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Fun-Loving Daly Sets Pace At Dicey Gateway

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 3 2017

Conor Daly topped the time sheets at Gateway Motorsports Park during Tuesday’ test session.

Conor Daly of A.J. Foyt Racing overcame deteriorating track conditions at Gateway Motorsports Park Tuesday to lead both sessions of a Verizon IndyCar Series open test around the 1.25-mile oval in Madison, Ill.

A full field of 21 cars participated in the test outside St. Louis, a prelude to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline scheduled for Aug. 26. Daly, driver of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet, topped the abbreviated second session with a lap in 25.437-seconds at 176.907 mph after posting a speed of 173.714 mph in the opening/early afternoon practice.

“I like this place, I think it’s really fun,” said Daly, 25-year-old son of retired Indy car and Formula One driver Derek Daly. “Turn 1 is super ‘road-coursey.’ It’s a real fight getting into the center of it (Turn 1), and with the wind the way it is, it’s obviously a little sketchy on the exit of Turn 2. But, man, I like it.

“As soon as we rolled off the truck the car was fast. I felt really confident in it all day and I think we continued to make good progress. It was a very positive day for the ABC Supply team and I hope we can roll this momentum to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the coming weeks.”

Daly, who logged a combined total of 67 laps, was followed by the Team Penske Chevrolets of Helio Castroneves (174.559 mph), Juan Pablo Montoya (174.339 mph), Josef Newgarden (174.329 mph) and reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud (172.716 mph). Montoya, a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, will contest the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road-course on May 13 and the 101st running of the Indy 500 on the 2.5-mile oval on May 28.

Originally scheduled for two, three-hour practices, hot-lapping was limited in both sessions by problems with the track surface in Turns 1 and 2 (first session) and Turns 3 and 4 (second session). Torrential rains in the area made the test itself questionable. But following extensive work Tuesday morning to get the track ready, a total of 873 laps were turned before the second session ended early.

According to Racer.com, multiple cuts in Firestone’s tires emerged during both sessions. Only 17 drivers ran exploratory laps in the second session before officials halted the practice to work on the track surface for over an hour. Officials finally opted to end the test with approximately one hour of running time remaining.

Sanctioning body INDYCAR and Gateway Motorsports Park issued a joint statement regarding the early conclusion. “Gateway Motorsports Park and INDYCAR overcame tremendous challenges to conduct a successful series open test session today, despite 9.5 inches of rain in the two days leading up to the event,” the statement read. “Officials worked tirelessly to prepare the racing surface, which included drilling holes to relieve pressure of ground water and additional proactive measures. 

“During the course of today’s practices, conditions developed that made it necessary to stop the test early, within an hour of the scheduled end time. The conditions will be promptly addressed by INDYCAR and Gateway officials, and all are confident of a successful resolution when the series returns to the track. It was a valuable day for teams to gather information for the race event in August, and a great day for the fans who attended and were able to see their favorite cars and drivers up-close.”

Lone incident during the test was recorded in the first session, when JR Hildebrand made contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier in the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Hildebrand was uninjured, but the car was too damaged for him to continue.

Recall that Hildebrand returned to the cockpit at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Ariz., last weekend en route to a third-place finish Sunday in the season’s first oval-track race. Hildebrand sat out the previous road-race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., because of a broken left hand suffered in an incident on the Streets of Long Beach. Hildebrand damaged the right side of his car when he was caught-out by the wind in Turn 2 Tuesday. Hildebrand was cleared to drive after being checked at the infield medical center.

Despite the surface issues, Castroneves said it was crucial for teams and drivers to turn laps and hone-in on setups for the night race in August.

“It’s huge just to get the rhythm, the momentum,” Castroneves said. “This is a very tricky place, especially Turn 1. Basically, if you don’t do a good job in Turn 1, your lap time is gone. You’ve got to open up the lap very well. It’s great to be having a day here (to practice), for sure.”

During one of the delays, most drivers walked onto the track at the start/finish line and delighted fans by signing autographs and posing for photos through the catch fencing. Track owner Curtis Francois pointed to it as another cooperative move to build interest in the key Midwest market.

“We’ve been working really hard over the last five years to re-energize the fan base, motorsports in general,” Francois said. “I think they understand that we’re sincere, that we’re going to keep at this until we get this figured out in a way that they understand that motorsports are here to stay and that motorsports is a growing opportunity for a great place to take your family.

“We started laying a foundation to make sure that we built the core of the track from the ground level. That started with the fans and it also started with doing upgrades to the facility. Anywhere that we saw that the racers and the fans in any way touched the track, we’ve tried to make sure that was a great experience for them. That is coming true today.”

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Californian Billy Scott, who competed in four USAC National Championship races including the 1976 Indianapolis 500, died Friday, April 28. He was 68.

Billy Scott, who started the 1976 Indianapolis 500, passed away late last week.

Nicknamed “Billy the Kid,” Scott began driving Quarter-Midgets as a 5-year-old in San Bernardino, Calif. Eleven years later, he became the first 16-year-old to record a top-end speed of 200 mph in an NHRA Top Fuel dragster, doing so on the very day he became eligible to hold a Top Fuel license, his 16th birthday.

Scott was one of the later examples of what used to be a fairly common practice _ he served as an Indianapolis 500 crew member before driving in the race. Scott was an Eisenhour-Brayton crew member for Rick Muther in 1974, two years before his sole 500 start.

After finishing fourth in one of the 100-mile qualifying races for the Ontario 500 in March 1975, Scott competed seven laps of the feature race before a piston failure eliminated him.

As the very last person to try and qualify for the 1975 Indianapolis 500, the gun already had been fired to end activities while Scott was on the track. His first couple of laps were not quite fast enough to make it, and he caught the outside wall exiting Turn 4 on the fourth and final lap, failing to qualify.

In 1976, Scott qualified Warner Hodgdon’s Spirit of Public Enterprise Eagle/Offenhauser at an average speed of 183.383 mph. He finished 23rd when the race was prematurely ended by rainfall after 102 laps.

Scott unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for the 500 a few more times. After failing to qualify Larry Walker’s entry in 1982, Scott spent Race Day as an analyst for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcast.

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Results of the Verizon IndyCar Series open test Tuesday around the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., with rank, car number in parenthesis, driver, engine/aero kit, session, time/speed and combined laps completed. All chassis are Dallara-built and shod with Firestone Firehawk tires:

  1. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:25.437-seconds/176.907 mph, 67 laps
  2. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:25.7792/174.559, 78
  3. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:25.8118/174.339, 55
  4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:25.8133/174.329, 52
  5. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:26.0543/172.716, 61
  6. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.1431/172.130, 24
  7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:26.1749/171.920, 52
  8. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:26.2495/171.432, 43
  9. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.4302/170.260, 25
  10. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, Practice 2, 00:26.4512/170.125, 52
  11. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.4993/169.816, 46
  12. (19) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, Practice 1, 00:26.6291/168.988, 45
  13. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.6468/168.876, 43
  14. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, Practice 1, 00:26.6907/168.598, 22
  15. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.7205/168.410, 30
  16. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.7228/168.396, 24
  17. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.7616/168.151, 50
  18. (19) Ed Jones (R), Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.8014/167.902, 48
  19. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, Practice 2, 00:26.9805/166.787, 30
  20. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, Practice 1, 00:27.1852/165.531, 15
  21. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, Practice 1, 00:27.3614/164.465, 11
| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 3 2017
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