While Alexander Rossi was top rookie finisher in Indy 500, four others had mixed results

(Photos: IndyCar media; Rossi photo Getty Images)
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While Alexander Rossi’s win in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 was nothing short of a fairytale come true for the rookie California driver, the story was not as heartening for the four other rookies in the 33-driver field.

Max Chilton, Matt Brabham, Spencer Pigot and Stefan Wilson joined Rossi in the rookie class of 2016, with mixed results for the other four first-timers in the 500.

Let’s take a look at how each of the other four rookies fared and what their post-race thoughts were about their first go-round in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

Max Chilton

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), finished 15th (second-highest rookie finisher), completed all 200 laps: “It was a long race. It feels like three races in one. I learned so much out there today. It’s the craziest start of a race I’ve ever done in my life. There are moments where you’re hanging on for your life. There are also moments where you are absolutely flying and I wish I’d had another 100 laps to go. The Gallagher team did a great job with all the pit stops. I don’t think we were ever in a position to fight for the lead, but I learned a lot and will come back stronger next time.”

Matt Brabham

MATT BRABHAM (No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet, finished 22nd, completed 199 of 200 laps): “It is incredible to think that we finished this race; out there was a little surreal to be honest. It was an amazing experience to be in the 100th Indy 500 race and now I can say that I have finished the Indianapolis 500 and I am the third generation of Brabham to do that. It is special to think that there have only been three families during the 100-year history of this race to do that. The PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet was good all day. During some of the stints it developed a vibration. In the middle of the race there, I was able to make up eight places, which was a really great feeling. I’m happy that we got through and that we were able to put on a good show. I can’t thank the guys from PIRTEK, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Speedcafe.com, all the other sponsors and of course ‘Crusher’ (owner Brett Murray) who has developed this phenomenal program that gave me the opportunity to be in this race. Let’s hope we can have an opportunity to do more again.”

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SPENCER PIGOT (No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowoc Honda, finished 25th, completed 195 of 200 laps): “The race was pretty eventful; it was pretty crazy out there. We continued to make the car better. We were struggling on the first stint but got it better throughout the race. We made some changes on the wings and we could definitely pass a bit better and run closer as the stints went on so I was pleased with that. But unfortunately we ran out of fuel on the back straight on a yellow that came out and closed the pits just as we were running out. I got stuck there and had to get pulled in and lost a few laps. Overall it was a great experience and I am glad we were able to finish the race. I think we had the potential to finish somewhere around 15th. I want to give a big thanks to all of the guys for their great stops and hard work for the Indy500 and to Manitowoc, Mi-Jack, Grove and everyone for their support.”

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STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 Driven2SaveLives – KVRT Chevrolet, finished 28th, completed 119 laps of 200): “(It’s) disappointing to not be able to bring home the No. 25 Driven2SaveLives car and make it to the finish. Unfortunately, a fuel leak started happening maybe on the 100th lap and caused an electrical fire that disabled the gearbox. So when we went on that final restart during Lap 104, it wouldn’t shift out of third gear. We tried to solve the issue and took the car back to the garage, came back out and the issue persisted so we had to call it a day. … I think we would’ve been in really good shape, we could’ve brought home a top-15 finish today but you know, that’s racing – there’s always mishaps and unfortunately that’s what happened today. Overall, it was a good month, we ran a lot of laps and I’ve learned a lot about running an Indy car here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I think that’s going to help me in future years if I’m able to come back here and race again. I know now what I want to achieve from the car handling and I think if I do come back next year, I’m already so far developed from where I started just under two weeks ago. It seems as though a lot of time has passed but it’s crazy to think it has only been two weeks.”

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Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds