Qualifying bid may have lacked, but don’t discount Ganassi in Indy 500

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If Chip Ganassi Racing is looking for a theme song to provide inspiration for next Sunday’s milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, it can get it from an old World War II Merry Melodies cartoon:

“We did it before and we can do it again.”

Following Sunday’s qualifying that set the grid for the 100th edition of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, CGR’s four drivers admittedly have a long way to go in the 500.

But all they have to do is reflect back a few years to 2012 to know anything’s possible: Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon qualified 16th and 17th, only to finish 1-2 in the race itself.

Here’s how Team Ganassi’s qualifying efforts played out Sunday:

* Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon qualified 13th on Sunday. That’s actually quite an achievement as Dixon’s team had to replace an engine before qualifying:

“An amazing job by everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing,” said Dixon, who was 13th fastest in Saturday’s qualifying as well. “To try and get an engine changed, especially with how complicated these cars are now with all the turbos and everything, was definitely a big struggle to do it in the timeframe that we needed to get to tech.

“IndyCar (officials) were right there telling us unless we get there by that time we are not going to be able to qualify. Definitely a very frustrating situation having an engine go qualifying morning when you get one shot to qualify here. Just pumped for the team, obviously.

“It’s not where we want to be starting, but I think the lightning bolt Team Target Chevy has been strong especially in race running. It’s going to be a tough start to the 100th, but we can definitely get to the top spot.”

* Charlie Kimball improved from 25th fastest on Saturday to earning 16th position (inside of Row 6) for the 500:

“I was much happier with the run with the car today,” Kimball said. “We made some big changes to the car last night and it was much better this morning. It was a little less reactive to the condition, which was nice. We fought the wind a great deal yesterday.

“That is the great thing about Chip Ganassi Racing; you have a lot of data to learn from especially guys that are as good as TK (Tony Kanaan) and Dixon. Overall, I’m happy with how today went. We have a really good race car.

“We had to be intelligent with how we spent the one bullet we had in the gun today. We had to be smart with it and put it in the show and then work on the race car tomorrow and Friday. It is not where you start here, it is where you finish.”

* Tony Kanaan improved only slightly, from 19th on Saturday to 18th for the 500:

“Of course, I’m disappointed with our run today,” Kanaan said. “We’ve struggled all week finding speed, but we thought we had the car to a point after this morning’s practice that we felt good about.

“It’s just been frustrating when you know you can be faster, but it just doesn’t come together. It is what is it is, though. We’ll just need to put this behind us and refocus on our race car. I’ve said it before, but I started further back in the field when I won in 2013 so no one should be writing us off yet.”

* Max Chilton gained nine spots from 31st on Saturday (due to wrecking) to qualifying 22nd for the 500 on Sunday:

“I’m really looking forward to (the 500). On Friday I was super comfortable in the car and really feel like we could have been between top 10 to 15.  Then we struggled a little as a team and with my inexperience, I put it in the wall (Saturday).

“I just wasn’t feeling the car enough. The reason I shook every one of the guy’s hands is because they completely built a car from scratch in 12 hours last night. It is disappointing for them that we had to go through that, but I have to give them their due. They did a great job and we are in the Indy 500. People have won it from the back before.”

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

24 Hours of Le Mans
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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.