Live Blog for the 97th Indianapolis 500

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2:35 p.m. ET: It’s almost anyone’s race as the field completes its final round of pit stops. Less than 20 laps remain. Frankly, words don’t do this race justice at the moment.

2:20 p.m. ET: A.J. Allmendinger continues to impress in his Indy 500 debut and made his way back to the lead at Lap 137, just 25 laps after briefly going a lap down because of a loose seat belt. But ‘Dinger had to pit at Lap 143, handing the lead over to Marco Andretti, who leads the ‘500’ with 50 laps to go.

Andretti Autosport continues to be at the front of the pack, with Ryan Hunter-Reay trailing teammate Andretti in second and rookie pilot Carlos Munoz in fourth. However, Helio Castroneves has begun to make his presence known and now runs in third. Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan are also lurking around the fifth position, trying to get themselves ready to make a late run for the Borg-Warner Trophy.

2:00 P.M. ET: The fourth round of pit stops is in the books, with two more rounds likely to go to make the finish of this year’s Indianapolis 500. As of lap 129, there had been 38 lead changes, a record for the race surpassing the 34 of a year ago.

Andretti Autosport has placed four of its five cars in the top five past the 120-lap, and 300-mile mark. The only exception has been James Hinchcliffe.

Elsewhere AJ Allmendinger made a spirited run to the lead, but was forced to pit off sequence for a belt adjustment. Allmendinger has climbed back to eighth at lap 128 from 25th, and has been a revelation thus far in his Indianapolis 500 debut.

Others of note have been Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, and Honda’s lone fighter Alex Tagliani, although Tagliani dropped outside the top 10 on the most recent pit stop sequence. Oriol Servia, in his last scheduled race for Panther DRR, has also cracked the top 10.

1:45 p.m. ET: Green flag pit stops took place shortly before the halfway point of the Indianapolis 500, with Tony Kanaan cycling back to the front of the field followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and E.J. Viso. But Team Penske rookie A.J. Allmendinger has now charged all the way to the front, passing Kanaan at Lap 99 to be the leader at 100 of 200 laps. He is the ninth different leader of the race, which has 28 lead changes so far and appears sure to break the overall race record for lead changes (34, set last season).

Allmendinger fell back into the mid-pack earlier in the race, but has come alive in this recent stint. Kanaan currently runs second, with Hunter-Reay in third. Marco Andretti continues to run solidly and has peeled off fourth position from Viso.

Helio Castroneves still is within striking distance of the front, sitting in sixth position as he tries to bring home a fourth Indy 500 title. As for pole sitter Ed Carpenter, he has begun to fall back as of late and now sits in ninth position. Chevy continues to be the top engine manufacturer so far, with Alex Tagliani as the fastest Honda in 10th spot.

1:30 p.m. ET: More than 200 miles (80 laps) are complete in the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolets have dominated the leaderboard with Will Power, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter all having moments in the front of the field.

The issue for them at the moment is that leading will burn more fuel compared to running in the draft. Kanaan pitted on lap 29 in the first sequence, at least one and sometimes two to three laps ahead of the field.

At lap 80, Power led Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Andretti, E.J. Viso, AJ Allmendinger, Carlos Munoz, Helio Castroneves, Alex Tagliani and Carpenter.

Top Honda has been Tagliani, who’s run anywhere between ninth and eleventh.  Fellow Honda runner Takuma Sato, who brought out the most recent caution, has climbed from 27th to 22nd.

Pippa Mann brushed the wall in Turn 4 and is out, and apparent fuel pressure issues have sidelined 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier; that takes two fan favorite underdogs out of the running. Josef Newgarden has also been to the pits with mechanical issues.

An oddity occurred earlier in the race when Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammates Graham Rahal and James Jakes’ teams were each fined $10,000 for blend line violations. The penalty was announced over the radio.

1:15 PM ET: Takuma Sato has brought out the yellow at the Indy 500 after losing control of his car coming out of Turn 2 at Lap 57. However, his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda did not take any damage and was refired.

The spin brought out the yellow flag, and the majority of the field filed in for pit stops on Lap 58. Ryan Hunter-Reay gained two spots to lead Marco Andretti and Ed Carpenter off pit road and right now, they are your Top 3 drivers under caution.

1:05 P.M. ET: We are at 50 laps in the Indianapolis 500, with Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti continuing their battle for the lead as a rhythm begins to be found on this stint. Andretti jumped Carpenter on the inside as the green flag came back out for a restart on Lap 43, but just two laps later, the pole sitter went back to the front.

Current IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has been steady so far in these opening stages, moving from seventh to third. Helio Castroneves, chasing a fourth “500” victory, is running fourth, and crowd favorite Tony Kanaan runs fifth after fighting Carpenter and Andretti for the lead in the opening laps.

Takuma Sato has been making some noise and currently is the biggest mover of the race, jumping 11 spots from 18th to seventh behind E.J. Viso. Carlos Munoz, Will Power and Alex Tagliani round out the Top 10.

12:50 P.M. ET: James Jakes is the surprise leader at lap 36, under the second yellow flag period of the day when Sebastian Saavedra crashed in Turn 4. Saavedra pushed up the track in his Dragon Racing Chevrolet and damaged his right front suspension, coming to a stop on the front straight.

Jakes, Pippa Mann, Simona de Silvestro and Graham Rahal pitted on lap 5 and vaulted to the front of the field, the top four positions, when everyone else had completed their first pit stop cycle.

Net leader is Ed Carpenter in fifth, who stopped on lap 30. Hondas appear to have had a fuel mileage edge on the first cycle of stops.

Lead changes have been frequent, often between Carpenter, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan, with more than a dozen in the first 36 laps.

Katherine Legge had moved forward almost 10 spots from last on the grid but had a suspension issue that cost her seven laps.

Meanwhile, JR Hildebrand offered insight on what happened to him to the ABC broadcast: “Got a little loose in the middle of the corner, caught it and it snapped. I am really disappointed; we had a car to run up front. We were dialing things in. We were pretty aggressive with downforce levels. It was too light.”

12:25 p.m. ET: We are green for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, but already yellow on lap 4 for a heavy accident for Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand.

The third-year driver lost control through Turn 1, where the back end of his No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet stepped out.

James Hinchcliffe was running right behind him at the time, and passed through the incident without being affected.

Polesitter Ed Carpenter led off the start with Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso jumping ahead of second-starting Carlos Munoz. Will Power runs fifth.

Big movers include Tony Kanaan (12th to seventh), Justin Wilson (14th to 10th), Ryan Briscoe (23rd to 17th), Townsend Bell (22nd to 18th) and Sebastian Saavedra (27th to 19th).

James Jakes, Graham Rahal, Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge and Pippa Mann all took the opportunity to pit at lap five, and Charlie Kimball pitted on lap six.

11:45 a.m. ET: Good morning from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 97th Indianapolis 500 is set to take the green flag in under half an hour. Driver introductions have just taken place and many of the special pre-race traditions that go with the ‘500’ are currently taking place as we speak.

Let’s get to a couple of tidbits before the field of 33 takes the green at the Brickyard. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing pilot Charlie Kimball, who starts 19th on the inside of Row 7, has been cleared for today’s race after suffering through what he termed “a fierce [virus]” according to The Indianapolis Star. Kimball was a no-show at yesterday’s public driver’s meeting and IPL 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis, but told the Star that he’s feeling better and didn’t need to take any IV fluids before the race.

Also, 1996 Indy winner Buddy Lazier and his Lazier Partners Racing team has officially dubbed their No. 91 Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet the “Spirit of Oklahoma” in honor of those impacted by last week’s devastating tornado that hit the town of Moore and took the lives of 24 people. The team is also hoping to draw awareness to the American Red Cross’ relief efforts in the Sooner State, to which fans can donate $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999. Lazier starts 32nd on the grid today.

Keep watching this space as we’ll be providing updates from IMS throughout the race and, of course, after it here on MotorSportsTalk.

MRTI: Herta standing tall, riding wave of momentum in Indy Lights

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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It would be hard to top the month of May that Colton Herta is coming off of.

The 18-year-old, now in his second year competing in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, enjoyed a sweep of the three Indy Lights races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning both events on the IMS Road Course – charging through the field to do so (he fell back as far as sixth and fourth between Race 1 and Race 2) – and outdueling Andretti Autosport stablemates Pato O’Ward and Dalton Kellett to win a frantic Freedom 100.

In short, it was a near perfect month for the young Herta.

“It’s super special to win in Indy and to get do the triple there at a place that’s so nostalgic, it’s a pretty cool feeling,” Herta told NBC Sports about his Indy success.

And all three were thrilling drives in which Herta spent the entire time battling with rivals – Santi Urrutia on the IMS Road Course, and the aforementioned O’Ward and Kellett, and Urrutia as well, in the Freedom 100.

Colton Herta edged Pato O’Ward to win the Freedom 100. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Herta is no stranger to winning – he won twice in 2017 (Race 2 at St. Petersburg and Race 2 at Barber Motorsports Park) – both times in dominant fashion.

As he explained, it isn’t necessarily more challenging to dominate a race versus battling rivals the entire way, but different mindsets are required to survive each.

“It’s a different skill set,” he asserted. “Obviously when you start up front, there’s a lot more pressure to perform, so it’s more about managing the gap to the guys behind. Whereas you’re not as nervous when you’re in the back of the pack, because you can’t go any further back. So there’s less nerves going into the race. And it’s more about attacking the whole time and taking a little more risk.”

In discussing his Indy victories more, Herta detailed that outdueling opponents in intense duels – like the ones at Indy – comes down to thoroughly analyzing one’s opponents and making aggressive, yet smart passes.

“You can see what the guys are doing ahead of you, and obviously if you follow them for a lap or two you can see where they’re struggling and you can make up ground on them,” he explained. “And that’s the biggest thing: going for an overtake that you can make – especially when you’re in the running for a championship fight like this – going for an overtake that you know you can make without taking a massive risk, and kind of seeing the tendencies of the car in front of you and where they’re struggling and when you’re making up time.”

Herta’s run of recent success comes as more evidence of a driver who appears to be more polished than he was last year. While blisteringly fast – Herta captured seven poles in 2017 – there were also a number of errors that kept him from making a more serious championship challenge.

Though Herta began 2018 with a somewhat ominous crash in Race 2 at St. Pete, the rest of his season has been much cleaner. He finished third in Race 1 at St. Pete and second and third at Barber Motorsports Park before his run of victories at IMS.

Still, despite the appearance of a more polished driver, Herta explained that his approach is no different than it was in 2017.

“Not much has changed,” he asserted. “The mindset obviously is still the same because, especially with a (seven car field), you need to win races and you need to win quite a few of them to win the championship. (Staying out of trouble is about) just kind of settling in and knowing that a second or third place, or even a fourth or fifth place, isn’t terrible to take every now and then.”

And because the field in Indy Lights is small this year – only seven cars are entered at Road America – Herta revealed that maintaining a hard-charging style and going for race wins is paramount, in that the small fields make it harder to gap competitors in the title hunt.

“It’s hard to create a gap. On a bad day, you’re still going to be closer (to the guys ahead of you). Like Pato O’Ward in Indy (on the road course) had an awful weekend and finished in the back in both races (fourth and seventh), but I’m only at a (six point) lead. It’s tough to get ahead, so you want to minimize mistakes. It’s tough to make a gap, but it’s also tough to fall behind.”

As such, Herta is most certainly focused on bringing home an Indy Lights crown in 2018, which would propel him into the Verizon IndyCar Series, but he isn’t putting undue pressure on himself to force it to happen.

“In the second year, you have to get it done, and it’s tough to move up to IndyCars without that $1 million scholarship. So yeah, it’s important, but there’s no need to put more pressure on myself for how it is. I just got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep my head down, and if we can replicate what happened in May more and more, we should be in IndyCar next year,” he detailed.

And a potential move to IndyCar is certainly on the minds of Herta and Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, even if the Indy Lights title ends up in the hands of someone else.

“We are thinking about it for sure, and we have some sponsors already committed on this year that I think we could bring up into IndyCar,” Herta revealed. “But, if we win the Indy Lights championship, we’re going to race (IndyCar), whether it’s the four races that we’re given or whatever it may be.”

Herta will look to improve upon his results from last year at Road America, when he finished 12th in Race 1 and third in Race 2.

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