2017 Indy 500 Carb Day Rolling Notebook

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INDIANAPOLIS – Miller Lite Carb Day is underway from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This inevitably brings a number of nuggets, notes and updates from the track besides the on-track activity.

We’ll keep this post updated as things arise.

First off, here is a link ahead of coverage on NBCSN to come from Indianapolis today.

8:45 a.m. ET: In case you missed any posts from yesterday and earlier this morning, here’s a quick roundup:

9:00 a.m. ET: We have a date, and a logo, for the 102nd Indy 500, which like the last two years continues with PennGrade Motor Oil presenting sponsorship.

Next year’s race will again fall on the fourth and final Sunday of May, May 27, 2018.

That logo and signage is below.

9:30 a.m. ET: Here is the day’s full schedule, via IMS.

 

7 a.m.: Parking Lots Open
7 a.m.-6 p.m.: Administrative Office Open, Credential Office Open, IMS Ticket Office Open
8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Ticket Trackside Office Open, Ticket Remotes Open (Gates 3, 6, 9, 10)
8 a.m.-6 p.m.: Credential Trackside Office Open
8 a.m.-6 p.m.: Public Gates Open
8 a.m.-3:30 p.m.: IMS Midway Open
8-9 a.m.: Historic Race Car Exhibition
9-10 a.m.: Firestone Pin Distribution – Pagoda Plaza
10-10:30 a.m.: Indy Lights Autograph Session – IMS Midway
10:30-10:45 a.m.: Sam Schmidt Arrow Car Laps
10:45 a.m.: Clint Brawner Award Ceremony – Victory Podium
11 a.m.-noon: Verizon IndyCar Series Practice
12:05 p.m.: Indy Lights Driver Introductions
12:15 p.m.: Invocation delivered by Rev. Mike Welch
12:16 p.m.: National anthem performed by Reba McEntire
12:25 p.m.: “Drivers Start Your Engines”
12:30 p.m.: Indy Lights Freedom 100 race – 40 Laps
1:45-3 p.m.: TAG Heuer Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge
2 p.m.: Miller Lite Carb Day Concert Venue Opens
3:30-4:30 p.m.: Barenaked Ladies Concert – Turn 4 Miller Lite Carb Day Stage
4-5:30 p.m.: Hinch “The Mayor on Air” Live Podcast – Garages 35 & 36
5-6:30 p.m.: Steve Miller Band Concert – Turn 4 Miller Lite Carb Day Stage

2:30 p.m. ET: A lot has happened in the last few hours, so we’re going to attempt to chronicle it below:

  • Adam Rovazzini, crew chief and right front tire changer for Jack Harvey’s No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda, has won the annual Clint Brawner Award for chief mechanics. Rovazzini was selected by the Clint Brawner Foundation which recognizes an Indy 500 chief mechanic who “exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise” of its legendary namesake. Clint Brawner was chief mechanic on winning cars in 51 AAA- and USAC-sanctioned national championship races, and six season champions. He is also the crew chief on the No. 86 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
  • On Friday morning, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the official donation of The Stinger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. The Stinger is the culmination of years of careful planning and effort to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and to commemorate the first century of the Indianapolis 500, and is a modern-day interpretation of the historic Marmon Wasp.
  • In the final practice session for the Indianapolis 500, Helio Castroneves led while James Hinchcliffe sustained an engine issue in the back of his car.
  • Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne both checked in during the broadcast to update Bourdais’ status.
  • Speaking of Bourdais, his old team co-owners, James “Sulli” Sullivan and Jimmy Vasser are both on site. GEICO and Mouser, past KVSH Racing sponsors, are present on what had been Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, now being driven by James Davison this race. Sullivan told NBC Sports he plans to be back in the ownership world at some point.
  • New sponsors are rolling out for the Indianapolis 500. Scott Dixon’s No. 9 car now has Camping World signage. ForexTime Ltd (FXTM) and its yellow and black accents have been added to Ed Jones’ No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. Takuma Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda also premiered its Ruoff Home Mortgage signage.
  • Prior to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race, 2016 Freedom 100 winner Dean Stoneman addressed his status as he’s back in Europe. The Englishman is visiting the race this weekend. Stoneman told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt, “Unfortunately the budget wasn’t there. But my goal is the Indy 500, and IndyCar is absolute goal. I’m in a McLaren GT3 but looking forward. We’re always working on something but we’re working really hard to get the budget for next year.”
  • Matheus Leist and Carlin dominated the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Freedom 100. Spoke briefly to both Leist and Aaron Telitz earlier today; both drivers acknowledged Leist ran way less downforce and that was the primary reason why Leist was so fast. Had another car got around him, Leist might have struggled in traffic. Instead, he pulled away for a surprise, but deserved, victory.
  • Speaking of Dixon, a new feature-length documentary was announced earlier on Friday, ‘as yet untitled.’ A full report here is via Chip Ganassi Racing’s website.
  • Holly Cain of NASCAR.com has won the Bob Russo Founders Award for dedication to auto racing, and Andy Hall of ESPN won the annual Jim Chapman Award for excellence in motorsports public relations.

3:00 p.m. ET: Team Penske has won its 17th overall TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition.

The difference as Will Power’s No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet beat James Hinchcliffe’s No. 77 Lucas Oil/Team One Cure Honda (Hinchcliffe moved into Jay Howard’s primary car with the No. 5 rear wing assembly after engine issue earlier today) was that this came in a best-of-three format in the finals. Power’s crew won twice while Hinchcliffe won once. Power’s final stop of 11.619 seconds was the fastest of the competition.

Power, Roger Penske and Team Penske president Tim Cindric all spoke to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis afterwards.

Said Power, “I have to thank the crew. They work the hardest. It shows there. All the guys that do pit stops for us are phenomenal. It’s been a great month. We’re really happy to get in the top nine. Full credit to the Verizon guys all around.

Cindric said, “It’s a team effort. It’s the culture. It doesn’t have to do with me. It does come down to our athletic department, our trainers, these guys, and it’s so cool when it pays off.”

Penske concluded, “It’s part of the month of May, where we work on this back at the shop, and we ask who’s going to be on these cars. When you win anything at Indianapolis, it’s about momentum. I think you saw we have good speed. We’re not sure where the Hondas are. To me, it will be a real race. We’ll see who has the best setup. It’s anybody’s race on Memorial Day.

4:00 p.m. ET: The Carb Night Burger Bash is tonight, co-hosted by NBCSN’s Kevin Lee and INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin. See some details below on that.

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”