Power Shows Power In Carb Day

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 22 2015
Will Power sends message on Carb Day.. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

Will Power sends message on Carb Day.. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

INDIANAPOLIS _ Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is for sending messages, and Team Penske delivered a couple Friday during the last on-track activity before the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, who will start Sunday’s race from the middle of the three-car front row, topped the speed chart during the hour-long session. Later, teammate Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 champion, and crew won the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge.

Power, driver of the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, recorded a fast lap of 229.020 mph around the 2.5-mile IMS oval, with pole-sitter Scott Dixon second at 228.585 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Tony Kanaan, Dixon’s teammate and driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, was third at 228.490 mph. Simon Pagenaud, driver of the No. 22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet, was fourth at 228.458 mph. The top Honda-powered car was driven by Takuma Sato, fifth at 228.242 mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing entry.

“(Being fast today) means nothing, really,” said Power, whose top speed was recorded on the 20th of his 46 laps. “It’s just a big draft. It’s more about how you can get through traffic than anything. There’s quite a few good cars out there that are going to make their way to the front. I think our plan is just to try to stay up there all day.”

The field of 33 starters delivered 1,195 laps of safe practice during the session. “You’re just kind of doing little tweaks here and there, pit stop practice, practicing coming into the pit off (Turn) 4,” Power said. “It’s just those type of things, getting in the groove for the race.”

Power won the second annual Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis two weeks ago on the IMS road-course from pole position, and will try to become the first IndyCar driver to sweep both May races.

Dixon, meanwhile, sought to downplay talk that he remains the favorite to win a second Indy 500. “I think there are a lot more (favorites) than just (Will Power and me),” said Dixon, who won the 2008 race from pole position. “Obviously, Team Target and Penske do a fabulous job with all the cars that they have. With the group of cars that we have, it’s good to see them all at the sharp end of the field. It’s a warm-up and it depends on the tow that you get. Take what you want out of it, but we accomplished what we wanted to do with basic setup changes.” Dixon ran 44 laps during the session.

Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion with KV Racing Technology, said the session capped a productive Month of May with Chevy’s new superspeedway aero kit.

“I think we got exactly what we needed from this final practice session before race day,” said Kanaan, who logged 39 laps. “The crew got some hot pit stops in and I was able to work through a few more things we wanted to make sure we were good on. The No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet felt great out there and I couldn’t be more pleased with my race car for Sunday.”

Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Chevrolet, defeated Charlie Kimball of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing in the Pit Stop championship round. The Brazilian and his crew clocked a winning time of 12.561-seconds while Kimball and his No. 83 Chevrolet squad finished with a time of 13.017-seconds. Castroneves’ pit crew earned the $50,000 first-place prize for its speed, precision and accuracy.

The winner of this competition has gone on to capture the Indianapolis 500 six times, most recently by  Castroneves in 2009. It was the record seventh win for Castroneves, all with Team Penske, and 15th for Roger Penske’s organization.

“This is just perfect,” Castroneves said. “We started the month great and had a little blip on the radar with that accident going out, but we’re back on-track. The Shell V-Power car was unbelievable and these guys, it’s unbelievable. For us it’s nerve-wracking because you don’t want to screw up. Just a great effort from Team Penske.”

Castroneves won the Pit Stop Challenge prior to two of his three Indy 500 victories (2002, 2009). “I tell you what, I believe in any omen right now and if that’s where it takes it, I’ll believe it,” Castroneves said. “But at this point it’s just great, fantastic effort by the boys, great job everyone.”

Castroneves’ winning team featured chief mechanic Travis Law, Patrick Stewart, Gary Yingst, Joel Svensson, John Turpin, Trevor Lacasse and Keenan Watson.

In reaching the final for the first time, Kimball and his crew _ which earned the runner-up reward of $15,000_ defeated two-time/defending champion Dixon and the No. 9 TCGR team in the quarterfinals, and Marco Andretti and his No. 27 Andretti Snapple Honda squad in the semifinals.

Twelve Verizon IndyCar Series teams competed in head-to-head competition in four rounds. Each team was timed while performing a pit stop that required crews to change four tires and execute a simulated fuel hookup during each round. Teams with the fastest time advanced to the next round.

An inner ear condition has knocked Carlos Huertas out of the Indianapolis 500. Dr. Terry Trammell, INDYCAR medical consultant, said the 23-year-old Colombian will have to undergo further evaluation before being cleared to return to Verizon IndyCar Series competition.

Huertas was scheduled to start 18th in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Tristan Vautier, the 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, will replace Huertas in the No. 18 car. Vautier qualified the No. 19 Coyne entry for the 500 on Sunday while filling-in for James Davison. Vautier will start 32nd based upon entrant points.

“It was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions,” Vautier said after Carb Day practice. “I knew if James was getting the deal with them, I would qualify (the car). That was the first good news.

“Then, yeah, on this one, it’s not really the way you want to get back in the car, honestly. I think Carlos deserves to be racing because he did a really good job in qualifying and on practice. Obviously you can’t help but be excited to start your second Indy 500.”

Roy Wilkerson, chief mechanic on the No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda driven by Pippa Mann, is recipient of the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. The honor goes annually to the Indianapolis 500 chief mechanic who exemplifies the mechanical excellence, ingenuity and perseverance similar to that of legendary mechanic Brawner. Sponsored by Firestone Racing, the award includes a $5,000 prize and the winner’s name inscribed on a trophy on display in the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.

“I’m shocked, this still hasn’t set in,” Wilkerson said. “You go through this for a living and you just do what it takes to make this race _ it’s the biggest race in the world. When I was a kid, Clint Brawner was one of the guys you heard about and wanted to emulate and always wanted to be as good as. It’s an absolute honor to be the recipient of an award named after him.”

Englishman Justin Wilson can boast the coolest sponsor in the paddock. Wilson’s No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda has picked up backing from the Rolling Stones. The band, whose summer ZIP CODE tour includes the IMS infield on July 4, will display full tour livery on Wilson’s car for the Indianapolis 500.

“For the biggest race of the year, to have one of the biggest rock bands in history (as a sponsor) is just incredible,” said Wilson, referring to Mick Jagger and Friends. “Listening to the Rolling Stones was a Sunday tradition in our house. We would wake up and my dad would have the music on full-blast.”

Jack Harvey outdueled teammate Ethan Ringel to lead a 1-2-3-4 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports sweep in the Freedom 100 for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The 22-year-old Harvey, who won at IMS in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis earlier this month, became the first driver to claim wins on the famed oval and road-course in the same year. It was the eighth Freedom 100 win in 13 starts for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which saw Scott Anderson finish third and RC Enerson place fourth.

Four-time Indy 500 champion Al Unser will be honored during Saturday’s Legend’s Day program.

“Indy’s a place that has so much to it and enthusiasm around it,” Unser said. “It gets me hyped-up as many years as I’ve been retired from it. It just shows that it’s a race that you want to win.”

The Family Unser has scored six Indianapolis wins, with Big Al having prevailed in 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987. Al Unser Jr. won in 1992 _ in the closest finish in race history over Scott Goodyear _ and 1994.

“With the success we’ve had, it’s just a great feeling,” Little Al said. “It’s hard to put into words. Indy means our life. That is what it means to the Unser family.”

As part of Legends Day, Unser will participate in an autograph session at 9 a.m. (EDT) in Pagoda Plaza and a Q&A at 11 a.m. He also will pace vintage car pace laps at 10 a.m. around the oval.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 22 2015
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