Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

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A few other nuggets we needed to hit after yesterday’s Indianapolis 500 qualifying

  • Polesitter Ed Carpenter is the 11th driver to go back-to-back in terms of the Indianapolis 500 poles. The others? Ralph De Palma 1920-21, Rex Mays 1935-36, Eddie Sachs 1960-61, Parnelli Jones 1962-63, Mario Andretti 1966-67, A.J. Foyt 1974-75, Tom Sneva 1977-78, Rick Mears 1988-89, Scott Brayton 1995-96, and Helio Castroneves 2009-10. That’s some illustrious company.
  • From IMS and INDYCAR: The 2014 Indy 500 Starting Field is the fastest in history, at an average of 229.382 mph. The previous fastest field was 2002, which had an average of 228.648 mph. The difference in time between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 2.1509 seconds. This is the closest field by time in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The previous closest was 2.5399 seconds in 2011. The difference in speed between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 3.147 mph. This is the second closest field by speed in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The closest was 3.130 mph in 1953.
  • Third-placed Will Power was a bit frustrated to miss out on pole, but still pleased with a front row grid position: “We were close. Carpenter and (James) Hinchcliffe had to put down two great laps to beat us. I really want to win a Verizon P1 pole award here,” he said.
  • Power’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who starts fourth, on the temperature changes and how sensitive that makes the cars: “I mean, the engineers are really working the numbers.  Our cars are so sensitive to the weather.  Ten degrees, five degrees makes a difference out there.  Today being ten degrees warmer, it definitely made a difference.”
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden lost a full mph on his fourth and final lap in the shootout, which cost him a 230-mph average. He’ll start eighth. “We really hung it out and gave it everything we had, but it got a little tough in that last lap. I thought I was going to end up in the wall for a minute, but we were able to keep it on track and finish off the four-lap run. That’s how Indy qualifying should be. You should lay it all out there and give it everything you have, and that’s what we did,” he said.
  • The Chip Ganassi Racing squad made some strides on Sunday, notably by the No. 9 Target team of Scott Dixon, who rolls off 11th. “It was a big improvement from where we were yesterday and I’m happy with our result today. We still have another practice session tomorrow under the new format next week so we’re going to keep working hard to keep the Target cars going in the right direction. The car was really smooth to drive and I think we could have been faster if I hadn’t had to deal with a bit of a crosswind on my run. Overall a better day than yesterday,” said the defending series champion. Tony Kanaan jumped seven spots from 23rd Saturday to 16th Sunday; meanwhile the NTT Data and Novo Nordisk efforts fell off a bit with Ryan Briscoe dropping from 17th to 30th and Charlie Kimball from 19th to 26th.
  • Kurt Busch is the fastest rookie in the field in 12th; the fastest full-season rookie Jack Hawksworth one spot behind in 13th. Consider the BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian team is one of just two teams with a single car (Lazier Partners Racing; the DRR Kingdom Racing entry features Ganassi development driver Sage Karam) entered, and you see what a feat that is. “Thirteenth on the grid, considering where we were at the beginning of the week, is a great job from the whole Bryan Herta Autosport crew and we’ll take that. It’s a little disappointing to not be farther up but the race is what counts so we’ll get after it,” said Hawksworth.
  • Dale Coyne’s three cars start solidly mid-pack in 14th (Justin Wilson), 21st (Carlos Huertas) and 22nd (Pippa Mann). In terms of strength of engineering, the team has it, and could be sleepers on Sunday. “Saturday went well and Sunday went even better. I am very proud of the entire staff, engineering department and, of course, our highly professional and skilled trio of drivers.  We have been close to winning this race the past two years and we look forward more than ever to next weekend’s Indy 500,” Coyne said.

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
(Getty Images)
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The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

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NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski