May Begins With Safety, Qualifying In Spotlight

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 2 2019
Alexander Rossi took to the infield road course at Indy in a car fitted with INDYCAR’s new Advanced Frontal Protection safety device. The AFP is the small fin located just forward of the cockpit. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

INDYCAR’s latest safety-related innovation will be front-and-center during the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The sanctioning body has approved the Advanced Frontal Protection debris deflector for competition beginning with the sixth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix at IMS on Saturday, May 11, as well as the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26.

Seven former winners are listed among the field of 36 cars officially entered and announced Wednesday for the Indianapolis 500. The36 cars entered _ an increase of one from last year _ will compete for 33 spots in the traditional three-car/11 row field via a new qualifying format for the NTT IndyCar Series’ crown jewel event.

Practice around the 2.5-mile IMS oval is scheduled to open on Tuesday, May 14. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19. Thirty cars will earn a spot in the starting field on May 18. The top nine starting positions and the last three available starting spots _ positions 31 through 33 _ will be determined May 19 during the Fast Nine Shootout and Last Row Shootout, both of which will air on new television partner NBC.

A close-up look at the AFP, which is designed to deflect debris before it can hit the driver.

The titanium Advanced Frontal Protection debris deflector saw track time on April 24 during an open test. INDYCAR President Jay Frye said the sanctioning body was satisfied the AFP is ready for use in all NTT IndyCar Series races this season including its original target date for implementation, the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

“Thanks to a phenomenal effort by Dallara and all of the INDYCAR teams, we are ahead of schedule in making this happen,” said Frye, who called the AFP “Phase 1 of our solution” to improve cockpit safety. The next phase is expected to be revealed this month.

The AFP is bolted onto the Dallara IR-18 chassis centerline ahead of the cockpit and is designed to push flying debris away from the driver. With brackets and monocoque reinforcement, the AFP weighs just under five pounds and has passed the same load-testing as the Indy car roll hoop sitting behind and above the driver.

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ace James Hinchcliffe, among the 29 veterans who participated in the test, praised the prioritization of driver safety. “It’s great to see that INDYCAR is always pushing safety,” Hinchcliffe said. “Obviously, this is just Step 1 in an evolution of head protection. But having been hit by a piece of debris that would’ve been prevented with this device, I’m all for it. It’s also comforting to know that behind the scenes we are still working hard on a more comprehensive solution.”

Scott Dixon will be looking to become a two-time winner of the 500 later this month.

Despite limited track time due to periodic rain showers, the open test saw 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato top the speed chart at 226.993 mph in the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter, the 2018 Indy 500 pole-sitter, was just behind at 226.414 mph in the No. 20 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet. Those speeds were logged during a session open to 20 veteran drivers who have raced this season.

Sato acknowledged that the AFP was a distraction for him and will require all drivers to adjust their sight lines. “Better not to have anything, of course. I think things you just get used to,” Sato said. “First time jumping in the car, I wasn’t sure how is going to be. Out-lap, first few laps, sometimes it was difficult. Imagine, basically you block one eye. Then you go watching an apex on your strong side of the eye, which is broken. So now the brain has to shift to the left eye to see it.

“At the same time, you go into the wall, close to the wall, you are usually watching on the right-hand side, but supporting the left-hand eye. Now left-hand eye completely broken by this. Eventually, we will get used to, but this is a necessary modification. Compared to the halo in Europe, I think it’s junior formula here, I think still there is steps we need to move on. I think INDYCAR did a great job for that.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver and 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato reported problems with the new AFP device.

I think nothing is enough in this world, right? In this situation, it’s very difficult to predict. But at least it’s supposed to be obviously doing a great job when you have a heavy debris coming to the cockpit. I’m sure it’s going to work better, of course. Not only for that, but it is interesting because a lot of driver feels different airflow coming into the cockpit. I could feel that, too. Some driver having a little bit helmet lifting or things that come into the cockpit. You can feel the airflow, it’s very different from last year, which is quite interesting.

“But, again, in a worst-case scenario, if something happened in front, if debris comes, for sure this definitely protect us.”

Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009) and single winners Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Sato (2017) and Will Power (2018) are past champions seeking  another victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Two-time Formula One World Driving Champion Fernando Alonso has returned to the event this year with McLaren Racing, attempting to become just the second driver to win the “Triple Crown” of global auto racing with victories in the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Indy 500.

Alonso electrified the racing world as an Indy 500 rookie with Andretti Autosport in 2017, leading 27 laps before retiring with 20 laps remaining due to an engine problem. The native of Spain, who was named Rookie of the Year at IMS, saw his progress during the open test delayed by an electrical issue on the installation lap in his No. 66 McLaren Chevrolet. Alonso was unable to complete both phases of the veteran refresher session.

Alonso said the car issue wasn’t a complete surprise since it was the first time on-track with the Dallara chassis prepared at the McLaren Technology Centre in England. Finishing touches on the car were completed one week prior to arrival at IMS. 

James Hinchcliffe takes his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda through a corner at Indy.

“It was a brand new chassis, brand new car. Everything fit in the last week,” Alonso said. “We expect to run slowly, step by step, short runs at the beginning. It’s what we did. If we could probably have (run) the (install) laps at midday, maybe you discover these issues, then you have hours to work on the car, be ready for the afternoon. The weather delays everything. You do the lap at 5:30 p.m. and there is no room to get back on track on time.”

Andretti Autosport’s Conor Daly was the only veteran to complete the refresher. Alonso needs to turn 10 more laps at 215-plus mph, Castroneves three laps at 215-plus, JR Hildebrand two laps and Oriol Servia eight laps. All four will be permitted to do so on the opening day of Indy 500 practice on May 14.

In addition, seven drivers will compete for Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors _ 2019 NTT IndyCar Series race-winner Colton Herta, Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci, Ben Hanley, Jordan King, 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion Patricio O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.

Herta was among the four first-timers who completed all three phases of the annual Rookie Orientation Program during the open test, turning the best lap of the session and fourth-best of the day at 226.108 mph in the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.

“It was pretty cool,” said Herta, who became the youngest winner in Indy car history in March at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and won the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race last year on the IMS oval. “The first few laps were the same speed as an Indy Lights car, so it wasn’t too impressive. But once they kind of let me run at 215-plus on the third stage, it was pretty awesome. 

“Definitely a dream of mine for a long time to be able to run an Indy car here. Even though it’s just testing, it’s still really sentimental.”

The Indy 500 field also includes seven past INDYCAR champions _Sebastien Bourdais, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Power.

Andretti Autosport has entered five cars, more than any team. That entry includes the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda fielded by Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian and driven by Marco Andretti. That car will feature a vivid, Day-glo red livery honoring the 50th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 victory by Mario Andretti, Marco’s grandfather, in 1969.

Month of May race activity will begin with the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the Speedway’s 2.439-mile/14-turn road-course on May 11. Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, May 10. The event will air live on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 3 p.m. (ET). NBC and the radio network also will air the Indy 500 at 11 a.m. on May 26. Fans can visit IMS.com to buy tickets and for more information about all Month of May activities at IMS.



Winners (7) _ Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato.

Rookies (7) _ Marcus Ericsson, Santino Ferrucci, Ben Hanley, Colton Herta, Jordan King, Patricio O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist.

American drivers (14) _ Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, Santino Ferrucci, Colton Herta, JR Hildebrand, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Spencer Pigot, Graham Rahal, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach.

International drivers (20) _ Max Chilton, Ben Hanley, Jack Harvey, Jordan King, Pippa Mann _ Great Britain; Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist _ Brazil; James Davison, Will Power _ Australia; Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud _ France; Marcus Ericsson, Felix Rosenqvist _ Sweden; James Hinchcliffe, Canada; Takuma Sato _ Japan; Patricio O’Ward _ Mexico; Fernando Alonso _ Spain; Scott Dixon _ New Zealand; Ed Jones _ United Arab Emirates.

Engines (36) _ Chevrolet 18, Honda 18.

Official NTT IndyCar Series entry list for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, with car number in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car name with engine supplier and team entrant:

1. (2) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., Shell V-Power Nitro Plus Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske

2. (3) Helio Castroneves-(W), Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet/ Team Penske

3. (4) Matheus Leist, Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises

4. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Toronto, Canada, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

5. (7) Marcus Ericsson-(R), Kumla, Sweden, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

6. (9) Scott Dixon-(W), Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing

7. (10) Felix Rosenqvist-(R), Värnamo, Sweden, NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda/Chip Ganassi Racing

8. (12) Will Power-(W), Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske

9. (14)Tony Kanaan-(W), Salvador, Brazil, ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet/A.J. Foyt Enterprises

10. (15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, United Rentals Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

11. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Le Mans, France, SealMaster Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan

12. (19) Santino Ferrucci-(R), Woodbury, Conn., Cly/Del Manufacturing Honda/Dale Coyne Racing

13. (20) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing

14. (21) Spencer Pigot, Orlando, Fla., Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing

15. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Montmorillon, France, Menards Team Penske Chevrolet/Team Penske

16. (23) Charlie Kimball, Camarillo, Calif., Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet/Carlin

17. (24) Sage Karam, Nazareth, Pa., DRR WIX Filters Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

18. (25) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., United States Air Force Honda/ Andretti Autosport

19. (26) Zach Veach, Stockdale, Ohio, Gainbridge Honda/Andretti Autosport

20. (27) Alexander Rossi-(W), Nevada City, Calif., NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda/ Andretti Autosport

21. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay-(W), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., DHL Honda/Andretti Autosport

22. (30) Takuma Sato-(W), Tokyo, Japan, Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

23. (31) Patricio O’Ward-(R), Monterrey, Mexico, Carlin Chevrolet/Carlin

24. (32) TBA, Juncos Racing Chevrolet/Juncos Racing

25. (33) James Davison, Melbourne, Australia, Dale Coyne with Byrd and Belardi Honda/Dale Coyne Racing with Byrd and Belardi

26. (39) Pippa Mann, Ipswich, England, Driven2SaveLives Chevrolet/Clauson-Marshall Racing

27. (42) Jordan King-(R), Warwick, England, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing

28. (48) JR Hildebrand, Sausalito, Calif./DRR Salesforce Chevrolet/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

29. (59) Max Chilton, Reigate, England, Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet/Carlin

30. (60) Jack Harvey, Bassingham, England, AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda/Meyer Shank Racing

31. (63) Ed Jones, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet/Ed Carpenter Racing

32. (66) Fernando Alonso, Oviedo, Spain, McLaren Racing Chevrolet/McLaren Racing

33. (77) TBA, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

34. (81) Ben Hanley-(R), Manchester, England, 10 Star DragonSpeed Chevrolet/DragonSpeed

35. (88) Colton Herta-(R), Valencia, Calif., Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda/Harding Steinbrenner Racing

36. (98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., U.S. Concrete-Curb Honda/Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 2 2019
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