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Kanaan Enjoying Life With A.J. At Indianapolis

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 25 2018

Tony Kanaan is driving in his first Indy 500 as a member of the A.J. Foyt Racing operation. Pretty interesting, he says. (RacinToday photo by Martha Fairris)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway traditionally is about sending messages for Sunday’s race. And with Tony Kanaan sitting atop the speed chart after the Month of May’s final practice, perhaps there is one more afternoon of magic left in the iconic career of team-owner A.J. Foyt Jr.

Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 winner and 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, led the one-hour session with a hot lap of 39.5099-seconds/227.791 mph around the 2.5-mile oval. Lap 19 of the 38 Kanaan logged in hot and sticky conditions capped the Brazilian’s first trip to IMS with Foyt, first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 _ and at age 83 _ a beloved, larger than his home state of Texas figure at the Brickyard.

Just ask T.K.

Oh, big-time,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. “I mean, I walked into the garage this morning and I thought it was the grandstand because we had 400 people in there and everybody is eating ice cream and hot dogs _ and that’s A.J. Everybody is an A.J. fan here. I mean, anybody that approached me that wanted a picture said, ‘Hey, I’m A.J.’s friend; hey, I’m A.J.’s friend.’ I said, ‘A.J., you have a lot of friends here!’ It’s completely different and it’s fun. It’s busy at times, but I’m having a blast.”

Kanaan will start Sunday’s 200-lapper 10th on the 33-car grid after completing his four-lap/10-mile qualifying tour at an average speed of 227.664 mph. And, of course, that brought to mind another Foyt anecdote.

“After qualifying on Saturday, we qualified, we’re out of the top nine, we really barely made it, so we’re 10th,” said Kanaan, recounting the first of two days of time trials. “I get out of the car and I’m expecting to run into A.J. and he’s going to tell me, ‘Let’s go again, let’s withdraw the time, let’s go for the Fast Nine.’ He approaches me in the golf cart. I said, ‘So, Boss?’ He’s like, ‘In 1966, I was second and I withdraw my time to re-qualify and I ended up on the other side of the fence in Turn 1.’ I said, ‘OK, well, I guess we’re qualifying Sunday then.’

“He said, ‘Yep.’ OK, so those are the kind of days we have there, and it’s awesome.”

Kanaan noted Friday’s conditions are expected to mimmick those on Sunday. “So we tried to optimize that and run in the heat conditions and see what are we going to do,” said Kanaan, 43, who will make his 17th Indy 500 start and record 289th straight start in an Indy car race on Sunday. “But really, if you haven’t figured it out by today, you’re in trouble.”

All teams are competing this year with sanctioning body INDYCAR’s new-for-2018 Dallara universal aero kit on a superspeedway for the first time. Sunday’s forecast is for temperatures expected in the low 90s.

A total of 1,273 laps were run Friday, an increase of more than 300 laps from Carb Day practice just one year ago. “I remember back in the days when we had to save the engine and you couldn’t do more than 10 laps (on Carb Day) to save it for the race,” Kanaan said. “Nowadays, the engines are so good, Chevy does such a great job, that you can run full-power all the way through. So then you tell the engineers that, we ran three sets of tires, almost 50 laps.”

Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, was second on the chart with a lap of 225.684 mph in the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

“I don’t really know if today told us too much about what the race will bring in the PNC Bank car,” said Dixon, a four-time series champion and Kanaan’s former teammate with the Chipster. “It’s really warm today and we think it could be even warmer on race day. The track temp was way up there today as well. I’m not really sure what you can learn from the times today. Overall, the car felt good and we were comfortable. You just never know exactly what you’re going to have until you get into the race.”

Fifteen drivers turned 40 laps or more in the practice, led by Graham Rahal’s 51 laps in the No. 15 Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Ed Carpenter, who will lead the field to the green flag as pole-sitter, was 14th-fastest in the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing  Chevrolet at 223.219 mph.

Danica Patrick, who will retire from motorsports after Sunday’s race, ran only 15 laps as an electrical issue forced her Ed Carpenter Racing crew to hustle the No. 13 Chevrolet back to its Gasoline Alley garage for repairs. Patrick still wound up eighth on the chart with a lap of 223.653 mph.

“We had a little bit of an electrical issue, but our team was able to get me back out there before practice was over,” said Patrick, who will make her eighth Indy 500 start with the aim of bettering her best finish of third in 2009. “At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done. I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early-on.

“Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”

All 33 cars now are locked away in their Gasoline Alley garages as crews make final changes in anticipation of race day. Drivers will be kept busy Saturday at IMS with a public autograph session (9 a.m. EDT) and the traditional public drivers meeting starting at 10:25 a.m.(streaming live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). Drivers will then participate in the IPL 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis.

The 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will air live at 11 a.m. (EDT) Sunday on ABC-TV and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets remain available at IMS.com.

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Second-generation driver Colton Herta held off teammate Patricio O’Ward at the finish line by 0.0281- seconds to win the Freedom 100 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race that set a record for speed average (191.422 mph) and lead changes (20).

Five of eight drivers in the race led during the 40-lap event, with pole-sitter Dalton Kellett leading the most laps (17). Herta, who led 10 laps, took over first place for the final time on Lap 39 and then held off O’Ward, Kellett (third place), Santi Urrutia (fourth place) and Ryan Norman (fifth place) at the finish. The top five finished within 0.3303-seconds of each other.

The victory made Herta, of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, the first driver to sweep all three Indy Lights races at IMS in a year. The 18-year-old son of former Indy car driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Bryan Herta won both races during the INDYCAR Grand Prix weekend May 11-12.

“It’s so cool. I didn’t really realize how cool it was until I got to kiss the bricks,” Herta said. “Both my dad’s Indy car wins, I held off here because I didn’t deserve it. Now I finally deserved it. Damn, that’s so cool.”

Asked what exactly the Yard of Bricks tastes like, Herta said, “Well, funny enough the bricks taste like brick. No, it was cool. It was a little brick with rubber. It wasn’t a great taste, but it was a nostalgic taste.”

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s crew for Scott Dixon defeated James Hinchcliffe’s Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew in a best-of-three/all-Honda final to win the annual Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge. It marked the third time that Dixon’s team has won the contest in the past seven years.

The No. 9 Honda crew _ consisting of tire changers Blair Julian, Kyle Clark, Mike LeGallic and Jason Beck, fueler Alphonse Girard and airjack operator Dave Pena _ split the $50,000 first prize.

Yeah, I think the biggest thing for the drivers is just try not to screw it up for these guys,” Dixon said. “A lot on the line, this team and many others work very hard on these pit stops. For me, I’m able to get the benefits in the race throughout all these weekends that we come across during the season. They put in a big effort. They’re a hugely talented crew, work effortlessly throughout the season.

I’m always grateful for what they’re able to achieve. For me, yeah, I think I went long on maybe two of those stops there. It’s hard, especially going from the left lane to the right lane, wasn’t too sure how it was going to be. They still did the job.

It’s a big deal to show just how much of a team sport this is. It’s never just one single person. It’s many trying to achieve the same objective. Some days I’m able to make a couple passes on track, but most of the time these guys are able to make it a lot easier for me and the team by gaining places in these pit stops.”

Hinchcliffe’s crew competed even though he failed to qualify for the race last Sunday, and finished runnerup in the competition for the second straight year. 

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Dr. Jerry Punch, who combined careers in broadcasting and medicine to become one of the most respected personalities in motorsports, was honored Friday with the Bob Russo Founders Award for dedication to auto racing.

The presentation was made by Russo Award Chairman Paul Page, the 2012 honoree, during ceremonies in the IMS media center.

“This is a race, this is a place that will change your life forever,” an emotional Dr. Punch said before his peers. “I’ve had 27 of those life-changing moments. There’s nothing like this place on race day, being here with 350,000 of your closest friends. For 54 years of ABC’s coverage, thank you for allowing us to showcase this place and why it’s the greatest race on earth.”

Russo, an honored motorsports journalist/publicist/historian, founded the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association in 1955. As stated on the plaque, the award is presented “to an individual who has demonstrated profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing as exemplified by Russo throughout his lifelong career.”

Dr. Punch, who will serve as a pit reporter for ABC-TV’s 54th and final Indy 500 telecast Sunday, was a driver and mechanic on the Carolinas short-track circuit, who in 1975, began substituting for NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett as track announcer at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway. Dr. Punch joined the Motor Racing Network radio team at the 1980 Daytona 500 and started with ESPN in 1984 as a pit reporter for NASCAR telecasts.

Dr. Punch received his medical degree from Wake Forest University in 1979 and worked for 14 years as an emergency room services director at a Florida hospital.

Previous Russo Award winners include: Michael Knight, 2005; Wally Parks, 2006; Chris Economaki, 2007; Bob Jenkins, 2008; Shav Glick, 2009; Bill York, 2010; Bill Marvel, 2011; Paul Page, 2012; The Hulman-George and France Families, 2013; Donald Davidson, 2014; Dick Jordan, 2015; Dan Luginbuhl, 2016 and Holly Cain, 2017. A permanent plaque with all winners’ names is on display in the IMS media center.

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Friday’s Miller Lite Carb Day practice results for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series race on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time/speed, best lap and total laps completed:

  1. (14) Tony Kanaan-(C), Chevrolet, 00:39.5099-seconds, 227.791 mph, 19-38
  2. (9) Scott Dixon-(C), Honda, 00:39.8787/225.684, 6-38
  3. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 00:39.9610/225.220, 11-30
  4. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 00:40.0329/224.815,5-43
  5. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 00:40.0512/224.712, 5-42
  6. (30) Takuma Sato-(C), Honda, 00:40.1637/224.083, 7-38
  7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 00:40.1889/223.942, 12-41
  8. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 00:40.2409/223.653, 2-15
  9. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 00:40.2534/223.584, 12-45
  10. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 00:40.2583/223.556, 9-44
  11. (64) Oriol Servia, Honda, 00:40.2618/223.537, 28-41
  12. (24) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 00:40.3085/223.278, 16-48
  13. (33) James Davison, Chevrolet, 00:40.3152/223.241, 21-35
  14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 00:40.3191/223.219, 8-30
  15. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 00:40.3252/223.186, 25-47
  16. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 00:40.3410/223.098, 10-38
  17. (3) Helio Castroneves -(C), Chevrolet, 00:40.3745/222.913, 20 48
  18. (29) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 00:40.3946/222.802, 6-49
  19. (7) Jay Howard, Honda, 00:40.4122/222.705, 6-48
  20. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 00:40.4332/222.589, 9-36
  21. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 00:40.4448/222.526, 37-51
  22. (32) Kyle Kaiser-(R), Chevrolet, 00:40.4706/222.384, 35-38
  23. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 00:40.5241/222.090, 16-39
  24. (66) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 00:40.5356/222.027, 11-25
  25. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 00:40.5476/221.961, 8-40
  26. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(C), Honda, 00:40.5558/221.916, 12-38
  27. (6) Robert Wickens-(R), Honda, 00:40.5732/221.821, 22-30
  28. (4) Matheus Leist-(R), Chevrolet, 00:40.5773/221.799, 5-37
  29. (25) Stefan Wilson, Honda, 00:40.5839/221.763, 33-48
  30. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo-(R), Honda, 00:40.6188/221.572, 4-25
  31. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 00:40.6429/221.441, 35-44
  32. (27) Alexander Rossi -(C), Honda, 00:40.6552/221.374, 18-29
  33. (17) Conor Daly, Honda, 00:40.9636/219.707, 16-35

Total Laps _ 1,273

(C) _ Past Indy 500 champion; (R) _ Rookie of the Year candidate

Note _ All teams competing with Dallara IR-12 universal aero chassis with either Chevrolet or Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines on Firestone Firehawk tires.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 25 2018
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