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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.

Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500