Don Schumacher Racing

If the ‘Shoe’ fits: How one race began NHRA dynasty at Don Schumacher Racing

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Twenty years ago this weekend, Don Schumacher and then 28-year-old Tony Schumacher set out on a father-son journey. They didn’t know where it would take them, but they were hoping for a fast ride in more ways than one.

It was at the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, the biggest annual drag race in the National Hot Rod Association, where Don Schumacher Racing – with Tony in the driver’s seat of a Top Fuel dragster – debuted. It was one of those situations where they’d give it a shot and see where things would go from there.

Indeed, things went pretty well, pretty fast and pretty quick — and they’ve continued to go that way for the last 20 years:

* In 1999, DSR’s first full season together in the NHRA ranks, Tony won the Top Fuel championship.

* That title would be the first of what would become 16 world championships across Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock Bike for DSR, born in Chicago but now based in Brownsburg, Indiana.

* Equally as noteworthy, DSR has notched 329 NHRA national event victories as a team in the organization’s two decades of operation.

* And Tony Schumacher has gone on to become the winningest driver in Top Fuel history with eight of DSR’s 16 championships, as well as 84 national event wins.

And to think it all began as something simple as a bonding experience between father and son, with their equal passion for drag racing being the foundation of incredible success two decades later.

“Tony’s the one that caused me to get back into the sport, to say the least,” Don concedes. “The Peak brothers (a Denver-based team that Tony had driven for part-time in 1996 and 1997) were going to get out of the sport, so he said, ‘Come on, dad, let’s go do this together.’ So I put together a sponsorship with Exide Batteries and we came out and started doing it.

“And now we’ve won 16 world championships, Tony has won eight of them and he’s the winningest Top Fuel driver of all time. Hopefully, he gets his ninth (championship) this year.”

HEY BUDDY, HAVE ‘YA GOT A MATCH – A MATCH RACE, THAT IS

Don Schumacher’s drag racing story didn’t just begin in 1998. Rather, it began more than 50 years ago. Schumacher was quite the drag racer himself in his youth and young adulthood. He earned five national event wins in his own NHRA career, including a win in the 1970 U.S. Nationals.

But it was in nearly a decade in the 1960s and early 1970s as a match racer – a driver who would be lured across the U.S. and Canada by track owners and promoters to race for bragging rights and money – that the elder Schumacher excelled.

During that time, Don Schumacher wound up winning 70 percent of nearly 600 starts, making him one of the greatest match racers ever.

Don Schumacher Racing: From left, Tommy Johnson Jr., Leah Pritchett, Ron Capps, Don Schumacher, Tony Schumacher, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman and Antron Brown.

But with two young kids underfoot and a third on the way, plus a fledgling business – Don Schumacher Electric Corporation – that was trying to grow, Don walked away from drag racing cold in 1975.

“I totally stepped away from it,” Schumacher said. “It was the right thing for me to do. It was a different world back in the 1970s. And it’s very different today. It was a step that I took and one that I’m glad I took (at the time).”

While he’d occasionally still attend drag races as a spectator over the next 20-plus years, especially his beloved U.S. Nationals, the suburban Chicago native vowed to never race again. That lasted 23 years until Tony convinced him to get back in the game, but as a team owner while Tony did the driving.

And the rest is NHRA history.

Today, Don Schumacher Racing is the largest and winningest organization in drag racing. It has grown from Tony’s one-car Top Fuel operation to one that now boasts nine cars under one roof:

* 3 cars in Top Fuel: The afore-mentioned eight-time champ Tony Schumacher, three-time champion Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett.

* 4 cars in Funny Car: 2016 champ Ron Capps, two-time champ Matt Hagan, “Fast Jack” Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr.

* 2 Factory Stock cars driven by Pritchett and longtime drag racing veteran Mark Pawuk.

At 73 years old, you’d think Don Schumacher would be easing towards a second retirement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The man thrives on competition – and beating – rivals in both the electric supply business, as well as on the drag strip.

“I am a driven individual,” the man nicknamed “Shoe” says. “I’ve always believed and always worked by the belief that the harder and longer you work, the better results you’ll get and you’ll beat your competition every time.

“And surround yourself with the greatest people you can find. They’ll make you look good and give you results. That’s what I try to do. I’m not happy when I lose some of my key people. Those things happen, competitors will step in and do things that affect me that way, I try to do the best job I can and go out there and win races.”

Schumacher employs 2,150 people in his electric supply business worldwide, with another 140 employees at DSR.

Even after all his years in the sport and all the wins he’s seen, Schumacher will never, ever get tired of winning.

“Every time we win, I feel ecstatic,” he said. “It’s just fantastic. I love beating the Forces, the Torrences, the Alan Johnsons, the Kalittas and McMillans and Millicans, right on down the line.

“They’re all my friends. I consider them all family. But while I love beating every one of them on the starting line, I’ll help every one of them in the pits.”

Now, losing is a much different story for Schumacher. He absolutely hates to see the win light go on in the opponent’s lane.

“It’s terrible, devastating to me, even when our drivers have to race each other,” he said. “I hate when, say, Antron Brown has to race Leah Pritchett or Tony (Schumacher) or Ron Capps has to race Matt Hagan or Jack Beckman or Tommy Johnson Jr. It’s terrible for either one of those teams that one of them are going to lose.”

But at the end of the day, win or lose, going head-to-head vs. friend or foe, Schumacher has a very surprising attitude about his competitors. While other owners can be vengeful and even spiteful against the competition, that’s not the way Don Schumacher was raised, nor is it the way he does business.

“I’d have to say it’s the competitors,” he said when asked why he’s still so involved in racing. “Really, we’re a family out here. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether it’s Connie Kalitta or John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Steve and Billy Torrence, or any of the teams out here, we’re really a family here and we’re here to take care of each other, which is a very special thing in business.

“In my other business, you don’t have those kinds of relationships with your competitors. The sponsors are all very special to me, they’re personal to me, I undoubtedly use all of the products and I support the products emphatically. The two foundations I have onboard – Infinite Hero and Make-A-Wish – is really a special, special situation. It shows me and brings me things that I never would have experienced.

“And the U.S. Army relationship is the same, being involved in the Pentagon, and Tony has gone over to Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s really a special relationship. But I have that with all my sponsors. Last but not least are the fans. Super, super fans, the access they have to us, the time they take to be with us and visit us, not only at the races, but for me, all over the world.”

Unfortunately, the Army is parting ways with DSR following this season after a nearly 20-year relationship, leaving Schumacher to have to find a new primary sponsor for his son’s dragster, as well as a co-primary sponsor on Brown’s Top Fueler, as well.

WHAT SCHUMACHER MEANS TO THE WORLD OF DRAG RACING

Don Schumacher isn’t just one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, he’s also one of the most well-respected.

“The thing about Don Schumacher is that, here is a guy that had Hall of Fame success early in his career in the NHRA,” Capps said. “The bigger story is that he was smart enough to go back and run the family business, to build it to what it is today, and come back into the sport and be a successful owner.

“He reminds me a lot of Roger Penske in that here is a guy running a multi-billion-dollar business and yet still has the passion to show up at the racetrack every day to compete.”

Antron Brown, Don Schumacher and Tommy Johnson Jr. celebrate DSRs 300th NHRA win.

Added Brown, “Don has elevated our sport to higher levels and particularly has been the contributor to championships and innovations beyond belief. His 20 years as a team owner in drag racing, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be a three-time world champ, I wouldn’t have over 50 Top Fuel wins or 16 Pro Stock Bike wins.

“He has affected and influenced our sport in ways that only he could, period. Not just me, but the entire sport, has grown and prospered from the dedication and the hard work that this man has put in. So I’m truly grateful, in 20 years of drag racing, he’s helped many people’s dreams reality, including mine.”

And then there’s the guy who kind of helped start it all, Tony Schumacher, now 48.

“Many people pass through this great sport and are remembered for great accomplishments,” Tony said. “Few will be remembered like my father.

“A man who not once, but twice entered this sport with a passion like no other and took a single-car team and turned it into a multi-team winning machine. He innovated the sport in many ways and made drivers and crews safer.”

Indeed, safety is one of the most significant contributions Don Schumacher has brought to the sport. While he’s modest when it comes to accepting accolades, there’s no question Schumacher has helped generate a number of safety equipment and rules changes over the last two decades.

He was one of the first to have his Funny Cars adopt roof-mounted escape hatches so that drivers could quickly escape when all-too-frequent fires erupted. He also was one of the first to implement a fire suppression system inside Funny Cars, with a lever attached to the brake handle, allowing drivers to apply both while using the other hand to steer the race car.

And in Top Fuel, Schumacher was the first team owner to introduce a protective canopy cover over the driver’s compartment for even greater safety.

Schumacher is particularly close with NHRA not just for safety initiatives, but also because, well, a strong relationship with the sanctioning body is good business in and of itself.

“We are two separate businesses that I find remarkable how closely we work together, not just with DSR, but also with the Professional Racers Organization,” Schumacher said. “We’re all on board for the same thing, we all want the sport to excel, to continue growing, continue getting bigger, getting more sponsors in.

“We work closer together now than we ever have. They are the sanctioning body. They have rules and regulations that I push the boundaries on all the time. That’s just my nature in business, and I will continue to do that.

“But we work very closely together, have a great relationship and a lot of respect for each other. I look to maintain that and continue to grow that.”

During the interview for this story, Schumacher remarked how he wasn’t looking to get back into drag racing until his son approached him in 1998.

But now, he wouldn’t have had it any other way, given how things have evolved and all the success he and his organization have enjoyed.

“I came back into the sport because Tony wanted to race,” Don Schumacher said. “It wasn’t something I was driven to, it was something I was pulled back into. I’d go to Indy every year (as a spectator) and I would thank God that I walked away and didn’t get back in another race car.

“But once racing is in your system, you’re possessed by it. It’s always in your system, always in your blood, once you come out and do it.”

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Like his drag racing teams, Schumacher, who will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America next March, has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

On the contrary. He is hoping to add a fourth Top Fuel dragster to the team, expand the Factory Stock program to three or four teams, and will continue to grow both his electric and drag racing businesses.

“I have no plan to retire,” he said. “My daughter Meghan and my son Tony will continue on with this once I drift away, if I ever do that.

“But I have no plans of stepping away. I love the sport, I love what I do, we continue to expand the racing operations in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Right now, I have nine teams. I’d never have imagined that. That isn’t anything that was ever a plan or desire on my part. I try to do the right thing for my company, for my employees, for the sport, for my sponsors and the fans.

“I’m a businessman. I always look at business where you can’t just stay status quo. If you do that, you’ll start to go down. So I look to continue to grow.”

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What IndyCar drivers said after the first Indy 500 practice in August

Indy 500 practice quotes
James Black/IndyCar
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A roundup of quotes from NTT IndyCar Series drivers after hitting the track Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first day of Indy 500 practice.

James Hinchcliffe was fastest in the six and a half hour session that started at 11 a.m. Andretti Autosport had three of the five fastest cars.

There will be two more practices Thursday and Friday before qualifying this weekend for the 104th Indianapolis 500.

Fernando Alonso (No. 66 Ruoff Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “Today was good. I think we had the day that we wanted, which was a clean day with no issues and trouble-free. In the morning, we got up to speed with the refresher, and in the afternoon we cut it a bit short to work on the car. We may have potentially missed one run in traffic, but it’s nothing we can’t make up tomorrow. We are working step by step, improving the car a little bit each time. We are working on the balance and getting used to the speed again, more in my case than the team. The team is was maybe more ready than me on this first day. We will grow together and got some good mileage today. We have a good understanding of the car and will hopefully have a good setup ready to go tomorrow.”

Marco Andretti (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “It was all good. Funny enough really, I was more focused on the race car. I was trying to bury myself in traffic on older tires a lot today. We didn’t really focus on fast times. It was kind of nice that materialized, as well. Well, second-fastest time. It’s good that the car rolled off with some pace. That’s always kind of like the first hurdle you have to get over. From there, it’s just working on the car balance. That’s what we were able to do. We were one of the better ones in the pack today. It just seems kind of hard to pass where things are at right now. So far so good. It was a good start.”

Oliver Askew (No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “First day here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car is pretty special for anyone. It’s great to feel the magic of the place again and to be around other cars. An extra 20-30 mph compared to an Indy Lights car is quite a big difference at those speeds. It’s a bit daunting at first, but as I got used to it I got very comfortable by the end of the day. I’m looking forward to more running tomorrow and to turn up the boost on Friday. Everyone at Arrow McLaren SP and Team Chevy have been doing a really good job so far. The car feels really nice in traffic, and we will continue progressing in all areas.”

Ed Carpenter (No. 20 United States Space Force Chevrolet): “It was an interesting day. I wouldn’t say that it was the day I’ve dreamed of. We have a lot to learn about this car here at this track with the Aeroscreen on. It’s really changed the dynamic. It’s very, very difficult in traffic, but it seemed like everyone was struggling. It’s always this way the first day; you have to figure out what you need to improve on and go from there. I can’t say we found all the answers today, but I’m ready to get the U.S. Space Force Chevrolet back out there tomorrow.”

Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet): “Obviously, big credit to the team. Everything was exactly as if I had not left. It was absolutely the same, which makes it much better for me to get comfortable right away. Great combination. I can’t thank Pennzoil, Chevy and Roger (Penske) for making this happen. I am excited, really excited, even though we have less days. I wish the race would be tomorrow.”

Max Chilton (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “We just finished our first day back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we’ve got two more days of practice to get the car ready for qualifying. We had a really productive day out there. We were able to work through our oval refresher program and get the speeds that we needed fairly easily. Once we got through the refresher, we did some race running and had a few issues with the balance, but we were able to get there in the end, and the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet felt good at the checkered flag. We obviously have more to work through before we’re qualifying and ready, but I’m really looking forward to the next couple of days now.”

Conor Daly (No. 47 United States Air Force Chevrolet): “Obviously, Cole (Pearn, engineer) and I had a lot to learn today, so it was good to get a full day under our belt with the U.S. Air Force Chevy. We ran a lot of laps right up until the checkered flag, which was my goal so I can get used to this car. It definitely has a different feel to what I’ve had in the past, but that’s always the case when I jump in a car for the first time. I think it was a good day. We went through a lot of things that we wanted to, and I think we have a decent amount of speed. We just have to see making it faster and faster, one day at a time.”

James Davison (No. 51 Jacob Construction/Tilson HR Honda): “It was a solid day for the 51 team. Nearly every year for the one-off Indy entries, there is a number of teething issues that needed to be sorted out, so you lose a little bit of track time as a result. However, we ended more or less in the middle of the field on the speed charts. Really, we are no better or no worse than anyone out there, which is to be expected with this aero package. Thankfully, we have a straight car to build on for the next two days leading up to qualifying. It’s a solid platform for us, and I’m excited to see what development we can do tomorrow.”

Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “We had a decent start in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. We were trying to get through some items that we have on the list. It’s a pretty extensive list, especially with the condensed schedule. It’s a totally new car for me this year with (engineer) Mike Cannon and with a few offseason projects. I definitely think we’re going in the right direction. First practice, it doesn’t mean anything, we’re just trying to get the car comfortable in traffic and so far that seems to be pretty good. The Aeroscreen when we first tested it seemed like it kind of affected the car a little different aerodynamically. I’d say today actually felt more normal. No real difference, and the vision is good.”

Marcus Ericsson (No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think it was a good first day. We did the program plan and went through some different setup directions that we wanted to try. For me, it was great to get the laps in. It’s been a while since we’ve been at the Speedway. It’s definitely a very unique place, so you need laps to gain confidence, and that’s what we did. The No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda felt good out there. We have a good baseline to work off. We’re in a good place. Let’s see how tomorrow goes.”

Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation / SiriusXM Honda): “It feels so great to be back here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Any time you are here it’s awesome. Today was a mix: There were times when I felt like we were doing OK and times when I thought we had some work to do. But that’s pretty much how a normal test day goes at IMS. I think today we found that our qualifying pace looks OK, and we will focus on stepping up our race pace over the next two days.”

James Hinchcliffe (No. 29 Genesys Honda): “Luckily, not a ton of surprises. A couple of new elements, one being the Aeroscreen, but everybody at Andretti Autosport has worked their tails off to prepare for this race. And to have six cars prepared at the level that they do is incredibly impressive, with three of them in the top five after the first day of practice. It’s just practice; there’s obviously a long way to go. But whenever you can kick off the month strong and know you’ve got a decent package, you can kind of work on it from there. It makes your sleep a little better now and between the race.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda): “All in all, it was a promising first day for the DHL Honda team. The guys did a very good job preparing the speedway car over the last few months. I’m optimistic going forward when it comes to our pace for qualifying and as a team. We’ll continue to work on running in groups for race-running, balance and pace. It was a pretty promising day for Andretti Autosport as a whole.”

JR Hildebrand (No. 67 DRR Salesforce Chevrolet): “I felt good with the Aeroscreen right away. Sitting in the pits you can tell it’s a little warmer but not once you are on track – it’s no problem. I felt good in the car. Our DRR team came into this year with a clear perspective with what we needed to do to be competitive in the race. And what we have done so far with our adjustments to the car have checked out. That is good so far. We were focused on trying to answer some of those questions from the last couple of years. Sage (Karam, DRR teammate) worked in traffic more today than we did. He was running in more traffic situations than I was. We don’t have a lot of time this year. And we are moving the right direction with the cars already. Thursday will be a very busy day. So we are prepared to work hard with the cars.”

Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Good first day. I think if you’re going to hear everybody’s quote, it’s everybody’s glad to be back here. It took a lot of effort from a lot of people in the Series, in the teams to be here. That shows how important this place is. A lot of mixed feelings this morning driving in and not seeing anybody. Sitting in Garage 1 at this point in the day today, it would be probably 40 people waiting for A.J. (Foyt) outside. So kind of odd day. But as far as track time it was awesome. We had plenty of track time. We had a little bit of an issue at the end of the day, but it didn’t hurt us and we were getting ready to stop. I’m pretty pleased with the car. It was definitely one of our best opening days that we had. The team came really well prepared, and I’m happy. Obviously, still a long way to go, but it’s good to be back.”

Sage Karam (No. 24 DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet): “Today was pretty good for our DRR WIX Filters Chevy. It was much more solid than last year on the first day of practice. We did a lot of good things today, as I did a lot of traffic running. We got in some big groups and went with the good teams like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. No one was doing anything different from what I could do in traffic. That was very positive. Now we have to find the next step with mechanical grip to move to the next level with this car. Obviously, passing will be very tough, just like last year. Qualifying will be at a premium. Pit stops will be huge, but this DRR crew is always fast on their stops. So I feel good about that aspect. It feels good to be back on the oval. The road course was a good, little challenge for us. It was good for everyone today. Me to get more seat time and the team to get in a few live stops. It is so much fun around this place when the car is working well. We look forward to Thursday.”

Dalton Kellett (No. 41 K-Line USA / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Finished up rookie orientation, so it’s good to have that box checked off. I did a baseline run at the end on new tires and got a bit of running around some other cars in the draft, so the speed’s getting up there. We started very conservatively, and we’re working through it, taking understeer out of the car. We were taking small chunks out, so it took us a little time to get through everything. I think that analytical, progressive process is going to help us in the end. It feels good to be out on track, the car feels great. The feedback from Tony (Kanaan) and Charlie (Kimball) is that everyone’s pretty happy all around. First day at the Speedway, it’s an amazing place to be, I’m really excited. I couldn’t be happier to be here, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the week.” (About his first lap): “The experience of the first lap is hard to put into words. It’s such a magical place — the feeling of being out on track and you want to take the moment, but you also want to focus on what you’re doing. The first slow stages give you time to get up to speed. The car felt great, and I was just grateful and happy to be here and loving every minute of it.”

Charlie Kimball (No. 4 Tresiba AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “I think it was a really good start to on-track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car felt really good right away. I was pretty comfortable. The guys have obviously done a great job preparing. There was some uncertainty about when we’d get on track, so I’m glad we were able to get some miles in today. The weather looks pretty good for the rest of the week, but we’ve got a lot to do in a condensed schedule. It’s nice to start with a good foundation. Something we can always come back to as needed, but we’ve got to find a little speed – we’re always looking for speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but I’ve got a lot of confidence in the Tresiba Chevrolet team to find that as we get into Fast Friday. Ideally we’re looking to qualify in the top nine and race into the top one!”

Josef Newgarden (No. 1 Shell V-Power Nitro Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a good day for the No. 1 Chevrolet. I felt like it was nice to get back out on track and getting through the processes. It is great to be back here at Indy. So thankfuI that we are able to run. I think we are going to put on a great show next weekend. That’s what we are working on, trying to make our race car drivable in traffic. It is interesting to see who is fast out of the gate, who’s not. We have a long process here. This is a good starting point for us. See if we can get the Shell car fast enough for qualifying and then work on the race after that.”

Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “It is just great to be back at the Speedway. Today was like Christmas! It is just an amazing place. Super-excited to be back in the Menards Chevy. We worked on two different packages today. I think that we know what direction we want to go now, which is great. We were able to check off the list one of the important items for our program. So very excited about that. I think tonight we are 100 percent sure on the decisions we are going to make tomorrow. So that is a big leap forward. Excited about tomorrow and qualifying on the horizon. So far we have been working in the right space. I got my timing sorted with passing and comfortable around the big speedway here. Just very excited to be in Indianapolis again this year. Hopefully we can repeat.”

Alex Palou (No. 55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda): “This is such a different place than the two other ovals I’ve been to. It’s a crazy place, in a good way. That was a lot of fun getting to run with everyone after the rookie orientation earlier today. Right now, running alone is easier than with traffic. I think I got really comfortable in the rookie session and again this afternoon running alone. But then I was just getting up to speed running in traffic. I was able to follow the cars ahead of me, but I’m still working on overtaking them. I’m taking it one step at a time. We have a full day tomorrow and Friday to keep working on that. I think we have a fast car. The Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh crew did a really good job on the setup and preparing the car.”

Spencer Pigot (No. 45 Hy-Vee Embrace Pittsburgh Honda): “Overall, it’s good to be back at Indy. I think we’ve all waited a long time for this so it’s nice to be here. On track, things went pretty well in the first session. It’s cool to be going those speeds again. I haven’t been on an oval since late August last year, so it felt great to go over 220 mph again. The No. 45 Hy-Vee / Embrace Pittsburgh car looks great. I thought we made some good improvements and changes, and the car was feeling pretty good. The afternoon was a little tougher for us. We tried some things on our list, and, even if we don’t go that direction, it was good to get some reads and data on that. We definitely have a good idea of what we want from the car, so hopefully tomorrow we can find it.”

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon 5G Edge Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was actually a pretty good day. I feel like the cars are a little harder to drive now. I feel like the balance of our car is really good now, really good. I feel like we are right in the window right now. We will work on some different philosophies tomorrow. We are in a good spot, so we will try some other stuff to see if we can get it better.”

Pato O’Ward (No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet): “I think it was a solid first day for the entire Arrow McLaren SP team. I think we still have some work to do, but I think we are in a good spot. Today was about running in traffic and trying to create the best package for us for Race Day. We have to keep chipping at it and working at it. We will start off tomorrow where we ended today and keep improving. Thank you to everyone on the team and at Chevrolet for giving us a good starting point.”

Graham Rahal (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “End of Day 1 here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and I think it was a solid day for our team. I know that sometimes on the timesheets it doesn’t look like it, though. I didn’t get the big tow, in the traffic on new tires, light fuel and all that sort of stuff. In fact, our goal today was to use as little tires as possible. We ended up running two sets of tires almost two full stints per set, so I’m pleased with that, pleased with the consistency of the car. Obviously, we need to find a little bit of speed, find a little more grip in traffic, and I think every driver here is saying that tonight. And if you saw us on track, it’s definitely quite a challenge, for sure. We’re going to sit down with the engineers and try to work on not only the United Rentals car but also our teammates, and hopefully we can get Takuma (Sato) and Spencer (Pigot) a little more competitive, as well. The team had a long list of things we wanted to get done, and we got those done, so now we can go forward from here.”

Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s good to be back on the speedway. I think everyone has missed this place a lot. We had a solid first day. We still need to work on our car in traffic a little bit. We started to run in packs in the end to work on getting the car to stay close to the guy in front. I think we made good progress in the last run. We’re hoping to continue progressing tomorrow. We have some good practice coming up the next two days. I won’t say we have time to relax, but we have time to take it slow here and get up to speed. Overall, it feels good in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda so far.”

Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Auto Nation Honda): “Opening day wa OK. We were pleasantly surprised that the screen didn’t create too many issues balance- and performance-wise, which was interesting. I think it’s going to be pretty fast with the boost on Fast Friday, which is exciting for everyone. I think on our own our car is pretty good, but we need to work on when we’re in traffic. It’s still early on. I think it’s always kind of like this on Day 1 running in traffic for the first time. It’s a lot more difficult than you remember, but we’ll definitely have to spend some time tomorrow on group running to make sure we’re happy with our car come Sunday next week. Today was more focused on getting reacquainted with the car and what we learned last year, so I wasn’t too aware of my surroundings, but as the week goes on there will definitely be a noticeable difference without having fans here. It sucks. The energy that you get walking down pit lane or through Gasoline Alley really is a motivating factor going into a session whether its practice, qualifying or the race. It’s unfortunate and sad, but this event still carries a lot of weight and is still as important to everyone now as it has been in the past.”

Takuma Sato (No. 30 Panasonic/PeopleReady Honda): “We’re back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it is a very happy time for us. This is a moment we waited for, for a long time. It’s August, but it is a fantastic feeling. We jumped in the car and went fast, not 230 mph yet because of the boost level today, but it’s a great feeling. We did a number of test items today, splitting over three cars because this year the schedule is compressed a lot. We literally have today and tomorrow for the race setup and then Friday is Fast Friday. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we did a solo run and a group run and were relatively competitive, so it was a very good day.”

Zach Veach (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Really happy with our day. Looked like we were in the top five of the no tow charts for both sessions, but just didn’t get a tow lap to put us up high on the overall speeds. Really excited to get back to work tomorrow. I think we have a great car.”

Rinus Veekay (No. 21 SONAX Chevrolet): “I had a really good first day. I built it up slowly, but we had a lot of time. Especially on my own, the SONAX Chevrolet is amazing. We needed to do some work in traffic, but we made some really good steps, and I’m very confident for the coming days. We’re heading in a good direction with a really strong car and a really strong team.”