PracticeAnalysis

2014 Indianapolis 500 Practice Analysis

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It’s been said previously that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

And if you were to look only at the combined results of practice for the 2014 Indianapolis 500, those statistics would pretty much be lying to you.

You see, the fastest speed set this month belongs to Mikhail Aleshin, at 232.917 mph. All 33 cars’ fastest speeds were recorded with extra boost, with an increase from 130 kPa to 140 kPa, which provides more horsepower.

If you want a more realistic description of how the 98th Running will play out, don’t look at those times, but instead look at the order from Monday’s session and last week’s running.

I combined all speeds from the race boost sessions (Sunday, May 11 through Thursday, May 16 and Monday, May 19) into an Excel spreadsheet to get a gauge of how much running everyone’s done this month, and to monitor their progress over the buildup the week.

Note that many drivers took the week doing race simulations and practicing the tow effect. So speeds anywhere from 224 to 227 were frequently done in a tow; speeds less than that would generally be done in single-car runs.

Put this way; if you had a tow, and you still only made it to 223 mph or less, you’re in trouble.

Here’s a breakdown of each driver’s best lap per day, with the field sorted by Best Speed. Most bests were set Monday, the day after qualifying, with boost levels returned to the race.

# Driver 11-May 12-May 13-May 14-May 15-May 19-May Average Best
3 Castroneves 222.373 223.635 222.196 225.34 227.166 225.638 224.391 227.166
67 Newgarden 216.257 222.082 222.652 224.948 224.478 227.105 222.92 227.105
2 Montoya 222.502 223.395 224.115 225.134 224.782 226.532 224.41 226.532
9 Dixon 220.206 223.119 223.235 225.494 223.785 226.433 223.712 226.433
7 Aleshin 223.12 221.316 225.31 223.374 226.371 223.898 226.371
10 Kanaan 220.755 222.635 221.972 224.752 224.836 226.336 223.548 226.336
20 Carpenter 219.899 220.898 224.492 226.257 224.492 223.207 226.257
21 Hildebrand 222.2 221.266 221.737 225.844 224.825 226.232 223.684 226.232
77 Pagenaud 221.862 223.063 226.122 224.655 224.909 224.122 226.122
12 Power 223.057 221.735 221.61 175.729 225.899 226.107 223.682 226.107
22 Karam 217.31 220.543 222.635 222.096 223.903 225.929 222.069 225.929
83 Kimball 221.845 218.229 221.937 224.544 223.344 225.846 222.624 225.845
19 Wilson 223.611 221.184 225.058 223.491 225.771 223.823 225.771
25 Andretti 218.447 224.037 223.605 224.37 224.643 225.769 223.479 225.769
28 Hunter-Reay 222.134 225.025 223.612 225.11 225.45 225.719 224.508 225.719
26 Busch 220.352 222.77 224.159 224.739 225.623 223.529 225.623
6 Bell 220.84 220.307 222.249 225.484 223.617 222.499 225.484
8 Briscoe 219.745 222.132 222.364 225.276 224.371 225.151 223.173 225.276
27 Hinchcliffe 225.255 225.255 225.255
41 Plowman 216.165 218.852 218.38 221.013 223.495 224.855 220.46 224.855
27 Viso 222.105 222.695 224.488 224.731 222.782 223.36 224.731
11 Bourdais 220.116 220.856 224.307 224.655 224.359 222.859 224.655
34 Munoz 220.581 223.172 222.402 223.754 222.522 224.54 222.829 224.54
68 Tagliani 219.557 221.408 220.146 224.384 224.067 224.387 222.325 224.387
33 Davison 217.052 224.33 220.691 224.33
18 Huertas 219.246 219.345 223.651 224.242 223.495 221.996 224.242
5 Villeneuve 220.07 221.101 220.89 221.682 223.536 224.029 221.885 224.029
98 Hawksworth 221.257 224 43.77 222.602 222.62 224
63 Mann 220.206 219.282 223.984 223.441 223.073 221.997 223.984
17 Saavedra 208.985 223.181 223.955 222.48 223.205 223.955
14 Sato 217.84 220.891 222.483 223.329 223.793 222.833 221.861 223.793
15 Rahal 217.454 221.107 219.703 222.152 223.478 222.773 221.111 223.478
91 Lazier 218.277 222.961 220.619 222.961
16 Servia 219.15 221.529 219.674 222.78 222.131 221.272 221.089 222.78

Take that data and sort it by best average speed over the six days, excluding days where drivers only got out for shakedowns, systems checks and installation checks, and you’ll see a slightly different pattern emerge.

# Driver 11-May 12-May 13-May 14-May 15-May 19-May Average Best
27 Hinchcliffe 225.255 225.255 225.255
28 Hunter-Reay 222.134 225.025 223.612 225.11 225.45 225.719 224.508 225.719
2 Montoya 222.502 223.395 224.115 225.134 224.782 226.532 224.41 226.532
3 Castroneves 222.373 223.635 222.196 225.34 227.166 225.638 224.391 227.166
77 Pagenaud 221.862 223.063 226.122 224.655 224.909 224.122 226.122
7 Aleshin 223.12 221.316 225.31 223.374 226.371 223.898 226.371
19 Wilson 223.611 221.184 225.058 223.491 225.771 223.823 225.771
9 Dixon 220.206 223.119 223.235 225.494 223.785 226.433 223.712 226.433
21 Hildebrand 222.2 221.266 221.737 225.844 224.825 226.232 223.684 226.232
12 Power 223.057 221.735 221.61 175.729 225.899 226.107 223.682 226.107
10 Kanaan 220.755 222.635 221.972 224.752 224.836 226.336 223.548 226.336
26 Busch 220.352 222.77 224.159 224.739 225.623 223.529 225.623
25 Andretti 218.447 224.037 223.605 224.37 224.643 225.769 223.479 225.769
27 Viso 222.105 222.695 224.488 224.731 222.782 223.36 224.731
20 Carpenter 219.899 220.898 224.492 226.257 224.492 223.207 226.257
17 Saavedra 208.985 223.181 223.955 222.48 223.205 223.955
8 Briscoe 219.745 222.132 222.364 225.276 224.371 225.151 223.173 225.276
67 Newgarden 216.257 222.082 222.652 224.948 224.478 227.105 222.92 227.105
11 Bourdais 220.116 220.856 224.307 224.655 224.359 222.859 224.655
34 Munoz 220.581 223.172 222.402 223.754 222.522 224.54 222.829 224.54
83 Kimball 221.845 218.229 221.937 224.544 223.344 225.846 222.624 225.845
98 Hawksworth 221.257 224 43.77 222.602 222.62 224
6 Bell 220.84 220.307 222.249 225.484 223.617 222.499 225.484
68 Tagliani 219.557 221.408 220.146 224.384 224.067 224.387 222.325 224.387
22 Karam 217.31 220.543 222.635 222.096 223.903 225.929 222.069 225.929
63 Mann 220.206 219.282 223.984 223.441 223.073 221.997 223.984
18 Huertas 219.246 219.345 223.651 224.242 223.495 221.996 224.242
5 Villeneuve 220.07 221.101 220.89 221.682 223.536 224.029 221.885 224.029
14 Sato 217.84 220.891 222.483 223.329 223.793 222.833 221.861 223.793
15 Rahal 217.454 221.107 219.703 222.152 223.478 222.773 221.111 223.478
16 Servia 219.15 221.529 219.674 222.78 222.131 221.272 221.089 222.78
33 Davison 217.052 224.33 220.691 224.33
91 Lazier 218.277 222.961 220.619 222.961
41 Plowman 216.165 218.852 218.38 221.013 223.495 224.855 220.46 224.855

Although James Hinchcliffe makes it to the top of the best average practice speed chart, his ultimate race pace is likely to be closer to the mark set by fill-in driver EJ Viso earlier in the week. Hinchcliffe had only the one day of practice in race boost, while everyone else in the field had at least two or more.

Note that after the Andretti Autosport pair of Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who seemed to struggle in qualifying with the boost increase, and two of Roger Penske’s three drivers, the next two on the average speed come from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

I am not too surprised to see Simon Pagenaud running as well as he is – now in his third year on ovals, he has done the methodical growth needed to prepare himself for his opportunity to win the 500 this year. An oval win – which would be his first – would solidify his status as one of IndyCar’s top two or three drivers (if it hasn’t been already).

And rookie teammate Aleshin, while his ultimate one-lap set with the extra boost generated some headlines, has been impressive as well. This will be the Russian’s first ever oval race and if he can run as well in traffic in the race as he has in practice, he appears to have the fearless tenacity to surprise and perhaps take home the Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors.

Justin Wilson is also a top sleeper. He’s grown on ovals by leaps and bounds the last couple years and has quietly been Honda’s best under-the-radar threat. Driving the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, Wilson is going to stealthily hang around on Sunday.

The teams I worry about, unless they pull a rabbit out of their hat in terms of fuel mileage and/or strategy on Sunday, are Chip Ganassi Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and KV Racing Technology. None of their combined 11 drivers have shown the ultimate race pace needed to stay in contention with the Andretti, Penske, and Ed Carpenter Racing cars in practice.

But if speed is an issue for those three, strategy and guile won’t be. These are three teams who have won ‘500s before – CGR and KVRT are the two most recent winners and RLLR has factored into win contention in two of the last three (2011 with Bertrand Baguette, 2012 with Takuma Sato) – and have the strategic expertise to play themselves into contention even if they don’t have the ultimate pace.

Remember too that defending series champion Scott Dixon is probably the field’s best at saving fuel, and that could play into his advantage later on. Teammate and defending race winner Tony Kanaan is, of course, the restart master and half the price of admission on his own Sunday.

The elements of speed versus strategy should make for a fascinating race on Sunday. But we’ll see if the practice results from the week that was stay true to form, or become a lie of their own.

IndyCar drivers, SI Swimsuit Models are gonna “Play the Feud”

05-03-Celebrity-Family-Feud-Intro
Photo: IndyCar
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There are no full-season five-car teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series although there are a handful of four-car teams, and one of those four (Andretti Autosport) expands to five cars for the Indianapolis 500.

There is, however, a five-driver IndyCar team that’s gonna play the feud later this year – Celebrity Family Feud, that is.

Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly will be IndyCar’s contingent that goes up against five Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, Nina Agdal, Samantha Hoopes, Tanya Mityushina, Robyn Lawley and Hannah Ferguson.

The season premieres on June 26 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC), with specific episode dates – including the IndyCar and swimsuit model show – to be revealed at a later time.

And yes, lest you think this is merely an excuse to show swimsuit models in a racing post, there is a charitable aspect at play here.

The IndyCar team will play for the Indy Family Foundation, a fund intended to aid those in the motorsports community (regardless of the sanctioning body) who find themselves in financial need due to hardship caused by illness, injury or death.

This is IndyCar’s second big racing-meets-entertainment venture announced in the last couple weeks. Last week, Castroneves, Kanaan and Josef Newgarden also took part in filming for an episode of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.

Domed skid debate rages on as IndyCar drivers test in Texas

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 06: Will Power of Australia, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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FORT WORTH – It’s only 7 millimeters of metal.

But as with a lot of things in the Verizon IndyCar Series, politics and opinions come attached to the metal plate called the “domed skid.”

It’s the piece that will be fixed to the underside of the series’ race cars when they visit three speedways this season – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.

The plate is the series’ solution to keep cars from going airborne, as they did three times at Indy in 2015 during preparation for the Indianapolis 500.

Honda drivers are concerned about how having 7 millimeters less space between the bottom of the car and the race surface will impact competition.

Meanwhile Chevrolet driver Ed Carpenter doesn’t “think it’s that big of a deal” and Honda drivers “really like to talk and complain about” it.

The plate was present on the 15 cars that were at TMS Tuesday for the first speedway test during the month of May, ahead of three weeks of action at IMS.

Indianapolis 500 practice begins on May 16, following the next round of the season, the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, on Saturday, May 14.

Carpenter, Josef Newgarden and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves were the three drivers who had the airborne incidents last year.

Castroneves proceeded to make his stance on the 7 millimeter plate and its purpose clear.

“I’m not going to go into a Honda-Chevy dispute, but my thing is (that) I was the one that was upside down last year and no question adding the dome skid, for sure, for safety, that’s what we’re looking for,” Castroneves said during a break in testing.

“It doesn’t matter what car it is … when the car is sideways, (the domed skid) adds at least 500 to 1,000 pounds more downforce when you are sideways – which means you’re going to keep the car on the ground.”

Castroneves and teammate Will Power also don’t believe it’s too late to be bringing the plate into the mix, citing the nearly yearly change in aero packages and the Texas test being the second after one at Indy last month.

“The hype about this dome skid was brought about by Honda,” Power said. “They’re the only ones because it would benefit them massively to have strength in the dome skid because they have a lower downforce package, they have what we run in qualifying, so of course they’re going to politic very hard to say that’s it’s bad and this and that.”

After two hours of morning testing, Castroneves said “it’s too early to say” how the domed skid will impact the racing at Texas, a 1.5-mile track with 24-degree corner banking.

Graham Rahal, the only Honda driver who spoke in the media availability Tuesday, said the addition of the domed skid “definitely hurts us” as the car must be raised 10 millimeters to install the plate, adding to the car’s ride-height.

“The guys that tell you it doesn’t make a difference are lying, to be honest,” Rahal said. “There’s obviously some politics going on, I think the Chevy guys don’t want the side walls to help make up for that, but we need it for sure.”

Rahal has been the top finishing Honda driver in two of the first four races. Heading toward the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Rahal is sixth in points and frustrated that talk of the 7 millimeter plate could be a distraction from the event.

“That’s what I told IndyCar, I don’t even know why we’re doing this because we didn’t need to turn attention to something like this,” Rahal said.

“We should be talking about how great the Indy 500 is. Instead we’re talking about domed skids, which no one even knows what the heck that is other than us. But it does affect the car and we’re going to have work hard to make up for it.”

Juan Pablo Montoya also tested at Indianapolis and said he didn’t have any problems. But the 2015 Indy 500 champion later said driving in qualifying trim added a wrinkle to his test.

“Then it gets interesting really fast,” Montoya said. “It’s either really good or really interesting. In traffic, it’s a different world. It’s tough because the track’s really green so you don’t know how clean is that second groove. You’re not going to win anything by being really good today.”

They will have to be good when it counts, in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 and the Firestone 600 at Texas on June 11.

Sauber cancels Barcelona test appearance

SOCHI, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Felipe Nasr of Brazil driving the (12) Sauber F1 Teamo Sauber C35 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 29, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Sauber F1 Team won’t be running at the May 17-18 test at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona for a couple reasons, the team confirming its absence today.

Sauber said it doesn’t have any car updates coming for the next round of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix, and additionally doesn’t have a suitable young or reserve driver it could use for the test.

It’s the latest less than ideal bit of news for the venerable Swiss outfit, which per Autosport also lost its head of track engineering, Tim Maylon, left the team after three months.

Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson are yet to score this season. Nasr debuted a new chassis in Sochi.

With McLaren’s pair of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, plus Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Sergio Perez also getting on the board in Russia, Sauber and Manor MRT are now the only two teams yet to score points this year.

The second in-season test is scheduled for July 12-13 in Silverstone, after the British Grand Prix.

What replacement venues could work for Boston?

FONTANA, CA - AUGUST 30:   Scott Dixon of New Zealand driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Chevrolet leads a pack of cars during the Verizon IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship Race at the Auto Club Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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With the Grand Prix of Boston not happening, there’s a lot of replacement options that have been discussed.

Right now it appears there’s more talk about potential replacement options than there are movement on actual ones, although you figure if a replacement event gets finalized, it would need to get finalized sooner rather than later to allow for a somewhat ample amount of promotional time and to slot into whatever TV window.

It’d be easier to go through the possible tracks one-by-one as based on reports:

  • Providence: A Rhode Island street race has been rumored for years, even going back to when Tony Cotman discussed the idea back in 2012 (I remember writing on it for another outlet at the time). The realism of a second first-year street race coming together in an even shorter time frame, given all the permits needed, seems unlikely. And while the Boston Herald reported the Boston race could be in line to move to Providence, the Providence Journal reported Tuesday that the Providence mayor hasn’t been in touch with INDYCAR.
  • Fontana/Auto Club Speedway: Auto Club Speedway president Dave Allen likes INDYCAR but wanted a more amenable time and date for his race rather than the Saturday, mid-afternoon race in June last year, and so ACS was an unfortunate casualty for 2016. Could it return? Veteran Inland Valley Dailey Bulletin reporter Louis Brewster pondered the possibility thusly: “It’s good bet, under the right agreement, the Fontana track could host such a race and attract a decent crowd. Of course the series will point to the June 2015 race that didn’t attract much more than 20,000 fans. However, that was the direct result of IndyCar not wanting to compete after Labor Day and moving the race for the fourth time in four years. IndyCar should give serious consideration to ending its season in Fontana.” Ah, but ending its season in Fontana would likely go against the wishes and desires of the other California track that is promoting and likely has in its contract the rights to the 2016 season finale: Sonoma Raceway up the coast. Theoretically Fontana could work on the Labor Day weekend; it hosted NASCAR races that weekend from 2004 to 2008 and has an open gap in its schedule; the track has events scheduled August 26-28 and Sept. 10-11, per its website.
  • Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca: Don’t bet on this happening. The full complement of Mazda Road to Indy series and Mazda Prototype Lites are at the track Sept. 8-11 for a singular Mazda branded weekend at Mazda Raceway in Monterey, and there’s little to no chance that Sonoma or INDYCAR would be cool with two races in the same market on back-to-back weeks. Same story applies with Pirelli World Challenge, a usual INDYCAR dance partner, running here separately Oct. 7-9. Sonoma’s got the INDYCAR finale and if there’s one thing that won’t be changing, it’s that.
  • Gateway: Here’s one that could make sense. One of a handful of tracks identified in Robin Miller’s “what next” report late Friday night for RACER.com, Gateway Motorsports Park is known to have an interest in returning and has had Ed Carpenter test at the track for evaluation. Gateway hosted seven total open-wheel races from 1997 through 2003.
  • Milwaukee: Like Gateway in Madison, Ill., Milwaukee could be a cost-effective, quick short-term solution for teams to fill in and replace the Boston round. The problem, however, is finding a suitable promoter. With Andretti Sports Marketing having gone away, the remnants now fused into the new LST Marketing organization (separate from Andretti), and the eternal dilemma in Milwaukee where you also have to factor the State Fair Park board into play, it’d be hard to find a shotgun promoter last-minute without INDYCAR doing it itself. The difference between Phoenix and Milwaukee in terms of promoting a one-mile race is INDYCAR was able to co-promote Phoenix with the track, a track which hosts other successful events during a year. Milwaukee, with no other major events, stands alone. The last time a first-year promoter did Milwaukee, the AB Promotions mash-up of Avocado, LLC and BMG Event Productions in 2011, it didn’t go well.
  • Watkins Glen: An SVRA weekend at the track runs Sept. 9-11, the weekend after Labor Day. With the Phoenix connection, another ISC track, re-established on an IndyCar schedule you wonder if Jay Frye and company could work some magic to put another ISC track on the venue. The track’s just been repaved though, so any race here might require an exploratory test. IndyCar last raced “the Glen” in 2010.
  • New Hampshire: Miller rules this one out because of NASCAR races there on July 17 and Sept. 25, and with Labor Day so close to the Sept. 25 date (week two in the Chase), having two races in four weeks isn’t a likely option.
  • No replacement or A.N. Other replacement: The least favorable of the options: either no replacement or another one that hasn’t already been publicly discussed. Big question here is whether 16 races is the magic number for INDYCAR to fulfill its contractual requirements or if 15 is the standby option. In 2012, when IZOD was the title sponsor, the series ran 15 races following the cancellation of the China round. Last year’s Brasilia cancellation dropped the number from 17 to 16. Now with Verizon as series title sponsor, it will be interesting to see whether it prefers to have a Northeast presence and/or if it stipulates that 16 races are required, or if 15 can work.

Where would you like to see IndyCar race to replace Boston? Check the poll below: