Indianapolis 500 Practice

Tony Kanaan leads final practice for 98th Indy 500

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Under a sunny Hoosier sky and in front of a healthy Carb Day crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, defending Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan topped the final practice for Sunday’s 98th Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The Brazilian threw down a lap of 227.838 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to lead the session, which is usually treated more as a dress rehearsal than anything else.

However, with rain washing out a noticeable amount of track time this month at IMS, some teams were looking to make last-minute progress on their race set-up, too.

Kanaan’s teammate and 2008 ‘500’ winner Scott Dixon was close behind with a lap at 227.773 mph in the No. 9 TCGR Chevy. He will start 11th (middle, Row 4) on Sunday’s grid, while Kanaan will start 16th (inside, Row 6).

“We feel good about [the race],” said Kanaan, who is looking to become the first repeat ‘500’ winner since Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002). “I think we worked pretty hard together to make up for our Saturday qualifying.

“We have great people back in the engineering office at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and I think we already showed that a little bit on Monday after qualifying and now today.”

Also breaking the 227-mph mark on Carb Day was NBCSN’s own Townsend Bell in the No. 6 KV Racing Technology Chevy. His best lap of 227.221 mph was third-fastest in the hour-long session.

Three-time ‘500’ winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske was fourth at 226.187 mph, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin was fifth-fastest (226.045) to lead the rookies.

Kurt Busch, in his final IndyCar tuneup before he embarks on the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 ‘Double’ this Sunday, was 15th-quickest at 224.684 mph in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Busch was making his first run in an IndyCar since his hard practice crash on Monday at IMS.

“This morning, I was a bit anxious to get back in the car and see how I was going to feel,” Busch said. “There’s a lot to be said about guys when they hit the wall, they lose their confidence a little bit.

“I didn’t lose my confidence, I just needed to make sure that I didn’t over-adjust the car when I got back in traffic…I need to do a better job reading the traffic and that will help our Sunday.”

The sole incident of the session took place with half an hour to go when ‘500’ rookie Sage Karam got loose on the high line and brushed the Turn 4 wall before getting his No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing Chevrolet under control.

The 19-year-old returned to the pits with minimal outside rear damage to the car, but the team opted to end their practice early. Karam logged 19 laps, with a fast lap of 222.329 mph.

1,441 laps were turned overall in the session, and rookie Carlos Huertas ran the most individually with 65.

IndyCar CEO: No safety changes for 2016 car, despite Wilson death

indycar ceo mark miles
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An investigation into the August accident that killed driver Justin Wilson has resulted in no recommendations for immediate safety changes in race cars, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said.

But changes could be in line by 2017, including some sort of canopy or enclosed cockpit or surrounding apron to protect drivers, Miles told USA Today.

The 37-year-old Wilson was struck in the head from a piece of debris that flew off Sage Karam’s wrecked car during a race at Pocono Raceway. Wilson died the following day in a Pennsylvania hospital.

“What the report provides is a lot of technical data about the energy involved and the forces and exactly what happened and all of that,” Miles told USA Today. “I don’t think there were any revelations. I think for everybody, with or without the report, all of us hope to be able to make progress in finding ways to make the cockpit safer and to reduce the risks.

“So for example, there may be some short-term measures like tethering some parts that weren’t this year, but could be. That’s a work in progress. But I don’t want to give the sense that was because of anything revealed in the accident investigation. What you think happened, happened there.”

One area that has received considerable discussion is the potential for enclosed cockpits or canopies in Indy cars. But the development of such a device will take time, prompting Miles to predict that if canopies or capsules are ultimately added as a safety precaution, it likely would not occur until at least the 2017 season.

“You’re not going to see a change to the car for next year in this regard just because I don’t think it’s possible,” Miles said. “… These are technical challenges and it’s hard to imagine that anything transformative will happen this year. At this point, I wouldn’t rule out 2017, but the research has to be done, the development has to be done to answer the questions as to what can be done by when.”

Addressing specifically the investigation of Wilson’s accident, Miles said, “It reinforces the risks, I think, of the open cockpit and further energizes efforts in motorsport to try to reduce those risks.”

But devising a cockpit or canopy – if either is adopted – will take considerable development and testing time. Miles said he’s had lengthy discussions with officials from groups such as NASA and the aerospace industry that provide cockpits for entities such as jet fighters.

He added that Formula 1 officials have also been studying enclosed cockpits for quite some time, particularly things such as ingress/egress from within the cockpit, as well as heat buildup inside.

“Obviously, the foundational point is whether there’s a solution which protects the driver and there may be no solution which provides complete protection if you get into a situation like in Las Vegas (where driver Dan Wheldon died as a result of head injuries when he stuck a catch fence support),” Miles said. “But it’s how much more safe can you make it while proving for not having unintended consequences.”

Miles said that in addition to canopies and enclosed cockpits, IndyCar is also looking at other variations and the potential risk vs. rewards of those as well.

“This is not necessarily about a completely closed cockpit,” Miles said. “It could be more of an apron. If something hits that … it’s possible (the object) could be propelled higher and further and an unintended consequence could be the risk of something going into the crowd.

“It doesn’t necessarily knock it down and put it on the track if something was coming at a car like that, especially something like a tire that has energy in it.

“What is clear to me is we’ve got an outside perspective as do our safety people, on the long list of things you have to address. … Hopefully something meaningful can happen.”

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.