Open-wheel’s most glorious month, May, begins for 2017

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This past weekend featured two major sports car events – the FIA World Endurance Championship had its 24 Hours of Le Mans dress rehearsal at Spa-Francorchamps and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship ran solo at Circuit of The Americas for its first standard-length race of the year – but the month of May is dominated largely by open-wheel racing, and both Formula 1 and Verizon IndyCar Series’ marquee events of the season.

Here’s what to look forward to in F1 and IndyCar, as well as the rest of the month ahead:

FORMULA 1

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during the final day of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 10, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday, May 14, 8 a.m. ET, NBCSN

The Spanish Grand Prix this weekend is always the start of F1’s “regular season,” as you were. With the initial four flyaway races done, Spain marks the start of F1’s traditional European stretch that runs through September, and as such represents the race where most teams will have brought the first round of major upgrades.

That makes testing times – eight days were done at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this preseason – perhaps not indicative of what is to come this weekend. Qualifying, as ever, will be imperative and the start just as much to ensure the best possible result at a track not traditionally known for scintillating races and the most number of overtakes.

Alas, there’s a lot of excitement to look forward to. Can Lewis Hamilton rebound after a tough weekend in Russia? Is Ferrari poised to kick the traditional European run off in form? Will Valtteri Bottas follow his dynamic first win in Russia with an encore? Can Red Bull break out of its current solo state beyond the leaders and ahead of the midfield? It all starts this weekend in Barcelona.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 29: Top three finishers, Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Force India on the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Monaco Grand Prix, Sunday, May 28, 8 a.m. ET, NBC

The crown jewel of the Formula 1 season is also a big one for us at NBC with the crew off to Monaco and the streets of Monte Carlo for the most glamorous Grand Prix of the season, and a race that isn’t necessarily form-following compared to the rest of the year.

Case in point – the race should have been Daniel Ricciardo’s to win last year after his maiden Grand Prix pole, but the Red Bull team’s pit stop mistake in not having his tires set left him a justifiably disgruntled second place, and opened the door for Hamilton. Sergio Perez captured third for Sahara Force India.

Surprise winners rarely happen these days in F1 but they have happened at Monaco in the past, a place where qualifying is key and occasionally rain throws a spanner in the works. There’s also the cool one-off return of 2009 winner and World Champion Jenson Button for McLaren, albeit with points as the only target if the reliability is there.

ALSO: Formula 2 at Spain (May 13/14) and Monaco (May 26/27); GP3 at Spain (May 13/14)

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES

Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar Grand Prix, Saturday, May 13, 3:30 p.m. ET

The final Verizon IndyCar Series race before the Indianapolis 500 is now in its fourth year and is the antidote to the ‘500 in every way, shape and form. Seeing IndyCars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course still takes some getting used to but has quickly established itself as a laid-back event that’s good for families and a nicer warmup act to track activity than just oval practice.

Simon Pagenaud has won twice before (2014 and 2016) with Will Power (2015) the other winner thus far.

ALSO: Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 at IMS road course (May 12/13)

Indianapolis 500 qualifying, Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 21, 2:45-5:45 p.m. ET

After a week of practice, qualifying commences for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was more dramatic last year as teams made last-ditch efforts to make it into the Fast Nine for Sunday. Sunday’s runs are more of a formality to set positions. Although with points again awarded for qualifying, there is incentive to gain as many as possible.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 27: Josef Newgarden, driver of the #21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, drives on Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Indianapolis 500 Carb Day, Friday, May 26, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN

Carb Day is the second most popular day of the month at IMS, with crowds second only to race day as the festival of activity features a bevy of items. The final one-hour practice (11 a.m. ET) is the ultimate dress rehearsal – outright speeds aren’t as important as making sure you have clean ins-and-outs into pit lane and keeping your car in one piece.

It’s followed by the Freedom 100 (12:30 p.m. ET), the marquee race of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, which frequently features finishes that are super tight. The 2013, 2014 and 2016 races all have been decided by less than 0.05 of a second.

Lastly comes the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition (1:30 p.m.E T), a chance for the crews to be in the spotlight in the closest thing to an IndyCar all-star race.

This all leads into the now annual episode of the NASCAR America Motorsports Special (3:30 p.m. ET), where crews from the NBC Sports Group team look ahead to Indianapolis, Monaco and Charlotte on racing’s biggest weekend.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 29: Alexander Rossi, driver of the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport Napa Dallara Honda celebrates in victory circle after winning the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Sunday, May 28, 11 a.m. ET

“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has the 101st running after all, following all the buildup to last year’s 100th running, and will no doubt have countless story lines to chronicle.

Fernando Alonso’s arrival has captured countless headlines, domestic and international, and how the two-time World Champion gets on with it in his oval and IndyCar debuts will be fascinating to witness.

Alexander Rossi goes for an encore victory, albeit in a more conventional style than his Bryan Herta-strategized/aided “clutch-and-coast” call last year.

Each of the earlier winners this season looks for their first Indianapolis 500 win. None of Sebastien Bourdais, James Hinchcliffe, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud has captured IndyCar’s biggest race, and a win for any of them would cement their legacies as IndyCar legends beyond what they’ve already achieved (Bourdais and Pagenaud having won titles).

And then there’s the past winners of the race looking to regain their throne, and dethrone Rossi. In Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon, there’s five past additional winners looking for either their second (Dixon, RHR, Kanaan), third (Montoya) or fourth (Castroneves) ‘500 victory.

Those are but a sampling of story lines as others within the 33-car field will look to assert themselves in the biggest race of the year.

OTHER RACES OF NOTE

Just because open-wheel headlines the month of May does not mean it is the only racing this month. Also still to come:

  • Red Bull Global Rallycross, Louisville (Sunday, May 21, 1 p.m. ET, NBC)
  • FIA Formula E Championship, Monaco (Saturday, May 13) and Paris (Saturday, May 20)
  • MotoGP, Bugatti/Le Mans (Sunday, May 21)
  • NHRA, Topeka (Sunday, May 21)
  • Pirelli World Challenge, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Sat./Sun. May 20-21), Lime Rock Park (Fri./Sat. May 26-27)
  • European Le Mans Series, Monza (Sunday, May 14)

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”


Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.


Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500