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Long Beach weekend, Thursday notes (round one)

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach packs a lot into the weekend, often so much so that despite your best efforts to attempt to cover everything, you inevitably fail. But you try nonetheless, anyway.

Thursday at Long Beach is the calm before the storm, as final preparations for the track conclude and a number of events occur either at the Long Beach circuit or around the city. Basically it’s a case of packing as many things into an event that’s the street course equivalent of Indianapolis, but in a significantly compressed time frame.

Here’s some notes and other items of record before track activity begins tomorrow. NBCSN will have coverage throughout the weekend; the pertinent details of which are linked here.

TRACK WALK/VIEWS

It’s funny. I calculated this year is my 12th time coming to Long Beach for the race, over a stretch of nearly 20 years since 1998 (yes, I was alive then, cool your jokes because even though I’m young I know this place well). But in none of those times, either as a fan growing up or in my writing career have I actually walked the track.

That finally changed today. The Cliff notes version of the track – and this is nothing new to any driver who’s done this before – is that the adjustment from fresh pavement back to concrete is difficult and while bumpy at spots, this track isn’t that bad at all.

Some quick notes I found interesting:

  • The banking on Shoreline Drive is steeper than you realize, even though it does translate to TV.
  • There’s been a couple sections repaved, notably the entries into Turn 8 and Turn 9. That should make it faster in both places.
  • Here’s Josef Newgarden’s, driver of the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, take on Turn 8, which sees a wide entry and apex descend into a tighter, narrower exit: “You have to calculate for it – you have know the edge of the track is. You’ve gotta play the angles. You work the angles. You try not to get deceived by the wide approach. The guys that have been around many times are not be deceived. That’s not too big of a deal. If you use the wide entry, it really helps the angle.”

The IndyCar on NBCSN team took a quick video of the track, linked below, and a few of my still captures are below that:

LOKI THE WOLFDOG IS ALIVE AND WELL

Rising Star Racing’s Spencer Pigot, driver of the usual No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, has a slightly different scheme this weekend and a partner-in-crime in the form of an Instagram celebrity dog. Yes, that sentence sounds weird but it’s accurate.

Loki the Wolfdog and his owner Kelly Lund have made it to Long Beach, where a quick photo-op took place on Thursday.

Will Loki actually live up to this Instagram fame of 1.4 million followers and post about IndyCar this weekend? That remains to be seen, but hey, at least the team is:

HINCH AND RHR’S BURGEONING COP BUDDY COMEDY

You’d have needed a cop to investigate the contact between Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe that occurred here three years ago, when they were teammates and also took out Newgarden in the process.

But the two are on good terms and on Wednesday, instead of there being so much drama in the LBC, it wasn’t hard for them to pay a visit to the LAPD.

Respective social posts from Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda and Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, are below, and here’s a link to more from IndyCar.com.

SPEAKING OF HINCH AND L.A…. SHARNA’S BACK

Hinchcliffe’s partner on Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars,” Sharna Burgess, paid a visit to the track on Thursday in the first of what could be several appearances at Verizon IndyCar Series races this season. She also taped an episode of Hinchcliffe’s “The Mayor on Air” podcast.

Burgess visited Hinchcliffe at the series’ other Californian race, Sonoma Raceway in September, in advance of a segment on the show and wound up taking a ridealong in the two-seater with Hinchcliffe driving.

ROSSI’S FLAT OUT STINT OF LATE AND A SPECIAL NHRA, NAPA GUEST

Alexander Rossi continues his flat out stretch this weekend. Rossi, who continues his whirlwind run of media and testing in-between races, will have NAPA Auto Parts teammate and 2016 NHRA Funny Car champion Ron Capps on site this weekend; it’ll be Capps’ first time to this race. See more from Capps below, and we’ll have more on this topic after the weekend.

DALY GETS TO LIVE OUT HIS FAST & THE FURIOUS FANTASY IN REALITY

Thanks to the NBC Sports crew, Conor Daly, driver of the No. 4 ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet, paid a visit Wednesday to check in with Fast & the Furious picture car coordinator Dennis McCarthy for a look behind the scenes at some of the whips from the series. The latest version of the Universal Pictures franchise, “The Fate of the Furious,” opens on April 14. A filming of this segment will air during pre-race coverage from Long Beach on Sunday, from 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

A DRIVER WHO DOESN’T SEEM TO AGE NOW HAS A WINE

Takuma Sato, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda, doesn’t look much past his late-20s or early-30s even though he turned 40 years old earlier this year. On Thursday, he released TS Sato Wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes of California’s central coast dating the same year as his victory. A tasting took place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Long Beach on Thursday.

RAHAL’S PHOENIX MEDIA DAY, AND DIAMONDBACKS APPEARANCE

Graham Rahal arrived in Long Beach on Thursday after a full day of running around in Phoenix on Wednesday, promoting the series’ upcoming Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix on April 29.

You can view the @PhoenixRaceway Twitter account for the full breakdown of his tweets from the day yesterday, but one of the things Rahal announced was a special ticket deal, details of which are linked below.

Rahal is in the No. 15 PennGrade Motor Oil Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this weekend. Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team are making more mention of the World of Hyatt branding on the car this weekend; the Hyatt Regency hotel, as noted above, is inside the track.

Rahal paid a visit to Wednesday night’s Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants game, and bumped into Dick Vitale of all people:

AND RAHAL, A NOTED HOCKEY BUFF, IS GETTING THE “WILD WING” MASCOT TREATMENT

With the Anaheim Ducks not far up the road and Rahal, a noted Columbus Blue Jackets fan, the Ducks’ mascot was on site today at Long Beach. And an IndyCar show car was mocked up today in Ducks’ orange and white colors.

DAVISON, VEACH POUNDING THE PAVEMENT

Two drivers hopeful and/or optimistic of being in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, two-time Indianapolis 500 starter James Davison and would-be rookie Zach Veach, are among those notable drivers here even though they’re not racing this weekend. Veach was scheduled to be on hand anyway with IndyCar Radio commitments; Davison made a late call to arrive in Long Beach after being in Melbourne, where his late grandfather Lex Davison was honored during the Australian Grand Prix weekend. The Davisons are one of Australia’s iconic racing families.

Veach, meanwhile, continues to rack up the frequent flier miles to California as both he and Gabby Chaves were in town last week giving rides in the IndyCar two-seater for the Long Beach media day.

KENDALL, FITTIPALDI HONORED, AS IS PAGENAUD IN LONG BEACH LORE

Tommy Kendall and Emerson Fittipaldi were honored Thursday with their inductions into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, at a circuit and city special to both of them.

So too was last year’s IndyCar race winner Simon Pagenaud, who had his winner’s plaque revealed.

AND ABOUT TONIGHT…

Fittipaldi will be honored at tonight’s Road Racing Driver’s Club dinner at the Hilton in downtown Long Beach, along with A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney, some 50 years on after their victory in the Ford GT40 Mk. IV at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This promises to be a special night and a trip down memory lane.

If today’s cars are your thing, parts of IndyCar, IMSA, PWC and more are occurring at the Thunder Thursday event taking place at the Pike Outlets.

There’s undoubtedly other events going on as well – Rahal’s Ducks game appearance among them.

SPORTS CAR DIGEST

We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the activities yet because all the above copy is IndyCar-related. But a few other sports car things of note between the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge paddocks:

-Two good reads from Ryan Myrehn of Sportscar365, first on how IMSA organizes the paddock logistics for its 35 cars racing here this weekend, and then a fun look at Sage Karam and Jack Hawksworth, two IndyCar veterans now racing for the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 program who are now roommates in Michigan.

-GMG Racing and Euroworld Motorsports driver Alec Udell steps up from GTA to GT in PWC, and while he’s 21 and has been in PWC for nearly a decade, he’s only raced once before at Long Beach, in an Ford Mustang Boss 302 in GTS in 2014. The reasoning? Udell wasn’t old enough to compete prior to 2014, then missed the 2015 race even though he was in GT Cup after an accident at St. Petersburg, and then missed last year because GT Cup didn’t compete.

-Jonathan Summerton makes his PWC return with the DIME Racing team in a new Lamborghini Huracán GT3, supposedly No. 111 (decals weren’t on the car yet on Thursday). The Floridian raced here in Atlantic and Indy Lights in 2008 and 2009, finishing fourth both races.

-Since 2002, Ryan Dalziel has raced here in Atlantics, Champ Cars, Daytona Prototypes, GT (Jaguar), PC and P2 (HPD) cars, but he’s never had a weekend here like this. Dalziel missed this race last year because of his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments at Silverstone. Now, he makes up for it by racing here twice – both in his No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Pirelli World Challenge and his No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPi in IMSA. Dalziel is as yet unsure who his PWC SprintX co-driver will be; that portion of the season starts at VIR later this month.

-Jeff Segal has won Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans… and yet never driven at Long Beach. The co-driver of the No. 86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 and incredible connoisseur of sunglasses makes his debut on these mean streets this weekend.

-At Porsche’s Experience Center L.A. (in Carson) on Wednesday, a gathering of all the Porsche 911s racing this weekend was present. There are nine of the GT3-spec Porsche 911 GT3 Rs; campaigned by GMG Racing (Nos. 14, 17), Wright Motorsports (Nos. 16, 58), GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing (No. 99) in PWC and Alegra Motorsports (No.28), CORE autosport (No. 54), Park Place Motorsports (No. 73) and TRG (No. 991) in IMSA this weekend. Black Swan Racing also had its No. 540 Porsche, which ran a partial IMSA season last year, present for the event. A pic below comes from Radio Show Limited’s John Hindhaugh; IMSA Radio will have all live session coverage on site this weekend.

-So here’s something to monitor: there are a combined 39 GT3-spec cars racing this weekend. In IMSA, there’s 16 of the GT Daytona cars, the series’ slowest (but still bloody fast) class racing here for the first time. They have Continental Tires. In PWC, there’s 23, which run on Pirelli.

These cars will run in both races:

  • 9-Porsche 911 GT3 R (Nos. 14, 17, 16, 58, 99 in PWC; Nos. 28, 54, 73, 991 in IMSA)
  • 6-Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Nos. 2, 54, 69 in PWC; Nos. 33, 50, 75 in IMSA)
  • 4-Acura NSX GT3 (Nos. 43, 93 in PWC; Nos. 86, 93 in IMSA)
  • 3-Audi R8 LMS (Nos. 4, 44 in PWC; No. 57 in IMSA)
  • 3-Ferrari 488 GT3 (Nos. 31, 61 in PWC; No. 63 in IMSA)
  • 3-Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (No. 111 in PWC; Nos. 16, 48 in IMSA)

The Cadillac ATS-V.R GT3 (2), McLaren 650S GT3 (3), Bentley Continental GT3 (2) and Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 (1) will run only in PWC this weekend, with the Lexus RC F GT3s (2) and BMW M6 GT3 (1) running only in IMSA.

ANOTHER GOOD RACE PREVIEW

From Mobil 1 The Grid, a look ahead to the overall landscape of this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach festivities:

Verstappen hoping for unofficial ‘home GP’ boost at Spa

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Max Verstappen’s 2017 Formula 1 season has been blighted by unreliability and inconsistency, but the 19-year-old Dutchman will be hoping the closest thing to a home race for him – this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps – can provide a boost to kickstart his season.

While he’s often been quicker than Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying this year, races have often gone begging for Verstappen as he only has a single podium finish, third in China in April.

Verstappen’s Belgian record isn’t ideal with an eighth place in 2015 at Toro Rosso and a ragged 11th last year in his first Spa drive with Red Bull. But as the unofficial “home favorite” this weekend, the track not far from his home country of the Netherlands, Verstappen is optimistic for a big race.

“I can’t wait to get to Spa this year. I just love the track and it’ll be nice seeing so many orange fans in the grandstands,” he said ahead of the weekend in the team’s pre-race advance.

“Spa is my favorite track of the year. You have to get everything right but when you get a good lap it’s very rewarding. There is a good flow with the fast corners and of course the best moment is Eau Rouge where you go up the hill, even though it’s easy full throttle in modern F1 cars it’s still very nice when the underneath of the car touches the tarmac and then gets very light at the top of the hill. This year it’s going to be a bit faster everywhere with the new cars which will be more challenging and more fun for sure.

“It definitely feels like a home Grand Prix for me because it’s so close to the border and as there isn’t a Dutch race at the moment a lot of Dutch fans are coming over. Already last year there were a lot of orange T-shirts and flags around the track which was very cool to see and makes it even more special.”

Teammate Ricciardo won his third Grand Prix here in 2014 and rallied to second place last year.

Times for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix across the NBC Sports Group networks are linked here.

IndyCar: Pocono Recap

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LONG POND, Pa. – Sunday’s ABC Supply 500, the 14th of 17 races this season, marked the fifth Verizon IndyCar Series event at the “Tricky Triangle” that is Pocono Raceway since the series made its return in 2013 after a 24-year hiatus.

Since returning to the schedule, it became evident very quickly that this would be a strong venue for IndyCar, and one that would produce great racing.

Sunday’s race was yet more evidence of that. Below is a recap of what was a wild Sunday in the Pocono mountains.

THE BEST RACE OF THE YEAR?

Different people will offer different opinions about what constitutes a great race. Some will say it’s about several drivers battling it out for the lead in a constant slip-streaming duel. Some will say you only need two drivers pushing each other to the very limit of performance for them and their cars to have an exciting show. Some will also say strategy needs to play role, as it involves everyone on the team playing a role and could result in a surprise winner.

Sunday’s race had all of those elements and more.

The racing was manic from the get-go, with the 22-car field going 7-wide on the initial start behind pole sitter Takuma Sato.

Helio Castroneves went from 20th to 10th on the opening lap. Josef Newgarden, too, was a big mover on the opening lap, jumping up to seventh after starting 14th. Ryan Hunter-Reay gained six spots in the first seven laps, up to 15th from 21st. By contrast, pole sitter Sato and eighth-starting Gabby Chaves dropped down the order to 13th and 22nd, respectively, by Lap 10.

Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal had maybe the best battle for the lead we’ve seen all year, as they swapped the lead multiple times before finishing fifth and ninth.

Even Esteban Gutierrez, in his first start on a 2.5-mile oval, was in the mix before dropping out after brushing the wall. As shown below, Gutierrez made a slick four-wide pass on the front straightaway in the early laps.

That trend of drivers moving up continued through the day, with Hunter-Reay going from 21st on the grid to eventually lead laps before finishing eighth. And eventual winner Will Power and runner-up Josef Newgarden each fell back in the field in the middle of the race, Power due to front wing and rear bumper pod damage and Newgarden due to a caution coming out before he pitted, only to work their way back forward.

That’s where the strategy gets in the mix. Power fell off the lead lap after a Lap 67 pit stop to change the front wing, dropping to 21st and last of the cars running at the time, but got back on the lead lap following a Lap 116 caution when Sebastien Saavedra hit the wall exiting Turn 1 and stopped on course. Power stayed out while the leaders pitted, taking a wave around to get his lap back.

While that incident helped Power, it hurt teammate Newgarden, as it occurred during a cycle of green flag stops and Newgarden was one of a handful of drivers who hadn’t pitted. He briefly fell back to 11th.

As a result, both drivers were at the back of the lead lap, but a Lap 125 caution for a crash involving James Hinchcliffe and JR Hildebrand opened the door for pit strategy to work in their favor. Both drivers topped up their fuel (on Lap 126) and then Power topped up twice more under the yellow (at Laps 129 and 131), using the caution to also change out the rear wing/bumper pod assembly, which was damaged in the aftermath of the Hinchcliffe/Hildebrand crash. The Penske duo then went significantly longer on their stints than anyone else, with Power especially churning out fast laps above 217 mph to eventually lead by over four seconds when the cycle of pit stops concluded.

Newgarden, too, used that strategy to move back toward the front, emerging from the second-to-last round of pit stops back in the top five. Newgarden then emerged in second after the final stops and ran down Power in a last-ditch effort for the win.

And while Power ultimately kept him and third-placed Alexander Rossi at bay, his aggressive, pre-emptive moves to defend the inside line entering Turn 3 were plenty hair-raising in their own right.

In short, the ABC Supply 500 was an absolute thrill ride, and the numbers back it up. The lead changed hands 42 times, an IndyCar record at Pocono, and 590 on-track passes, 524 for position, were recorded during the 500 miles.

The Indianapolis 500 and Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway were both hair-raising as well, but sometimes for the wrong seasons as both were blighted by several frightening crashes. Sunday’s affair at Pocono, however, was hair-raising for all the right reasons.

PENSKE DOMINANCE OVERCOMES HONDA POWER

The battle between Chevrolet and Honda has been an intriguing one this year, with each manufacturer demonstrating strengths at certain tracks.

The prevailing thought among many entering the weekend was that Honda would have the upper hand, due to its speedway package and supposed advantage in the horsepower game.

And they were certainly strong, with Honda drivers Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti, and James Hinchcliffe leading 160 of 200 laps.

Yet, it was Team Penske and Chevrolet going 1-2 at the end, with Power’s victory serving as Penske’s fourth win in a row in 2017, the first time they’ve done so since 2012.

Will Power crosses the start/finish line to win the ABC Supply 500 in what was a 1-2 for Team Penske and Chevrolet. Photo: IndyCar

While some may have been surprised that Chevrolet managed victory over Honda this weekend, Power was not one of them. Power even tipped his hand about an engine upgrade that the “bow tie brigade” brought this weekend, which may have paid dividends in the closing stanza of the race.

“You could tell like when we came up here, Chevys were definitely in the game,” Power said in the post-race press conference. “I had a new engine in, so we had a bit of an upgrade. I think the engine was better.”

Power also added that the aerodynamic package this weekend had an impact. “As you saw at Texas, same deal on the superspeedway, it’s a different configuration than Indy. We all have to run the Dallara rear wing, so that seems to even everything out there aerodynamically. But yeah, I think our cars were really good compared to the Honda.”

Power’s win gives Chevrolet eight wins on the year, all from Team Penske, compared to Honda’s six. And the next event, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, appears to favor Chevrolet. However, as Pocono indicated, anything can happen, so Honda could certainly steal a win in the right circumstances.

MISC.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay may have had the drive of the day in getting up front, leading laps, and finishing eighth while nursing injuries from his qualifying crash. Though he did not suffer any serious injuries, Hunter-Reay was certainly in pain on Sunday and put in an ironman-like effort to run as well as he did.
  • Pole sitter Takuma Sato was mysteriously never a factor, and never actually led a lap as Tony Kanaan passed him to lead Lap 1. Sato then quickly dropped down the order and finished a lowly 13th.
  • Carlos Munoz finished tenth at Pocono, his fourth top ten of the year, which gives a nice jolt to an A.J. Foyt Enterprises team that has struggled to get both cars at the sharp end of the field on a regular basis.
  • Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing finished a quiet 15th on Sunday, their worst finish in three races this season. However, for a team that’s still very new to the racing business, simply finishing the race and running all the laps is a noteworthy accomplishment in and of itself. Though things are far from finalized, Chaves and Harding are hopeful to be full-time entrants next year.
  • In a bit of late-breaking news from earlier this morning, Jack Harvey will contest the final two races of 2017 in the No. 7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sebastian Saavedra filled in at Pocono, finishing 21st after early contact with the Turn 1 wall, and will also race at Gateway next weekend.

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F1 launches official eSports competition

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Formula 1 is going virtual in a way it hasn’t previously, with an official F1 eSports competition launched today for competitors using Codemasters’ F1 2017 game (launches on Friday, August 25).

The eSports series will run from September to November, with the first F1 virtual world champion to be crowned the Monday after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Per the official f1esports.com site, which launched today, qualifying will take place Sept. 4 at the Monza and Suzuka circuits before the semifinal occurs on Sept. 10, and will see 40 drivers race from the Gfinity esports arena in London to cut the field to 20. The two-day final occurs in Abu Dhabi in November.

Users of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC (steam) platforms are eligible to enter.

This new series represents “an amazing opportunity for our business: strategically and in the way we engage fans,” said Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations of F1, via Reuters.

The esports arena has recently emerged in racing with competitions such as McLaren’s The World’s Fastest Gamer sim racing program, CJ Wilson Racing’s 570 Challenge (with McLaren; team also held a Cayman Cup challenge in 2016) and Formula E’s eraces, which are often part of an ePrix weekend. Formula E held a standalone erace in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Still, this marks a big step for F1 to formally sign off with it in this partnership with Codemasters and Gfinity.

Hinchcliffe’s epic save goes for naught after crash with Hildebrand (VIDEO)

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James Hinchcliffe had hoped for Pocono Raceway to be a place to turn around sagging fortunes in his Verizon IndyCar Series season, and for most of the first half of the race it looked that way.

From 12th on the grid, his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew delivered him an early excellent stop that vaulted him five positions – 10th to fifth – on Lap 26. With a risky but good low downforce setup, Hinchcliffe continued to advance forward and was into the lead by Lap 86.

But shortly thereafter Hinchcliffe locked up his tires on another stop, having overshot his box, and dropped back.

What followed in the next few laps shifted from heroic to gut-wrenching in the span of one caution.

Hinchcliffe somehow, miraculously, saved his No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda through Turn 1 when in traffic past the halfway point. While outside of Carlos Munoz on Lap 102, Hinchcliffe washed up and somehow saved his car at more than 200 mph.

“I was at Grandview Speedway watching a dirt race the other night so I guess I learned some tips,” Hinchcliffe joked to NBCSN’s Robin Miller when describing how on earth he hung on.

Alas, it all came unglued for him a bit later after teammate Sebastian Saavedra wasn’t so lucky in Turn 1, having pancaked the wall with his No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda on Lap 116.

Following the restart, Hinchcliffe washed up into JR Hildebrand on Lap 125, which took his longtime friend and competitor in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, with the two cars both having heavy contact.

Hinchcliffe took the blame after the incident, but even Hildebrand felt apologetic as well.

“It was a racing deal. There were a bunch of guys two wide (ahead); I was on inside of JR,” Hinchcliffe told Miller. “There was a bunch of understeer, and it pitched him sideways.

“Ultimately it’s my fault because we shouldn’t have been back there. Guys had a killer first stop. Had a really good race going, but I screwed up on the stop.”

The incident for Hildebrand capped off a tough weekend where he was slowest qualifier, but started 19th ahead of three drivers – teammate and team owner Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay – who were unable to complete or make qualifying attempts.

“We ran two-wide, and the guys in front of us went two-wide. I had a bunch of push. It wasn’t leaving enough room,” Hildebrand said.

“We fought the car all day. We made good fuel economy. It’s frustrating to have it end that way. And it’s a bummer to have it take out Hinch that way. We tried to find it; tried to tune the car. But it wasn’t quite there. Maybe it would have been towards the end. A really unfortunate way to end a tough weekend. We’ll get through it.”

If there’s a saving grace for Hildebrand ahead of next week’s race at Gateway Motorsports Park, it’s that the Ed Carpenter Racing team’s best performances of 2017 have come on short ovals, and Hildebrand has scored two podium finishes at Phoenix (third place) and Iowa (second).

For Hinchcliffe, Gateway represents the final oval for the SPM team to get some kind of result – his 10th place at Iowa is the team’s only top-10 result in the five oval races this season.