Road America weekend, Thursday and Friday notes

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Lots to catch up on from Road America which has two full days in the books – Thursday and Friday – as well as a setup day on Wednesday.

So, in some short order, here’s an attempt to recap of what’s happening, by series on the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend:

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES

  • Graham Rahal’s electronic woes this morning were related to an antenna issue from supplier Cosworth. Rahal, who led the Friday times in the No. 15 Gehl/D-A Lubricant Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing despite losing the track time and the extra set of Firestone tires, said afterwards, “An antenna was faulty… it fried our logger boxes. We tried everything we could. Lately everything that’s can go wrong for our team has.”
  • Rahal and Will Power, who were 1-2 in the final session, didn’t think times were that further off the projections despite only being in the 1:43 bracket. The track record is a 1:39.866 time by Dario Franchitti set in 2000, while the most recent pole is a 1:41.535 by Sebastien Bourdais in 2007. “I think it’s the temperatures more than anything. It gets breezy,” Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, explained afterwards. “Otherwise I would have us to be expected quicker than what we are. I did reds on a tire test, (4)3.3, it is faster than that.” Added Rahal: “The test I did 2.8. It should be a little quicker tomorrow. There’s so many different series, different rubber. The first running I did in free practice one, it felt slippery compared to last week.”
  • Simon Pagenaud, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth ended third, fourth and fifth on the combined timesheets after being 1-2-3 in the morning session.
  • Munoz (fourth), Max Chilton (eighth), Takuma Sato (13th) and Mikhail Aleshin (19th) had respectable outings in their first full days on the weekend, their first at Road America.
  • Aleshin, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais all met the media Friday afternoon to reflect on their weeks since racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A fourth driver, NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, also was at Le Mans but not present during this session.
  • “Josef, The IndyCar Driver” was properly launched Friday at the Paddock Shop and fan engagement center at Road America. Josef Newgarden and the author/illustrator Chris Workman were there to sign autographs, Newgarden fighting on valiantly despite his hand injury and with a brace on his right hand.
  • The other event of the day was a three-person Verizon “Lunch with Legends” panel featuring Michael Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya and NBCSN IndyCar analyst Paul Tracy, in a panel discussion about Road America memories hosted by NBCSN contributor Robin Miller.
  • Conor Daly’s primary chassis this weekend is the one used by Pippa Mann at the Indianapolis 500. Daly had used Bryan Clauson’s at Texas before his accident there, and his backup tub this weekend was his primary car from the Indianapolis 500, since repaired.

MAZDA ROAD TO INDY

  • Veach. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
    Veach. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

    Zach Veach scored his fifth career Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires pole position on Friday driving the No. 5 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda. He scored four poles in 2014 with Andretti Autosport. Santiago Urrutia qualified second with Ed Jones and Dean Stoneman, first and second in points, third and fifth on the grid. Series debutantes Garett Grist and James French qualified eighth and 12th in the 14-car field.

  • Veach is also doing IndyCar Radio coverage this weekend as an IndyCar analyst on the IMS Radio Network for Saturday and Sunday’s qualifying and race sessions. He also has a new hat this weekend.
  • French, who debuts in the No. 45 Belardi car this weekend, could reappear in Indy Lights later this year but for the moment is only confirmed for this weekend. As it is, he’s in the middle of an eight weeks in a row stretch of racing; he resumes in his usual Performance Tech Motorsports Prototype Challenge Oreca FLM09 car the next two weeks at Watkins Glen International and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
  • Grist went through usual setup changes in his big step up from Pro Mazda into Indy Lights. The Team Pelfrey team hasn’t tested here, which makes the young Canadian’s eighth place on the grid an impressive achievement.
  • In the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, local driver Aaron Telitz out of Birchwood, Wis. has the pole for Saturday’s first race of the weekend. Jake Parsons starts second ahead of Nico Jamin, with points leader and erstwhile dominant driver this year Pato O’Ward starts P5. TJ Fischer starts P7 for his series debut.
  • In Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, it’s Anthony Martin on pole from Victor Franzoni and Parker Thompson. Franzoni puts ArmsUp Motorsports in second on the grid and the Sheboygan Falls-based team is one of two Wisconsin teams competing here this weekend. Pabst Racing (Oconomowoc) has its cars fourth, fifth and seventh with Jordan Lloyd, Garth Rickards and Yufeng Luo. Jordan Cane, in his first race for Cape, starts sixth. Max Hanratty, a Wisconsin driver, starts a respectable 13th in the 24-car field for ArmsUp.

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE

  • Late add to the weekend Dion von Moltke, one of Audi’s most experienced drivers in North America, took the new Audi R8 LMS to the top of practice in the GT/GTA/GT Cup classes. Von Moltke was listed incorrectly as a GTA driver on the timesheets in the No. 23 M1 Racing he and Walt Bowlin are scheduled to share this weekend, but he is expected to be classified as a GT driver for the remainder of the weekend. James Davison, Ryan Eversley, Johnny O’Connell and Patrick Long completed the top five.
  • GTS has had practice and qualifying take place thus far. Max Riddle led the opening practice for TRG-AMR. More to come later.
  • O'Gorman, Rivera, Bickers. Photo: PWC
    O’Gorman, Rivera, Bickers. Photo: PWC

    The TC/TCA/TCB ranks race twice this weekend. In Thursday’s race one (pictured right), Tony Rivera won overall and in TC in a Nissan 370Z for Brass Monkey Racing. The win is his fifth straight at Road America, having won GT in 2009 and all three TC races last year. Meanwhile Joey Bickers (TCA, Mazda MX-5 Cup, Atlanta Motorsports Group) and Tom O’Gorman (TCB, Honda Fit, Black Armor Helmets) took their first series wins respectively. O’Gorman’s win came at the expense of hard-luck runner-up P.J. Groenke, who looked poised to secure his first series win.

SOCIAL

From the aforementioned events mentioned in the IndyCar subsection, the Dixon/Aleshin/Bourdais availability (look out for a separate Aleshin/Bourdais video this weekend on NBCSports.com), the Newgarden book signing and the “Lunch with Legends” event.

Here’s more from around the track today: