Hunter-Reay

Ten with Townsend: Long Beach Debrief

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After NBCSN’s first Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season, we checked in once again with our NBC Sports Group IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for MotorSportsTalk’s first 2014 installment of “Ten with Townsend.” Look for more of these to come over the course of the year. For a 2013 archive, check this link.

Without further adieu, thoughts from our ace expert on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach:

-With St. Petersburg a relatively mild race until the one restart, were you surprised by the level of aggression we saw at Long Beach?
 
Not really.  I would say that’s the norm these days.   For good reason too, because it’s so tough to win now.  I fully expect a multitude of winners this season.  So much quality, parity etc.
 
-Mike Conway’s win owed a bit to luck, but clearly he’s had the performance on street courses to help Ed Carpenter Racing. Where do you rate him in the field in terms of how talented he is on the road and street circuits?
 
Top 5 without question.  To come in like he does part-time, bouncing between WEC commitments is hard enough already.  Detroit last year was flat out breathtaking.  I can still remember the first time he showed up for Panther Racing at a Sonoma test in 2008 (I think it was).  Straight away- stunning speed.
 
-With Will Power’s St. Pete restart and now contact with Simon Pagenaud at Long Beach, were you surprised at all by either of those? Or was it more surprising there were no penalties assessed to him? 
 
I didn’t see anything wrong with his St Pete restart.  In fact I think it was text book to what was requested by race control.  The Long Beach contact was certainly open for review but we are seeing the new ‘hands off’ stance that IndyCar announced previously – let the drivers sort it out. The flip side is the carnage the ensued after Hunter Reay’s similar move on Newgarden.  So I’m not sure what the position will be now going forward with respect to ‘avoidable contact’. (BTW I never liked that term)  I wouldn’t want that job in race control, so we’re lucky to have people who step up for the abuse!!  In the end, life without fenders is complicated but so fantastic at the same time.
 
-Also Power-related, do you think his momentum was properly able to carry over from late last year into the first two races of the year? Or just more a case of starting strong without regard to 2013 finish? 
 
I’d say St. Pete was expected and Long Beach was a disaster (by his standards) blessed with good fortune.  His race pace was no better or worse than the top 10 cars, but circumstances fell his way for sure.   The competition didn’t need that!
 
-Most impressive rookie thus far: Hawksworth, Munoz, Aleshin or Huertas?
 
Man that’s tough.  Have to pull out Munoz because he had some races last season, not a pure rookie in my book.  If you analyze their circumstances, the other 3 can all make strong cases.  Hawksworth on pace, Aleshin on consistency, Huertas on the last second nature of his program.  Flip a coin but all these guys are solid and going to cause headaches (strong competition) for the establishment for the rest of the season.
 
-Two races in – biggest surprise and biggest disappointment.
 
Surprise-  Rookies are super strong and mistake free.
Disappointment-  Seems like Rahal just can’t find the sweet spot to start the season these last few years..they certainly are putting forth the effort and resources.  But hiring Servia was a smart move.   He will help them tune things in, but he only can if he’s there full-time.
 
-Thoughts on JPM’s first two races back? 
 
Methodically coming back to old form but not there yet…
 
-How was PT to work with in the booth? From a viewer’s standpoint he really helped add to yours and Leigh’s insights. Even on the course preview lap, too.
 
He was my IndyCar idol as a teenager so I’m biased.  But the fans loved him and I certainly enjoyed the perspective and candor.  He’s one of the most successful IndyCar drivers of all time, so when he speaks, we should listen.  But with the Blue Demon mask on…his lips don’t quite work the same.
 
-You’ve seen how competitive this field is. Having the opportunity with KV for the 500 now confirmed, how much confidence does that give you to be in your usual one-off role but now with the defending champion team? 
 
I sit there in the booth, looking at the depth of talent and competition, and think ‘oh boy, I’m about to jump in this tornado.’  But I think that every year and just go for it.  Kind of like sitting at the bar, watching a mosh pit in full glory, pounding a shot and then getting it on.  Insert Miles’ advice from Risky Business here..
 
-Besides IndyCar, a very busy year planned for you with the TUDOR Championship, Red Bull GRC broadcasts and additional TV work. What challenge are you looking most forward to this year? 
The Indy 500 stands alone for me… always will.

Annual Carb Night Burger Bash just two nights away, now downtown

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Photo courtesy Curt Cavin
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INDIANAPOLIS – One of the rapidly established traditions on Indianapolis 500 race week is the annual Carb Night Burger Bash, hosted by the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin and NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter/Indy Lights host Kevin Lee.

While it’s been a staple at 96th Street Steakburgers the last several years, this year, the event heads to Downtown Indianapolis for the first time in its nine-year history and has been redubbed as the Steak ‘n Shake Carb Night Burger Bash. It will go on rain or shine at the Pan Am Plaza, 201 S. Capitol Ave.

Featuring a live episode of Cavin and Kevin’s Trackside on The Fan radio in Indy (1070 AM, 93.5 FM) that is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., and no later than 6:30 p.m., will also see a number of items auctioned and raffled for a local nonprofit – Indianapolis-based Basic Needs, Simple Solutions. A live concert follows later, starting at 9 p.m.

There’s going to be a heavy IndyCar driver component too with potentially a third or more of the 33-car field tentatively scheduled for an appearance.

Per the Star, Graham Rahal leads the list of those planned to show up, along with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Pippa Mann, Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, JR Hildebrand, Max Chilton, Stefan Wilson and Spencer Pigot.

Further details are available at this Star link. It’s usually a fun event and definitely a great family friendly occasion.

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Grosjean to race with Bianchi tribute on helmet in Monaco

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© Romain Grosjean Twitter (@RGrosjean)
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Romain Grosjean will race with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, commemorating the Frenchman’s ninth-place finish in the 2014 race.

Bianchi scored the first and only points of his Formula 1 career in Monaco two years ago, charging to P9 at the checkered flag to mark a major success for the backmarker Marussia team.

Bianchi sustained severe head injuries in an accident at the Japanese Grand Prix later that year, and died nine months later at the age of 25.

Grosjean revealed his Monaco helmet on Twitter, incorporating a tribute to Bianchi into his usual design to ensure he does not contravene the F1 regulations banning overhauls.

The design features a picture of Bianchi, his #17 race number and his result in Monaco. This year’s race marks the first in Monaco since his passing, with May 25 marking the second anniversary of his points finish.

F1 Preview: 2016 Monaco Grand Prix

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 26:  General view of the harbour area during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2013 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Nelson Piquet once described racing around the streets of Monaco as being like riding a bicycle around your living room.

It’s an odd analogy, but it works. With the imposing walls just millimetres away, the ability to tame a Formula 1 car in the principality is deemed by most to separate the men from the boys.

And yet it is the driver closest to being considered a ‘boy’ that arrives in Monaco as the man to beat.

18-year-old Max Verstappen became the youngest winner in F1 history last time out in Spain on his Red Bull debut, fulfilling the prophecy he arrived in the sport with at the beginning of 2015.

Realistically, the Dutchman will know that without another turn of events such as those we saw in Barcelona, a repeat result is not on the cards. Mercedes remains the team to beat, meaning we’re geared up for another tete-a-tete between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Here are the key talking points ahead of the biggest weekend of the F1 season.

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Talking Points

Whatever Mercedes says, it’s a big deal

Mercedes did a very good job of downplaying the clash between Rosberg and Hamilton in Spain. The team and the FIA both deemed it to be a racing incident, while both drivers were left disappointed and upset over the points lost for both their own title tilts and that of the team.

But it was clear from the post-race interviews that both Rosberg and Hamilton did that this wasn’t a small thing. It is a big deal, acting as the latest flashpoint in the frosty relationship between them.

It is perhaps fitting that we now head to Monaco, the site of Rosberg’s alleged cheat move in qualifying two years ago and where Mercedes blew the race for Hamilton in 2015.

Rosberg is chasing a fourth consecutive victory around the streets where he grew up, and Hamilton is looking to end his poor run in Monaco (just one F1 win in 2008). It’s set things up nicely for the battle between them.

Verstappen, Red Bull on a high

Max Verstappen’s victory in Spain was the stuff of F1 legend. Think Schumacher, Spain ’96. Think Hamilton, Canada ’07. Think Vettel, Italy ’08. It was the true arrival of one of the biggest talents in recent times.

A repeat result will be difficult given the advantage that Mercedes still has. Furthermore, Red Bull has opted to give its one updated power unit to the more experienced Daniel Ricciardo, making him the in-team favorite for the weekend.

For Red Bull, the target in Monaco will be to beat Ferrari once again. Spain was a shock as the Italian marque’s hopes of being ‘best of the rest’ in 2015 were dealt a serious blow. Quite whether Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen can strike back and end Ferrari’s barren Monaco run – no victory since 2001 – remains to be seen.

Rain on Sunday?

Just as Verstappen’s drive in Spain marked his arrival, conditions in Monaco this weekend look set to present an opportunity for the rest of the field – or maybe even Verstappen again – to etch their name into F1 folklore.

A wet race is on the cards according to F1’s official weather forecaster UBIMET: “Sunday will see more clouds than the days before along with an enhanced risk of showers during the afternoon. Moderate onshore winds and a maximum temperature around 20 degrees celsius are expected.”

The challenge of Monaco becomes all the greater in the rain. It could create a thrilling race.

Haas arrives on the big stage

This weekend’s race is a big one for Gene Haas. Not only will he see the NASCAR team he co-owns race in the Coca-Cola 600, but his new F1 team will make its very first appearance in Monaco.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both struggled with the VF-16 car over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, with the teething troubles typical of any new team beginning to bubble to the surface.

Just how Haas fares in its first Monaco weekend will be of keen interest to Haas, particularly from a marketing perspective. There’s nothing quite like Monaco – and if it’s a wet race, points could be on the cards once again.

Ultra-soft tire debuts

Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tire will make its long-awaited debut in Monaco this weekend after being tested over the winter and last week in Spain.

The purple-ringed compound is the newly-added softest tire that is made for street circuits such as Monaco, offering more grip and – under dry conditions – preventing the race from being a mundane one-stopper.

Naturally, rain will throw that out of the window, but it will nevertheless be of interest to the paddock how the new compound fares.

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Corners: 19
Lap Record: Daniel Ricciardo 1:18.063 (2015)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Super-Soft/Ultra-Soft
2015 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:15.098
2015 Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:18.063
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T19 to T1)

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 5/26
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 5/26
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 5/28
Qualifying: NBCSN 8am ET 5/28
Race: NBC 7:30am ET 5/29 (F1 Countdown on NBCSN 7am-7:30am)

IMS confirms 100th Indy 500 full sellout, local TV blackout lifted

Indy 500
May 22th, 2016
©2016 Walt Kuhn
Photo: IndyCar
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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles and Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of INDYCAR’s parent company, have confirmed the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be a full sellout, with all reserved seats, general admission and suites sold out.

Additionally, to accommodate fans who can’t attend on site, there will be a, for the moment, one-year lifting of the local blackout on the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis.

The WRTV broadcast will be shown live, marking only the third time the race will be broadcast live on Central Indiana television and the first time since the early 1950’s. The race will still air in its usual delayed time slot at 7 p.m.

Quick notes from the IMS release are in the block below:

“There’s no event in the world like the Indy 500,” said Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles. “This sellout is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the thrilling racing of the Verizon IndyCar Series and the bright future for both.”

“The Indy 500 is a uniquely Hoosier event,” added Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles. “The community support for the this race has fueled excitement for the 100th Running and paves the way for the next century for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500.”

On May 6, IMS officials announced a sellout of reserved seating for the race. This included all grandstand seating, suite hospitality and several temporary suites built in turns 1 and 2. General Admission tickets continued to be available for purchase via the IMS ticketing office. Steady and increased demand for GA tickets led to today’s announcement. The Indy 500 Snake Pit presented by Coors Light is sold out as well. Tickets for Carb Day and Legends Day still remain.

Additional notes from his morning’s hastily called press conference at the Speedway:

Both took the opportunity to thank Emmis Communications for their assistance in the process. Emmis is host broadcaster of the IMS Radio Network’s race coverage, which will continue as scheduled, live from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Boles added that “this does not happen without the support of this community” and preached three words: “Early, plan and patience” with regards to timing and patience.

Miles confirmed that for the moment, the local lifting of the TV blackout is a one-year only component, unless a future announced full sellout occurs.

“Our feeling – under these circumstances – is that we cannot accommodate more people. So the live TV component comes into play,” Miles explained.

“We do not anticipate live (TV) coverage again. But if a sellout happens again, it would be considered.

“Radio was a tougher hurdle to clear… but we could work through it,” Miles added.

Without getting into further details, Miles also said “yes” to enhanced security for this year’s race – the process of which will be detailed following planned operational meetings.