Live Blog for the 98th Indianapolis 500

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3:08 p.m. ET: This will be the end of things here on the Live Blog. We’ll have more on the finish of the 98th Indianapolis 500 coming up shortly on MotorSportsTalk, and plenty of post-race stories to follow…

3:01 p.m. ET: A furious finish is in store at the 98th Indianapolis 500 after Townsend Bell crashed in Turn 2 just after INDYCAR threw a yellow for debris in the vicinity.

That yellow then switched to a red flag due to the size of the debris field, and the race has been stopped with nine laps remaining. The decision was met with cheers from the crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ryan Hunter-Reay took the lead from Helio Castroneves with 15 laps to go and remains up front. Castroneves, who is seeking his fourth ‘500’ win, is in second, followed by Marco Andretti in third, Carlos Munoz in fourth, and Juan Pablo Montoya in fifth.

As for NASCAR star Kurt Busch, a strong second-half run has put him in sixth place as he hopes to head off to tonight’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte with a great result.

2:46 p.m. ET: Scott Dixon has slammed hard into the outside wall in Turn 4 while running near the Top 5, ending his bid for a second Indy 500 title.

After making his first impact on the outside wall, Dixon slid into the inside wall on the front-stretch, as cars behind him dodged his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and the debris flying from it. While that incident played out, Martin Plowman ran into the back of Josef Newgarden as they headed for the site of Dixon’s accident.

The leaders pitted for what should be the final time under the caution, and it was Ryan Hunter-Reay that won the race off of pit road. Ed Carpenter was second off, while NBC Sports’ IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell was third off in his KV Racing Technology machine.

The trio restarted in that order at Lap 175, but James Hinchcliffe went to the inside of Carpenter going into Turn 1 as Bell went to their outside. Hinchcliffe and Carpenter wound up making contact and both went into the Turn 2 wall.

Under the yellow, Hunter-Reay leads Bell, Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, and Takuma Sato.

2:24 p.m. ET: With 51 laps to go, the 98th Indianapolis 500 finally saw its first caution flag of the afternoon as Charlie Kimball got loose and spun on his own coming off of Turn 2. That came one lap after he was able to make a major save while battling with Takuma Sato.

With 48 laps remaining, Marco Andretti led Ryan Hunter-Reay and the rest of the leaders to the pits for a crucial round of stops. But the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion was able to win the race off pit road over Andretti.

Hunter-Reay and the leaders settled in behind pole sitter Ed Carpenter, who stayed out after pitting a few laps before the Kimball caution on Lap 145.

The Indiana native brought the field back to the green flag at Lap 157, but Hunter-Reay charged by him going into Turn 1. Carpenter re-claimed P1 at the same corner on the next lap, only to have Hunter-Reay shoot past him again at Lap 159.

With 40 to go, your Top 5 is Hunter-Reay, Carpenter, Andretti, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves. But a final stop is still on the way…

2:02 p.m. ET: Juan Pablo Montoya appeared set to win the fuel mileage game today at the Indianapolis 500, but the Colombian drew a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road following his stop at Lap 132.

Before the most recent cycle of green-flag stops, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves both spent time at the front; Castroneves took the lead from Hunter-Reay on the inside of Turn 1 at Lap 107, but nine laps later, the American returned the favor going into Turn 3.

As those two drivers swapped the point, contender Ed Carpenter had to make an unscheduled stop at Lap 116 due to blistering on his right-rear tire.

On Lap 123, Castroneves pitted from second place under green but had a slow stop and lost precious seconds. Hunter-Reay followed him in soon after and came up with a clean stop, but as the cycle played out, Montoya once again was able to stretch his fuel a few laps longer.

But then came his penalty from his Lap 132 stop, which was called five laps after his Penske teammate, Will Power, was also hit with his own speeding penalty.

At cycle’s end, it’s Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Castroneves, Carpenter, and Scott Dixon running as your Top 5. Montoya has now fallen out of the Top 10.

1:35 p.m. ET: Just more than an hour and 10 minutes into the race, the 98th Indianapolis 500 is halfway home, and caution-free.

At crossed flags, Ryan Hunter-Reay leads Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter and Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya ran until Lap 99 before pitting the third time; he has consistently run 3-4 laps longer in each fuel sequence.

Scott Dixon is sixth with Will Power seventh, Simon Pagenaud eighth, JR Hildebrand ninth and Carlos Munoz 10th. Rookie Sage Karam, who started 31st, made it as high as eighth but is consistently pitting 4-6 laps earlier on each sequence.

That leaves Montoya, Karam and Pagenaud as the three on slightly altered fuel strategies heading into the second half of this race, which is so far averaging well over 212 mph.

1:15 p.m. ET: Another round of green flag pit stops are in the books, the second of the race. Juan Pablo Montoya ran four laps longer than the rest of the field on that stint and pitted from the lead on Lap 66; Marco Andretti, who had charged to the front, was the leader just before that.

At Lap 70, the top 10 was Castroneves, Andretti, Carpenter, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Power, Pagenaud, Montoya, Hinchcliffe and Karam.

Graham Rahal is out of the car and Tony Kanaan’s chances for a repeat win have been dampened by a 40-plus second pit stop for a rear wing adjustment. TK fell back to P31. Pippa Mann also spent extended time in the pits and lost eight laps.

1:00 p.m. ET: We’re past the one-quarter distance mark, with 50 laps in the books. Will Power took the lead from Carpenter on Lap 37 and has led through the Lap 50 mark, with Carpenter second and his Indianapolis teammate JR Hildebrand now third. Marco Andretti is fourth with Helio Castroneves fifth, Scott Dixon sixth and James Hinchcliffe seventh. Carlos Munoz, Tony Kanaan and NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell completed the top 10.

Castroneves got warned for blocking from Race Control after a chop on Andretti down the front straight; the pair were battling for fifth.

Elsewhere rookie Sage Karam made a ridiculously stout move to the outside of fellow first-timer Mikhail Aleshin for P18, and Rahal parked in the pits with apparent engine issues, and reported a loss of drive.

12:50 p.m. ET: More than 30 laps are in the books and Carpenter, who led until Lap 28, needed to pit first as he burned the most fuel while leading. Hinchcliffe followed a lap later on Lap 29 and a bevy of stops followed from there.

On the reset, lap 33 after the first round of green flag pit stops, Hinchcliffe now leads from Carpenter, Power, Castroneves and Hildebrand.

NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell charged to as high as P12 after starting 25th; his setup is identical to KVRT’s winning one for Tony Kanaan in 2013. Meanwhile Kurt Busch runs 20th. Rookie Sage Karam was the first driver to pit, stopping on Lap 27.

Graham Rahal fell to 32nd as his No. 15 National Guard Honda was reported struggling with the rear.

12:33 p.m. ET: We’re 10 laps in. Ed Carpenter has just taken the lead from James Hinchcliffe to mark the first official lead change of the race.

Power’s third with Helio Castroneves, Marco Andretti, JR Hildebrand, Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden the top 10.

Biggest mover has been Ryan Hunter-Reay from P19 to P11; Townsend Bell has gained seven spots from P25 to P17, and Sage Karam (P26) and Sebastian Saavedra (P27) each gained five spots. Rookie Jack Hawksworth lost six spots to drop to P19 and Kurt Busch is currently 15th.

12:25 p.m. ET: Jim Nabors has sung “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the final time, and we are green for the 98th running. James Hinchcliffe has led the opening lap for the second time in three years, having also done so in 2012.

Second through fifth: Ed Carpenter, Will Power, Marco Andretti and Helio Castroneves.

Slight contact for Ryan Briscoe has necessitated a pit stop for a new front wing. Briscoe, who started 30th, bounced off the wall at the exit of Turn 2 and made slight right front wing damage.

11:56 a.m. ET: Kurt Busch will begin his quest today to run all 1,100 miles of the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in just a few minutes. The former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will roll off 12th in his Andretti Autosport Honda for the ‘500,’ and he’s looking forward to tackling multiple challenges.

“[It’s about] just settling in and getting into that race mode, and race mode to me means protecting your car and putting yourself in position to make passes – but not questionable positions,” he told ESPN.

“And there’s pit road – pit road here is one of the toughest in a stock car and very tough in an IndyCar…The guy that makes the least amount of mistakes usually is up close to the front in this race. Sometimes, it’s not the fastest car.”

Kurt Busch and family waiting on the Indianapolis 500 grid. #indycar

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11:30 a.m. ET: Welcome to MotorSportsTalk’s live blog for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500. My colleague Chris Estrada and I will be rolling with updates as the race progresses.

Thus far we’ve had the usual parade of bands, vintage cars and celebrities. The pre-race atmosphere is intense and incredible as always, as fans head to their seats and the grid is announced.

Bruni, Snow win GT poles for IMSA at Lime Rock

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A pair of first-time polesitters have the top spot for this weekend’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park. Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole for Porsche while Madison Snow has his first pole of the season.

GT LE MANS

Just 0.535 of a second covered the four manufacturers and eight cars in GT Le Mans in qualifying, but up front, Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole as a Porsche factory driver.

The Italian, in only his third weekend as a factory GT driver and second ever at Lime Rock and sharing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, posted the ultimate pole time of 50.404 seconds around the 1.53-mile circuit.

“I’m very happy to do my first pole with Porsche, first qualifying. This team has taught me good things and gets the most out of it,” Bruni told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam after the checkered flag. He’s the 23rd different GTLM polesitter in IMSA since the 2014 merger, this surprisingly his first pole in the series.

Richard Westbrook took the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT into second at 50.540 in the car he shares with Ryan Briscoe.

The No. 911 Porsche and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM are third and fourth, with the pair of Corvettes next.

The No. 4 Corvette C7.R is back in action this week following its accident at the end of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Per Corvette Racing, repairs to the car included: the entire front-right corner (components, bodywork), steering rack, diffuser, wing and changed a chassis tube due to a crease. There were no other cracks or damage to the frame. That car qualified fifth in the hands of Tommy Milner, who shares the car with Oliver Gavin. The pair won Corvette Racing’s 100th race as a team this race last year.

GT DAYTONA

After a run of seven manufacturers scoring pole positions in the first seven races in GTD, the streak was broken Friday at Lime Rock Park.

Not too far from its New Jersey base, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the first car to score a second pole this year, this time in the hands of Madison Snow. Snow joins Bryan Sellers (Long Beach) as polesitters for this car this season, and this at least keeps the streak of different drivers alive.

The Nos. 54 CORE autosport and No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the hands of Colin Braun and Patrick Long were next. Snow’s 52.508 best lap edged Braun’s 52.699 and Long’s 52.836, with Jack Hawksworth best of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 brigade in fourth and Jens Klingmann taking the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into fifth.

The top 15 of the 17 cars in GTD were separated by only 0.992 of a second around the 1.53-mile bullring.

The two-hour, 40-minute race runs late Saturday afternoon, from 3:05 to 5:45 p.m. ET.

Mid-Ohio, Honda Racing go galactic for 2017 at-track camping theme

Photo: IndyCar
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Honda Racing will channel a galactic theme for this year’s camping festivities at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a popular camping venue on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.

This marks the third year of a contest for best campground site, with various Honda Indy 200 gifts on offer. The theme name this year is “May the G-Forces Be With You,” and the hashtag is #CampingWithHonda.  Last year’s was a “Christmas in July” theme, complete with Santa Claus. The full release from the track is linked here.

As this year’s event alludes to a very popular galactic film series in all but name, it will see a number of participants in the weekend festivities by to judge the campsites at the track – potentially in character!

Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, will visit the sites Saturday after qualifying to choose the winners. He did so last year as well.

Photo: PWC

Others, such as last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner Simon Pagenaud and RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 factory driver in Pirelli World Challenge, Ryan Eversley (right), are expected to attend as well – though whether as themselves or potentially in a special character remains to be seen.

“It’s always a thrill and a special part of the Mid-Ohio weekend to take part in Honda Racing fun festivities like ‘May the G-Forces Be With You,'” Eversley told NBC Sports; the Atlanta native finished second in the second PWC GT race here last year in the previous generation TLX-GT, in one of his best drives of the season. “These guys always know how to cook up some fun activities and so if there’s an opportunity to dress up, have fun and play along with it, I’m down!”

Photo: IndyCar

Pagenaud, who was a longtime member of the Honda and Acura family before his move to Team Penske’s Chevrolet-powered, IndyCar program (right), added, “For me, as a fan, this film series is just the best. I love the battle between the light and dark side of the force, because I feel like we can all identify with that. I try to channel the force when I’m in my race car, so this will be a really fun weekend in Mid-Ohio.

“I plan to bring something to show my pride at the track, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you guys in advance!”

Expect similar characters to be present on site on Saturday evening. There’s also going to be a bonfire, live band (Columbus group MidLife Crisis) and s’mores, plus branded lighted batons which should display well at the bonfire on Saturday.

And for James Hinchcliffe, another Honda driver who is no stranger to having fun, he’s also part of the buildup to this event, as evidenced by the event teaser below.

Wehrlein nonplussed by Sauber-Honda speculation

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Pascal Wehrlein is not paying any attention to speculation that Sauber’s planned Formula 1 engine deal with Honda for 2018 could be on the rocks, saying his future remains open as he focuses on his current duties with the team.

Mercedes junior Wehrlein was placed at Sauber for 2017, and led the team to its first points finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Sauber had been given a boost two weeks earlier when it announced a deal to become Honda’s second customer team for 2018, including technical and financial support.

However, the deal was put in doubt following Sauber CEO and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn’s departure, leading to speculation that it had not been finalized.

Kaltenborn’s replacement Frederic Vasseur has made it a priority to resolve the matter, but it has made for a bleak outlook at Hinwil for the future.

With the 2018 driver market beginning to stir, Wehrlein has stressed he is not yet thinking about next season, nor is he paying any attention to the speculation about Sauber’s deal with Honda.

“I have no idea what is happening next year. Of course, I have heard all these rumors as well,” Wehrlein told the official F1 website.

“I cannot influence any of these things, so why worry about them? Whatever rumors there are in the air, it is no distraction for me – that is the bottom line.

“I have a contract for this season so I am only focusing on this year. Decisions are made by others and I am only here to drive, to perform as well as I can.

“Of course I want to see Sauber do well. They have the potential and have already been in good positions in the past and I want them to get back there. How and when? That is on another page.”

Wehrlein expressed his confidence in Vasseur’s leadership, although he expects the team to shift focus to its 2018 plans.

“I do have expectations of Fred and the team. I don’t know how fast Fred can change things or how he can change them, but we now have one race left before the summer shut down,” Wehrlein said.

“In the second half of the season the team will focus on next year, so I don’t think you will see his touch too much this year. So let’s see what we can still do with the tools that we have right now.

“I really respect Fred. I used to work with him in DTM. He had a team when I drove there in 2015. He has so much experience in motorsport and in many other ventures outside racing.

“He is a very successful man. He could help Sauber. He could be very good for the team.”

Keeping Grosjean, Magnussen for 2018 ‘a given’ in Gene Haas’ eyes

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Gene Haas is planning to field an unchanged line-up for his Formula 1 team in 2018, believing it to be “a given” that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will continue beyond the end of the season.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, pairing Grosjean with Esteban Gutierrez.

While Grosjean scored a fifth-place finish in Haas F1 Team’s second race and picked up 29 points across the course of the season, Gutierrez failed to record a single top-10 result.

The Mexican was replaced by Magnussen for 2017, with the Dane taking 11 points through the first 10 races of the season.

Despite the fluidity of the driver market for 2018, Haas revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is planning to race with Grosjean and Magnussen together once again next year.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year. That is a given,” Haas said.

“And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

Haas had been tipped to take on a Ferrari junior such as Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc for 2018 given its technical ties to the Italian marque.

Grosjean is understood to be a target for Renault should it miss out on re-signing Fernando Alonso, while Magnussen penned a multi-year deal upon arrival at Haas at the start of the season.

Reflecting on Magnussen’s contribution, Haas believes the team has benefitted from his greater race performance that has allowed it to match its debut season points total in just 10 races in 2017.

“Esteban was a good driver. He was as fast as Romain in practice, but I think that Kevin has an edge in terms of race experience,” Haas said.

“He can score points and that was the key for bringing him on board. Kevin can grab points and Romain can too.

“We now have 29 points. Last year around this time we also had 29 points, but did not score for the rest of the season.

“So now if we can score another 29 points by Abu Dhabi, that would be a great position.”