Fast Facts: Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

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Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix Fast Facts

Date: Saturday, April 2, 2016

Track: Phoenix International Raceway, a 1.022-mile oval

Race distance: 250 laps / 255.5 miles

Entry List:  Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (PDF)

Firestone tire allotment: Nine sets primary with an additional set available to rookie drivers and those outside the top 10 in Verizon IndyCar Series points

Twitter: @PhoenixRaceway, @IndyCar, #DDCPhoenixGrandPrix, #IndyCar

Event website: www.phoenixraceway.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2005 race winner: Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota)

2005 pole winner: Bryan Herta (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda), 20.3837 seconds (176.612 mph)

Qualifying lap record: Arie Luyendyk (19.608 seconds; 183.599 mph) set on March 23, 1996

NBCSN television telecasts (also available on the NBC Sports Live Extra app):Practice, 1 p.m. ET Friday, April 1; Qualifying, 5 p.m. ET Friday, April 1; Race, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 2. Rick Allen is the lead announcer for NBCSN’s broadcast this weekend alongside analysts Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell. Pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller.

Video Streaming: Friday’s 9:15 p.m. ET practice session for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be available on the INDYCAR YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/indycar) and RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Radio broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.comindycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying is broadcast on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com,indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Verizon IndyCar Series practice sessions plus Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires practice and qualifying are on IndyCar.com,indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, April 1

10-11:15 a.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series practice #1, NBCSN (Live)

2-3 p.m. – Qualifying for the Verizon P1 Award (single-car format, two laps each), NBCSN (Live)

6:15-6:45 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series final practice, live stream onRaceControl.IndyCar.Com

Saturday, April 2

2:30 p.m. – Verizon IndyCar Series systems check

5:30 p.m. – NBCSN on air

6:15 p.m. – Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (250 laps/255.5 miles), NBCSN (Live).

Race Notes:

* Juan Pablo Montoya claimed the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13 for the second consecutive season. Montoya has led the points after 16 of the last 17 Verizon IndyCar Series events (only failing to lead following the 2015 season finale at Sonoma).

* The Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix will be the first Indy car event conducted at Phoenix International Raceway since 2005 and 62nd Indy car race since the track opened in 1964.

* This is the first of five oval races on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Other ovas events scheduled are: the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil (May 29), the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway (June 11), the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway (July 10) and the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Aug. 21).

* Four drivers entered this weekend have previously raced Indy cars at Phoenix International Raceway: Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Al Unser has the most wins by an Indy car driver at the track (six). Castroneves (2002) and Kanaan (2003 and 2004) are the only past PIR winners entered in this year’s race.

* Eleven drivers have won the Phoenix race from the pole: Castroneves (2002), Arie Luyendyk (1996), Rick Mears (1982, 1989 and 1990), Al Unser (1969 and 1985), Tom Sneva (1984), Teo Fabi (1983), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Gordon Johncock (1973), Bobby Unser (1968, 1972), Lloyd Ruby (1967) and Mario Andretti (1966).

* Drivers who have won at Phoenix have gone on to win the Indy car championship nine times: A.J. Foyt (1964, first race; 1975, second race), Mario Andretti (1966, second race), Bobby Unser (1968, first race), Al Unser (1970, first race; 1985), Rick Mears (1982, first race), Bobby Rahal (1992), Buddy Lazier (2000), Hornish (2001) and Kanaan (2004).

* Three drivers will make their first Indy car oval start this weekend at Phoenix – Max Chilton, Luca Filippi and Alexander Rossi. Chilton and Rossi, along with Conor Daly, are Sunoco Rookie of the Year award candidates. Chilton and Rossi made their series debut at St. Petersburg after competing previously in Formula One.

* The 2016 season is the second in which aerodynamic bodywork component kits are used. The aero kits, produced by engine manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda for their respective supplied teams, are the latest technical innovation to enhance on-track performance through competitive aerodynamic development. Each manufacturer produces two kits for teams – one for short ovals/road courses/street courses and another for superspeedway ovals – but within each kit, teams have multiple component options available.

* The second season of aero kit competition complements the fifth year of engine manufacturer competition between Chevrolet and Honda with their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. It will be another season testing speed and durability to determine the manufacturer champion.

Rolex 24 at Hour 8: Acuras, Cadillacs look strong in GTP; tough times for Tower in LMP2

Rolex 24 at Daytona
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The premier hybrid prototype era of the Rolex 24 at Daytona began with a relatively smooth start Saturday through the Hour 8 mark.

Though two of the new Grand Touring Prototype cars fell out of contention within the first six hours, seven cars representing four big-money manufacturers were setting the pace (albeit conservatively at times) after eight of 24 hours in the endurance race classic.

The Cadillacs of Alex Lynn (No. 02, Chip Ganassi Racing) and Jack Aitken (No. 31 of Action Express) held the top two spots with a third of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship completed.

RUNNING ORDER: Standings through eight hours l By class

Brendon Hartley was running third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Renger van der Zande in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

The No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 ’s No. 24  was the first GTP car a lap down, but in better shape than its sister. The No. 25 BMW pulled off track for major repairs near the end of the first hour and was classified 133 laps down in 59th in 61 cars.

Misfortune also befell the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, which was forced into the garage for a battery change with 18 hours and five minutes remaining. The 963 was 19 laps down in 22nd.

But all things considered, the debut of the GTPs had belied the hand-wringing and doomsayer predictions that had hung over Daytona the past two weeks. Cadillac Racing’s three V-LMDh cars had avoided mechanical problems (needing only typical body repairs for the front end of the No. 01 and rear end of the No. 31 for minor collisions in heavy traffic throughout the 61-car field).

Its stiffest competition seemed to be the Acura ARX-06s, which led more than 100 laps in the first eight hours.

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist built a sizeable lead in the No. 60 (which won last year’s Rolex 24) while leading the first 60 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“That was my longest time in the car since we got it,” said Blomqvist, who led the car to the IMSA premier championship last season. “We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”

The No. 60 lost positions when Helio Castroneves spun just short of seven hours remaining but later soldiered back into the lead with Blomqvist.

“That was a wild ride,” Castroneves said. “I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic. It was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far, and we are learning a lot in a short time.”

Two days after predicting the race would be an “old-school endurance race” with conservative driving and setups, Simon Pagenaud said his forecast has been realized.

“Totally,” the Meyer Shank Racing said after completing his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 60 shortly before Castroneves’ incident. “It’s been rare that I’ve been saving equipment this much here. In any of my experience in sports car racing, I’ve rarely driven this cool, basically trying to protect everything. It’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got the advantage having pace with the Acura.

“So for us, this time of the race, we’ve just got to build the foundation of our race. There’s really no need to dive into the Bus Stop on somebody right now. Six hours to go is a whole different story. If we’re there, there’s no problem. We’ll do it. We have the capacity to do that, which is honestly such a luxury. But at this point to me, we’re just going to save the equipment, get there and see where we are because the car is extremely fast.”

Pagenaud was involved in one when he was warned by IMSA stewards for “incident responsibility” on a spin involving the No. 8 Tower Motorsports LMP2 that is being co-driven by Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (two of the 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24).

Tower driver-owner John Farano was in the car at the time, but Pagenaud joked he thought it was Newgarden, his former IndyCar teammate at Team Penske.

“I thought the Tower car, that must be Newgarden,” Pagenaud cracked. “Was it him? Don’t tell me. I know it was him. Doesn’t matter. Let me just take it. I’m going to say it’s him. Please tell him I said that when you see him.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion chalked up the run-in with Farano as “a misunderstanding. He hesitated passing the car ahead of him and gave me the left side, so I dove in on the outside, and he basically released the brake and hit my rear. So you could say it’s on me. You could say it’s on him. Honestly, I was confused as to what happened because I just saw him spin in the mirror. I don’t think we had contact.”

It already was a long day for the No. 8 Tower, which had to pull off the track on the first lap. A water bottle fitting leaked onto the ORECA LMP2 07’s electronic control unit, which malfunctioned. The team lost 10 laps while being towed to the pits and repaired as the first yellow flag flew less than five minutes into the race for the incident.

By the time Newgarden handed off the car to McLaughlin, the No. 8 still was nine laps down with eight hours to go.

Last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 winner, which also featured two IndyCar stars in Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, rallied from five laps down, but Newgarden lamented missing three opportunities to regain a lap under yellow.

“We’re trying to chip away at it; it’s just difficult,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I feel solid, and it’s very fun to be in the mix the first time. Very special to be out there in the action. Just wish we were on the lead lap. Our pace was solid. We were strongest on track, but that’s going to change in the later hours with the hot shoes in the car. It’s not going to be easy to pull laps back on this field. It’s a very stacked contingent. They’re all good teams, lot of good drivers. Put ourselves in a hole not a good situation to be in, keep fighting at it. Felt like our pace was good.

“It’s not looking good now. You get toward the end of race, you won’t gain laps back on pace. There are too many good teams and drivers. … We need 8 or 9 yellows to go our way. It just doesn’t look good. But never say never. What if all the GTPs just blow up? I don’t know what’s going to happen. They look really good right now. This is not what everyone predicted. Let’s see. You just never know in racing.”