Indianapolis 500 Practice

Scott Dixon trying to quench 6-year thirst for milk at Indy

Leave a comment

Since winning his first Indianapolis 500 in 2008, Scott Dixon has come close on multiple occasions to becoming a two-time winner of the world’s greatest race.

He finished a disappointing 14th in last year’s ‘500’, but from 2009 to 2012, the New Zealander collected a sixth, two fifths, and a runner-up. He also led 199 laps in that time span.

However, the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion doesn’t think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway owes him one for his many near-misses on Indy win No. 2.

“It’s one of the toughest races in the world and that’s why everybody comes here to try and defeat it,” Dixon said today at IMS. “We were lucky enough to win here in ’08 and obviously, [teammate Tony Kanaan won] last year. Whether there’s any more, we’ll have to wait and see.

“But you only have to lead one lap here and that’s the last one.”

Dixon and Kanaan are two of the sport’s biggest stars on one of the sport’s biggest teams, Target Chip Ganassi Racing. However, both men enter Indy flying under the radar; Dixon’s had an up-and-down start to his title defense (one podium in four races), while Kanaan’s best finish so far is a sixth in March’s season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.

Then in qualifying last weekend, the ‘Bullseye Boys’ missed out on the Fast Nine shootout for the pole position. They were able to get it together on the second day, but they’ll have some work to do on Sunday as Dixon rolls off 11th and Kanaan starts 16th.

“We didn’t do too well in qualifying, but we got to know and understand why that happened, and on the second day of qualifying, I think we ended up with the third-fastest speed,” Dixon said.

“The race cars have generally been very good, and we seemed to look pretty strong on Monday, our last session. I think we’re in a good situation, but in this place, you never really know.”

Another challenge that Dixon must contend with is the draft-heavy style of racing that has taken hold at Indianapolis in recent years. Last year’s 68 lead changes (a new race record) made for a wild show, and Dixon expects a similar outing on Sunday.

“I think it’s the style of this car and the unfortunate part is that it’s pack racing at Indy, which I don’t think is a good situation,” he said. “Last year was a bit funny too because nobody wanted to lead and everyone was trying to save fuel – so it was great for the show and great for the fans.

“This year, we’ll probably see the same thing. We may see five or six cars try to split away from the main pack just to get some distance but it depends on who you’re working with and hopefully you’re in that situation. And hopefully, all four of our [Chip Ganassi Racing] cars can get up there, get in line, and try to get away a little bit.”

NBCSN will air LIVE Indianapolis 500 Carb Day coverage tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET. The broadcast will also be streamed via NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Sage Karam

Sage Karam
1 Comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver. Ending in 20th was Sage Karam, who generated a lot of headlines despite missing a handful of races in his first full season in the big leagues.

Sage Karam, No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 9th place at Indianapolis 500; several starts in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship
  • 2015: 20th place (12 starts), Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 12 Laps Led, 14.5 Avg. Start, 15.8 Avg. Finish

Few drivers generated as much ink as Karam did during what as an ultimately race-by-race rookie season that saw him active in 12 of 16 races. It was an overall rocky campaign that featured any combination of brilliance, controversy and heartache depending on the weekend.

Karam was on the back foot to begin with anyway with limited preseason testing, following a wrist injury sustained in a crash at Barber Motorsports Park. The fact he was out of a car for Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis owed to financial reasons but also served as a wakeup call that he needed to improve off the back of several ragged races to open the season. The speed was there for the Indianapolis 500 but the result wasn’t, with a first-lap crash and the following debacle of a doubleheader weekend at Detroit a week later ultimately Karam’s nadir.

Luckily for the 20-year-old, he had Dario Franchitti as a tutor, mentor and coach, and a post-Detroit “come to Jesus” meeting might have been the biggest impetus for change. Karam then surged in the second half of the year – primarily on ovals – and worked his way into the headlines courtesy of his driving and take-no-prisoners aggressive approach, particularly with Ed Carpenter at Iowa. In a single sentence, he was worth the price of admission almost on his own while also putting himself in contention for series “black hat” status.

Karam was on track for what would have been a dream weekend at home in Pocono, leading with 20 laps to go, when he lost control and crashed out – the debris from the car ultimately striking Justin Wilson’s helmet. It was a tragic end to the race but it was no fault of Karam’s that what happened, happened.

For as much as the community is rallying around Wilson’s family, it needs to do the same for Karam. At 20, he’s a talented driver with a bright future ahead of him, who continued to mature over the course of the season. You just don’t want Pocono to be the race that affects him psychologically, and prevents him from fully realizing his undoubted potential.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Stefano Coletti

Stefano Coletti
1 Comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver lineup. In 19th place and the second-ranked rookie this season, was KV Racing Technology’s Stefano Coletti.

Stefano Coletti, No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet

  • 2014: GP2
  • 2015: 19th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 8th, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 18.9 Avg. Start, 18.6 Avg. Finish

Coletti struggled in his rookie season, which was a bit surprising after an impressive preseason testing period that helped him secure the second KV Racing Technology car alongside KVSH Racing lead driver Sebastien Bourdais.

The GP2 graduate produced early season excitement where he was a passing star, but that only seemed to deceive for the rest of the year. The only time he started ahead of Bourdais was at Iowa, when Bourdais crashed in qualifying.

Similar to other drivers KV has had in previous years Coletti was often hard on equipment, with a frequent number of either full-on accidents or less damaging spins, although not all were his fault. A trouble-free weekend for him rarely occurred, and eighth at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis marked his only top-10 result of the year.

It was a year that paled in comparison to Sebastian Saavedra’s difficult 2014, which paled in comparison to Simona de Silvestro in 2013, which… well you get the point. The lack of consistency for the team’s second car probably doesn’t help, but Coletti offered few moments of brilliance in a deep field where he needed to stand out.

Given the resources at his disposal, ending 78 points behind rookie-of-the-year Gabby Chaves seemed a fairly substantial margin. If he returns for 2016, he has a big jump to make.