Milestone start for Piedrahita this weekend. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Grand Prix of Indianapolis preview notes

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Here’s some quick notes heading into the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Supporting the Lupus Foundation of America, the second weekend of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires where all three rungs are in action and third overall for the MRTI this season.

Of note for all three series, the lubricant company will title all six rounds of competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12 and 13. All races will be in support of the Lupus Foundation of America. May is Lupus Awareness Month; more information is available at the series website, linked here.

Also, starting this weekend and retroactive to the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, all race winners in the Mazda Road to Indy will be presented with special “rice spoon” (called a skakushi) decals for their cars from Mazda to acknowledge their accomplishments. The rice spoon is a talisman for good luck, victory, business prosperity and a safe household, and the characters on the spoon read “Certain Victory” and “Must Win.”

INDY LIGHTS

  • Herta won Indy Lights’ 400th race Sunday at Barber. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Top 5 in points: 1. Colton Herta, 101, 2. Kyle Kaiser, 85, 3. Nico Jamin, 75, 4. Aaron Telitz, 74, 5. Neil Alberico, 69

  • The 14-car entry list drops by one from the opening two rounds with Pato O’Ward not listed for this weekend at Team Pelfrey. O’Ward enters the weekend seventh in points with 58.
  • Juan Piedrahita makes his 100th Mazda Road to Indy start in Race 1 on Friday. Piedrahita, who’s spent nearly a decade in the ladder, has competed on all three rungs.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Ed Jones (Race 1), Dean Stoneman (Race 2), 2015-Jack Harvey (Race 1), Sean Rayhall (Race 2), 2014-Matthew Brabham (Race 1), Luiz Razia (Race 2)… also four different winners in four previous IMS road course races on old configuration from 2005 to 2007
  • DuraMAX Powered by RelaDyne will support Nico Jamin’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara IL-15 Mazda for both May races. The car takes on a new red, white and blue as a result. Jamin has won five of his six last race starts combined between IMSA’s Prototype Challenge series (LMP3 cars, both races at Sebring), Indy Lights (race one at Barber) and Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class (both races at VIR) in the last month.
  • Andretti Autosport also announced an extension with technical supplier BIG KAISER, a high-precision tooling systems manufacturer, through 2017.
  • Oceanfront Recovery will be featured on the No. 22 Carlin Indy Lights entry of Neil Alberico for two races at the Indy Grand Prix road course and Freedom 100. Alberico resides in San Clemente, Calif, not far from Oceanfront Recovery’s premises in Laguna Beach, Calif.

PRO MAZDA

  • Top 5 in points: 1. Anthony Martin, 66, 2. Victor Franzoni, 50, 3. TJ Fischer, 44, 4. Nikita Lastochkin, 34, 5. Sting Ray Robb, 33
  • The 15-car entry list features one additional entrant versus St. Petersburg, Australian Steven Ford added in another National class entry as a fourth car at World Speed Motorsports.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Pato O’Ward (Races 1 and 2), 2015-Weiron Tan (Race 1, NOLA makeup), Timothe Buret (Race 2), Santiago Urrutia (Race 3), 2014-Scott Hargrove (Races 1 and 2)
  • TJ Fischer has been busy since St. Petersburg. The Team Pelfrey driver was a Team Captain in the American Lung Association in California’s 10th annual Fight For Air Climb on April 8 to raise funds and awareness for healthy lungs. The Fight For Air Climb is the only event in Los Angeles that challenges individuals and teams to ascend the entire height of the 858 foot skyscraper, the third tallest building in Los Angeles. The 23-year-old Vacaville, Calif. native led the #Race2TheRescue team to the top of the skyscraper, climbing 1,398 stairs and 63 stories, racing on behalf of Project O2’s #Race2TheRescue, an asthma awareness campaign. This raised more than $209,000.
  • The new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda had its first oval test at Iowa Speedway earlier this week with Aaron Telitz driving, marking the car’s first running on this circuit after road course running last month.

USF2000

  • Frederick (left) on Barber podium with Askew (center) and Parker Thompson (right). Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Top 5 in points: 1. Oliver Askew, 122, 2. Kaylen Frederick, 88, 3. Rinus van Kalmthout, 88, 4. Parker Thompson, 79, 5. Robert Megennis, 68

  • The 23-car field sees a handful of changes since Barber. In for their debuts are Callan O’Keeffe replacing Toby Sowery in the second BENIK entry with Jayson Clunie added in a fourth Exclusive Autosport entry. Newman Wachs Racing will only run one car for Dakota Dickerson; Andre Castro and Flinn Lazier will not continue.
  • Recent past winners of IMS Road Course race: 2016-Anthony Martin (Race 1), Parker Thompson (Race 2), 2015-Nico Jamin (Races 1 and 2), 2014-Will Owen (Race 1), Adrian Starrantino (Race 2)

Sebastien Bourdais released from IU Methodist hospital; begins rehab

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INDIANAPOLIS – Sebastien Bourdais only posted just yesterday that he was “unable to go for a run” – his spirit and humor clearly not affected despite sustaining multiple pelvic fractures and a fractured right hip in his crash during qualifying for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in the No. 18 GEICO Honda on Saturday.

On Thursday, his post revealed even better news: he’s been released from IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, and will be set to fly home soon to Florida for his rehabilitation.

Bourdais’ place in the race at Dale Coyne Racing will be taken by James Davison, but judging by this first round of leaving, the Frenchman is keen to begin the recovery process as quick as humanly possible.

Bottas remains confident he can close gap in F1 title race

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MONACO (AP) Valtteri Bottas has put his recent bad luck behind him and remains confident he can close the gap in the Formula One title race at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver’s fledgling Mercedes career has been a topsy-turvy one since he joined from Williams as a replacement for F1 champion Nico Rosberg.

He drove brilliantly to win his first career race at the Russian Grand Prix after securing his first ever pole position in Sochi last month. But two weeks ago he was undone by engine problems in practice for the Spanish GP and then failed to finish because of a turbo issue late in the race.

“It’s one to forget for sure. It’s been a bit up and down for me this year,” Bottas said Wednesday at the Monaco GP. “Bad result, good result.”

His other results so far are two third places and one sixth place, putting him 41 points behind four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and 35 behind three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.

“The gap to Sebastian, to Lewis, is bigger than I was hoping for this year. But things can change quickly,” Bottas said. “What gives me confidence is that there is still 75 percent of the season left. I feel my best races are ahead this year. I feel I’ve done a good job in some races, but I feel there is more to come to be at a consistently good level.”

Although Bottas has impressed with this speed, he has yet to show the hallmarks of a genuine title contender.

His magnanimous approach goes somewhat against that.

Bottas showed his team ethic by allowing Hamilton past him in Bahrain so that the British driver could chase after Vettel.

He did so again in Barcelona, holding up Vettel for a crucial few laps. That allowed Hamilton to gain some precious seconds on Vettel’s chasing Ferrari. Hamilton won a thrilling race, Vettel was second and Bottas got nothing – except praise for his efforts.

It is a difficult situation for Bottas, who is on a one-year contract and has the added pressure of the demanding Hamilton as a teammate. With 55 race wins to his name, Hamilton is clearly the No. 1 driver, even though the team has not officially said so.

Over the past three years, Hamilton was on an equal footing with Rosberg as they fought each other for the title. This led to tensions and fall outs.

The 27-year-old Bottas is not relishing the prospect of finding himself in a similar position. But it might become inevitable if he does manage to close the gap on Hamilton and turn the title race into a genuine three-way battle.

“I can’t even imagine how it can be after a few years with a teammate battling for the title always. There is respect both ways (with Hamilton), which is good,” Bottas said. “(We are) just enjoying working together and hopefully that will help us in this close fight with Ferrari. It is a team sport anyway, so we need to push forward together.”

It’s hardly the talk of a driver desperate to win the title.

F1 Paddock Pass: Monaco Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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From the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco, comes the crown jewel of the Formula 1 season (all times for the weekend via NBC or NBCSN here) this weekend, the Monaco Grand Prix.

And here with the pre-race updates from the paddock are NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton and producer Jason Swales, along with the race crew from the F1 on NBC team who are on site in Monaco.

This is an interesting weekend for Monaco, given the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel battle for race wins and the championship so far in 2017. There’s also the question of whether someone can spring a surprise in Monaco, as has been done on several occasions over the years.

Here’s the show, below:

Brown wants to see F1 back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown would like to see Formula 1 return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the future, saying it would “make sense” for the sport.

The United States Grand Prix was held on the old IMS road course between 2000 and 2007 before dropping off the calendar, with a low point being hit in 2005 when just six cars started the race over tire safety concerns.

IMS re-designed its road course in order to host MotoGP and, from 2014, an IndyCar road course race as a prelude to the Indianapolis 500.

F1 is known to be looking to expand its footprint in the United States following Liberty Media’s takeover of the series, with additional races to the current USGP at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas being sought after.

Southern California has also been a talking point; Long Beach’s future has been discussed in the press more so than has Indianapolis, as a consulting firm has been brought in to examine what would be the best case scenario for the city.

Brown has spent a significant amount time this last month in Indianapolis as part of two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 entry, and feels the sport would be wise to push for a return to the Brickyard in the near future.

“I am of the opinion that Formula 1 at IMS works. I think they’ve changed the configuration of the track a little bit,” Brown said during a teleconference on Wednesday.

“I think it makes sense for Formula 1 to be at the world’s greatest racetrack. I think the city of Indianapolis is well catered to take care of Formula 1, just like it did in the past, and the Super Bowl.

“I think the drivers like it. I think Indianapolis is easy to get to geographically. I realize it may not have the glamour of some of the other markets that are being spoken about, but it’s here, it’s ready to go.

“I think economically, given that Liberty is taking a different view on some of their future partnerships, I think there is an opportunity there. Personally I’d like to see it happen.”

J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, told a group of reporters on site that no talks had been held with Liberty as of yet, and while the circuit would be open to negotiations, it would have to be financially viable.

“I have not had any talks directly with the folks with Liberty or with Formula 1. We’d certainly entertain a conversation,” Boles said.

“We’d have to figure out the economics. That’s why it wasn’t here after 2007; in order for it to come back here, the economics would have to make sense.

“At some level that conversation, Mark Miles [CEO of Hulman & Co., INDYCAR/IMS parent company] and Zak have a really good relationship, I think we’d ultimately lead it through Mark.

“When we redid the road course between 2013 and 2014, one of the things that was important to us was to make sure our road course remained FIA Grade 1, so if that there ever was a point in time where we had the opportunity to host an F1 race, we wouldn’t have to go through a complete renovation of our road course again.

“There’s two tracks in the U.S. that are that. COTA’s one, and we’re the other. So theoretically they could run here.”