Indianapolis 500 Practice

Indy 500 Notes: Bourdais earns best Indy finish; mixed fortunes for part-timers

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Sebastien Bourdais completed a fruitful Month of May on Sunday, picking up his best-ever Indy 500 finish two weeks after collecting a Top-5 (fourth) in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Starting 17th, Bourdais (pictured, No. 11) stayed in mid-pack for much of the race’s long duration under green (the first 148 of 200 laps ran caution-free), but rose into the Top 10 on Lap 147 and eventually came home seventh.

“Not a great day, but a good day,” the four-time Champ Car title winner said. “We struggled a bit with the car the whole month, but we stuck with it and got the best out of it today.

“We didn’t start in the front so it was a challenge to get there. Overall, it was a strong performance, a good result and we got double points. Now we move on to Detroit [next weekend].”

Prior to Sunday, Bourdais’ best ‘500’ finish was 12th in his inaugural appearance in 2005.

Let’s take a look at how some of Sunday’s part-time and one-off drivers fared…

21-J.R. Hildebrand (Ed Carpenter Racing; started ninth, finished 10th)

Hildebrand, the 2011 ‘500’ Rookie of the Year, had an up-and-down Sunday. He was an early charger and hung around the Top 5 in the first half of the race, but a tire issue developed and forced him to pit, knocking him as far back as 22nd.

Undeterred, Hildebrand steadily came back and rose as high as sixth at Lap 141 before settling for 10th in the end.

“Any day that you are not sitting in victory lane and drinking the milk, it’s a disappointment,” he said. “For us…It’s frustrating because we had a really good car. We had an issue with a tire that got us out of the pit sequence. The car got bad with the tire issue. I had to pit or I was going to crash.

“But the car was fast. We passed a ton of guys today, including in the end. It was nice earlier when we jumped from ninth to third and I was running with Ed.”

16-Oriol Servia (Rahal Letterman Lanigan; started 18th, finished 11th)

Grip issues kept Servia from advancing further at the end, but the Spaniard was also bothered by what he saw as too much clutter on the track.

“We had a good race overall but I was really hoping that the track offi­cials would decide to sweep the marbles like they should,” the open-wheel veteran said.

“Because we had around three quar­ters of the race under green so there were a lot of marbles and pieces of debris out there and that’s why you couldn’t pass anybody, which is a shame because you can’t go side-by-side.

“I don’t know why they decided not to clean the track. It could have been a much better race.”

68-Alex Tagliani (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing; started 24th, finished 13th)

Tagliani battled a loose condition on his race car, a matter that couldn’t be solved quickly due to the long, caution-free portion of the race. But eventually, the team found a sweet spot with the balance and turned in good pit stops to make up some time.

As for his overall experience with SFHR, the Canadian came away impressed with the usually single-car outfit.

“Until you work with a team, you don’t know what it’s like,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a team that will become a two-car program, and I’ll be right there when that happens.

“It’s definitely a team with potential, and if one day they become a two-car team, with what they showed me this month, it’s definitely something I’d be interested in looking at.”

63-Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing; started 22nd, finished 24th)

A mechanical problem that emerged after her second pit stop forced Mann to come in again and put her several laps off the pace. But while the race didn’t go that well for her, she was still able to accomplish an important goal on Sunday.

“I’m really pleased we were able to go out there and exceed our 400 lap target for the month, to raise funds and awareness for Susan G. Komen in the fight against breast cancer,” she said. “It’s been an honor to carry the Susan G. Komen Running Ribbon this month.”

91-Buddy Lazier (Lazier Partners Racing; started 33rd, finished 32nd)

The 1996 Indy winner was the second driver to bow out on Sunday at Lap 87, with the team confirming on social media that it was due to a clutch failure.

Meyrick, Price reunite with Bullitt Racing McLaren GT4

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Photo: Bullitt Racing
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Veteran sports car driver Andy Meyrick and legendary team manager David Price will reunite on Bullitt Racing’s entry into the GT4 European Series Northern Cup in 2017. Meyrick will share the team’s McLaren 570S GT4 with new co-driver Stephen Pattrick.

Meyrick and Price worked together with Don Panoz’s DeltaWing Racing Cars program from 2013 through 2014, in the program’s continuation with new components after initial technical partners left the operation.

Meyrick was recently at the Rolex 24 at Daytona supporting his protege, Seb Morris, who ran well in the Whelen Engineering-backed No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R for Action Express Racing.

“I’ve been keeping a very close eye on GT4 for the last couple of years now, I really admire the racing and the close competition,” Meyrick said.

“The team is well organized and I’m sure will be competitive very quickly, this was a key part of my decision to take the role.

“Led by David Price, the team has a great opportunity to challenge at the front of the pack this year. I’m excited to be a part of GT4.”

Price, who will be team principal, added: “We were looking for an experienced GT racer to lead our team and take the fight straight to the front, Andy is perfect for the role. We are delighted to have him onboard.”

The Northern Cup season begins at Misano on April 2, the first weekend of a six-race schedule (Brands Hatch May 7, Red Bull Ring June 11, Slovakia Ring July 16, Zandvoort August 20, Nürburgring September 17).

Michael Andretti: ‘We must be the best Honda team’

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 12:  Team owner Michael Andretti stands on the grid prior to the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedways)
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Andretti Autosport is banking on a couple of its offseason engineering changes and motivation throughout its four-car driver lineup to reassert itself within the Verizon IndyCar Series after a challenging 2016 season.

Outside of the month of May in Indianapolis, where Alexander Rossi won the 100th Indianapolis 500, Andretti Autosport struggled as a team last season, primarily on the road and street courses.

By the season finale at Sonoma Raceway though, the team had made some setup gains and was firmly in contention with all four cars.

Team principal Michael Andretti is setting his sights on being “best in class” first, as with 13 Hondas compared to only eight Chevrolets, there’s already a lot of other teams with the same aero kit and manufacturer to get ahead of before making an outright challenge to the Chevrolet teams.

Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport both field four cars, while Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing (two cars each) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (one) make up the balance of the 13 Hondas.

“I think it’s going to come down to the race tracks. Certain tracks I think we can be more competitive than others. So it’s that,” Andretti told my colleague Luke Smith at this weekend’s FIA Formula E Buenos Aires ePrix, where the Amlin Andretti team competed in the third round of that season.

“But I think our goal as a team is that we must be the best Honda team, and get our licks in when we can with the rest of it.

“Still our goal is obviously we want to repeat at Indy again and win the championship. I think we still have the team to do it. But we have to have a trouble-free year.”

Andretti himself will move off the strategist’s box for the first time in 2017, which sees him and Marco Andretti separate from that standpoint after years together. This primarily frees up Michael Andretti to be at other series events where his team competes, whether in Formula E or Red Bull Global Rallycross, if there are conflict weekends between it and IndyCar (there are several).

With Eric Bretzman brought on board as technical director for Andretti Autosport, it also will free up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s engineer and race strategist, Ray Gosselin, to focus solely on the No. 28 DHL Honda instead of being the overall engineering head for the team.

“I think his mental bandwidth will be freed up for the 28,” Hunter-Reay told NBC Sports at the Phoenix test.

Michael Andretti, who hailed the team chemistry preseason last year, said things are better within the operation this year as it looks ahead to the season.

Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are motivated to bounce back from tough years, Alexander Rossi now has a year of experience under his belt and a good relationship with both his new strategist (Rob Edwards) and engineer (Jeremy Milless) and Takuma Sato joins from A.J. Foyt Enterprises looking to impress in a big team.

“I feel really good. We’ve made changes in our team but I think we’ve made really positive changes that I think have strengthened our team,” Michael Andretti said. “I’m very excited where that’s at. It’s going to come down to execution.”

The team will again run five cars at the Indianapolis 500, with the fifth car the subject of much interest from a mix of both ‘500 veterans and up-and-coming younger talents who’ve made some splashes in IndyCar.

While nothing is settled on that front, Andretti is confident a deal can be reached sooner rather than later.

“It’s coming together. We have about four or five different options that we’re working on. Hopefully in the next couple we’ll have something,” he said.

Happy 80th birthday to ‘The Captain,’ Roger Penske

SONOMA, CA - AUGUST 23: Team owner Roger Penske watches from pit road during the Verizon IndyCar Series GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma practice at Sonoma Raceway on August 23, 2014 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
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Roger Penske turns 80 today, and there’s no sign of the racing team owner and automotive magnate slowing down at all.

Penske’s team is fresh off its 50th anniversary season of competition in 2016, where its Verizon IndyCar Series program went 1-2-3 in points with 10 wins from 16 races, its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team won seven races with its two drivers, and Penske also achieved wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and podiums in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.

All the while, Penske continues to rack up the miles on the road for all his hundreds of dealerships, continuing with his daily mantra of “effort equals results.”

You could roll through the accolades from his and the team’s history but another Penske classic mantra is that the team can’t be distracted by its own press clippings; instead, it keeps on pushing to be even better.

To most he’s known as Mr. Penske, to a select few Roger, and to an even more select few “RP.”

But he is known to all as “The Captain,” and at 80, we’re thankful for his eternal service to racing.

Three spectators injured at Volusia Speedway as car leaves track

BARBERVILLE, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Joey Saldana, driver of the #9 Budweiser Dodge, and Donny Schatz, driver of the #15 Armor All, race during the World of Outlaws 39th Annual DIRTcar Nationals by UNOH at Volusia Speedway Park on February 7, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for Kasey Kahne Racing)
Volusia Speedway in 2010. Photo: Getty Images
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Three spectators were injured and transported to a local hospital following an accident at Volusia Speedway Park just east of Barberville, Fla. on Sunday night, although as of Monday one spectator has been released.

The incident occurred as Dale Blaney’s winged sprint car flipped over a fence at Turn 2 and into a spectator area, after being involved with Rico Abreu and Jason Sides. This week features the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia, for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint series.

Via DirtRacingReport.com, Volusia has released an update on the three spectators injured. That statement is below:

Three participants in the pit area were injured in an incident at a DIRTcar Nationals World of Outlaws event at Volusia Speedway Park Sunday night when a car went through the fence in turn two. All patients were treated by emergency personnel immediately according to safety protocol and transported to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla.

UPDATE:

We would like to extend a thank you for everyone’s thoughts and prayers for the three participants injured in the pit area Sunday night during the 46th running of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

Two of the three individuals remain in the care of medical staff at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla. Each have family present at the hospital and have requested privacy at this time.

Michael Brooks, 69, of Kalamazoo, Mich., is one of the individuals involved. His family and friends are at Halifax Health Medical Center and have requested privacy.

Meanwhile, Gary Streek, of the United Kingdom, has been discharged. His uncle, Alan Wardel, was admitted after experiencing some discomfort while visiting Streek at Halifax, but has since been discharged as well.

While a video of the crash had circulated on social media, it has since been deleted. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, accident witness Amber Janney Cox of Orange City said she watched Blaney’s car “bounce up on the grass area and then bounce up over the fence.” The full report from the News-Journal is here.

This is the second such incident at Volusia in three days, although the first on Friday night when Joey Saldana’s car flipped over the backstraight featured no injuries.