Indy500Blog2

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.

Faster cars set for track in Barcelona ahead of new season

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team's 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Formula One returns to action next week with a test session ahead of a highly anticipated season featuring wider and faster cars to make the series more exciting.

The revamped cars will be on the track in Barcelona on Monday when teams and drivers will get their first real look at what 2017 is going to be like.

“Next week is when we really get to unleash it,” Lewis Hamilton said after Mercedes unveiled its car on Friday.

A second four-day test session will take place in Barcelona from March 7-10.

The first race is the Australian GP on March 26.

The season arrives with regulation changes that significantly altered car design and performance in an attempt to attract more fans and increase track attendance and television audiences.

New aerodynamic and tire rules have given the 2017 cars a meaner look, making them wider and boosting downforce and grip. That translates into faster speeds and, hopefully, more overtaking maneuvers on the track. The rear wings are lower and many of the cars will use a “shark fin” wing on top of the engine.

“The car is wider, tires are bigger, we have a lot more downforce,” Hamilton said. “It’s like taking a small propeller plane and comparing it to a Boeing 737. It’s got so much more performance on it.”

The bigger and quicker cars are also likely to be harder to drive, putting more emphasis on the drivers’ skills and physical conditioning.

Teams are expecting lap times to be three to five seconds faster compared to last year.

“Let’s wait and see,” McLaren veteran Fernando Alonso said. “I think there is some hope that with these regulations we will improve the show. Next week we will have some answers in Barcelona. But definitely it’s a good change for Formula One, something that we probably needed, to have fast and good looking cars.”

The new season will begin without defending champion Nico Rosberg , who retired after winning his first title. Former champion Jenson Button also left, and the Manor team ended, leaving the grid with 20 cars.

Bernie Ecclestone is gone after nearly four decades as F1’s boss. In charge now is U.S. sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media, which took over to try to win back dissatisfied fans and make the series thrilling again.

Here are other things to watch for this season:

MERCEDES’ DOMINANCE

The changes in regulation could help teams cut the gap on Mercedes, which won both the driver and team championships the last three seasons.

The first test session could give an indication of whether teams such as Ferrari and Red Bull will be able to pose a bigger challenge than in 2016. Williams, McLaren and Force India will be hoping to take advantage of the new rules to challenge at the front. Toro Rosso, Renault, Hass and Sauber will try to be near the front more often.

“Maybe we are not going to win 50 races in three years. Maybe we are going to win a couple of races, hopefully a championship. Maybe not, maybe somebody else has done a better job,” Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. “It’s all back to square one.”

DRIVER CHANGES

Red Bull, Ferrari and Toro Rosso are keeping the same driver lineup from last season. They’re very much the exception.

Valtteri Bottas got the grid’s most-desired seat at Mercedes, replacing the retiring Rosberg. Bottas’ departure from Williams prompted 35-year-old Felipe Massa to end his own retirement and return to the team.

Former Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein takes Felipe Nasr’s job at Sauber, while Kevin Magnussen left Renault to join American team Haas. Nico Hulkenberg replaced Magnussen at Renault after leaving Force India.

YOUNG TALENT

A few new drivers will be trying to emulate the success of Max Verstappen, who stunned F1 last season by becoming the youngest driver to win a race at age 18.

Lance Stroll, 18, will be replacing Bottas at Williams, while 24-year-old Stoffel Vandoorne comes in for Button at McLaren.

Esteban Ocon, 20, made nine starts with Manor last season and secured a ride with Force India for 2017.

The 22-year-old Wehrlein will not be able to test his new Sauber next week because he injured his back at a racing event last month.

MCLAREN DOUBTS

Going back to the orange livery from the 1960s, McLaren will be hoping to win its first race since 2012.

But there are doubts about whether the renewed partnership with Honda will finally start paying off after two disappointing seasons in which the team struggled to contend for victories or even podium finishes.

There was improvement a year ago, but the pressure for better results this season will increase.

Fresh reset on tap for Takuma Sato at Andretti Autosport

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For a driver you don’t think of as having been long a part of the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock, Takuma Sato is that and more as he prepares to enter his eighth full-time season in 2017.

Sato’s longevity is such that he did parts of seven years and 90 Grand Prix starts from 2002 through 2008, before a one-year gap prior to his arrival in IndyCar in 2010, where he’s now made 118 starts in seven years.

With KV Racing Technology, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Sato was very much enigmatic. His speed and determination was never in question and he produced a number of edge-of-your-seat highlight reel moments; few will forget his daring attempt on Dario Franchitti to win the 2012 Indianapolis 500 with RLL, for example, and a year later he finally secured his first win with Foyt at Long Beach on a track he’s long excelled at.

But despite his undoubted pace, his “no attack, no chance” style sometimes got him into more trouble than he desired.

Sato’s presence in the paddock is a good one because his attitude is forthright, he’s very good with the media (both the American and Japanese media) and he has a seemingly eternal, effervescent smile on his face.

He doesn’t look a day over 32 years old, even though he turned 40 in January.

And with Andretti Autosport, Sato has his best team dynamic available yet as he moves into one of the generally considered “big three” teams for the first time in his career.

He’s been on a single-car team at both RLL and Foyt, a two-car team at Foyt and a three-car team at KV, but has not yet been part of a four-car effort as he will have at Andretti. He’s in the No. 26 Honda with teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti.

“I’m very excited. Obviously you want to have more time in the car for the preseason. But there is a lot of progression to be done over the winter,” Sato told NBC Sports.

“I’m already having a good time together with the team.”

Sato will be reunited with engineer Garrett Mothershead, who he worked with at KV his first two years in the series. Together, Sato won his first two poles at Iowa and Edmonton.

Both Sato and Rossi suffered setbacks during the Phoenix test, both drivers losing the back end in Turn 2 and hitting the wall. Both were on qualifying simulations.

Despite that, Sato felt positive with the improvements made to the car on a short oval compared to last year. Foyt’s team struggled on the short ovals with the same Honda package, which is a bit down to Chevrolet on the short ovals, and Sato was able to denote the differences and enhancements Andretti’s team had made.

“In the end it was a qualifying simulation and balance was off. It was a shame and I hate it for the crew,” Sato said.

“Other than that, we made a car that was much better car. We made good progress with all four drivers working together, and our engineering is strong.”

One of the things Sato is renowned for is his ability on street courses. He’s been rather exciting to watch on those circuits over his career, and his setup and feedback work should help the team going forward on these tracks, starting with St. Petersburg.

One of Sato’s teammates, Hunter-Reay, called Sato “one of the fastest guys out there” and is “looking forward to hearing his perspective.”

Expectations aren’t the highest given the struggles of the Honda package compared to Chevrolet. And Sato’s career place in the standings hasn’t been higher than 13th in seven years – incidentally, in 2011 when he last worked with Mothershead.

Although the field is deep, Sato is hopeful of a couple steps forward results and points-wise this year. The Andretti Autosport team wants to be best in class among those with Hondas.

“I have good memories in St. Petersburg! So hopefully we’re competitive there,” Sato said.

“Hopefully we can win a race. Since it’s a frozen package this year, I don’t see a big difference compared to last year. But the personal situation is that I’m in a different team and environment, and that’s big. I’m looking forward to it.”

Renault F1 completes first running with R.S.17 in Barcelona

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Renault Sport Formula One team's 2017 car, the RS17, is unveiled on February 21, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Renault has completed its first on-track running with its 2017 Formula 1 car, the R.S.17, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain ahead of pre-season testing next week.

Renault unveiled its new car on Tuesday, with the R.S.17 sporting an aggressive new look and a revised color scheme that incorporates more black into its yellow look.

Like many of its rivals, Renault opted to make use of some of its filming day allowance this week to check all systems were running as expected prior to the start of testing.

Renault hit the track on Saturday with Jolyon Palmer receiving the honor of christening the R.S.17 on-track.

Renault will enjoy its first public run with the R.S.17 on Monday with the start of collective pre-season testing in Barcelona.

McLaren confirms F1 testing running schedule for Barcelona

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 24 February 2017.
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McLaren has become the latest team to confirm its running schedule for the upcoming Formula 1 pre-season test days in Barcelona, Spain.

McLaren launched its new car, the MCL32, at its base in Woking, England on Friday, with drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne on-hand to unveil the team’s new orange look.

Alonso and Vandoorne will split testing duties next week with the start of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

Alonso will enjoy the first public run behind the wheel of the MCL32 on Monday before handing over to Vandoorne on Tuesday. Alonso returns on Wednesday, with Vandoorne then closing out the first test on Thursday.

McLaren is also set to complete a filming day in Barcelona on Sunday, which will represent the first on-track running for the MCL32 after an extensive development phase.