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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.

MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

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