Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

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A few other nuggets we needed to hit after yesterday’s Indianapolis 500 qualifying

  • Polesitter Ed Carpenter is the 11th driver to go back-to-back in terms of the Indianapolis 500 poles. The others? Ralph De Palma 1920-21, Rex Mays 1935-36, Eddie Sachs 1960-61, Parnelli Jones 1962-63, Mario Andretti 1966-67, A.J. Foyt 1974-75, Tom Sneva 1977-78, Rick Mears 1988-89, Scott Brayton 1995-96, and Helio Castroneves 2009-10. That’s some illustrious company.
  • From IMS and INDYCAR: The 2014 Indy 500 Starting Field is the fastest in history, at an average of 229.382 mph. The previous fastest field was 2002, which had an average of 228.648 mph. The difference in time between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 2.1509 seconds. This is the closest field by time in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The previous closest was 2.5399 seconds in 2011. The difference in speed between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 3.147 mph. This is the second closest field by speed in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The closest was 3.130 mph in 1953.
  • Third-placed Will Power was a bit frustrated to miss out on pole, but still pleased with a front row grid position: “We were close. Carpenter and (James) Hinchcliffe had to put down two great laps to beat us. I really want to win a Verizon P1 pole award here,” he said.
  • Power’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who starts fourth, on the temperature changes and how sensitive that makes the cars: “I mean, the engineers are really working the numbers.  Our cars are so sensitive to the weather.  Ten degrees, five degrees makes a difference out there.  Today being ten degrees warmer, it definitely made a difference.”
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden lost a full mph on his fourth and final lap in the shootout, which cost him a 230-mph average. He’ll start eighth. “We really hung it out and gave it everything we had, but it got a little tough in that last lap. I thought I was going to end up in the wall for a minute, but we were able to keep it on track and finish off the four-lap run. That’s how Indy qualifying should be. You should lay it all out there and give it everything you have, and that’s what we did,” he said.
  • The Chip Ganassi Racing squad made some strides on Sunday, notably by the No. 9 Target team of Scott Dixon, who rolls off 11th. “It was a big improvement from where we were yesterday and I’m happy with our result today. We still have another practice session tomorrow under the new format next week so we’re going to keep working hard to keep the Target cars going in the right direction. The car was really smooth to drive and I think we could have been faster if I hadn’t had to deal with a bit of a crosswind on my run. Overall a better day than yesterday,” said the defending series champion. Tony Kanaan jumped seven spots from 23rd Saturday to 16th Sunday; meanwhile the NTT Data and Novo Nordisk efforts fell off a bit with Ryan Briscoe dropping from 17th to 30th and Charlie Kimball from 19th to 26th.
  • Kurt Busch is the fastest rookie in the field in 12th; the fastest full-season rookie Jack Hawksworth one spot behind in 13th. Consider the BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian team is one of just two teams with a single car (Lazier Partners Racing; the DRR Kingdom Racing entry features Ganassi development driver Sage Karam) entered, and you see what a feat that is. “Thirteenth on the grid, considering where we were at the beginning of the week, is a great job from the whole Bryan Herta Autosport crew and we’ll take that. It’s a little disappointing to not be farther up but the race is what counts so we’ll get after it,” said Hawksworth.
  • Dale Coyne’s three cars start solidly mid-pack in 14th (Justin Wilson), 21st (Carlos Huertas) and 22nd (Pippa Mann). In terms of strength of engineering, the team has it, and could be sleepers on Sunday. “Saturday went well and Sunday went even better. I am very proud of the entire staff, engineering department and, of course, our highly professional and skilled trio of drivers.  We have been close to winning this race the past two years and we look forward more than ever to next weekend’s Indy 500,” Coyne said.

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his points slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.