice 2 00:39.7998 226.132 76
4 24 Karam, Sage D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.8332 225.942 69
5 47 Daly, Conor D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.8865 225.640 82
6 22 Pagenaud, Simon D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.9592 225.230 81
7 5 O’Ward, Pato D/C/F Practice 2 00:39.9740 225.146 78
8 9 Dixon, Scott D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0021 224.988 68
9 18 Jones, Ed D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0621 224.651 77
10 8 Ericsson, Marcus D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0686 224.615 85
11 48 Kanaan, Tony D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.0725 224.593 68
12 86 Montoya, Juan Pablo D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1099 224.384 63
13 16 De Silvestro, Simona D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1373 224.230 81
14 2 Newgarden, Josef D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.1714 224.040 48
15 21 VeeKay, Rinus D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2158 223.793 82
16 29 Hinchcliffe, James D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2180 223.780 78
17 7 Rosenqvist, Felix D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2246 223.744 63
18 20 Carpenter, Ed D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.2377 223.671 69
19 15 Rahal, Graham D/H/F Practice 1 00:40.2776 223.449 82
20 98 Andretti, Marco D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2980 223.336 73
21 26 Herta, Colton D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.2993 223.329 84
22 06 Castroneves, Helio D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3480 223.059 63
23 27 Rossi, Alexander D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3581 223.004 74
24 10 Palou, Alex D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.3792 222.887 71
25 3 McLaughlin, Scott (R) D/C/F Practice 1 00:40.3885 222.836 68
26 11 Kimball, Charlie D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.3938 222.806 36
27 4 Kellett, Dalton D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.4729 222.371 61
28 1 Hildebrand, JR D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.4928 222.262 22
29 45 Ferrucci, Santino D/H/F Practice 1 00:40.5034 222.204 42
30 60 Harvey, Jack D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.5199 222.113 56
31 59 Chilton, Max D/C/F Practice 2 00:40.5606 221.890 70
32 51 Fittipaldi, Pietro (R) D/H/F Practice 2 00:40.7657 220.774 80
33 14 Bourdais, Sebastien D/C/F Practice 1 00:40.8402 220.371 38
34 25 Wilson, Stefan D/H/F Practice 2 00:41.1762 218.573 25
Total Laps for Combined Sessions: 2255

Notes

As wonderful as Saturday was, watching the cars on the oval in mid May was the most welcome sight yet. Everything was as I remembered- the blur of colors whizzing by, the smell of ethanol, the vibration of the fences, the hustle bustle of each team running, stopping, for adjustments, and going out again- and it made me happy. There are even better days to come.

On my walk through Gasoline Alley I noticed two women working on the Paretta Autosport car of Simona De Silvestro. I also saw several other women on crews for other teams. It is a welcome sight and about time Indycar offered opportunities for everyone.

Paretta Autosport crew members. 75% of the crew are women. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

A. J. Foyt Racing did an outstanding job with the throwback livery on J. R. Hildebrand’s car. It is difficult to represent a roadster livery on a rear engine car. This is one of the best I’ve seen.

The Top Gun entry shows a hint of the Johnny Lightning Special, but also reminds me of the Konstant Hot Special.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Tomorrow will see warmer temperatures than today. It should be interesting to see which cqars maintain the day to day consistency despite the weather difference.

No Added Pressure for Drivers in Contract Year

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay are beginning contract years in the NTT Indycar Series. Simon Pagenaud may be in a contract year, but he side-stepped the question last week. All three drivers plan to keep driving the way they always have and not worry about 2022. The consensus is that there is always pressure to perform, regardless of their contract status.

Ryan Hunter-Reay Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Hunter-Reay had a frustrating year in 2020. It began with a car that wouldn’t fire on the grid at the opening race in Texas. The Andretti Autosport driver did manage a 10th place finish in the season standings, however. Hunter-Reay usually finds a way into the top 10 despite problems during a race. Last year was a bit more of a struggle than most years.

Looking ahead to 2021 Hunter-Reay said, “Yeah, definitely I’m looking forward to that kind of makeup,what feels like a makeup season almost. Hopefully we can do that, barring any variants of COVID that might derail that.”

As for extra pressure coming from a one year deal, Hunter-Reay said that he approaches every race as if it could be his last in the car.

“My whole career has been that way. It’s been, Hey, here is your opportunity. Get in the car, we’ll let you know if you’re going to be in the car the next race. That’s how it always has been for me. That’s why I’ve always had that grab-it-by-the-neck mentality. Even when I had a three-year deal, if I had a bad weekend, it was the end of the year. I have to make sure I’m performing next weekend, otherwise somebody with a big smile is getting ready to jump into my seat. It’s just part of my mentality, part of my makeup. No, that’s how I’ve been operating for 20 years, man. Right at home for me.”

Hunter-Reay has stiff competition from his own team. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta should be fighting for the championship and possibly a win at the Indianapolis 500.

Power Hopes for Better Start

Will Power feels the need to have a better start to the season. 2019 and 2020 both began with a series of issues that hampered his run for the title. He has still managed to win twice in each of the past two years and add to his career pole mark. He is inching closer to Mario Andretti’s career pole total. Power goes into 2021 with same attitude he does every year.

“…same effort that I put in because I had put so much effort in every time. I so badly want to win. Yep, same fire, internal fire burning. Just do as I do, do obviously my best.”

Any extra pressure seems to come from the poor starts of the last two years.

“It actually does feel a little bit that way, youknow, considering we’ve started the last four seasons in a really bad way. It certainly isn’t speed that’s the issue. It’s our bad days are just too bad. Our bad days are DNFs and multiple laps down. They’re not like a 10th place or a seventh place, and that’s our problem. The speed is certainly not. Winning is certainly not. Consistently,whether it’s mistakes on pit lane or mistakes by me, you just — we have to have a solid beginning to the season.”

Like Hunter-Reay, Power will compete with Team Penske teammates-Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud for points and podiums.

Pagenaud Looks for Better Qualifying, Race Results

Simon Pagenaud Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Simon Pagenaud had a frustrating season in 2020. Poor qualifying forced him to play catch up during races. he did get a victory in Iowa race 1 after starting last, and his eighth place final standing seems like a decent year. It was not good enough for Pagenaud. What went wrong?

“…a combination of things that didn’t work out the way I wanted. Obviously the car change made a big difference. The lack of testing made a big impact on my season.”

Team Penske has been able to test this pre-season and that should make a big difference in Pagenaud’s year. As for pressure to keep his job in 2022?

“…my personal opinion is just go out there and do the best you can, race hard and be in the moment. The contracts will take care of themselves when they do.It’s too early to tell anyway. But yeah, I always race as hard as I can. My motto is having no regrets ever, so I work hard, and I want to have no regrets. So if I have no regrets, there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue.”

St. Pete Qualifying- After Chaos, Normalcy Returns

Some thoughts about today’s qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which can be viewed at 8 pm Eastern on NBCSN:

It was nice to have the drama of the Fast Six again. This is only the second time this season the Fast Six has been the qualifying procedure.

It seems the black tires may be faster than the red alternate tires here. Alexander Rossi advanced from round 1 without going to the reds.

Colton Herta’s tire strategy looked good in the Fast Six but hurt him at the end.

Group two results and penalties caused a delay, partly due to an issue with timing and scoring. The delay created a lot of confusion as to who would advance. Indycar got it right in the end, though.

What a very nice run for Sebastien Bourdais in the A. J. Foyt Racing number 14. The team is definitely looking forward to beginning the season here in March.

While Scott McLaughlin starts near the back, he showed some flashes of speed in practice. He has a lot to learn about qualifying, but I think he will have a great year in 2021.

Andretti Autosport looked strong today with three cars and their technical partner Meyer Shank in the Fast Six.

Ironic that Oliver Askew got into Round 2 because Felix Rosenqvist was penalized. An angry Rosenqvist driving from the rear of the field will make for some excitement tomorrow.

I can’t remember a qualifying session where six penalties were assessed.

The Will Power/Colton Herta qualifying rivalry continues. I look for more clashes between them next year, with Herta winning a few more times.

Power’s fifth pole of the year puts him within five of Mario Andretti’s 67 career poles. Power has won 9 poles at St. Pete. Today’s was his 6th pole here in 7 years. He has won this race from the pole just once, however.

Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Strange that both title contenders , Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden failed to make the Fast Six. Dixon starts 11th and Newgarden starts 8th. Not winning the pole cost Newgarden a valuable point in his chase to overtake Dixon. Dixon still needs to finish ninth or better tomorrow, but depending on what Newgarden does, Dixon may be able to win the title with a lower finish.

James Hinchcliffe had a solid day which should help his chances to secure a seat for next year. He was strong in practice, led group 1 in qualifying, and made the Fast Six.

Tomorrow morning look for my race day preview. I’ll include some things my on site reporters have shared about the the venue.

Qualifying results:

Race 2 Quick Thoughts-A Sense of Normalcy

Photo of Will Power by Chris Jones, Indycar

Will Power takes the pole and dominates the race. Team Penske sweeps the weekend. with two wins and two front row starts. Power and Josef Newgarden combined to lead 109 of the 160 laps. This weekend brought a sense of normalcy back. This how the IMS road course works.

A victory at St. Pete would make Power a 40 race winner. It has been more than 20 years since two 40 race winners were active in the series.

Not every race can be as great as Friday’s, and I wasn’t expecting today’s race to be that good. It is quite a feat to lead every lap in a race, especially one with such a long pit stop delta.

It was nice to see Simon Pagenaud move up to the top 10 after an awful friday. He still hasn’t figured out qualifying. Pagenaud’s struggles in qualifying have been one of the most puzzling things about this season.

Colton Herta made an impressive late charge to close in on Power. It made the last few laps interesting.

Alexander Rossi had his best weekend of the year with two podium finishes.

Jack Harvey has three top 10s and one podium in four races on the IMS road course.

Scott Dixon’s struggles continue. His lead over Newgarden is just 32 points heading to St. Pete. The Florida street course is not one of Dixon’s better tracks. He just needs to keep Newgarden in sight during the race.

I don’t know how Indycar determines race distances, but I think 5 more laps might have made the race more intriguing.

If the fans had a vote, the Harvest Grand Prix would be an annual event.

Finally, huge thanks to Roger Penske, Doug Boles, and the entire staff at IMS for their efforts to create a safe environment for fans to be to attend the races this weekend. The fans who live in Indianapolis needed this, and they will remember and appreciate this weekend for a long time.

Power on Pole for Race 2

Will Power is back home again in Indiana. He took the pole position for this afternoon’s Race 2 of the Harvest Grand Prix. Power has won on this track three times in the May edition of the IMS road course race.

Colton Herta starts second. Yesterday’s winner, Josef Newgarden, starts 9th and points leader Scott Dixon starts 15th. Rinus VeeKay, yesterday’s pole winner, starts 14th.

Power’s pole is his 4th of the year and 61st of his career. He could tie or pass Mario Andretti’ s career mark of 67 poles sometime next season.

Power Looks for Mid Ohio Sweep; Dixon Hopes to Extend Lead

Today’s schedule

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Today’s race is on NBC. Make sure to set your recording on the proper channel.

Can Will Power sweep the weekend? I think he has the best chance to win both poles and both races anyone has had his year. Scott Dixon needs to finish ahead if Josef Newgarden today to regain momentum.

Pato O’Ward had a disappointing day yesterday. I hope he can salvage part of the weekend.

Can Andretti Autosport find that little extra today?

I’ll have a brief report post qualifying. My Quick Thoughts will be up tomorrow morning.

Quick Thoughts- Mid Ohio Race 1

Photo: Matt Fraver, Indycar

It was obvious after qualifying that Will Power was going to have a monster race. Any driver who can win the pole from Group 1 in this qualifying format has a really good car. The bad news for the rest of the field is that Power is in Group 2 tomorrow. The expected rain means Group 1 will got out on a green And possibly slightly wet track.

Although Power had the race well in hand, there were some good battles behind him. Alexander Rossi and teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay fought early. Rossi and Graham Rahal had a late battle for third. The Rahal home crowd perked up when Rahal nearly got by. Scott Dixon and Colton Herta also had a good fight for tenth.

If Conor Daly hadn’t run out of fuel, Rd Carpenter Racing would have had two cars in the top ten. Daly qualified fourth. Perhaps ECR might be getting more competitive on the road courses. Rinus VeeKay had another top ten. He also made another great pass in turn 4 on Herta.

It was one of Andretti Autosport’s best days of the season, with three cars in the top ten plus the Meyer Shank team getting another top ten with Jack Harvey. Hunter-Reay also started on the front row.

Speaking of Harvey, he just quietly goes about his business and keeps getting good results.

Power’s 60th pole and 38th career win move him closer to joining two legends. He is just seven poles behind Mario Andretti and one win behind Al Unser, Sr. for fifth place. He passed Sebastien Bourdain’s today on the victory list.

Josefs Newgarden made up 20 points on Scott Dixon today. How many can Dixon get back tomorrow? Dixon’s biggest ally is time.

COVID Protocols

Mid Ohio did a great job keeping fans safe. Masks were worn more today than at any other track with fans I’ve been to. Staff reminded people who had masks off to wear them and fans complied. The squares painted in orange for people to sit in were hard to see. White paint or chalk might have been better. I appreciate the concept and people respected the boundaries.

The track is hoping the success of their protocols this weekend will allow them to host more fans for the IMSA race on two weeks. All 6,000 tickets for today we’re sold.

I’ll be back with a Day 2 preview in the morning. Quick Thoughts for tomorrow’s race will be up Monday morning. Thanks for following this weekend.

Results

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GMR Qualifying- The Kids Are Alright

Photo: Indycar, Chris Jones

Will Power won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix with a brilliant final lap in the Fast Six. he nipped Jack Harvey by 0.188  seconds. Old news. This was Power’s fourth pole in this race. He won the other three times he started on pole. The pole was the 58th of Power’s career, and he is just nine shy of tying Mario Andretti for the most career poles. He will creep even closer by year’s end.

What I want to focus this qualifying report on though is the younger drivers in the series. Overall, they had a great day. I will discuss them after a recap of qualifying.

Round 1, Group 1

The youngsters led the way, grabbing the first four spots to advance. Defending series champion Josef Newgarden struggled to squeeze into the final transfer spot.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Max Chilton

Felix Rosenqvist

Conor Daly

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Josef Newgarden

Round 1, Group 2

This session had a more traditional look with Power leading and more drivers expected to advance filling the next round.

Results:

Will Power

Colton Herta

Scott Dixon

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Alexander Rossi

Round of 12

Half of the drivers in the second round have less than three full years of Indycar experience. It looked as if the fast Six would shape up to be another the great Power vs. Herta pole battles we had last season, but another youngster decided to spoil the fun.

Results:

Oliver Askew

Jack Harvey

Graham Rahal

Colton Herta

Will Power

Josef Newgarden

Fast Six

Jack Harvey came within a whisker of his first career pole. Power nipped him on the final lap as time ran out. The result was Harvey’s second consecutive GMR Grand Prix Fast Six. In 2019 he started third and finished third.

Results:

Will Power      1:10.177

Jack Harvey    1:10.365

Colton Herta

Graham Rahal

Oliver Askew

Josef Newgarden

The Kids

If you were keeping score, half of each of the last two rounds had drivers with less than three years experience. Oliver Askew in his first road course qualifying led two rounds of qualifying and had the fastest lap of 1:09.878 in the second round.

Conor Daly got a rare second round spot for Ed Carpenter Racing and will start 8th tomorrow.

Colton Herta showed last year that he will be a perennial contender.

Jack Harvey loves this track. if he can transfer his success at IMS to the rest of the series, he will be someone fun to watch.

Max Chilton advancing to the second round was nice to see.

Felix rosenqvist had an off day today, but could be a factor tomorrow.

We are witnessing a very quick generational change. These younger drivers are the sport’s future. The current stars have at most three years left. The series will be in very good hands when they leave. We could see a few more surprises this season. The kids are alright.