Photo: Tony DiZInno

Fun with dogs, Mario Kart battle highlight Indy practice rainout

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INDIANAPOLIS – Verizon IndyCar Series drivers are always trying to find new ways to beat each other.

It becomes more difficult on days when they’re not on track, but still, today’s washout at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway provided a good opportunity for drivers to one-up each other in competition outside the car.

Let’s get paws-itive first and talk about man’s – or woman’s – best friend: dogs.

Bryan Clauson, driver of the No. 88 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Honda, has a ridiculously cute Jack Russell Terrier named Chevy.

There’s a slight problem for May, though.

In INDYCAR, this year, drivers aren’t allowed to mention the name of the other manufacturer by name, and instead have to call them “competitor.” So a Honda driver can’t say a Chevrolet driver is driving a Chevrolet, and vice versa.

I don’t believe there is a provision in the 2016 INDYCAR Rulebook where a dog is named one engine manufacturer and said dog’s dad drives for another one.

So, thusly, for the next couple weeks, she’ll answer only to “Honda Clauson.” I also came up with another cool alternative.

Beyond the Dale Coyne Racing garage, another of Coyne’s drivers – Conor Daly – engaged in a race with several of his fellow young guns.

Daly, who drives the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda but will have a new primary sponsor for the Indianapolis 500, posted this pic on Twitter of a Mario Kart race, along with Spencer Pigot, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti.

Pigot wouldn’t be pressed on who he was competing as when I bumped into him. “Yoshi, I think,” said the driver of the No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowoc Honda.

Here’s another fun rain delay story… the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, Juan Pablo Montoya, stopped by the creator of this year’s ticket design.

From Borg-Warner Trophy PR:


Mandy Walsh, Senior Graphic Designer in the IMS Creative Services Department who designed the 2016 Indianapolis 500 ticket was paid a surprise visit by defending race winner Juan Pablo Montoya on a rained out Tuesday afternoon. Walsh has worked at IMS for 15 years and has designed five “500” tickets – 2004, 2006, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Juan Pablo Montoya – “Mandy did a really good job designing the “500” ticket. I think the ticket looks really cool and is unique – something for the fans to keep for years. I just want her to create the 2017 ticket with my face on it from winning this year, let’s make that happen, okay?”

Mandy Walsh – “It was a complete surprise to see Juan walk thru the door of our offices – really cool. He signed my oversized ticket that will go on a wall in my house and my race day ticket – he’s so nice. Juan was so happy and relaxed – it was fun to chat with him and see what he’s like when he’s not focused on racing. It was a great way to brighten up my rainy afternoon at IMS!”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.