Indy 500 qualifying day one game plan, outline, notes

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INDIANAPOLIS – Rain is expected to hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later today, which would push qualifying back during the day schedule or into tomorrow.

Practice is underway for two groups this morning, with a guaranteed 20 minutes of run time confirmed for each group. Because the session was on a slight hold to start, that pushed the scheduled times back a bit.

The groups are separated as follows:

  • Group 1 (8-8:30 a.m.): 63-Pippa Mann, 22-Juan Pablo Montoya, 10-Tony Kanaan, 12-Will Power, 77-Jay Howard, 19-Ed Jones, 3-Helio Castroneves, 24-Sage Karam, 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 9-Scott Dixon, 1-Simon Pagenaud, 40-Zach Veach, 5-James Hinchcliffe, 4-Conor Daly, 15-Graham Rahal, 29-Fernando Alonso, 11-Spencer Pigot
  • Group 2 (8:30-9 a.m.): 8-Max Chilton, 83-Charlie Kimball, 18-Sebastien Bourdais, 98-Alexander Rossi, 27-Marco Andretti, 26-Takuma Sato, 2-Josef Newgarden, 17-Sebastian Saavedra, 50-Jack Harvey, 16-Oriol Servia, 44-Buddy Lazier, 20-Ed Carpenter, 14-Carlos Munoz, 7-Mikhail Aleshin, 21-JR Hildebrand, 88-Gabby Chaves

All cars are then eligible to participate from 9 to 9:30 a.m. After that, it goes into qualifying, scheduled from 11 a.m. to 5:50 p.m.

In layman’s terms, the easiest way to explain qualifying is that from the qualifying draw, it goes in order from there by primary cars (very few teams will qualify a backup car) and then it will shift into whether teams go into a line to make a second attempt. So although Sebastian Saavedra’s No. 17T AFS Chevrolet for Juncos Racing has the first draw, second-drawn Pippa Mann in the No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda would be the first primary car to make an attempt.

The Fast Nine is meant to be set on the first day of qualifying. Speeds from today don’t count for anything, except who makes the Fast Nine and who will slot in in spots 10-33 thereafter, as speeds are wiped out.

However, if rain arrives as expected, INDYCAR will provide updates on the qualifying status as they become available.

The qualifying draw is linked below, followed by the infographic that explains how qualifying works.

In other notes from around the paddock yesterday and this morning:

  • Per Trackside Online, Pippa Mann is the first woman to turn a lap at more than 230 mph around IMS. Mann, who’s already set a record as the first and thus far only woman to have a pole here (2010 in Indy Lights, then driving for Sam Schmidt), seeks to make her sixth start in the Indianapolis 500, fifth consecutive with Dale Coyne Racing in the team’s No. 63 Honda. She also turned the cockpit of her car pink yesterday as part of her Get Involved campaign. Mann noted the lap of 230.103 mph was tow-assisted but it was a good step forward for her heading into qualifying.
  • A.J. Foyt Racing team director George Klotz confirmed to NBC Sports that Zach Veach’s No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim Chevrolet will not be ready to run until Sunday morning. Repairs were coming together on the car after Veach’s accident in the final 20 minutes of Friday’s running, but with weather coming today and a tight window to shake the rebuilt car down this morning, the decision was taken to run Sunday next at the earliest.
  • As for Juncos Racing, team officials and the crew members worked through the night to repair the No. 11 Oceanfront Recovery Chevrolet for Spencer Pigot after his accident. Although Pigot also wasn’t out this morning, it proved a tireless bit of work and meshing by the Ricardo Juncos-led operation to get the car close to being assembled and back ready to go, ahead of the team’s Verizon IndyCar Series race debut.
  • In a weird note, Pigot and Veach were teammates for Ed Carpenter Racing at Barber three races ago, but now had incidents for other non-Carpenter teams on the same day. With Josef Newgarden having an incident on Thursday for Team Penske, the ex-ECR incident roster is long at the moment, while ECR has fortunately – to this point – avoided a repeat of its heavy crash run in practice in 2015.
  • On Friday, the 51st annual Louis Schwitzer Award has been presented to engineers Don Burgoon, James Borner, Darin Cate, Paul Rankin and Mark Wagner from PFC Brakes for the PFC carbon disc brake system. While PFC’s brakes were a story line at the season-opening St. Petersburg race weekend, the overall consistency and improved performance has shown through in the races since – a credit to the work done by the team led by PFC Director of Motorsports Darrick Dong, who was in attendance on Friday as well.

More to follow later today.

Rolex 24 at Hour 8: Acuras, Cadillacs look strong in GTP; tough times for Tower in LMP2

Rolex 24 at Daytona
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The premier hybrid prototype era of the Rolex 24 at Daytona began with a relatively smooth start Saturday through the Hour 8 mark.

Though two of the new Grand Touring Prototype cars fell out of contention within the first six hours, seven cars representing four big-money manufacturers were setting the pace (albeit conservatively at times) after eight of 24 hours in the endurance race classic.

The Cadillacs of Alex Lynn (No. 02, Chip Ganassi Racing) and Jack Aitken (No. 31 of Action Express) held the top two spots with a third of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship completed.

RUNNING ORDER: Standings through eight hours l By class

Brendon Hartley was running third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Renger van der Zande in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

The No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 ’s No. 24  was the first GTP car a lap down, but in better shape than its sister. The No. 25 BMW pulled off track for major repairs near the end of the first hour and was classified 133 laps down in 59th in 61 cars.

Misfortune also befell the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, which was forced into the garage for a battery change with 18 hours and five minutes remaining. The 963 was 19 laps down in 22nd.

But all things considered, the debut of the GTPs had belied the hand-wringing and doomsayer predictions that had hung over Daytona the past two weeks. Cadillac Racing’s three V-LMDh cars had avoided mechanical problems (needing only typical body repairs for the front end of the No. 01 and rear end of the No. 31 for minor collisions in heavy traffic throughout the 61-car field).

Its stiffest competition seemed to be the Acura ARX-06s, which led more than 100 laps in the first eight hours.

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist built a sizeable lead in the No. 60 (which won last year’s Rolex 24) while leading the first 60 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“That was my longest time in the car since we got it,” said Blomqvist, who led the car to the IMSA premier championship last season. “We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”

The No. 60 lost positions when Helio Castroneves spun just short of seven hours remaining but later soldiered back into the lead with Blomqvist.

“That was a wild ride,” Castroneves said. “I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic. It was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far, and we are learning a lot in a short time.”

Two days after predicting the race would be an “old-school endurance race” with conservative driving and setups, Simon Pagenaud said his forecast has been realized.

“Totally,” the Meyer Shank Racing said after completing his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 60 shortly before Castroneves’ incident. “It’s been rare that I’ve been saving equipment this much here. In any of my experience in sports car racing, I’ve rarely driven this cool, basically trying to protect everything. It’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got the advantage having pace with the Acura.

“So for us, this time of the race, we’ve just got to build the foundation of our race. There’s really no need to dive into the Bus Stop on somebody right now. Six hours to go is a whole different story. If we’re there, there’s no problem. We’ll do it. We have the capacity to do that, which is honestly such a luxury. But at this point to me, we’re just going to save the equipment, get there and see where we are because the car is extremely fast.”

Pagenaud was involved in one when he was warned by IMSA stewards for “incident responsibility” on a spin involving the No. 8 Tower Motorsports LMP2 that is being co-driven by Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (two of the 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24).

Tower driver-owner John Farano was in the car at the time, but Pagenaud joked he thought it was Newgarden, his former IndyCar teammate at Team Penske.

“I thought the Tower car, that must be Newgarden,” Pagenaud cracked. “Was it him? Don’t tell me. I know it was him. Doesn’t matter. Let me just take it. I’m going to say it’s him. Please tell him I said that when you see him.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion chalked up the run-in with Farano as “a misunderstanding. He hesitated passing the car ahead of him and gave me the left side, so I dove in on the outside, and he basically released the brake and hit my rear. So you could say it’s on me. You could say it’s on him. Honestly, I was confused as to what happened because I just saw him spin in the mirror. I don’t think we had contact.”

It already was a long day for the No. 8 Tower, which had to pull off the track on the first lap. A water bottle fitting leaked onto the ORECA LMP2 07’s electronic control unit, which malfunctioned. The team lost 10 laps while being towed to the pits and repaired as the first yellow flag flew less than five minutes into the race for the incident.

By the time Newgarden handed off the car to McLaughlin, the No. 8 still was nine laps down with eight hours to go.

Last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 winner, which also featured two IndyCar stars in Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, rallied from five laps down, but Newgarden lamented missing three opportunities to regain a lap under yellow.

“We’re trying to chip away at it; it’s just difficult,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I feel solid, and it’s very fun to be in the mix the first time. Very special to be out there in the action. Just wish we were on the lead lap. Our pace was solid. We were strongest on track, but that’s going to change in the later hours with the hot shoes in the car. It’s not going to be easy to pull laps back on this field. It’s a very stacked contingent. They’re all good teams, lot of good drivers. Put ourselves in a hole not a good situation to be in, keep fighting at it. Felt like our pace was good.

“It’s not looking good now. You get toward the end of race, you won’t gain laps back on pace. There are too many good teams and drivers. … We need 8 or 9 yellows to go our way. It just doesn’t look good. But never say never. What if all the GTPs just blow up? I don’t know what’s going to happen. They look really good right now. This is not what everyone predicted. Let’s see. You just never know in racing.”