IndyCar Test Notes: Justin Wilson building chemistry with new crewmates

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Considering the cold, misty conditions that impacted the last two days of Verizon IndyCar Series testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Justin Wilson reckons that when the series goes back there in late April for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, “probably half the things we think we learned will get thrown out the window.”

Nonetheless, Wilson did a solid job this afternoon and was second-quickest today in the No. 19 DCR Honda at just .0038 of a second behind Team Penske front-runner Will Power.

He said that he plans to take the result “with a pinch of salt,” but is still pleased at how he and a whole new cast of characters at DCR – led by new engineer Michael Cannon – are getting along ahead of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 30.

“We like the progress that we’ve made to the car and the work that the team is doing,” he said. “It’s a complete new set of guys, working with Michael Cannon, that just keeps getting better and better every time we run.

“The last two days have been all about gelling as a team, coming together more than anything else, so I think that helps us going into St. Pete.”

Wilson led the Honda contingent, which for the second day in a row split the Top 10 testing times with Chevrolet-powered drivers.

Among the other Honda drivers in the Top 10 were Takuma Sato (fourth, 1:07.3314), Ryan Hunter-Reay (seventh, 1:07.4495), James Hinchcliffe (eighth, 1:07.4639), and Simon Pagenaud (10th, 1:07.5235).

Jack Hawksworth landing in the No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda may have been somewhat of a surprise, but the young British competitor has acquitted himself well as the fastest rookie in the Barber test.

Hawksworth posted the 12th-fastest time overall in the combined two-day run at 1:07.6542. He was also able to run 100 laps across the two days, gaining valuable track time as he prepares for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in less than two weeks.

“We had a really solid couple of days,” Hawksworth said of his test. “The weather made it difficult because of a few stoppages, but it’s our first test together on a proper road course – Sebring’s more of a street circuit track – and I thought we worked through some really good stuff today.

“The BHA guys did a really great job and I’m pretty happy with where we’re at. We’ll make a couple of tweaks but I’ve not seen anything yet that worries me, so we’re in good shape.”

Another rookie, Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz, ran the most laps of anyone during the Barber test with 121 laps in total. Overall, he was 16th-fastest in the No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda (1:07.9437), but the Colombian feels like the best is yet to come.

“I’m definitely more comfortable at this test than previous ones…I think we’ve made a lot of progress, and today was better than yesterday,” Munoz said. “Each time I get in the car is better than the last, so I’m just really looking forward to St. Pete.”

Conor Daly, Jack Harvey crash out of Indy 500

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Conor Daly and Jack Harvey have crashed out of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on lap 65.

Daly, in the No. 4 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet, was working his way through traffic and attempted an outside pass on Charlie Kimball entering Turn 3.

However, Daly’s car broke loose on the outside in the middle of the corner. He corrected, but drifted too high and impacted the wall exiting the corner. He immediately took responsibility over the radio and apologized to his team before exiting the car on under his own power.

Jack Harvey, in the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda, was an innocent bystander and spun to avoid debris off Daly’s car. However, he spun to the inside wall between Turns 3 and 4. He, too, climbed from his car unhurt, although on replay it appeared his car was not far removed from one of the Holmatro Safety Team rescue vehicles.

Jack Harvey was an innocent bystander in Conor Daly’s accident. Photo: IndyCar

Both drivers were checked, cleared, and released from the infield medical center.

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Dixon OK after airborne crash with Howard; Indy 500 red-flagged

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Polesitter for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Scott Dixon’s race has come to an early end.

Jay Howard hit the wall coming out of Turn 2 and rolled through the middle of the straightaway with a broken car, with his right front suspension askew. Dixon was coming out of the turn and was unable to avoid the wreckage of Howard’s car.

Dixon bounced off and went airborne, turning over once before landing on all four wheels. Somehow during all of that, Helio Castroneves was able to sail under the airborne Dixon and was not involved in the incident.

Both drivers climbed out of their cars and were taken to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield care center.

The race was red flagged on Lap 55 to allow safety teams to clean up a significant amount of debris from both cars, as well as to repair safety fencing on the inside of the track.

Former two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso is scored in first place, followed by last year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato.

Dixon, mercifully, was OK.

“Yeah just a little beaten up there. A bit of a rough ride,” Dixon told ABC’s Dr. Jerry Punch. “I’m bummed for the team and for Camping World. We got a little loose on the first stint. We were a bit light on downforce. I’m just bummed for them and glad everyone is OK. Definitely a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety status.

“It’s tough. I was hoping Jay would stay against the wall. I’d already picked that way to go and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. You believe in the safety progress of these cars.”

Howard told Punch, “Yeah, I’m fine. Credit to INDYCAR, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the safety team, Dallara for building this car. I’m fine thanks to them. I’m really glad Scott’s okay. He was a victim of this. It sucks.”

Howard said he wasn’t sure what caused him to hit the wall, whether a part broke in the suspension or something else. But he did blast fellow driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.

“Hunter-Reay gets a run on me, I lift to let him go, try to be a nice guy, he moves right over on me and cuts me into the gray and all the marbles and the rest is history, he causes a massive accident,” Howard told ABC. “To say I’m unhappy is an understatement.”

Both Howard and Dixon have been checked and released from the care center and cleared to drive.

The race was red flagged for 19 minutes from 1:09 p.m. to 1:28 p.m. Engines have now been restarted as the field completed Lap 56.

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Hamilton exceeds Mercedes’ expectations with fightback to P7 in Monaco

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Lewis Hamilton was left pleased with his fightback from 13th on the grid to finish Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix in seventh place, going some way to limit the damage of Formula 1 title rival Sebastian Vettel’s victory for Ferrari.

Hamilton qualified a lowly 14th on Saturday in Monaco after struggling with setup and tire management, but gained one place on the grid following Jenson Button’s penalty.

Hamilton passed just one car in the opening stint of the race and struggled to keep up with the cars ahead, prompting Mercedes to extend the Briton’s ultra-soft run for as long as possible.

Hamilton was able to find some clear air when the cars ahead made their pit stops, giving him the chance to lay down some rapid laps that vaulted him up to seventh thanks to the overcut, where he would finish the race.

“I’m really, really happy that I was able to fight back to seventh. The strategists said P10 was probably the maximum today, so it feels great to have beaten that target,” Hamilton said.

“To score six points, considering where I was on the grid after a disastrous day on Saturday is a good recovery. Today it was impossible to overtake and I tried everything to get past Carlos [Sainz] at the end!

“I’m just grateful to have ended up in P7. I went on the radio at the end there to make sure the team know that this battle isn’t over.

“We’ll be sure to push those red cars hard next time out in Canada. We’ve got a real fight on our hands, but there are still 14 races to go.”

With Vettel’s victory, Hamilton now sits 25 points behind in the F1 drivers’ championship with 14 races remaining this season.

Raikkonen disappointed as strategy calls costs him shot at Monaco win

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Kimi Raikkonen was left disappointed following Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix after Ferrari’s strategy call cost him a shot at his first victory for the Scuderia since 2009.

Raikkonen took his first pole for almost nine years on Saturday in Monaco and led the early part of the race from teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari pitted Raikkonen just before half distance, but opted to keep Vettel out as the German put in a series of quick laps to get the overcut on his teammate.

Vettel emerged from his stop ahead of Raikkonen on-track and retained his advantage to the checkered flag, clinching Ferrari’s first win in Monaco since 2001.

While P2 marked Raikkonen’s best result of the season so far, the Finn was careful with his words in the post-race podium interviews, his disappointment clear to see.

“Hard to say really,” Raikkonen said when asked how he was feeling.

“Obviously… you know it’s still second place, but it doesn’t feel awful good. This is how it goes sometimes.

“We go for the next race and try to do better. One of those days that you wish you had a bit more.”