IndyCar

Here’s What Drivers Said after ‘Fast Friday’ practice for the Indy 500

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Here’s what most drivers had to say after the Fast Friday practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda) — fastest of the day: “The No. 98 car is fast in a tow. I’m not sure how fast it is on its own. Right now, I think we’re right on the bubble of the Fast Nine and we’re going to have to absolutely nail it to get it in – but so is everyone, I suppose. Conditions tomorrow could vary. It always depends on weather and cloud cover and the cooler temps always help. We’re lining up later in the day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Fast Friday is done. It was a pretty good day for us. The car has been feeling pretty fast since the beginning. I believe that we have a pretty solid set up for qualifying for the race. Looking forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day, for sure, but we have a great car. I’m excited to set fast laps, and hopefully, advance to the Fast Nine on Sunday.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “I think we learned a lot in the Arrow Electronics car today. Unfortunately, we learned that we were not as fast as we were hoping to be, but that’s the nature of the beast here. I think we have a really strong race car, and it’s less about being quick over 10 miles as it is being quick over 500. Tomorrow, we are going to do our best. Obviously, the guys put a lot of heart and soul into these cars for the 500… We want to go out there and do them proud, and put up good speed for four laps and see where it shakes out. But, at the end of the day, like I said, our big focus is obviously next Sunday, and hopefully, we are strong then.”

ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “We need to find a bit more speed in the Lucas Oil car. Until you can sit on top of the time sheets on merit here in Indianapolis, I don’t think you can ever relax. We have to work hard… Everyone is working hard, and we have to make sure we find that a little bit more than everyone else. At the moment, we are 10th or 11th with no tow, and our goal is to make the Fast Nine; we’ve been around there all day. I feel like we didn’t make enough progress today, so we have to have a hard think overnight and give it a shot at qualifying.”

JAY HOWARD (No. 7 One Cure SPM Honda): “Today was another good day. The One Cure car feels good in qualifying trim. I think we are ready, feeling pretty happy and we have a good plan for tomorrow. Hopefully, we qualify comfortably and we don’t have any dramas (laughter).”

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a long day and we went through a lot of changes in the NTT DATA car. The crew did a great job, especially today, working on the car and going back and forth to the garage with all the changes we made. I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is definitely in a good window. I think, obviously, we’re fast. I know there’s a lot of guys up there. I think it’s going to be very tight tomorrow, so we’ll know more when everyone goes. It’s always that you can feel fast on Friday, and suddenly go out, no traffic, or wind changes or anything, and the car’s not as good. But I felt I’ve been good all month, so we’ll see tomorrow.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet): “We started off the day with a mechanical issue, so we got a little delayed taking off, but it wasn’t really the worst thing because the car was really good on the first run. We did a step of trim and it was a little bit loose the second run, but still pretty good and definitely fast. To go to the next step, we had to make some changes back in the garage anyway, so we went back, and in that point in time, the track had slowed down and we just decided to sit for a while. We ended up coming to the conclusion that the car was pretty good and there was no reason to go out there and get lost or angry or confused because the speed was not in the track anymore. We just decided to, as they say, put a cover on it, make a couple tweaks and put a cover on it and go out tomorrow.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a typical Fast Friday. We worked on the qualifying car, didn’t run a whole lot. We had five sets of Firestone tires so that means we only had 20 laps all day. We did five qualifying simulations. We’re getting ready for tomorrow, and we’ve got the information that we’ve got. We have to hope that it will be enough.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “It was a tough day for us. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We don’t seem to have the pace. We’re trying everything we can possibly but we’re just not quite there yet.”

CONOR DALY (No. 17 United States Air Force Honda): “We feel pretty good with how our practice went today. The balance was good, right where we ended it yesterday, and today was just about trimming, and each step we trimmed, the car was comfortable. Do we have the overall speed of our teammate Sebastien (Bourdais)? Probably not, but we’re not too bad. We’re really happy with the car. We went through all the trim steps we wanted to do, and that was good, and I think on the no-tow report, we’re pretty OK, depending on what no-tow report you look at. But realistically, I think we’re in the top 20, which is where you need to be, so we’ll go from there.”

ZACHARY CLAMAN DEMELO (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “Today was a good day for the No. 19 Paysafe car. We accomplished what we needed to heading into tomorrow, so we’re happy with that. But it’s also hard to know what to expect going into qualifying because the weather is going to be a lot different. That said, I’m confident we can put in a good performance and come out with a decent qualifying result.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “Today was a good day. Fast Fridays have a way of being odd, so we just had to be smart. The team has done a really good job of getting us to this point. All three of us have good cars that we are happy with. The speeds are a little all over the place today, but I feel like all the ECR cars have a chance to be in the shootout come Sunday. The focus is getting it right for tomorrow and make all the right decisions so we have a chance at it on Sunday.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet): “Today was about being smart and methodical as we trimmed the car out to qualifying spec with the higher boost level for Fast Friday. The Carlin boys have done an incredible job preparing for this week and really the whole month. They haven’t put a foot wrong with the car and we’ve been able to make progress all week each and every time we go on track. I have a lot of confidence about where we are heading into this qualifying weekend. I’m excited for what tomorrow and Sunday are going to bring for the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet.”

STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 #Driven2SaveLives Honda): “Yesterday was a bit of a tough day, so it was great to come back today. We struggled a bit initially, but I think we really hit on something. I’m extremely thankful to the team for really pushing us forward and it’s really nice to have quick teammates that have been able to give me good setups to work off. Now we just have to focus on tomorrow and put our best foot forward and work to put it in the show.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Our practice week has come to a close with Fast Friday. I think we’re in a pretty good spot to see what speed we can show tomorrow. Our goal has been the same all week – just put a package together that can get us into the top nine. We’re looking inside there by a small bit right now. I think with the right changes overnight, it’s a possibility. We’ll see how the day unfolds and what the conditions are like tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Today was another improvement overall, I think. P2 on the no-tow, and second quickest Honda is kind of where we’ve been, but I think the car is definitely a step better. All we’re focusing on is qualifying and, I think, if we execute tomorrow we can be in the Fast Nine and that’s the goal right now. Hopefully there’s no curveballs that prevent that from happening. Hopefully the weather stays consistent so what we learned today is as useful tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “All the speed in the car is not really where we were hoping to be – but we made some gains early in the day. We’re just trying to eek out as much as we can. We’ll see, tomorrow will be a different day and a different wind direction. We’ll put our best foot forward and hopefully qualify somewhere mid-pack. I think that’s the best we can hope for at the moment. On a positive note, we qualified 19th here in 2014 (when I won the Indy 500), so as long as we have a good race car – that’s what matters.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda): “I think I’m really happy with the balance of the car right now. We just need to find a bit more speed compared to some of our teammates. But, this is Indy, I think… sometimes you just don’t understand why things happen. One day to another everything can change. The goal tomorrow is going to be as far to the front as possible. It is going to be hard to get into the Fast Nine, but we will see what we can do.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda): “Fast Friday is always exciting. You go five or six mph faster on average with higher boost, suddenly the corner you are looking at is suddenly tighter, but I love this kind of sensation of speed and trying to work specifically only for the speed. We used multiple sets of new tires, made short runs for qualifying and we’re still not satisfied with our speed relatively but we made good progress. We will see all the data tonight, and hopefully, it will all come together for qualifying.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 32 NFP / Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Overall, we had another really solid day. We are making progress and slowly inching toward where we need to be for qualifying. We definitely had a speed bump in the middle of the day. I think we lulled ourselves into an area we shouldn’t have been, but we rebounded. We went out towards the end of the day and found a pretty solid setup that I feel really comfortable with. I think it will be good enough to get us into the field for the race. I am very happy with the team. They have been working hard to get the car ready and I am ready to go for tomorrow.”

JAMES DAVISON (No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet): (About what he felt before the crash): “Absolutely nothing, then I was backwards, so that was definitely a new experience for me here around at Indy or driving on ovals, in general. I guess I became one of the drivers to slam the wall at Indianapolis, so I joined the club today. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we had to try some things. We’re 32nd quickest, right on the bubble and we are not going to go faster just standing there and looking at it, so no regrets there. I have been having a fantastic time with this AJ Foyt/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi team. We’ll regroup, see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow and give it everything again.” (About if he’s going to a back-up car): “It’s just too early for me to tell. From the damage that I saw, I didn’t see that the tub was hurt. I think the biggest thing that you always hope for is the gearbox isn’t, generally the back-up stuff is not going to be as good or fast, so we’ll just have to have a look and go from there.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It was an unusual day today for Fast Friday. We had predicted that the weather would make it a short day, so we got a lot of our running done earlier in the day. We didn’t run the last few hours of Fast Friday actually. We feel comfortable with the car balance, but we don’t know where we are performance-wise because the time of day when people ran made a big difference. I’m feeling confident about where we are and we didn’t want to take any silly risks today with big changes, because we want to make sure the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet is in the show tomorrow.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda): “With the number of laps we’ve done so far, we went into today well prepared. We got most of our qualifying sims done yesterday and today was really just fine tuning for qualifying. The guys have been doing a great job to give me a solid car. We are hoping to put everything we’ve learned in practice together for a good run tomorrow.”

PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was definitely the toughest day we’ve had so far, and unfortunately, it’s the day right before qualifying for the Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing No. 63 car. The handling of the car feels OK, we’re just really struggling to get the speed that we need from the car in qualifying trim. Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully, with the heat on the racetrack, making it more difficult for everyone will play into our favor because we feel like we have a fairly good handle on the car in those conditions.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Honda): “Fast Friday has come and gone. The day goes quicker than you want. We still had a couple things to try for tomorrow’s qualifying, but I am pretty pleased. We finished fourth fastest with a little bit of tow on that lap. So right now, I think if we make everything right, tomorrow we may have a shot at top nine. But again, we have to get everything perfect in the four laps. If not, we may be just missing that line. We still have a lot of data to look at overnight and try to make a good guess for tomorrow. The weather should be good enough for at least letting everyone try a couple attempts. So, hopefully, we get everything right and make that top nine for qualifying.”

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Fun day at the track for Fast Friday, one of the most fun days, as we get an increase in horsepower and a nice increase in speed. We got a lot of work done to make sure we’re competitive in qualifying, so I think we found a good place with our car. Tomorrow we should be pretty decent and competitive, so hopefully we can get some good weather that cooperates with us so we can get all of qualifying in and see where we stack up, where we’ll line up for the Indy 500.”

Formula One: Haas fighting for ‘best of the rest’ in Year 3

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The third season for Haas F1 has been its best, even if it’s been a bit bizarre.

Formula One’s only U.S.-based team has scored the most points in its young history and overcome some serious bumbles early to compete with – and beat – some of the legacy team names in F1.

Haas heads into this week’s U.S. Grand Prix in a tough season-ending fight with Renault for the “best of the rest” title among the teams outside of the Big Three of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

“It’s the best battle of the field. It’s very tight. It’s going to go to the last lap of the race in Abu Dhabi, while I think the world championship is probably going to go this weekend,” said Haas’ French driver Romain Grosjean, who signed with the team before their first season.

“To rise as quickly as we’ve done hasn’t been seen in Formula One, I don’t think,” said his Danish teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Haas launched with a surprise in 2016 and has been rising ever since.

Haas scored points in its first race in 2016, and in 2017 had both cars finish in the top 10 for the first time at Monte Carlo, the biggest race on the annual calendar. A strong run over the last 10 races of this season has Haas just eight points behind Renault in the race for fourth place with four races left.

The 2018 season looks to finish better than it started.

After Haas scored the team’s best-ever qualifying at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, neither car finished the race. Magnussen and Grosjean both left pit stops on consecutive laps with unsecured wheels and had to stop. The team was fined for sending the cars out in unsafe conditions.

“That was extremely, extremely disappointing” Magnussen said “We are still showing signs of immaturity at certain moments.”

Other problems followed. A month later in Azerbaijan, Grosjean fought his way from the back row into sixth before he drove straight into the wall while following a safety car. Grosjean felt horrible, but blamed one of the season’s most bizarre incidents on an errant flip of a steering wheel switch that he said upset the car’s brake balance and sent him spinning into the barrier.

More valuable points were lost in Italy when the floor of Grosjean’s car was deemed illegal and he was disqualified from sixth place. Haas appealed and is awaiting a decision on points that would close the gap with Renault with a stroke of a pen. Despite the gaffes, Grosjean has finished in the top 10 four times in the last seven races.

“I got eight points stolen in Monza,” Grosjean said. “The results are coming with the kind of performance Haas signed me for in the first place.”

After the problems, Grosjean admitted it was a relief to extend his contract with Haas for 2019. He and Magnussen will be teammates again.

“When I joined, I didn’t know what Haas was going to be. I think they gave me some credit for that when I had a tough time earlier this year and turned things around, Grosjean said.

Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner said he and team owner Gene Haas saw value in staying with drivers who knew the Haas cars.

“Just to change a driver for the same level of skill, you go backward,” Steiner said. “There’s not a lot of better drivers out there, so why should we change them? Stay the same and mature quicker.”

The question now is how high can Haas go?

The Haas business model – which has drawn complaints from its middle-of-the-pack rivals – has it buying parts and engines, most notably from Ferrari. It keeps costs down but creates a performance ceiling that Haas is unlikely to break through.

“We are not developing parts for our car,” Grosjean said. “So far it hasn’t been a problem. If one day we start to beat Ferrari, it’s not going to work.”

Steiner said a top three finish isn’t realistic, not against teams with much bigger budgets, development and staff.

“The first year we didn’t finish last, the second year we didn’t finish last and now we are fighting for fourth. We must be doing something right,” Steiner said. “How do we get to that next step? Where do we go from here? Right now, there is no answer.”

That can be the frustrating part of an otherwise very good season.

A taste of success begs for more. For the 26-year-old Magnussen, he can be good with Haas, maybe even the “best of the rest.” But that’s a career definition no driver wants.

“It’s been six years since I won a race in motorsport,” Magnussen said. “I miss winning. Badly.”