Indy 500 Sunday morning update: We finally have official updates from IMS, INDYCAR

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UPDATE: INDYCAR senior officials Mark Miles (Hulman & Co. CEO) and Derrick Walker (INDYCAR president of competition and operations) have made an appearance in the media center.

The pair have confirmed the aerodynamic downforce levels that teams qualify with will be the ones they race with.

The series has also confirmed no points will be awarded for qualifying, when it starts.

Here is Miles’ statement:

“This morning we saw a third car get into the wall, turn backward and lift into the air. We’ve said all along we want to go faster, but we want to do so safely.

“As a precautionary measure, INDYCAR will require that the cars qualify today in the same aero setup that they will run in the Indianapolis 500 next weekend. Also, for today, boost levels will return to race conditions. Given these changes, we have elected to not award points for today’s qualifications.

“Safety for drivers and fans is the top priority for INDYCAR and we will continue to be proactive in our research and development to improve all safety aspects of our sport.”

Today’s revised schedule:
1:30 – 2 p.m. – Group 1 practice
2 – 2:30 p.m. – Group 2 practice
*Note: No guaranteed green flag time
2:45 p.m. – Group 1 in tech line
3:15 p.m. – Group 2 in tech line
3:15 p.m. – Indianapolis 500 qualifications (all cars, one time through)
30 minutes following conclusion of qualifying – Group 2 qualifying (Pos. 31-33 and unqualified cars)
*Note: There will be no Fast Nine Shootout

MANUFACTURER STATEMENTS

Here’s a statement from Art St.Cyr, president, Honda Performance Development, regarding the changes instituted today for Indianapolis 500 qualifying:

“Even though we have every confidence in our design, we support INDYCAR in their efforts to improve safety.”

Here’s a statement from Jim Campbell, U.S. Vice President Performance Vehicles and Motorsports:

“Chevrolet met with IndyCar this morning and the decision was made to run race-level aerodynamics and engine boost during qualifying in an effort to reduce speeds and increase downforce. We continue to review all available data from the crashes. Safety is our priority.”

11:45 a.m. ET: It’s been a chaotic morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Ed Carpenter’s crash, and we have some level of update, although not a fully official one.

First, here is the latest updated schedule, per IMS.

The updated schedule comes after a frantic morning where a series of meetings have occurred via the INDYCAR trailer between both Chevrolet and Honda officials, with INDYCAR officials, as all parties are trying to figure out the course of action from here regarding safety with the new aero kits and changes to the cars.

Per Indianapolis ABC affiliate reporter Dave Furst, also a member of the IMS Radio Network, INDYCAR has made the decision to drop the extra qualifying boost (130 kPa back instead of the 140 kPa, which increases horsepower), and also for the Chevrolet teams to take the sidepod wheel ramps off.

The wheel ramps were the new aero kit part tested by Chevrolet during the week.

Additionally, it appears teams will have to race in the aerodynamic trim they will qualify with. More here from RACER.com’s Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller.

Meanwhile, as media gathered outside the INDYCAR trailer at IMS, reporters on the ground indicated that they were told to move away from the trailer. See a tweet from Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin below:

Here is the scene outside the trailer:

As both Honda and Chevrolet teams met with INDYCAR, there were some driver tweets that began to emerge. See tweets below from Honda drivers Graham Rahal, Gabby Chaves and Conor Daly:

We have also had two key interviews of note. First was IMS President J. Douglas Boles issuing an update to the PA system:

“Had this been a one off we wouldn’t be as worried as we are right now. We have had 3 of them.

“The cars have come in, hit the wall.

“What we are trying to do right now, the best we can and INDYCAR can ensure this is not going to continue to happen.

“We are letting the INDYCAR folks and engineers know how to do that.

“I’m hoping in the next 10-15 minutes we will know what we’re going to do to go forward.

“I’m staying in touch with INDYCAR guys. Fans want to see racing action. I will stay in touch. But apologize for the delay in voice.

“If we can make it safer, that is what we are trying to do.”

Here was Carpenter then, speaking to NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Kevin Lee, this weekend working with the IMS Radio Network.

“Really immediately I’m thinking what does this mean for my chances to get in the Indianapolis 500? It didn’t feel like a hard hit. It looks bad. I was just thinking am I able to get in the race? The whole CFH team – unfortunately twice in a week – has to put together a new car. They put another new car together in 2 and a half hours. Waiting to see the schedule. At this point I’m optimistic we’ll make the next practice.

“We had a meeting. I’m not going to comment until they make a statement. All the Chevy owners. We thought what we thought would be a direction. Honda has been 2 or 3 times longer. We’re waiting to see the decision after that meeting.

“The delays aren’t hurting us at the moment.

“I’m not sure who came to who. I’m not sure who asked for a meeting. I got asked to go over there.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.