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Full transcript of today’s Tony Stewart press conference

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The following is a full transcript of today’s press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway involving Tony Stewart and Stewart Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood.

Stewart is returning to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend at Atlanta, marking his first race since his involvement in a fatal sprint car accident on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

After reading from a prepared statement, Stewart left to prepare for Sprint Cup practice this afternoon. Frood then took questions from the assembled media.

THE MODERATOR: Good morning. I’m director of communication for Stewart-Haas Racing. Up here is Tony Stewart, driver/owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, and Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Tony has prepared some remarks. We’ll let him read those.

TONY STEWART: Thanks.

This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.

I want Kevin’s father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I’m thinking about them and praying for them.

The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone’s saddened with this tragedy.

I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it’s been overwhelming.

I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.

I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway.

We’re here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Tony.

Again, Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, will be available to take a handful of questions.

Q. Brett, NASCAR issued a statement yesterday that Tony had received all necessary clearances to race. What was the process of going through clearances? What approvals did he need?

BRETT FROOD: Well, as you all know, when a driver’s out of the car, there is that process. I’m not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we’ve been in close contact with them throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.

Q. The investigation as we understand is still open. Was there any thought to not having Tony race until it was closed? Why now?

BRETT FROOD: Well, I think for Tony, it’s all about this healing process. That’s part of why he’s in the car.

Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here, it’s at this racetrack. It’s part of the healing process of being with his family that he’s been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this. I think that’s one side of it.

The other side of it is he’s a racer. We have 270 employees. I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation.

Q. Brett, respecting the process, the investigation, knowing there’s things you can’t comment on, are you able to say whether you know whether Tony has a clear picture in his own mind of what happened that second or two that night?

BRETT FROOD: I am not going to comment on the incident itself. It was a tragic accident. Right now the focus is to be on Tony and the car this weekend and how he’s going to get through this.

Q. The fact that Tony is racing this weekend, should we read anything into that about what you know about the investigation and where it’s at in the process?

BRETT FROOD: No. I mean, we’ve really been respecting the process, as Tony said, and the investigation. Him being in the racecar right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, what his next step is in coping with this.

There’s been a great deal of empathy and sympathy for that family and what they’re going through. For Tony, it’s just been extremely emotional. This is what is going to help him.

Q. Can you talk about where Tony is at emotionally right now to step into the car? Was it 100% his choice not to race the last couple of weeks, without the involvement of the sanctioning body that we will hear from next?

BRETT FROOD: I’ll address the latter first.

Yes, the decision to be in the car is 100% Tony’s.

Q. Please define his emotional stage at this point. A very fragile Tony Stewart at this point.

BRETT FROOD: You just saw Tony. It’s been a difficult two weeks. But Tony is ready to be in the racecar. He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t.

Q. Brett, you’ve worked for Tony for a long time. You’ve seen him in ways we have not. How would you characterize his preparation for this and what you think he’ll experience as he gets back in the car?

BRETT FROOD: I think it’s going to be very overwhelming being in that garage today. He’s going to feel an awful lot of support. As I just mentioned, this is his family. It’s the crew members, it’s the officials, it’s the drivers. It’s his family that he’s been with since 1999. This is going to be part of that process for him. I believe it’s going to be an overwhelming process, this weekend.

That being said, Tony Stewart is a racecar driver. He’s been a racecar driver for the past 35 years. When he puts that helmet on in practice, I’m quite convinced he’ll be ready to race the car, he’ll be able to separate the two.

Q. Brett, this obviously is a tremendous tragedy. Obviously in the sport of racing, these guys learn to deal with that part of the sport. Why do you think this has hit Tony so hard?

BRETT FROOD: Because he was involved in an accident and a young man died. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. I can’t imagine what the kid’s parents are going through.

It’s something, as Tony said, that he hopes no one in this room or certainly anywhere will ever have to go through. He was involved in a tragic accident.

Q. I noticed Tony mentioned Kevin Ward’s family members by name. Has he reached out to them personally at all?

BRETT FROOD: Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services. Besides that he’s been very respectful of them and their time to grieve.

I do know that it will be very important, it’s important for Tony, to spend time with the family. I do believe that will happen in the appropriate time.

Q. Obviously it’s an emotional time. Internally how do you deal with it as an organization, the prep work? Let’s face it, it’s not an ordinary weekend that all of you are dealing with.

BRETT FROOD: We’ve got 270 employees back in Kannapolis working hard. Tony has three other team members. These are folks that are at Stewart-Haas because they believe in the leadership, they believe in the ownership, believe in the folks that we have surrounding them, and we believe in them.

So for them, I think their focus has been undeterred over the last several weeks. They’re obviously really excited to have Tony back in the car, that leader, the guy they believe in. So I think the focus will be there this weekend from those guys. We should be good.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time. We certainly appreciate it.

Big payday: Alexander Rossi earns $2.54 million for winning 100th Indianapolis 500

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Winning the milestone 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 has not only changed Alexander Rossi’s life, it also has changed his tax bracket big time.

In only his sixth career Verizon IndyCar Series start, the 25-year-old Californian took home $2,548.743 in prize earnings for capturing the checkered flag in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. That amount includes $50,000 for winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

If you don’t want to dig out your calculator, that amount breaks down to $12,743.72 per lap in the 200-lap event.

Rossi was the first rookie to win the 500 since Helio Castroneves in 2001, and the first American-born rookie champion since Louis Meyer in 1928.

The overall Indy 500 purse was $13,273,253, according to an Indianapolis Motor Speedway media release.

Rossi’s Andretti Autosport teammate, Carlos Munoz, won $788,743 for finishing second. Third-place finisher Josef Newgarden took home $574,243.

Tony Kanaan, who won the 500 in 2013, finished fourth and earned $445,743, while Charlie Kimball received $423,243 for finishing fifth.

Sixth-place finisher James Hinchcliffe won $502,993, including $100,000 for the Verizon P1 Award for earning the pole position for the race.

Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, finished last in Sunday’s race after a single-car crash on Lap 64. He earned a mere $339,493.

The earnings were distributed Monday during the Victory Awards Celebration in Indianapolis.

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Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, Runnings 91-100

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The Associated Press has compiled a list of highlights of all past Indianapolis 500 races, as the buildup to the 100th running presented by PennGrade Motor Oil took place this May 29.

Now with the 100th running complete, we can complete the links of all of the past AP roundups with rookie Alexander Rossi having taken a shock but amazing first win in the race.

Here are runnings 91-100, from 2007 through 2016.

Past pieces:

RACE: 91st Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 27, 2007

WINNER: Dario Franchitti

AVERAGE SPEED: 151.774 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Once again, rain played havoc with “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” There was a three-hour delay with Tony Kanaan, still chasing his first Indy 500 victory, sitting in the lead. The track was eventually dried and the race restarted, but a crash on Lap 162 between Dan Wheldon and Marco Andretti brought out the caution with Franchitti in the lead. He was declared the victor when rain halted the race.

NOTABLE: The race is broadcast in high-definition for the first time, rain delay and all. Less obvious to fans was the change in fuel from methanol to ethanol, and one team was fined for using a mixture of methanol on pole day. It was also the final race with Panoz chassis – Dallara would provide all of the chassis in the field the following year. Fans sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” when Jim Nabors had to miss the race due to illness.

RACE: 92nd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 25, 2008

WINNER: Scott Dixon

AVERAGE SPEED: 143.567 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: The split that nearly ruined American open-wheel racing was a memory when the flag dropped on the first Indy 500 after unification. Marco Andretti again led the race as he tried to end the “Andretti curse,” but Vitor Meira took the lead on a restart with 41 laps to go. Dixon took the lead and held it the final 24 laps, with Meira finishing second and Andretti third. Helio Castroneves was fourth in his bid for his third victory.

NOTABLE: Ryan Briscoe tagged Danica Patrick as they were exiting pit road on the final sequence of stops, ending both of their days. Patrick tried to walk toward Briscoe’s pit stall before security intervened, and both drivers were summoned to the IndyCar trailer. They were ultimately fined $100,000 apiece and placed on probation. Meanwhile, Dixon became the first New Zealander to win.

RACE: 93rd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 24, 2009

WINNER: Helio Castroneves

AVERAGE SPEED: 150.318 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Castroneves won from the pole to become the first foreign-born three-time winner of the race. Former winner Dan Wheldon finished second and Danica Patrick, a year after her pit-road dust-up with Ryan Briscoe, finished third for the best result ever by a woman.

NOTABLE: The race began a three-year centennial celebration leading up to 2011, the 100th anniversary of the first edition of the race. Tony Kanaan wrecked when his driveshaft failed him near the midpoint of the race, leaving him visibly shaken afterward. Paul Tracy also returned for the first time since 2002, when his pass of Castroneves for the lead on Lap 199 was determined to have come after the caution flew for a wreck on another part of the track.

RACE: 94th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 2010

WINNER: Dario Franchitti

AVERAGE SPEED: 161.623 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Franchitti took the lead on Lap 192 when the leaders, having chosen not to pit when Sebastian Saavedra spun 31 laps earlier, had to stop for fuel. Franchitti also began to conserve fuel over the final laps, but he was able to hold off Dan Wheldon. Marco Andretti wound up with his third top-three finish in five starts. Ryan Hunter-Reay ran out of fuel on the last lap and was hit by Mike Conway, who broke his leg in the accident.

NOTABLE: It was the first race with four female starters. Danica Patrick finished sixth and Simona de Silvestro won rookie of the year after finishing 14th. Franchitti’s victory eventually gave team owner Chip Ganassi a sweep of the Daytona 500 (Jamie McMurray), the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 when McMurray won at Indianapolis later in the year.

RACE: 95th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 2011

WINNER: Dan Wheldon

AVERAGE SPEED: 170.265 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: American rookie J.R. Hildebrand was poised to take the checkered flag when his car drifted high on the final turn of the last lap and he hit the wall. Wheldon slipped by as Hildebrand skidded down the front stretch, winning his second Indy 500. Hildebrand finished second in his wrecked car.

NOTABLE: The race capped a three-year centennial celebration of the Indy 500. Donald Trump was supposed to drive the pace car but stepped away due to “time constraints,” though there was a public campaign to prevent him from participating. Wheldon won for one-off team Bryan Herta Autosport, much to the chagrin of Hildebrand’s team Panther Racing – which fired Wheldon before the season. Wheldon was killed that October in a wreck at Las Vegas.

RACE: 96th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 27, 2012

WINNER: Dario Franchitti

AVERAGE SPEED: 167.734 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Franchitti was getting pushed by Takuma Sato on the final lap when Sato challenged him low in Turn 1. Sato lost control as the cars touched, sending him into the wall. Franchitti went on to victory with Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon finishing second. The victory was Franchitti’s third at Indy.

NOTABLE: Franchitti dedicated the victory to two-time winner Dan Wheldon, who had been killed in a crash at Las Vegas the previous October. The race featured the new Dallara chassis and reintroduced turbocharged engines. It also marked the return of engine manufacturer Chevrolet. Tony Kanaan led the race during a late caution as he tried to secure his first win, but he faded on the restart and finished third.

RACE: 97th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 26, 2013

WINNER: Tony Kanaan

AVERAGE SPEED: 187.433 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: After 11 failed attempts and numerous close calls, Kanaan finally got his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy. The popular Brazilian overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay on a restart with three laps to go, then led Carlos Munoz and Hunter-Reay across the finish line when Dario Franchitti crashed to bring out the final caution. Marco Andretti finished fourth in yet another close call for his famous family.

NOTABLE: The average speed made the race he fastest in Indy 500 history, beating the mark set by Arie Luyendyk in 1990. There were an astounding 68 lead changes and 14 different leaders, both records, and the 26 cars running at the finish was also a record. Chevrolet dominated the month of May and swept the top four spots, breaking Honda’s streak of nine consecutive Indy 500 wins. Jim Nabors was back at the Brickyard to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” after missing the previous year with an illness.

RACE: 98th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 25, 2014

WINNER: Ryan Hunter-Reay

AVERAGE SPEED: 186.563 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Trying once again to join the exclusive club of four-time winners, Helio Castroneves pushed Hunter-Reay hard in the final laps. The first American to win the Indy 500 since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 held off Castroneves by 0.600 seconds, the second-closest finish in race history.

NOTABLE: The month began with the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course, which was won by Simon Pagenaud. Ed Carpenter won his second straight pole, but it was Kurt Busch who made headlines in his bid to run the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Busch finished sixth in the Indy 500 but could not finish the NASCAR race because of a blown engine that night in Charlotte. Jim Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the 35th and final time.

RACE: 99th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 24, 2015

WINNER: Juan Pablo Montoya

AVERAGE SPEED: 161.341 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: His career at a crossroads, Montoya returned to open-wheel racing from NASCAR with Penske Racing. He swapped the lead with Scott Dixon and Will Power four times in the final 13 laps, the final move coming with four laps to go as Montoya slipped outside of Power in Turn 1 for the lead. He held off Power for the remaining three laps to win his second Indy 500.

NOTABLE: Three crashes during practice sent cars outfitted with new aerokits airborne, forcing safety to the forefront for IndyCar. Among those hurt in a crash was James Hinchcliffe, who nearly lost his life after his leg was impaled by a piece of equipment. Some changes addressed the issue by race day. An a cappella group sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” after the retirement the previous year of Jim Nabors.

RACE: 100th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 2016

WINNER: Alexander Rossi

AVERAGE SPEED: 166.634 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Rossi was a 66-to-1 longshot, an IndyCar rookie who had chased a ride in Formula One since he was 10. Stuck without one, the California native returned to the U.S. and landed a ride with Andretti Autosport. He stunned his faster rivals by outlasting them in a fuel-mileage showdown, his car running out of gas during his victory lap.

NOTABLE: Ryan Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell combined to lead 64 of the first 119 laps, but the Americans were knocked from contention when they got tangled with each other on pit road. It was the first sellout in Indy 500 history, with more than 350,000 in attendance, and the race was televised locally for the first time since the 1950s.

Haas, Renault forego supersofts in Canadian GP tire selections

during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya on May 15, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.
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With today being the Tuesday two weeks before the Grand Prix, it means the tire selections are in for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Pirelli’s ultrasoft compound takes precedence for the run at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

So much so, in fact, that the Haas F1 Team and Renault Sport F1 Team have gone only for ultrasofts as their alternate compound, and foregone the supersofts.

See Pirelli’s full breakdown below and my colleague Luke Smith’s more humourous take on the breakdown below.

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NBCSN’S Townsend Bell’s 10th Indy 500 fun to watch, but ends P21

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INDIANAPOLIS – NBCSN Verizon IndyCar Series analyst Townsend Bell seemed poised to break through several times in Sunday’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, but a finish of 21st place wasn’t what the doctor ordered.

Driving the No. 29 California Pizza Kitchen/Robert Graham Honda for Andretti Autosport, Bell started fourth, then ran third for most of the opening stint before his first stop.

His car was even better after the first round of adjustments as he got into second immediately after and then into the lead on Lap 42. Bell for seven laps then and a further five laps (57, 113 to 116) while maintaining a top three position.

It marked the first laps Bell has led since the only prior lap led in his IndyCar career, one lap in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 then driving for Panther Racing.

Bell had several interesting moments during the race. At one point when defending against Josef Newgarden, Bell took a low line into Turn 1 and Newgarden drove well to avoid contact.

On Monday morning, Bell addressed a tweet from Ryan Briscoe, a veteran IndyCar and sports car competitor.

Then, on Lap 93, Sage Karam had gotten up to fourth in the No. 24 Gas Monkey Energy Chevrolet for Dreyer & Reinbold – Kingdom Racing with Bell back to fifth.

Bell got back by into Turn 1, while Karam ran high following minor contact and then crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall. The 21-year-old American had started 23rd and gained 19 spots in the car that Bell had driven last year.

Bell was still in win contention until the final death knell for his race occurred on Lap 117, when making another round of pit stops, and it came after he and teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay were running one-two.

Bell and Hunter-Reay launched at nearly the identical time, with Bell then trying to accelerate out into the fast lane in trying to avoid Hunter-Reay, but also hitting Helio Castroneves, who continued unscathed.

Meanwhile the two Andretti Autosport teammates two collided and spun in the pit lane. At that point, arguably two of the best cars in the race – went down a lap and fell to 25th and 26th, respectively.

For this incident, Bell was assessed a pit safety infraction penalty and issued a stop-and-go penalty.

“It was a pretty straightforward day,” Bell told NBC Sports on Monday. “We had a race-winning car, running at the front. We saved fuel early on while Hinch and RHR took chance to lead. We tried to get ourselves in position for end of race.

“I had control off the car throughout the entire stint. Then I came in for the pit stop from the lead. Came off the jacks, the crew sent me, then RHR, then I thought, ‘I don’t want to hit my teammate,’ and he was going aroud Newgarden. Then I had no idea Castroneves was there. It just ping-ponged at that point. I fought hard to get us back on the lead lap. But from there, our day was pretty much done.”

Here were Bell’s quotes via Sunday’s post-race release:  “He (Ryan Hunter-Reay) was pulling out and I’m not going to stop. What a shame. We had a great race car and we were saving fuel early on. The pit stops seemed pretty good.

“All of a sudden I’m leading, I think, when I come in. We pit, I get out before Ryan and he starts going. So I’m going around him outside and I didn’t know a car (Castroneves) was coming down. I guess the three of us were trying to occupy space for two cars. It took me and Ryan out. I’ll look at it but I don’t know what I could have done differently.”

Hunter-Reay’s post-race comments sung a similar tune: “Something out of our control happened. They said, ‘Go, go, go!’ It looked like Townsend (Bell) got into Helio (Castroneves) and bounced into me. At that point I would have just have waited until they got by. As a driver you can’t see anything (beside you in the pits). When you’re released, you go.

“The car was so strong. The only time we ever spent any time (slower) was because I was saving some fuel. Other than that, it was a rocket ship. Such a shame when you have a car like that. The car was great. We could have won this thing today.”

Bell briefly made it back to the lead lap despite a second penalty assessed for entering a closed pit on Lap 158. He was on the lead lap until his last stop and ultimately ended 21st; Hunter-Reay was 24th.

In the next couple weeks, Bell will resume his NBCSN broadcast booth responsibilities for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Firestone 600 (June 11, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at Texas Motor Speedway, and is also preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Scuderia Corsa. He has both the test day (June 5) and the race (June 18-19) scheduled.

He and his teammates, Sweedler and Jeff Segal, were all present together this month at IMS for qualifying.

Sunday’s result will likely be a tough one for Bell to swallow, because he had a fantastic month with Andretti Autosport, but ultimately too many incidents that reduced a potential winning run to a forgettable finish.