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Indy 500 qualifying update, through two runs: Frantic hour sees several 230-plus runs (UPDATED)

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UPDATED, 3:10 P.M. ET: A frantic hour of action has seen a bunch of drivers go ahead and attempt a second Indianapolis 500 qualification attempt to see if they could improve their speeds, before a slight drizzle has hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

If a driver improved, so too would their position. But they would not lose their original speed and time.

Will Power has now jumped to the top of the time sheets with a four-lap average of 230.323 mph.

Power told the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network: “We found more in the car and the conditions are different. We had the right gear and downforce level for this run. I think a lot of people are gonna go quicker now. But that should be at least for the next couple hours. I have to look at the points. OK, yeah, that’s something to consider, since you don’t lose your best speed if you get out.

The top nine at 3:10 p.m. ET: Power 230.323, Ed Carpenter 230.114, Simon Pagenaud 230.070, JR Hildebrand 230.027, Ryan Hunter-Reay 230.011, Kurt Busch 229.960, Marco Andretti 229.836, Helio Castroneves 229.788, and Jack Hawksworth 229.732.

Here’s a rundown of the attempts in this stint, with the driver’s first run on the left and second on the right. Note Pagenaud is the only driver thus far to make three attempts, and he went to P3 on his third.

ROUND 2+ OF ATTEMPTS
                      First run		    Next run
77 Pagenaud		228.749/P15		229.193/P13
3  Castroneves	        229.456/P10		229.788/P3
22 Karam		-			228.650/P18
26 Busch		229.256/P12		229.960/P3
2  Montoya		229.594/P9		229.727/P6
7  Aleshin		228.385/P22		229.091/P14
10 Kanaan		228.064/P25		Waved off
63 Mann		        227.721/P30		No improvement
34 Munoz		229.590/P10		No improvement
12 Power		229.649/P9		230.323/P1
21 Hildebrand	        229.453/P12		230.027/P3
25 Andretti		229.663/P10		229.836/P6
15 Rahal		228.664/P18		No improvement 
67 Newgarden	        229.471/P11		229.637/P11
77 Pagenaud  	        229.193/P13		230.070/P3
16 Servia		228.034/P26		No improvement 
83 Kimball		228.710/P17		Rain

ORIGINAL, 1:35 P.M. ET: The first runs of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 are in the books. Here’s where we stand:

  • Ed Carpenter and Ryan Hunter-Reay are over 230 mph with their four-lap runs.
  • Kurt Busch has qualified at 229.256 mph. Of his lap, Busch told the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network: “It went by so fast. I wasn’t as focused as what I was this morning. You’re so busy, trusting the car, knowing the corners. Here you take downforce off, and it makes it exciting. Not just one lap, it’s four. It keeps you busy. I did four laps but it felt like one. I wasn’t in the zone and might have left something. It’s a big challenge to qualify the car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
  • James Hinchcliffe slotted into third with his run, eventually bumped back to fourth by teammate Hunter-Reay. “It was a week of uncertainlty. They took good care of me to come back. I’m just so happy to have not missed this. Pole weekend is second only to the race. To miss that, I would have been bummed. The car was a big part of that. We have to find a little bit more speed.”
  • Jacques Villeneuve, 1995 Indianapolis 500 champion, made his first qualifying run in 19 years: “It was nice and easy. We didn’t have that much time. We don’t need the qualifying points. The top 9 is pointless for us. We’re actually really happy. In ’95, it was edgy; I wasn’t flat on the four laps. More power. Now it’s a question of momentum. The speed’s similar, but it drives differently.”
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay, in P2 thus far: “It was for sure a good run. We’re fighting a championship as well. But I’m fully expecting the track to go quicker.”
  • The top nine right now: Carpenter, Hunter-Reay, rookie Jack Hawksworth, Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden.
  • The rest of the runners, 10-32: Helio Castroneves, JR Hildebrand, Kurt Busch, Justin Wilson, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal, Townsend Bell, Scott Dixon, Sebastien Bourdais, Mikhail Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jacques Villeneuve, Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia, Carlos Huertas, Alex Tagliani, Martin Plowman, Pippa Mann, Ryan Briscoe, James Davison and Buddy Lazier.
  • So far rookie Sage Karam has not gone out.
QUALIFYING PROGRESSION
91 Lazier, Did Not Run
34 Munoz, 229.590
21 Hildebrand, 229.453
2  Montoya, 229.594
9  Dixon, 228.501
20 Carpenter, 230.114
98 Hawksworth, 229.732
18 Huertas, 227.904
8  Briscoe, 227.201
3  Castroneves, 229.456
19 Wilson, 228.947
63 Mann, 227.721
41 Plowman, 227.774
25 Andretti, 229.663
26 Busch, 229.256
7  Aleshin, 228.385
15 Rahal, 228.664
27 Hinchcliffe, 229.672
5  Villeneuve, 228.171
12 Power, 229.649
17 Saavedra, Did Not Run
33 Davison, Did Not Run
77 Pagenaud, 228.749
83 Kimball, 228.710
10 Kanaan, 228.064
67 Newgarden, Did Not Run
6  Bell, 228.508
68 Tagliani, 227.813
22 Karam, Did Not Run
14 Sato, 228.786
28 Hunter-Reay, Did Not Run
16 Servia, 228.034
11 Bourdais, 228.388

AFTER INITIAL PROGRESSION
17 Saavedra, 228.294
67 Newgarden, 229.471
33 Davison, 226.761
28 Hunter-Reay, 230.011
91 Lazier, 226.543

Pascal Wehrlein to make F1 debut with Manor Racing

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP arrives in the paddock before final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 19, 2015 in Singapore.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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2015 DTM champion and Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein will make his Formula 1 debut in 2016 after securing a seat with Manor Racing.

Wehrlein, 21, has previously tested F1 cars with both Mercedes and Force India as well as enjoying success in DTM, Formula 3 and the German Formula Masters series.

After a long winter of speculation about his future, Manor has now confirmed that it will field Wehrlein in one of its seats for the 2016 season as part of its new technical partnership with Mercedes.

“Manor Racing is a great place for me to start my Formula 1 racing career. I’m very pleased to be here,” Wehrlein said.

“It’s a small and totally focused team and I soon hope to know everyone. Though it’s my first F1 season my aim is to help Stephen and the guys achieve their goals.

“It will be a tough challenge but I think we should be able to challenge for points along the way. It’s going to be good fun.

“A word for my racing family at Mercedes-Benz, and particularly for Toto, who have guided my career this far and made this opportunity possible. Thanks for the incredible support to help me achieve my dream; now it’s down to me to grab the moment and perform on track.”

Manor team owner Stephen Fitzpatrick was pleased to confirm the signing of Wehrlein, and believes that the German can make an instant impression in F1.

“Pascal is a sharp driver with a very promising future; Manor Racing is excited to have him aboard,” Fitzpatrick said.

“We’re a small team up for a big challenge this season, so we’ve chosen a driver with the talent and hunger to match our own on-track ambitions.

“Pascal has impressed in testing for Mercedes and Force India, together with commanding performances in DTM, culminating in the championship win last year. Manor Racing is perfectly placed to help Pascal make a big impact in his first season. We’re looking forward to it!”

Wehrlein’s confirmation leaves just one seat remains open on the 2016 F1 grid, with the identity of his Manor teammate still to be decided.

American driver Alexander Rossi, Britain’s Will Stevens and GP2 race winner Rio Haryanto are all known to be in the running for the seat.

Grace Autosport continuing to build program towards May

L to R: Grace Autosports Team Principal Beth Paretta and race driver Katherine Legge launch an all-female Indy 500 team to contest the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (PRNewsFoto/Grace Autosport)
Photo: Grace Autosport
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One of the newest teams planning to field an entry at this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Grace Autosport, continues its preparations in what could be a hectic month of February.

The primarily female initiative, led by Beth Paretta with Katherine Legge as nominated driver, has gained traction in the last month or so with further meetings, STEM events and Legge’s standout drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opening race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

While announced last May, time is of the essence for securing both an engine lease and a team partner, to go along with the crew already established.

The target to confirm both the engine and team partner is coming up next month.

“[We’d need to finalize] by the beginning of March to give it proper time,” Paretta told NBC Sports in an interview following the Rolex 24.

Paretta was on site at Daytona for the Rolex 24 for a number of meetings with manufacturers and other key industry stakeholders, to continue to promote the Grace Autosport message, brand and team.

“Yes, there were a few key meetings – some planned, some impromptu – which went very well,” she said.

“The awareness still surprises me. I was wearing a Grace Autosport hat in the paddock and a few people asked me about the team. Many people in the racing community have said they think the concept is cool and have offered help.

“I get offers for help from some guys that have worked on teams I’ve worked with in the past, which is lovely.”

Legge’s drive at Daytona in the DeltaWing DWC13 coupe didn’t hurt matters, either.

The Tim Keene-led team opted not to qualify in the treacherous, rain-soaked conditions. Legge started the car and went from 13th and last in the Prototype class field up to third within the first 20 minutes, and led by the end of the first hour.

In a career that’s had occasional standout drives, this was one of them, and came at a good time.

“Her drive in the DeltaWing was just fantastic. While she was leading overall I was talking with some other racing drivers in pit lane and one said, almost dismissively, ‘Well, that car was really fast,’” Paretta said of Legge.

“Yes, it was, but she has been an integral part of the development of that car and part of the reason why it’s become faster. Any IMSA fan knows that the DeltaWing project has had a lot of challenges so I think to see it running up front was a nice surprise for many fans. People like an underdog so I think it was really exciting to watch her climb through the field and run up front.”

Legge was due to share the car with Andy Meyrick, Sean Rayhall and Andreas Wirth before Meyrick got caught up in a strange accident, where a radio issue meant Meyrick didn’t fully hear there was another PC car stopped on course in the middle of Turn 1.

Although Meyrick braked earlier than normal to avoid it, proved by the data, he still wound up hitting Chris Cumming’s stranded car which took the DeltaWing out of the race. Cumming’s PC car was also severely wounded.

The DeltaWing aside, where Legge and Grace really seek to make strides is in STEM events. Legge and Paretta recently did an event in Indianapolis with the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc., last week.

The STEM portion is a major component of the Grace Autosport effort.

“STEM and education for girls is the foundation of Grace Autosport. It isn’t a throwaway comment connecting racing with a ’cause.’ It is why we are racing,” Paretta said.

“Even though we have yet to turn a wheel, we are working with different groups supporting educational initiatives for girls and young women. We participated in the Society of Women Engineers’ annual conference, which was held in Nashville in October, and this week Katherine and I will be delivering the keynote address to a conference for science teachers in the State of Indiana.

“So STEM education isn’t a pet cause for us, it is the cause for what we are doing. We will be making a few more announcements in the coming months that we will explain how we will connect our message to the community and the classroom.”

Jake Eidson steps up to Pro Mazda with Cape in 2016

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Jake Eidson came up short of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda championship last year, losing out to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Nico Jamin.

Now, at the next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, they’ll be teammates.

Jamin was confirmed last week with Cape for his step up from USF2000 into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and this morning Eidson, the 20-year-old out of Littleton, Colorado, was confirmed as Cape’s second driver.

“I’m extremely grateful and excited to enter my first season of Pro Mazda and to rejoin Cape Motorsport with Wayne Taylor Racing,” Eidson offered.

“After finishing second in last year’s USF2000 championship, we weren’t sure if moving up to Pro Mazda was possible. When the season was over, we tested with the Capes and quickly knew that they have a winning team. Fortunately, we were able to make the 2016 season achievable.

“I know that my goal, as well as the team’s goal, is to aim for the top spot in the Pro Mazda championship and I have a lot of confidence in their ability to make it happen. This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to get started!”

It’s a natural progression for Eidson, who ran two full seasons in USF2000. His first came with Cape in 2014 where he finished third in points, before he moved to Pabst Racing and was one of only two drivers (Aaron Telitz) to pose a threat to Jamin as the year progressed.

Eidson is supported in his efforts by Rising Star Racing, DA Lubricants Company, Bell Helmets, OMP, Team USA Scholarship, and SafeisFast.

The top three USF2000 drivers all moving up to Pro Mazda is important for the second rung on the ladder; they’ll race arguably the championship favorite in Garett Grist plus his three young, hungry teammates at Juncos Racing, with other driver announcements to come in the coming days.

Red Bull GRC confirms Wild Horse Pass for season opener

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Phoenix was listed as the season opener for the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, but a location was not confirmed.

Today though, the series has confirmed where the Phoenix round will be held: at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway.

It’s in Chandler, Arizona, technically, but it should still be a good spot for the season-opening doubleheader round.

The full release is below:

For the first time in series history, Red Bull Global Rallycross will visit the state of Arizona during the 2016 season. Red Bull GRC Phoenix, the season opener and first of four doubleheaders on the schedule, will take place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, one of the most diverse motorsports playgrounds in the United States.

“The southwest is a crucial market for Red Bull GRC, with many of our most passionate fans located in the region,” said Red Bull GRC CEO Colin Dyne. “The opportunity to bring our unique brand of racing to the Phoenix market for the first time was something we couldn’t pass up. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the perfect setting for us as we look to open our finest season yet.”

Located just off of I-10, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is located only 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, with ample parking and amenities on-site. Fans will be treated to a challenging and fast mile-long track, featuring the series’ signature 70-foot jump, and will be able to see all the action from great spectator areas overlooking the entire facility.

This will be the first time that a Red Bull GRC season begins with a doubleheader. Performing well in the opener has been a constant step towards winning a title, as no Red Bull GRC champion has ever finished worse than fourth in the first race of the year. Defending Supercar champion Scott Speed and defending GRC Lites champion Oliver Eriksson finished second and third in class, respectively, in last year’s opener; both drivers are expected to begin their title defense in Phoenix.