Carb Day: Kanaan Logs Fastest Lap Of The Day

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 23 2014

Defending Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan was fastest on Carb Day. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Carburetion Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is for sending messages, and the word from Team Target is…don’t believe everything you see on Carburetion Day.

Reigning Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan posted the fastest speed during Friday’s one-hour session –the final tuneup before Sunday’s 98th running of the Indy 500 – with a lap at 39.5018-seconds/227.838 mph. Not to be outdone, three-time/reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was second-fast at 39.5131-seconds/227.221 mph as the new Target Twins combined for 96 trouble-free laps.

“We feel good about it,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 10 TCGR Dallara/Chevrolet formerly wheeled by three-time Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti. “I think we worked pretty hard together to make up for our Saturday qualifying (16th). We have great people back in the engineering office at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. We showed that a little bit on Monday (in practice) after qualifying and today.

“Lap times don’t count today. It feels good to be up there, but that’s not what it’s all about. We ran a lot in traffic. I can say I’m pretty happy about it.”

The Indy 500 champion in 2008, Dixon noted that while his No. 9 TCGR Dallara/Chevy ran strong, “It’s just placing yourself to get a big tow. You try to take the most you can out of it, pop-up to the top. I think the cars were consistent. Balance-wise, very good. Able to sort of maneuver through some of the traffic. But I think as we all know the competition is extremely tough and it looks like there are many good cars out there.”

Indeed, the Gasoline Alley consensus is that anywhere from six to 15 drivers have a legitimate shot at winning “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion, was fourth overall at 226.187 mph in the No. 3 Pennzoil Ultra Platinum Dallara/Chevrolet, while 2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was sixth at 225.810 mph in the No. 28 DHL Dallara/Honda.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2000, was ninth-fast at 225.452 mph in the No. 2 Verizon Dallara/Chevrolet. And owner/driver Ed Carpenter, who qualified on-pole for the second consecutive year last Sunday, stood 13th in the pecking order at 224.898 mph in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka Dallara/Chevy.

“We got a lot done today,” said Carpenter, who has returned to the cockpit after sitting out the season’s first four street/road-course events. “We did many pit stops and the balance of the car feels good. We have to figure out how we want to start the race. But overall I’m pretty pleased with the things we did.”

Led by rookie Carlos Huertas and his 65 laps in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Dallara/Honda, the traditional field of 33 turned 1,441 laps around the 2.5-mile oval.

“We knew everyone was going to run today since the Hondas didn’t run much on Monday,” said Carpenter, who finished 10th last year. “It was definitely busy out there. And that’s good for us to learn more about the car for Sunday. Now we’re going to look over the data and prepare for the race.”

NASCAR regular Kurt Busch cranked-out 53 trouble-free laps after crashing in Turn 2 during Monday’s practice. Busch’s top lap was at 224.684 mph, good for 15th on the scoring sheet.

“I give myself a B-minus right now,” said Busch, who will make his open-wheel debut in the world’s biggest race. “I still have to work through traffic and to pass cars and let others feel confident around me. I need the first half of the race to do such. Can we win? We have to put ourselves in position to win; we can’t ask for it.”

The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Busch is attempting to become the fourth driver to complete “The Double” by competing in the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., on Sunday. But Busch’s bid, and the workload at Andretti Autosport, was complicated on Monday when Kurt’s No. 26 Suretone Dallara/Honda made right-side contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier 95 minutes into a crucial five-hour session.

“I’m the least-prepared of the individuals who have done ‘The Double,’^” said Busch, referring to John Andretti, Robby Gordon and three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. The latter, co-owner of the No. 41 Haas Automation Made in America Chevrolet SS Busch drives in Cup, completed the 1,100-mile marathon in 2001.

“With Stewart, he’s been wanting me to stay on top of giving him information,” Busch said. “He’s been giving information back. He asked me if I needed a bulldozer to move the Turn 2 wall.”

Busch added that his NASCAR boss “set the benchmark” for “The Double” by finishing on the lead lap in both events. “Top of the field is what I’m shooting for,” Busch said. “If I can maneuver into that position through the first half of the race, I don’t need to get overconfident and think I can chew on that much more, try to do that much more, try to get too aggressive, make a mistake. To me it’s about executing and being professional about this whole thing.”

Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Scott Dixon won the Tag Heuer Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge Friday afternoon, defeating Sage Karam and Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing with Chip Ganassi Racing in the final. Dixon’s crew simulated a four-tire change and refueling in 11.737-seconds to the 12.084-second stop by Karam’s crew. The winning team earned $50,000 and big-time bragging rights.

Dixon’s crew includes Blair Julian, chief mechanic and right front tire; Adam Rovazzini, left front tire; Greg Shuker, right rear tire; Tyler Rees, left rear tire; Andy Schneider, air jack and Todd DeNeve, fueler.

“It’s actually one of my most stressful days apart from Race Day because you don’t want to mess it up,” Dixon said. “I’ve been lucky and blessed to have such a great team for many years and to win the Pit Sop competition two times within three years is pretty tough to do. Straight-up, all but one race this year, this team has been the quickest on pit road. They’re amazing at what they do. Without them, I wouldn’t have had the success that I have had. They’re one of the best teams on pit road. It’s definitely going to help me a lot come Race Day.”

A last-lap pass carried Gabriel “Gabby” Chaves to victory over Matthew Brabham in the Freedom 100 for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. Chaves, who placed second in this event last year in a four-wide finish, won by 0.0050-seconds. It was the second consecutive Freedom 100 win for Belardi Auto Racing, which prevailed with Peter Dempsey in the No. 5 Dallara last year.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Chaves, a 20-year-old native of Bogota, Colombia. “I am out of voice because I was just yelling so loud on the victory lap. I can’t describe this. I am so happy. The team deserves this. We deserve it. I have worked so hard to be where I am. Just to see myself get one step closer to where I want to be _ I’m speechless. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

The race was marred by a massive single-car crash in Turn 1 involving Chase Austin on Lap 15 of the 40-lapper. Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR Medical Director, had Austin transported to Methodist Hospital downtown for evaluation of a fractured left wrist. Austin, a 24-year-old resident of Mooresville, N.C., is a former NASCAR development driver with Hendrick Motorsports and Rusty Wallace Racing.

Chaves, who finished second to Sage Karam in the 2013 Indy Lights championship, definitely had a plan heading into the white flag lap. “I didn’t try to take the lead in Turn 1,” said Chaves, who finished second in the Pro Mazda Championship in 2012. “I was just trying to get around Zach (Meyer) for second position. I thought I had a better shot at the win if I was in second position on the last lap. It didn’t work out _ maybe thankfully, I don’t know. I was able to hang onto the car. I got a good run and made my way inside Zach in Turn 3, got a good run off of 4 and made the pass for the win.”

Brabham, 20, is a third-generation driver _ the son of former sports car ace Geoff Brabham and grandson of three-time Formula One World Driving Champion Sir Jack Brabham. Sir Jack, who died on Monday at age 88 at his home in Gold Coast, Australia, competed in four Indy 500s. He is credited with launching the rear-engine revolution at IMS in 1961 aboard a Cooper/Climax F1 car. Geoff Brabham qualified for 10 Indy 500s, the most recent in 1993.

“Right at the very end Gabby just picked me,” said Matthew, driver of the No. 83 United Fiber & Data Dallara. “I’m a little disappointed not to win, but I’m happy I was up there and happy that I could fight for the win. I guess it came down to a little bit of luck.”

Veteran chief mechanic Mark Shambarger was presented the 2013 Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award sponsored by Firestone Racing. Shambarger is chief mechanic on the No. 98 Integrity Energee Dallara/Honda driven by rookie Jack Hawksworth, who qualified 13th for the Indy 500 after a crash earlier in the week.

“It’s an honor to get his award; we had to crash to do it,” Shambarger said. “A lot of people I respect have received this award. It’s named after Clint Brawner, who was a mentor to my mentor. It’s pretty cool to be acknowledged for our hard work.” Presented annually since 1987, the award honors the colorful chief mechanic who logged 51 race victories and six Indy car national championships.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 23 2014
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