Some bits and pieces on this year’s Indy 500 field

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– If you’re into numerology, it would appear that the number four is playing a role in how this 97th Indianapolis 500 is playing out so far. The field for this year’s running features four former winners of the “500” (Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Buddy Lazier), four rookie drivers (Carlos Munoz, A.J. Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly), and four female drivers (Simona de Silvestro, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann, and Katherine Legge). One wonders if this bodes well for J.R. Hildebrand in the No. 4 Panther Racing Chevrolet. Or maybe it means good luck for the driver starting fourth on Sunday, Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso?

– There is a combined total of 144 Indianapolis 500 starts across this year’s field, up from the 103 years of combined experience in last year’s field. However, it’s a long way off from the race record of 260 years of experience, which has been set twice in 1987 and 1992.

– The oldest driver in the field also has the most previous starts of anyone in the field, too. Buddy Lazier, 45, managed to make his 17th Indy 500 this afternoon during Bump Day. But it’s likely safe to assume that Lazier will never get the record for most starts all-time, which belongs to four-time “500” winner and current IndyCar team owner A.J. Foyt. “Supertex” notched 35 Indy starts, all consecutive, from 1958 to 1992.

– This year’s field averaged a qualifying speed of 226.176 miles per hour, good enough to be the fourth-fastest field in “500” history. The fastest grid ever at Indy was the 2002 edition, which averaged 228.648 miles per hour.

– The starters will now be heading off across the continent to promote this year’s race. Here’s where they’ll be going for their respective media tours:

  • New York: Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti
  • Detroit: Will Power, Townsend Bell and Simona de Silvestro
  • Cincinnati: Ed Carpenter, Justin Wilson and Tony Kanaan
  • Philadelphia: Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe
  • Birmingham, Ala.: Josef Newgarden
  • Charlotte: A.J. Allmendinger
  • Columbus, Oh.: James Jakes
  • Chicago: Graham Rahal
  • Dallas: Marco Andretti
  • Dayton, Oh.: Buddy Lazier and Pippa Mann
  • Houston: Takuma Sato
  • Lafayette, Ind.: Ana Beatriz
  • Louisville, Ky.: Conor Daly and Katherine Legge
  • Los Angeles: J.R. Hildebrand
  • Miami: Carlos Munoz, Sebastian Saavedra, Oriol Servia, and E.J. Viso
  • Milwaukee: Simon Pagenaud and Charlie Kimball
  • Tampa Bay: Sebastien Bourdais and Tristan Vautier
  • Toronto: James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani
  • Washington, DC: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Azerbaijan GP red flagged after 22 laps following chaotic sequence

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The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been red flagged for debris following a chaotic sequence of laps that saw three safety cars be deployed following multiple incidents, leaving the track covered in debris.

The first safety car was called after Daniil Kvyat stopped out on-track, with the marshals able to recover it with relative ease, but the bunched field on the restart soon descended into chaos.

Debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari caused a second safety car period to be called within a lap, but the marshals were again able to clear this easily, allowing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to lead the field away for the second restart.

Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made contact twice behind the safety car, leaving debris on-track at Turn 15, with both drivers blaming each other for the incident.

The greater clashes came on the first lap of green flag running as Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashes at Turn 3, the latter bumping Perez into the wall. Both were required to pit for repairs, and while Ocon could get back out, Perez was less fortunate, retiring from the race.

A third safety car was called, with the stewards then deciding to throw a red flag to allow the debris on the track to be cleared.

More to follow…

Hunter-Reay leads warmup at Road America

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A weekend that has been dominated by Chevrolet and Team Penske so far saw Honda jump to the top during morning warmup. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest for Andretti Autosport, followed by Max Chilton for Chip Ganassi Racing. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi ended the session third, making it a Honda 1-2-3 in the morning warmup.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the quickest of the Chevrolet camp in fourth, followed by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz in fifth.

Only 19 of the 21 drivers turned laps during the session, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato failing to put laps in. Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda was suffering from fuel pressure problems that kept it in the garage, while Sato was feeling under the weather during the morning, and the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda team elected not to go out.

Coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

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Nato takes F2 sprint win in Baku after Leclerc penalty

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Norman Nato picked up his first win of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 season on Sunday after a post-race penalty denied Charles Leclerc a weekend double in Baku.

Ferrari junior Leclerc took an emotional victory on Saturday just days after the death of his father, and charged from P8 on the reverse grid to take the lead from Nato late on.

However, the Monegasque driver was denied the first perfect weekend in the category (including GP2) in eight years when he was hit with a 10-second time penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags.

Despite the penalty, Leclerc was still classified second behind Nato, with Nicholas Latifi completing the podium for DAMS.

Jordan King took fourth place for MP Motorsport, while Sergey Sirotkin was fifth on his stand-in weekend at ART Grand Prix ahead of fellow Russian Artem Markelov.

Nobuharu Matsushita took seventh ahead of Luca Ghiotto, while Ralph Boschung and Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.

With second place, Leclerc extended his F2 championship lead to 42 points after chief title rival Oliver Rowland retired after leading the early part of the race.

The F2 season resumes in two weeks’ time in support of the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.

Lauda on Hamilton’s Baku pole lap: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

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Formula 1 legend and Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda was quick to heap praise on Lewis Hamilton after qualifying in Azerbaijan on Saturday, saying he had “never seen anything like” the Briton’s Q3 pole lap.

Hamilton charged to the 66th pole of his F1 career at the Baku City Circuit on Saturday after a last-ditch effort took his four-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was overjoyed by the lap, having struggled to tame the Baku circuit during its inaugural race in 2016, and three-time world champion Lauda was equally as impressed.

“We had some problems on Friday, but the team really did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way. And Lewis with his lap today… I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lauda said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“It was not plain sailing at all, but a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, and in the end the improvement the engineers and mechanics did to the car is outstanding.

“And then Lewis, what he did today, no one else I think can do that.

“He’s fantastic, especially thinking about his lap time here, because the difference he makes to everybody – it’s only Lewis.”

Hamilton will go in search of his fifth win of the season in Baku on Sunday, with coverage of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET.