Once the drama of Bump Day for the 97th Indianapolis 500 is complete at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the team managers, crew chiefs, mechanics, truck drivers, et al always head for the C&R Racing suite in Gasoline Alley to celebrate one of their own, as Chris and Debbie Paulsen’s “True Grit” Award is announced.
The True Grit award, given during the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 weekends, celebrates the achievements of a long-standing member of each community, INDYCAR and NASCAR. In the Indy car ranks, it’s been given out to many of my favorite people in the paddock, including Kyle Moyer of Andretti Autosport, Mitch Davis (Ganassi Racing), Rick Long of Speedway Engines (which builds the Firestone Indy Lights engines), Penske Raing’s Rick Rinaman, AJ Foyt Racing’s Craig Baranouski, Owen Snyder Jr (who’s worked just about everywhere), former Newman/Haas employees Tim Coffeen, Tim Homberg, John Tzouanakis, the late Davey Evans… ah, I could name ‘em all but you get the drift.
This year’s award, along with a $5000 check and plaque, went to John Haslett of Penske Racing. Haslett joined the team in 1981, fresh out of the military, and has been part of that crew ever since. That’s a long time! John has most recently worked in tire preparation for the No. 3 Penske entry driven by three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves; he also drives Roger Penske’s office/trailer, known as RP1 and is the back-up fueler for the pit crew.
Haslett always has a smile for everyone, no matter the pressure, and a great attitude, making him quite deserving of this award, which is given to a crew member who possesses “the ability to overcome adversity and embody the excellent qualities of such a highly skilled trade,” C&R Racing’s press release said.
“I started working in racing when I was just 22 years old,” Haslett said. “I was green as green can be, fresh out of the U.S. Navy. My first year at Indy, I was working on Bobby Unser’s car – we won that race and I have been hooked on racing ever since. It is the best feeling ever to help win the 500 for Roger Penske and I’m grateful to be acknowledged for all my efforts.”
Photo and Words By Anne Proffit
Buddy Lazier’s team took a former Lotus car and made it a competitive Chevy machine – Anne Proffit photo
Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, well, wasn’t. There wasn’t any bumping and the big drama that occurred as qualifying ended for the 97th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race centered around the possibility of a bump.
This was a beautifully sunny, hot and humid day in Indy, one in which 34 car/driver combos practiced throughout the afternoon. There was an hour-long practice between 9 and 10 this morning, but only 11 drivers took part, putting together only 231 laps. Graham Rahal, who was bumped out of Saturday’s Pole Day extravaganza, was quickest of that bunch at 226.564; Charlie Kimball took his T car out for a single lap and was, quite obviously slowest. Rahal was also quickest in the long afternoon of practice.
Qualifying began at 12:15 and ended about 45 minutes later, with the final nine spots readily filled. Josef Newgarden became the fastest second day qualifier at 225.731 mph – he was the eighth driver on the track, followed by Graham Rahal’s four-lap average of 225.007 as the fifth in the qualifying line. Sebastian Saavedra completes the ninth row at 224.929.
Rookie Tristan Vautier had a much better time of it on Sunday, turning 224.873 mph to head the tenth row; he looked like he’d be able to vault to the ninth row but had a severe fall-off on his fourth and final lap. Ana Beatriz’s 224.184 put her in the middle of Row 10 alongside a relieved Pippa Mann, who clocked 224.005.
Recovering from his wall smack and a broken exhaust header in Saturday qualifying, rookie Conor Daly holds the inside spot on the final row at 223.582, but it’s the final two qualifiers that were the talk of the town. Buddy Lazier was first in the qualifying line and he hit 223.442. The Lazier car used to be a Lotus and the crew, many former Hemelgarn Racing folks, worked to convert the car to Chevrolet power throughout the week and gave the 1996 Indy 500 winner a solid car to drive.
Katherine Legge in morning practice – Anne Proffit photo
Katherine Legge, the final car to take four timed laps, had less than 20 laps in her No. 81 Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey Honda racer before qualifying this afternoon at 12:53; she logged 223.222 and nabbed the final spot.
Left on the outside was Michel Jourdain Jr., attempting his second straight Indy 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The team tried everything they could to get some speed out of the car but it just wasn’t meant to be. They even put Graham Rahal in for some exploratory laps, but even he couldn’t get the thing over 202.260! The best Jourdain could do in practice this afternoon was 219.843, so they just didn’t think it was smart to trim it out and make a futile attempt to qualify.
“All week we struggled,” Jourdain said. “I didn’t feel the car very well… when you’re only driving once a year, it’s just so hard to know.” The team changed the undertray, springs, dampers, tried Rahal’s setup, teammate James Jakes’ setup, but nothing worked. “I couldn’t go flat out” and he felt if they did “something stupid and put the car in the wall, there’s no point in that.”
Relief was what Legge felt after her 50-lap day at Indianapolis. “I had to get after it and we have done a bit today. Our race car is really nice; I feel really comfortable, ran in traffic a bit. We didn’t have to trim out, so I have no idea what the car is like trimmed out.” While she was hoping Jourdain could find the speed to qualify and they could have a “fair fight” it wasn’t meant to be.
So now the field is set for the 97th Indianapolis 500 and it looks like the weekend should have clear weather for racing (but who knows?). The drivers will set out on a cross-country tour to promote the race on Monday, the rookies are feted on Tuesday, team owner Sam Schmidt’s Gala to cure paralysis comes Wednesday, along with Community Day at the track, the Firestone Indy Lights take over on Thursday with their race following Carb Day activities on Friday, the parade is Saturday and then there’s 200 laps of racing to contend with on Sunday.
It should be a good one, with the memory of last year’s monumentally fun race in everyone’s minds. And the field is split by only five miles per hour, making it one of the more competitive in history.
Bring it on!
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit
For a while it looked like the elements were going to win pole position for the 97th Indianapolis 500. It rained at the end of the 2-hour practice in the morning and didn’t stop until about 11:30, half an hour past when qualifying was supposed to start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But qualifying did go on, albeit a bit late and by mid-afternoon, it appeared Team Penske was about to lock out the front row – or at least a potential front row – in the traditional four-lap time trial process. Will Power led teammates Helio Castroneves and AJ Allmendinger in the lineup before the big dogs from Andretti Autosport took to the 2.5-mile oval. Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay tried, but was only good enough for second, rookie Carlos Munoz settled for third and Marco Andretti had the sixth best speed. Not exactly what they wanted for their first qualifying attempts.
Bumping began as soon as there were 24 cars qualified and first Buddy Lazier, Pippa Mann and then Ana Beatriz were forced out of the first-day field, then rookie Tristan Vautier and Sebastian Saavedra, placing last year’s polesitter Ryan Briscoe on the bubble as final first-round Oriol Servia qualifier went to bat and bumped him out from the first session!
It wasn’t a great afternoon for Honda at first glance, locked out of the Fine Nine after a single round. The top cars belonged to Power, RHR, Munoz, Castroneves, Ed Carpenter, Andretti, Allmendinger, EJ Viso and James Hinchcliffe – three Penske entries and five Andretti Autosport drivers with only Carpenter as the single-car interloper.
It’s not been a great day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing either; James Jakes failed post-qualifying inspection, Michel Jourdain Jr wasn’t quick enough to make the top 24 and Graham Rahal was on the bubble as the first round came to a close and 32 drivers had taken the full, four-lap sequence of time trials. AJ Foyt Racing’s rookie, Conor Daly completed only 1-1/2 laps before we saw smoke coming from the rear of his car.
At 6PM the first eight rows were filled, and there was a half-hour break before the fastest nine cars took to the track to determine their spots in the starting order. Behind them the field looks like this: JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani (first Honda), Tony Kanaan on row 4, Servia, Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais on the fifth row, the Ganassi cars of Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and AJ Foyt’s Takumo Sato occupying row 6, Charlie Kimball, Jakes (took him three tries!) and Simon Pagenaud (celebrating his 29th birthday) on row 7 and Townsend Bell, who withdrew his early time and requalified on the inside of row 8, Briscoe (who needed three tries) and Simona de Silvestro.
At 6:30 the battle of the eight Goliaths and one David began with a single opportunity to take pole. James Hinchcliffe was first up (as the slowest of the nine). The two-race winner this year clocked in at 227.090 mph for his four-lap average. Next up was EJ Viso, who upped the ante to 228.150, making way for rookie AJ Allmendinger, whose four-lap average, thanks to a fall-off on his fourth lap was 228.099.
Marco Andretti pulled on-track at 6:49 and, helped by his first lap over 229-mph put together a four-tour of 228.261 mph. He was followed by Ed Carpenter, who owns his team as well as driving for it. The winner of INDYCAR’s most recent oval race at Fontana, CA clocked 228.762 to wrest the top spot for the moment. Would he keep it with four more drivers to go?
Vying for his record-tying fourth Indy 500 win, Helio Castroneves stepped up next, the second of three Penske drivers in this battle. The Brazilian looked good on his first lap but faded to an average of 227.762, leaving Carpenter atop the standings – but with three drivers left to go. Rookie Carlos Munoz took to the classic Brickyard oval with a stout first lap at nearly 229, but he too faded to 228.342, second with two to go.
Reigning champ Ryan Hunter-Reay came up next and, while he had a good first lap, by the time he hit his third and then his fourth, well, it wasn’t meant to be at 227.904 mph. Final driver up was Will Power, who’s had a miserable season (for him anyway) thus far. The INDYCAR bridesmaid waited a bit before he took off for his four-lap tour of the iconic Indy oval, then put up a hot first lap that had Carpenter worried. But Power couldn’t do it and faded to sixth at 228.087mph.
That left the one David ahead of nine Goliaths, as Carpenter won the pole for the 97th Indianapolis 500, leaving Munoz, Andretti, Viso, Allmendinger, Power, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves and Hinchcliffe wondering what they could have done to knock him off.
While Carpenter has family connections with the Speedway, his mother Laura married to Tony George, Ed came up through the sprint car ranks and earned his way to this big league. This Indianapolis pole position is a popular one for Indianapolis residents – it’s one of their own starting at the front of the biggest race in the world.
Carpenter came into the media center with his three children in tow – his step-sister Lauren George graduates from Notre Dame tomorrow so his parents were in South Bend. Beaming, he admitted that the team “hardly changed the car at all from the first segment to the ‘Chevy Shootout’,” as he renamed it. “I was hoping someone else would overstep it,” and his eight competitors sure did. While he admitted it was an honor to win the pole and grab the publicity for the next week, Carpenter’s focus is, as it should be, on the 500-mile battle ahead. “This team made the right calls and to take a shot at it was better than not, but I like to race better than qualify.”
If that’s the case, 32 other drivers better do their homework before next Sunday.
Words and Photo By Anne Proffit
Formula 1 seems to be playing hard and fast with their rules these days, particularly with regard to tires. The current Pirelli rubber does degrade quickly, but at least it keeps its integrity beneath the surface so that suspensions don’t get mangled when the tire’s tread goes away. Changes to the construction of the tire, which are intended to take effect in Canada, could change all that – and not necessarily for the better.
For those of us that were at Indianapolis during the Bridgestone-Michelin tire wars nearly ten years ago wonder where all this will lead and also wonder who’s in charge here? Is it Christian Horner and Adrian Newey or is it the FIA that has control of the sport? Is it really necessary to change rules to make Red Bull more competitive than its been thus far in the 2013 season?
Recall last year when RB wasn’t atop the standings early in the year as eight different drivers stood atop the podium – and didn’t bitch about it. They simply knuckled down and worked on setups to get their car right, and by the end of the season they were their customary dominant selves. Why, I wonder, do they have to get the rules makers to acquiesce to their desires for dominance now – when there’s still plenty of time to get it right before the season is moot?
Most teams in Formula 1 appear to be working on two cars simultaneously – one for this year and one for next. That would be standard operating procedure when you’ve got a massive rules change on the horizon for the upcoming years ahead – you’ve got to succeed now and be prepared later. Every race team does that. In every single series.
It’s apparent the Lotus and Ferrari did their homework with regard to working within the tire regulations set forth for this year. Those teams’ consistency has been their hallmarks and their successes are evident. Some of the smaller teams have worked hard to optimize their chassis and prepare them for the regulations. Only Red Bull has been bitching loudly about tire degradation and what it does to their race cars.
And for that Formula 1 bends over?
By Anne Proffit
It took 5-1/2 practice days for the clean white walls of Indianapolis Motor Speedway to be smirched with rubber and carbon fiber. Shortly after 2:15PM, rookie Conor Daly was on his 44th lap when he got low in the first turn and smacked the SAFER barriers (thank goodness they’re there) before his Dallara/Honda racer got on its side, eventually coming to a halt on its Firestone tires.
Daly climbed from the car without assistance and appeared to be in good condition. The car? Not so much. At the time of the hit, Daly held the 15th quickest speed of 220.780 mph, while JR Hildebrand, using a newly installed Chevy engine was quickest – tow aided, of course – at 224.075. As is customary, all activities came to a halt as clean-up ensued on the racetrack.
Conor Daly appeared, half an hour after the accident, once checked, released and cleared to drive by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway medical personnel, none the worse for wear. The team had just changed springs on the car and Daly “felt comfortable the whole time. I was just trying to experience a little bit more with the car and there was a car in front of me,” he said. “The wind, it feels like it’s been gusting more and the rear was leaning hard on the outside tire. It just kind of folded over on itself. I just lost it. Just not good.”
It took IMS a bit more than half an hour to get the track prepped for further work and action resumed right after 2:45PM.
Marco Andretti took top spot for a while but it was his rookie teammate, Carlos Munoz who took the top spot (225.163 mph) by the time the six-hour session was done – with no further mishaps by any of the 33 drivers. Yes, Buddy Lazier finally made it onto the racetrack, albeit for a scant three laps – he still needs to do a refresher course so this was definitely a systems check of the car.
The balance of the top ten behind Munoz were his teammates, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, teammate EJ Viso, JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servia and Takuma Sato, giving Honda two of the top ten results.
Tomorrow, fast Friday the boost goes up on both Chevrolet and Honda engines to the same level as last year: from 130 kPa to 140 kPa, remaining in effect through qualifying weekend. “What we had last year worked really well for the full sequence of the month of May,” said Will Phillips, INDYCAR’s vice president for technology. “With the car performance progressing incrementally through natural development of the chassis and aerodynamics, lap speeds are expected to increase in qualifying,” from last year’s levels.
There were none of the expected thunderstorms today; rather, it was hot, muggy and windy earlier in the afternoon, particularly when Daly had his shunt. The weather appeared to verge south of the Speedway and that, my friends, is a very good thing!
Photos and Words By Anne Proffit
Day five of practice for the 97th Indianapolis 500 was another clean one filled with race simulations throughout the afternoon. While a few drivers might have tried some qualifying sims, they were far and few between. There weren’t too many takers when the track opened at the crack of noon and as the afternoon wore on presentations on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval were spaced pretty evenly and traffic was minimal.
It wasn’t until close to 5PM – Happy Hour – that the giant racetrack came alive with trains of cars working together. As the session drew to a close at 6PM, all but one of the Andretti Autosport cars were on-circuit but, surprisingly, they weren’t leading the time sheets.
After laying fallow for four days, Honda suddenly looked like it had come to play, with reigning Indy 500 champ Dario Franchitti taking the top spot at 224.236 mph. He was followed by Indy-only Chevy driver Townsend Bell, by fellow-three-time winner Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay and new teammate Ryan Briscoe, driving for Ganassi Racing in just this event. Marco Andretti, EJ Viso, Alex Tagliani, Scott Dixon and rookie Carlos Munoz completed the top 10. Chevy had six of those cars, Honda owned four.
Incredibly, there have been no incidents thus far and everyone’s been playing clean. Much of that has to do with familiarity of the package and having one Indy 500 under most teams’ belts using the Dallara DW12 and either Chevrolet or Honda power. This is also a very, very deep field for the 2013 Indy 500, with all but the rookies having time on this track since the new rules went into effect last year.
Franchitti had been practicing mid-pack until today – he launched a Honda engine yesterday (and will take the penalty at Detroit) so has a new engine in the car now. Bell, of course is on a shorter program as a one-and-done driver.
In all there were 2165 laps in the books this afternoon with the highest number going to rookie Conor Daly, who needs them and the fewest to Sebastien Bourdais, who turned only 18 laps today. In terms of lap times, there’s less than a second separating Franchitti from 30th-placed Graham Rahal; only Ana Beatriz and Michel Jourdain Jr practiced slower, respectively as 32 car/driver combos took to the track. Buddy Lazier is supposed to be on-circuit come Thursday as he has a single Chevy engine at his disposal.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit
Tuesday practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has turned into a good one – the skies are clear, the temps have risen to tank-top-and-flip-flop levels, bringing 34 primary and backup cars to the 2.5-mile IMS oval in preparation for the 97th annual Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
James Hinchcliffe set the early mark in teammate Marco Andretti’s No. 25 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone race car at 224.210 mph, thanks to a tow from Graham Rahal. With two hours remaining, no one else has been able to beat his mark, as Hinch returned to his own car, trying to match that speed but falling even a bit short of Marco’s best in the No. 27 GoDaddy machine. Marco turned 221.972 in Hinch’s race car while James’ set was 221.781.
At 4PM, with two hours to go, the fastest four cars are all Chevrolet-powered, as JR Hildebrand’s early lap of 223.652 was good for second, reigning champ Ryan Hunter-Reay turned 223.332 and EJ Viso signed in at 223.138 mph. Three of the four top times come from Andretti Autosport – kind of like Sunday and Monday’s quick laps.
Josef Newgarden spearheads the Honda brigade at 223.123 mph and, in fact, you’ve got to look all the way back to 17th place to find the next Honda-powered machine of Charlie Kimball (220.722). Of course Indy is a place where everyone has their own program to prepare for the 500 and it’s possible that some are waiting for Wednesday to bring out some speed for qualifying weekend.
That brings us to the W word, for weather. All signs from the NOAA’s site point to thunderstorms that are supposed to begin Wednesday night and continue through the weekend. Nothing unusual but hopefully they travel either north or south of Speedway, IN. The chances cited are at 50% through Thursday night with a lessening to 40% through Pole Day on Saturday.
With that kind of forecast, we can assume that Wednesday, which is supposed to be sunny and quite warm, will breed more qualifying attempts and a lot more pack running, depending on where people are in their programs by the end of Tuesday’s activities. Buddy Lazier, whose program is being run by Eric Bachelart, still hasn’t shown up on the racetrack but it would seem imperative for his group to get their collective acts together by Wednesday.
As Happy Hour got underway with 18+ mph winds changing direction on a regular basis, the Andretti Autosport team returned to their drafting exercises, changing position as they searched for the right amount of aero and mechanical grip for overtaking exercises on race day. By this time Helio Castroneves set the third quickest lap of 223.556, helping to shuffle the order a bit.
In the garage area, there were engine swaps going on as teams maxxed out their engine service life and needed to install new Chevy or Honda mills. Many team engineers told me the winds had been playing havoc with them, but it was still imperative to run in this weather because you never knew what would greet you on race day a week from Sumday.
With less than 15 minutes in practice, Marco Andretti moved up to third place, pushing the balance of the field back into line and leaving Newgarden seventh as fastest Honda. He and Hildebrand continued to be the “meat” in an Andretti Autosport sandwich.
When the checkered flags flew, it was Hinchcliffe’s ride in Andretti’s car still at the top, followed by Hildebrnd, Andretti, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, Viso, Newgarden, rookie Carlos Munoz, Oriol Servia and Indy 500 rookie AJ Allmendinger making up the top 10. Slowest on the day was out point leader Takuma Sato, who did only 20 laps with a best of 216.616 mph.
Still we don’t know what people are doing out there – like they’re going to tell us? – and with weather coming in tomorrow night, it’s going to be a crap shoot to see whether people do their qualifying simulations on Wednesday or not. Added boost comes to the teams – as it did in 2012 – on Friday through the weekend, and both of the fast drivers today, Hinchcliffe and Hildebrand, indicated their teams don’t intend to start those simulations until at least Thursday.
There were 32 drivers on the track today, according to INDYCAR.
We shall see!
By Anne Proffit