Extra Indy 500 entries come clearer into focus at PIR test

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During the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, several Verizon IndyCar Series team owners expressed where they’re at in terms of adding an extra car for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, beyond those extra entries already announced.

As we forecast on MotorSportsTalk a couple weeks ago, figuring out where the extra cars come from will be a bit of a challenge, but here’s what we think we gathered after this weekend:

  • Michael Andretti is targeting five cars for Andretti Autosport, with a fifth car to join the already announced four. “The goal is to do five,” he said.
  • Jimmy Vasser, team co-owner of KVSH Racing with Kevin Kalkhoven and James “Sulli” Sullivan, also wants to see KVSH Racing add a third car beyond Sebastien Bourdais – who was only formally confirmed on Saturday – and the PIRTEK Team Murray car driven by Matthew Brabham. “We’re still trying to put together (another car),” Vasser told NBC Sports this weekend. “We have the Matty Brabham effort, but we want to add a good third car. We did four a couple years ago, but that was a last-minute thing with (James) Davison, to help get the car number up.”
  • Ric Peterson, co-owner of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, told NBC Sports he hopes to have SPM’s third car for the ‘500 sorted within the next several weeks. Given how nicely Gabby Chaves fit in, filling in for Mikhail Aleshin this test, Chaves could be a good fit here.
  • Another unrelated Peterson – Gary Peterson – also figures to have a landing spot for his AFS Racing entry with Sebastian Saavedra the likely driver, but with what team and engine manufacturer remains to be seen.
  • In a brief chat with Ed Carpenter, he didn’t seem particularly optimistic about the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet entry running for all races beyond the five ovals. Although he said two cars only would be likely for the ‘500 during media day, it’s certainly possible the team could run a third.
  • Dale Coyne told NBC Sports that Pippa Mann’s program is still on target, with an engineer already in place for what would be that team’s fourth car along with Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson, and the second full-season driver (Luca Filippi is ‘close’ but not final, per the team).
  • Didn’t have a chance to catch up with A.J. Foyt Enterprises and its new team director George Klotz to gauge that team’s status for an extra car, as it usually adds a third car.
  • Per Trackside Online, Buddy Lazier was at PIR and is likely to return with his family-run effort.
  • As noted last week, nothing’s finalized engine-wise for Grace Autosport.

Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and Team Penske each have four cars set, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing two and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing one. Judging by current projections, it would be a surprise if any of these three teams was to add an extra car.

Drivers who you figure should or will be in the conversations to fill seats include NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand, Chaves, Saavedra, Stefan Wilson, Tristan Vautier and Alex Tagliani, with others possible. Simona de Silvestro seems unlikely due to her FIA Formula E clash on qualifying weekend.

Ryan Briscoe or Davison are less likely to return this year given their full-time sports car commitments, although either would be a very good addition to a team.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III