IndyCar

Why has this been a tough month on some good teams at the Indy 500?

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INDIANAPOLIS – As his Dallara-Honda violently vibrated and slammed the pavement at roughly 225 mph entering the fourth turn of his last qualifying lap, Oriol Servia found an unusual higher power.

“I did something that never came to my brain before,” Servia said about the lap that put him in the field of the 102nd Indianapolis 500. “ I prayed to Firestone. I promise you I went into the corner and my brain was like ‘Firestone, please, please, please, please. Hold my car to the ground. Please hold my car to the ground.’”

Whether the divine intervention of a tire supplier was the determining factor, Servia qualified 26th with an average speed at 225.699 mph – capping a nightmarish day in which the Spaniard entered the 2.5-mile track believing he had a shot to make the Fast Nine and left with a newfound appreciation for the nail-biting experience of failing to qualify for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I was honestly a nervous wreck,” Servia said. “I honestly felt what it would feel not to make this race. Those minutes, my heart felt in such whole … I can only imagine how Hinch felt. I couldn’t even breathe in that moment. I’m out. I’m not in the race. That just tells you what a fine edge it is.”

At least there was solace for Servia knowing he wasn’t alone. One of the biggest stories entering the race was James Hichcliffe, who is ranked fifth in the points standings with SPM Racing, getting knocked out of the event after starting from the pole position two years ago.

Servia’s Scuderia Corsa entry is aligned with Rahal Letterman Racing, which also struggled with Graham Rahal. Dale Coyne Racing, a mainstay that has won in each of the past two seasons with Sebastien Bourdais, claimed the last spot with Conor Daly and had a third driver, Pippa Mann, bumped.

Meanwhile, relatively inexperienced teams such as Juncos Racing (with rookie driver Kyle Kaiser) and Harding Racing (Gabby Chaves) outqualified some of the bigger names. Alexander Rossi, the 2016 winner as a rookie with Andretti Autosport, will start from the last row in 32nd.

Why have so many good teams struggled with slow cars while also making some sloppy mistakes this month at the Indianapolis 500?

“It’s very competitive, more than ever,” Servia said. “There’s not one team that doesn’t deserve to be in the race, not one driver. It’s just so close.

“It’s a new car, so everyone is still trying to figure out the sweet spot. And it’s a fine edge. It’s just very easy to trip and get completely out of the sweet spot.”

And it actually can benefit the underfunded teams, says Team Penske’s Will Power, because of its simplicity.

“A small team can work it out pretty quickly,” Power said. “And you look at the support system that the manufacturers have, like Chevy, which a lot of those new teams had, they get a lot of good aero information from the support that Chevy gives them.”

Of course, there also was a perplexing lack of execution that contributed to the disappointment. Hinchcliffe’s team inexplicably ran out of time for its last qualifying attempt after a server tire vibration scuttled his last hope.

“It’s unbelievable that Hinch didn’t make it in, which didn’t come down to car speed, it came down to execution there,” Power said. “That was totally preventable. It was kind of surprising. I just don’t know what happened there, He could have so easily been in the field.

“It shows you can’t take all this lightly. You have serious consequences for small mistakes. They could have logistically prevented that quite easily.”

Said Servia: “It just took a couple of missteps to be completely off. They obviously mismanaged the day, because I think they did have the speed to qualify.”

Another factor was that Hinchcliffe was in a Honda, whose horsepower clearly was at a disadvantage to Chevrolet’s in qualifying.

“I think you saw two kinds of categories between the engine manufacturers, and performance too, when it came to qualifying, so that made it quite difficult,” said 2008 winner Scott Dixon, who was the second-highest qualifying Honda in ninth. “I think we were all shocked, as everybody was, with James Hinchcliffe.

“Sometimes, you can just have a bad touch. I’ve been in those scenarios at the Speedway, where you start the first session with your teammate and you’re like ‘Wow, where’s the two miles-an-hour difference?’ And you search for it constantly, and it never appears. You just don’t know why it happens. But I’ve been here, I’ve been at other tracks too in that scenario, and it’s frustrating. I really feel for Pippa and Hinch, who were bumped out. You actually forget how cruel Bump Day is, since we haven’t had it for so long.”

MRTI: Road America Saturday notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Saturday at Road America saw all three series of the Mazda Road to Indy complete in action again, with the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires concluding its weekend with Race 2, while the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda completing their opening races of the weekend.

Indy Lights saw its two main title combatants duel for the win, while Pro Mazda saw its Race 1 winner complete a weekend sweep. And in USF2000, the points leader continued a run of dominance on the way to victory.

Reports on all three series are below.

Indy Lights: Herta Outlasts O’Ward, Franzoni for Race 1 Win

Colton Herta celebrates winning Race 1 at Road America.

Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta took his fourth win in a row on Saturday at Road America, winning Race 1 after dueling with his Andretti Autosport stablemate Pato O’Ward and Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni.

Franzoni held the lead off the initial start, but Herta quickly worked his way up to second after starting third, and immediately mounted a challenge for the lead. After trying to pass Franzoni on the outside entering Turn 5 for two laps in a row, Herta finally was able to get around him on a third attempt, again taking the outside line on corner entry.

O’Ward then quickly moved into second after Franzoni dipped two wheels into the dirt in Turn 7, and O’Ward quickly charged toward Herta to battle for the lead. He, too, tried several times to pass Herta on the outside entering Turn 5, but was ultimately unable to do so and lost ground to Herta after he ran out of push-to-pass.

It left Herta alone up front to cruise to the win, his fourth in a row in 2018. O’Ward and Franzoni finished second and third, with the Belardi Auto Racing teammates Santi Urrutia and Aaron Telitz finishing fourth and fifth, with Ryan Norman and Dalton Kellett rounding out the field for Andretti Autosport.

Results are below. Race 1 will roll off at 10:50 a.m. on Sunday morning and will air at 10:00 p.m. ET on Sunday night. Pato O’Ward will start on the pole.

Pro Mazda: Malukas Completes Road America Sweep

David Malukas was in perfect form again in Race 2 at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

BN Racing’s David Malukas capped a perfect weekend at Road America by winning Race 2 from the pole.

Malukas did face a brief challenge from Juncos Racing’s Carlos Cunha off the start, with Cunha actually leading briefly into Turn 1. But, Malukas quickly retook the lead entering Turn 3, and was never headed from there.

Behind him, points leader Parker Thompson was involved in contact with Raul Guzman in Turn 5, with Guzman, making his Pro Mazda debut with RP Motorsport Racing, hitting the back of the Exclusive Autosport.

Guzman stalled on course, bringing out a full-course caution, while Thompson fell back as far as 12th when racing resumed on Lap 3. However, he quickly regrouped and put in maybe the best drive of the day, working his way up to fifth in the closing laps – including a pass on title rival Carlos Cunha – and putting him right behind a battle for third involving Rinus VeeKay, Thompson’s other title rival, and Harrison Scott.

Scott eventually passed VeeKay for third, which opened the door for Thompson, who got around VeeKay right after to take fourth.

Thompson was unable to get close enough to challenge Scott for third, but his charge to fourth remained mighty impressive.

Up front, though, no one had anything for Malukas, who led teammate Toby Sowery in a second straight 1-2 for BN Racing – Sowery made a slick three-wide pass to get around VeeKay and Cunha on the Lap 3 restart.

Scott was third, followed by Thompson and VeeKay in fourth and fifth, with Cunha finishing sixth.

Results are below. The race also featured a tribute to the late Jeff Green, a former Pro Mazda driver with Juncos. Peter Dempsey, part of the Juncos effort on the engineering side last year, drove Green’s No. 60 chassis from 2017, while Victory Franzoni piloted his No. 23 Dallara IL-15 alongside.

USF2000: Kirkwood Continues to Roll as He Dominates USF2000 Race 1

Kyle Kirkwood celebrates winning USF2000 Race 1 at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood continued his dominant run in USF2000 by winning Race 1 on Saturday.

Starting on the outside of the front row, Kirkwood got around pole sitter Rasmus Lindh, from Pabst Racing Services, on the outside entering Turn 1 and never looked back, leading all 12 laps on his way to victory.

Lindh, meanwhile, was involved in a heated battle for second with his Pabst teammate Kaylen Frederick, along with ArmsUp Motorsports’ Keith Donegan and DEForce Racing’s Kory Enders. Lindh eventually fell back as far as fifth following a bobble, allowing all four to get by, though he did get back around Enders for fourth.

Ultimately, though, Frederick and Donegan emerged to finish second and third – it’s the second straight podium for Frederick, and the first for Donegan – with Lindh and Enders rounding out the top five.

The race was slowed twice for incidents involving Sabre Cook. Cook, running with Team Benik, spun into the gravel trap in the Carousel on Lap 3, but was able to rejoin. Later, on Lap 11, she ran wide exiting Turn 7 and spun back across the track as she entered Hurry Downs, making contact with the wall on the outside just before the entrance of Turn 8.

Cook climbed from the car under her own power, though her race did come to a premature end.

Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 9:00 a.m. ET (8:00 a.m. local time), with Lindh again starting on the pole.

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