Pippa Mann confirmed for Indy 500 return with Susan G. Komen partnership

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A very cool story here – Pippa Mann will be returning to the Indianapolis 500 with Dale Coyne Racing, in a partnership with the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization.

The “pink presser” to reveal the pink No. 63 Honda took place Thursday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mann will seek to make her third Indianapolis 500 start, having also made the field in 2011 with Conquest Racing in her Verizon IndyCar Series debut and with Coyne last year.

From Opening Day at IMS through Race Day, Mann’s car, helmet, firesuit and more will be turned pink, in an effort to raise awareness and serve as a reminder to IndyCar fans about the importance of being informed about breast cancer and taking action for their own breast health. In addition, for every lap of the speedway that Mann’s Indycar completes throughout the month of May, fans and supporters will have the opportunity to pledge an amount via the website, from which all donations will go directly to Komen to fund breast cancer research, education and outreach programs.

“Millions of people will see Pippa’s pink car and gear, bringing awareness about this very serious disease,” Komen President and CEO Judy Salerno, M.D., M.S, said in a release. “We’re so appreciative of Pippa’s commitment to her fans, and racing fans everywhere, and, especially, to the fight against breast cancer.”

Speaking about the partnership, Mann said: “This entire project started with the idea of simply taking my red crash helmet, and turning it pink to support the cause, and it has grown into something fairly amazing in a very short space of time. My Indianapolis 500 this year is no longer about me. This pink car will be out on track representing Komen, representing the survivors, and remembering those who sadly did not win their hard fought battles against breast cancer. To have been a part of creating this opportunity for Susan G. Komen at the Indianapolis 500, and to now be a part of actually making this happen, is something I am incredibly proud of.”

The pledge site – which can be accessed at www.racewithpippa.com – will be available from today, through midnight on Race Day, Sunday, May 25.

Mann will have her former engineer from 2011, Brandon Fry, leading the effort in a reunion.

It’s going to be a good story and also ensures there will be at least one female driver in the field once more – the last year there wasn’t one was in 1999. Mann has spent the year as lead analyst on IMS Radio Network’s IndyCar coverage, alongside Paul Page.

The identity of Coyne’s second car for the ‘500, the season-long No. 18 Honda, is still to be determined.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds