Monday, May 20, 2019

30 Days in May

No. 20, Gordon Johncock, 1975 Sinmast Wildcat/DGS. Starting in 1973 and over the next 10-plus years, Johncock was synonymous with the number 20 and Patrick Racing. For 1975, he had a new sponsor, a new chassis and a new engine. It all added up to a fast combination, as Johncock was among the leaders every day in practice and held the pole for a while before A.J. Foyt nudged him aside with a run late in the day. Johncock jumped to the lead at the start of the race, but fell out after just 11 laps and finished 31st. DGS stood for Drake, Goosen and Sparks, as in engine pioneers Dale Drake, Leo Goosen and Art Sparks. The name was something of a tribute by George Bignotti, who helped modify an Offy engine to create the DGS. #ThisIsMay #Indy500

Sunday, May 19, 2019

30 Days in May Bonus

Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
From the 1973
Indianapolis 500

No. 44, Dick Simon, 1973 TraveLodge Eagle/Foyt. I miss guys like Dick Simon around the Speedway. Energetic and enthusiastic, Simon was an outstanding ski jumper and parachutist before he pursued a career in Indy cars. Had the X Games been around in, say, the 1960s, he probably would’ve been a star. As for Indianapolis, Simon usually was saddled with marginal equipment that he had to hustle into the show. His 1973 mount was pretty decent, though, and Simon ran up front before piston failure sent him to the sidelines for a 14th-place finish.
Toward the end of his career, Simon obtained better cars and that led to better results – he was sixth and ninth in his last two races in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Simon is bald, but during the 1970s he picked up sponsorship from LAN, maker of hairpieces, so he donned a toupee. #ThisIsMay #Indy500

30 Days in May Bonus

Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

No 89, John Martin, 1973 Unsponsored McLaren/Offy. John Martin was one of the few drivers capable of working on his car – fairly rare in 1973 and unheard of today. A fixture in the Indy lineup from 1972-76, the hard-working Martin made the most of his equipment. Like many others, Martin was involved in the first-lap Salt Walther accident, but was able to make repairs and wound up eighth, his best result at Indianapolis. The next year, Martin actually landed a sponsor, resulting in the tongue-twisting Sea Snack Shrimp Cocktail Special. #ThisIsMay #Indy500

30 Days in May

No. 19, Mel Kenyon, 1973 Atlanta Falcons Eagle/Foyt. Considered one of the true gentlemen in the sport, Kenyon had several top finishes at Indianapolis and is considered the best USAC Midget driver in history. His longevity is particularly amazing. Some 30 years after his last start in the 500, Kenyon was still racing at age 70! Even more incredible, Kenyon was severely burned in a crash in 1965 and raced with a special glove with a device that fit in the steering wheel – amazing determination and will.

For the 1973 season, Kenyon teamed up again with longtime owner Lindsey Hopkins. I’m not sure if Hopkins owned a part of the Atlanta Falcons or why exactly the NFL team sponsored the car, but pro teams backing cars were not unknown at Indianapolis during this era. In 1971, for example, Lloyd Ruby drove the Utah Stars special. While Ruby was certainly popular with the Indianapolis fans, his sponsor likely wasn’t because the Stars were a rival of the hometown Indiana Pacers and had quite a few tussles during the ABA playoffs. Anyway, back to Kenyon. He finished fourth in the 1973 500 in what ended up being his final race at the Speedway.  #ThisIsMay #Indy500

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pigot on top, Alonso out for now

Photo credit: Dana Garrett/Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso is almost out of chances
to make this year's field for the Indianapolis 500.

INDIANAPOLIS – A young American driver known only to hardcore fans of the NTT IndyCar Series and one of the most famous drivers in the world highlighted a wild first day of qualifying for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Pigot, in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara/Chevrolet, has the provisional pole after notching a four-lap average of 230.083 mph. While Pigot’s place in the field of 33 is secure, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso is in serious jeopardy of not making the race.

Despite five attempts, Alonso failed to post a speed fast enough to make the top 30 in the McLaren Racing Dallara/Chevrolet.

“It was a difficult day and a difficult week in general,” said Alonso, who crashed on Wednesday.

All hope is not lost for the Spaniard, though. Alonso and five other drivers, including James Hinchcliffe, will fight it out for the final three spots in the field.

Weather permitting, the pole, the first three rows (positions 1-9) and the last row (positions 31-33) will be decided in qualifying on Sunday. Thunderstorms are forecast, however.

If Sunday is a total washout, positions 1-30 are considered set. The last row will be contested on the next available day, with each car getting one attempt.

In addition to Alonso, the other participants in the Last Row Shootout are:
·         James Hinchcliffe, No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara/Honda
·         Sage Karam, No. 24 Dreyer and Reinbold WIX Filters Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Patricio O’Ward, No. 31 Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Kyle Kaiser, No. 32 Juncos Racing Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Max Chilton, No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Dallara/Chevrolet

In addition to Pigot, the rest of the Fast Nine Shootout is:
·         Will Power, No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Menards Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Josef Newgarden, No. 2 Shell Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Colton Herta, No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Dallara/Honda
·         Ed Jones, No. 63 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Dallara/Chevrolet
·         Alexander Rossi, No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Dallara/Honda
·         Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 SealMaster Dallara/Honda

“It feels great to be on top of the speed charts and to have all three Ed Carpenter Racing cars in the Fast Nine Shootout again for the second year in a row,” Pigot said.

Pippa Mann, who like Hinchcliffe missed last year’s race in gut-wrenching fashion, held on to the 30th and final starting position available Saturday with a 227.244 mph average.

“All that was going through my head was, ‘Not again. Not again,” Mann said.

30 Days in May Bonus

No. 71, Rick Mears, 1978 CAM2 Penske PC6/Cosworth. After trying unsuccessfully to qualify for the 500 as a rookie in 1977, Mears caught the eye of Roger Penske and was offered a ride in races that Mario Andretti could not compete in due to Formula One commitments. Mears eagerly accepted the offer, which also included the Indianapolis 500. The Bakersfield, Calif., native justified Penske’s confidence by grabbing the outside spot on the front row, setting a rookie qualifying record in the process. Race day wasn’t great, as Mears forgot to buckle his helmet at the start and then had his engine let go just after halfway and finished 23rd. Still, the outstanding performance in time trials helped Mears earn Co-Rookie of the Year with Larry Rice. Mears’ number, 71, is rarely used at the Speedway, but I think the reason why Penske used that number is because his other entries were 7 (Andretti) and 1 (Tom Sneva), so he just combined the two. (Dick Simon had 17 that year, in case you were wondering.)

Alonso Leads Morning Practice

Photo credit: Matt Fraver/Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS – Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, still trying to get up to speed after a crash earlier this week, was the fastest during an almost-unused practice session on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alonso had a lap of 228.065 mph in the No. 66 McLaren Racing Honda/Chevrolet. He was one of just six drivers who took advantage of 90 minutes of available practice time before qualifications for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, which begin at 11 a.m.

The drivers to practice were:
·         Jordan King
·         Max Chilton
·         Ben Hanley
·         Kyle Kaiser
·         Patricio O’Ward

Kaiser and O’Ward, like Alonso, had significant wall contact in their primary machines this week. O’Ward appeared to slightly touch the wall on the exit of Turn 3 but did not appear to suffer any damage and practiced after the incident.