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Chaves tops Indy 500 practice as thoughts drift to qualifying

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, May 19, 2016) – As qualifying draws near for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, a pair of three-letter abbreviations are being mentioned more often around Indianapolis Motor Speedway: “NTS” and “kPa.”

The first stands for “no-tow speed,” or the lap speed a car achieved around the 2.5-mile oval without help of an aerodynamic tow. The second is short for kilopascals, the unit of measurement used to gauge turbocharger pressure on the Verizon IndyCar Series machines.

CLICK HERE: Practice 4 resultsCombined practice results

Gabby Chaves was fastest in today’s fourth day of practice for the epic May 29 race, with a tow-assisted lap of 227.961 mph in the No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

“It’s only practice but it feels pretty good,” said Chaves, the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year for both the Indianapolis 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series who had been without a ride this season before Dale Coyne Racing brought him on this month. “It’s my first time at the top of the charts here at IMS in an Indy car.

“Just pleased with the work the team has been doing, very pleased with the performance that Honda has been putting out as well. Overall I think we’ve got a pretty strong package.”

With just one more day of practice before two days of qualifications this weekend, the focus has also centered on the no-tow speed list paced today by Will Power with a lap of 225.381 mph in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“We had some good runs out there today,” said Power, the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2015 Indianapolis 500 runner-up. “We definitely made some gains and have a little bit more to go, as we’re still making adjustments for the coming days. I’m pretty confident that the Verizon Chevrolet will be in good shape for qualifying.”

Chaves was followed on the overall speed chart today by Townsend Bell in the No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda (227.593), Carlos Munoz in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda (227.589), Conor Daly in the No. 18 ShirtsForAmerica.com Honda (227.524) and Charlie Kimball in the No. 42 Tresiba Chevrolet (227.477).

Honda drivers have been atop the leaderboard all three days of practice (Tuesday’ssession was rained out).

“It’s almost weird because two months ago it was all about, ‘Oh my gosh, Chevy is just dominating,’ and Honda has just done a phenomenal job to keep their heads down, keep working and they’ve come here very well-prepared,” said Bell, a one-off competitor at the Indy 500 who serves as an NBCSN analyst at most Verizon IndyCar Series races. “I’m super proud to be in one of their cars. It’s been neat.”

Speeds are expected to increase in practice Friday when the turbocharger boost level for the Chevrolet and Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engines is raised 10 kPa to 140. That should equate to about an additional 30 horsepower.

All but one of the 33 cars entered for this year’s race turned laps today. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing spent most of the day rebuilding the No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowac Honda that rookie Spencer Pigot crashed in practice Wednesday and completed just an installation lap in his repaired car. A total of 2,563 laps were turned.

Following Power on the no-tow speed chart were Graham Rahal in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda (225.321), reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy (225.237) and defending Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevy (225.156).

“The Verizon Chevy ran well today,” Montoya said. “We had a little bit of a problem there earlier, but we made some changes and were able to make progress towards the end of practice.  We’re getting up to speed, ending practice much faster than we did previously.

“Honestly, I’m very happy with where we’re going right now.”

Practice runs from noon-6 p.m. ET Friday and will be streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The draw for qualifying positions follows at 6:15 p.m.

Two hours of final pre-qualifying practice is scheduled from 8-10 a.m. Saturday. The first day of qualifications to set the provisional 33 positions and lock in the Fast Nine Shootout competitors is scheduled from 11 a.m.-5:50 p.m. Saturday.

Group 1 qualifying to determine race starting positions 10-33 takes place from 2:45-4:45 p.m. Sunday, with the Fast Nine Shootout to decide the Verizon P1 Award pole winner and the starting order of the first three rows from 5-5:45 p.m.

Saturday coverage takes place on ESPN3 (11 a.m.-3 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET), with additional on-track action that day streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.comSundaycoverage is again on ESPN3 (2-4 p.m. ET) and ABC (4-6 p.m. ET), with practice sessions from noon-2 p.m. streaming on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

Coverage of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. ET May 29 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

‘Lionheart’ book provides many perspectives of two-time Indy 500 winner Wheldon

Today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would have been a “Dan Wheldon kind of day.”

“A sunny day here, 100th running, he’d have been loving it,” three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti said. “He’d have been in his element, bouncing along.”

Few drivers loved the Indy 500, IMS and race fans like Wheldon, and stories about that endure even though the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion has been gone nearly five years.

Those stories, and many more, are living on through a new book called “Lionheart – Remembering Dan Wheldon,” by Andy Hallbery and Jeff Olson. The book is on sale at the IMS Museum and various gift shops around the Speedway for $74.99, with proceeds benefitting the Dan Wheldon Foundation and Alzheimer’s Association, two causes close to Wheldon’s family. After the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, the book will be available worldwide via amazon.com.

Wheldon family members, former teammates Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, fellow competitors, motorsports journalists, photographers and many more friends share their personal and emotional stories in the book, which paints a full picture of the Brit from his childhood through his racing career. That career included the 2005 Verizon IndyCar Series title and wins in the ’05 and ’11 Indianapolis 500. Wheldon died in October ’11 at age 33 after a racing accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“One thing he always cared about was his fans; he did a lot better job than the three of us combined here,” Kanaan said with a smile and a nod toward fellow champions Dixon and Franchitti. “Taking more time, leaving the garages earlier to sign, to interact. He liked that stuff and he always said he loved the attention.”

Dixon shared memories about when he and Wheldon were teammates at Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The “Iceman” had the more relaxed approach to racing while Wheldon was the one writing pages upon pages of debriefing notes after practice.

“There were so many different things about Dan that were so likable on and off the track,” Dixon said. “Going further into our relationship, with having young kids together and spending family time together, it was fun to see how he changed.”

The contributions in “Lionheart” venture outside the INDYCAR world as well, from Formula One drivers Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber to NASCAR stars Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. For more information on the book, visit Lionheartbook.com.

‘Star Trek’ star Pine to wave green flag at 100th Indianapolis 500

Chris Pine, star of the globally celebrated “Star Trek” movie franchise, will wave the green flag to start the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“In addition to all our stars on the track, the 100th Running will feature a major lineup of stars off the track,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles. “We’re thrilled to welcome Chris Pine to our flag stand, where he will officially get our epic race under way by waving the green flag.”

Pine has emerged as one of Hollywood’s hottest actors. With multiple upcoming major motion picture releases, Pine’s resume is as extensive as it is versatile. He will next be seen in “Star Trek Beyond,” the third installment of the highly successful franchise, the drama “Hell or High Water” alongside Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster and he is currently filming “Wonder Woman.”