The 100-minute, rain-delayed and now rain-shortened Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is halfway home. A few moments of note have happened in the opening 25-plus circuits for the third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Polesitter Will Power led from the off, and stretched his lead north of five seconds running laps in the 1:19 range while others were in the 1:20s and 1:21s at Barber Motorsports Park.
But Power ran wide at Turn 5 and traversed through the gravel and grass, rejoining in second behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Hunter-Reay led until the second caution of the race prior to Lap 17, when Sebastien Bourdais made contact with Mikhail Aleshin into Turn 5, spinning the Russian rookie.
All cars except Oriol Servia, who’d made himself the guinea pig to switch from wets onto Firestone’s red alternate slick tires, took the opportunity to pit. On that sequence Helio Castroneves pitted in the wrong box; he was issued a stop-and-go penalty for the infraction.
During the caution, Carlos Munoz spun out exiting Turn 5, damaging his Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda entry beyond repair. Incidentally, the Colombian rookie was also involved in an incident under caution at St. Petersburg.
Bourdais got a drive-through penalty as well for his avoidable contact with Aleshin. Shortly after the restart, then led by Sebastian Saavedra who’d opted not to pit, Juan Pablo Montoya went off course through the Turn 10-11 sequence and brought a gravel-laden PPG Chevrolet back to the pits. It marred what had been a great opening sequence for him, rising to fourth and posting the same times as Power and Hunter-Reay up front.
Saavedra led at lap 28 from Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti. Bourdais had been sixth prior to his penalty ahead of James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson. Tony Kanaan, who started 23rd and last, was up to 11th.
The 2017 edition of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show is in the books for another year. Here’s some notes we gathered from the event at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.
While INDYCAR did not have a booth at this year’s show, there were still some interesting Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires nuggets to emerge.
RAHAL RUNNING REV
On Thursday, Graham Rahal was named as honorary chair of the Rev Indy charity event, held before the month of May’s on-track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway really gets going. The event is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, which grew its relationship with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this past year.
Further breakouts from him will come in the following days, but Simon Pagenaud was in very good spirits when meeting a small group of reporters on Thursday. The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series champion mentioned a small relief that he didn’t have to go through the ringer of the champion’s postseason media tour in the days after Sonoma, as he won the season finale. That can be draining, he said, but it allowed him to get refreshed. Since Sonoma, he raced at Petit Le Mans, where he drove with Team Penske’s one-off Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car, he went back home to France before coming back to the U.S. for a mix of testing and other year-end commitments.
Of the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit, Pagenaud said it’s close to the initial Dallara DW12 chassis at its outset, although hailed the better and more balanced weight distribution of the new kit.
He also said it will be a different team dynamic without having Helio Castroneves there full-time. Castroneves, he said, kept all three of Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Will Power grounded and all in good temperament at the same time. Pagenaud made an interesting point that with each of the three full-time drivers all at the same point in their careers – they all have one championship and none has an Indianapolis 500 victory yet – none has the upper hand, and there isn’t the “aura” of Castroneves’ three ‘500 wins hanging over their head.
On top of that, Pagenaud cracked several jokes and hailed his involvement as part of the “Penske Games” social media competition the team created. In some respects, Pagenaud hailed his own lack of success there to generate more notoriety!
SPM’S SMASH, RETURN, THEN PRE-SEBRING SCRAMBLE
The 2018 Dallara UAK got its first crash test – particularly inadvertently – by James Hinchcliffe during testing last week at Phoenix International Raceway (soon to be ISM Raceway). The team was still in the process of diagnosing what caused a crash at Turn 3 of the 1-mile oval, an odd place to have an impact.
What it’s meant was the car, which is short on spare parts at the moment, had to make it back to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Indianapolis shop and get rebuilt over a 48-hour period in advance of this week’s final round of 2017 testing at Sebring International Raceway’s short course. Testing can run through December 14 before the holiday blackout, and before testing shifts from manufacturer testing to team testing after the new year.
SCHMIDT’S SHANK SYNC-UP FURTHER DETAILS
Team co-owner Sam Schmidt was present at Michael Shank’s combination IndyCar and sports car announcements on Friday, which confirmed further details of Jack Harvey’s program for next season. It’s meant to be a three-year deal, and will begin with the six races Harvey will run in 2018. Will Anderson, who has been an assistant engineer with SPM for several years after joining from Dale Coyne Racing, will be Harvey’s race engineer.
But Schmidt’s long-term belief and relationship with Harvey helped make the move a reality, as Harvey drove two really strong years with the team in Indy Lights.
“His timeline is our timeline; we were not going to do it for only one year,” Schmidt told NBC Sports. “Jack has been a part of this team for several years and our job is to help him and Mike continue to grow in their IndyCar careers.”
FURTHER TBA’S GETTING REVEALED SOON?
If the rumor mill is to be believed, next week could see at least one if not both of the two known outstanding TBA slots at Dale Coyne Racing (No. 19 Honda) and Ed Carpenter Racing (No. 20 Chevrolet for road and street courses) get revealed.
We spoke to Carpenter at the PRI Show who confirmed the No. 20 car’s road and street course car is “close” to being filled, and is down to just two potential candidates. Asked when he wanted to announce, Carpenter deadpanned, “Last week!”
Carpenter has one more round of testing this week at Sebring. The team has been busy with testing at multiple tracks, and has moved into its new shop on Georgetown Rd. from its previous location near IMS in Speedway, Ind.
BUSY TIMES AT BELL BOOTH WITH INDY, MRTI DRIVERS
Both Carpenter and Spencer Pigot were among a bevy of IndyCar and Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires drivers on the Bell Racing U.S.A. stage during the weekend. Others included Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, Jack Harvey and Pippa Mann, and MRTI veterans Aaron Telitz, Ayla Agren, Juan Piedrahita and Colton Herta.
Another of the quickly-becoming-a-PRI-staple type events is the “Racers Know Dave Dusick” charity fundraiser, supported by Cooper Tires, which this year supported the Riley Children’s Foundation. That foundation supports Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana’s only comprehensive hospital dedicated exclusively to the care of kids.
A further recap can be found via Dusick’s @IKnowDaveDusick Twitter account; Dusick is a veteran behind-the-scenes member of the racing community, primarily known for his Race Track Engineering business and a member of race control groups in various series. A tweet from Alexander Rossi is below.
CALLAWAY CONFIRMATION GIVES PWC NEEDED SHOT IN THE ARM
Pirelli World Challenge got three good pieces of news in a two-day period last week, with first the pair of Wednesday announcements that K-PAX Racing would switch to Bentley’s Continental GT3 models and Robinson Racing would run a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT4s in the GTS class.
Confirmation of Callaway’s team program for GT in 2018, with Michael Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz the two drivers revealed there, was an added bonus. The striking Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R was unveiled in full, with comments from Reeves Callaway and WC Vision head Greg Gill, with other series insiders present. Aided by the addition of Erin Gahagan as team manager, who has recent PWC experience with EFFORT Racing, that should help Callaway in its entry into the championship. She will continue as team manager for the Tequila Patron ESM team with its Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA for another season as well.
Cooper’s confirmation keeps him in another GM model after developing into a top-line GT driver the last couple seasons in one of the factory Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.Rs, and after winning a GTS championship in a Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R prior to that. Keilwitz, an ADAC GT Masters veteran, will be new to the U.S. but should learn quickly as other European converts tend to do.
“In a word, hallelujah,” was Gill’s immediate take at the presentation of the new car.
PWC also held its annual “State of the Series” meeting for competitors on Friday afternoon. A combination of the usual marketing, competition and communication updates were revealed to competitors. Some more intriguing elements from that should be revealed at a later date.