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Penske Entertainment Corp. Provides Race for Equality & Change Update

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020 – Penske Entertainment Corp. announced several significant steps this morning related to its ongoing Race for Equality & Change initiative. This includes a major expansion of its relationship with NXG Youth Motorsports Inc. (NXG), a 501c3 that introduces minority students to motorsports.

NXG uses the world of motorsports to provide students access to STEM curriculum, career pathways and valuable life lessons,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles. “We’re thrilled to partner with Coach Rod Reid to support his tremendous work and the expansion of his program.”

In addition, Jimmie McMillian was named Chief Diversity Officer for Penske Entertainment Corp. McMillian has been Senior Corporate Counsel for IMS and INDYCAR since 2016 and is nationally recognized as a strong and consistent voice for diversity in the legal profession. He is charged with leading the ongoing implementation of vital Race for Equality & Change pillars.

“Jimmie is an impactful leader and a strong voice for inclusivity and diversity,” Miles said. “His experience, perspectives and community relationships will be a tremendous asset in this role. We’re grateful to have him guiding this significant and important effort for us.”

NXG Expansion 

Penske Entertainment Corp., owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and INDYCAR, has teamed up with several corporate partners to provide increased funding and resources to NXG. More than half a million dollars in funds and in-kind contributions have been raised, with key donations coming from program title sponsor Lucas Oil, Penske Entertainment Corp., LifeSecure Insurance Company and Snap-on Incorporated.

NXG will also be provided a permanent garage at IMS with brand-new tools from Snap-on.

The increased funding and infrastructure further the program in several important ways, including allowing for a yearlong curriculum, increasing the number of students participating and enhancing the depth and quality of student experience.

“The support from partners new and long-term, including LifeSecure Insurance, Snap-on, Penske Entertainment Corp. and Lucas Oil, will help us build upon the strong foundation we’ve established,” said Coach Reid. “Ultimately, we’ll be able to ensure more students have access to opportunities that teach vital life and career skills on a year-long basis.”

Since its inception in 2006, NXG has introduced more than 1,000 boys and girls ages 11 to 16 to the educational benefits that can be derived from performance driving. It utilizes racing as a training tool for life-skill development, engaging participants in classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. Participants are introduced to motorsports career opportunities such as engineering, marketing, management, food service, and health and fitness while being inspired to become safe, responsible future drivers.

The announcement coincides with NXG’s season finale taking place this week at IMS as part of the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR.

Race for Equality & Change

Race for Equality & Change was unveiled during this year’s Brickyard 400 weekend and represents a major effort to support diversity and inclusivity across the INDYCAR industry.

Key goals include:

  • Recruiting and developing a diverse workforce throughout all levels of INDYCAR and IMS
  • Diversifying the competitive driver field at the grassroots, Road to Indy and NTT INDYCAR SERIES levels
  • Supporting impactful grassroots youth motorsports programs, like NXG
  • Diversifying employment, leadership and ownership within the SERIES and with INDYCAR promoters
  • Investment in minority communities to encourage greater engagement with INDYCAR and IMS
  • Establishing a procurement program to meaningfully increase the number of minority-owned businesses that contract with INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year

“I’m honored to take on this role and ready to help fuel change and inclusivity in our sport,” McMillian said. “Penske Entertainment Corp. is committed to making a difference, and today’s announcements are just the beginning of the important work and progress to come.”

Butch Welsch: Observations from the strangest Indy 500 ever!

Special to TSO by Butch Welsch: 2020 was to be my 73rd Indy 500 in a row. When the announcement was made August 4th that the race would be run with no fans, while I was understanding of their situation, I was also determined to find a way to not end my consecutive streak. That…

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Conquer Paralysis Now #StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala goes virtual – set for August 20th

#StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala celebrates Conquer Paralysis Now milestone

Popular fundraiser on Aug. 20 during Indy 500 week goes virtual but retains exciting components

INDIANAPOLIS (July 29, 2020) – It will be a night to remember when Conquer Paralysis Now (CPN) hosts a special, virtual #StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala on Thursday, Aug. 20 beginning at 7 p.m. EDT. The Gala celebrates CPN founder and INDYCAR team owner Sam Schmidt’s dedication to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. Once again, the popular event coincides with activities leading up to the world-famous Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

CPN and its predecessor, the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation, have hosted an in-person fundraiser Gala in Indianapolis each May at the traditional time of the Indy 500, with the racing community providing extensive support. While the event takes on a new form in 2020 – this year’s #StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala will be an online virtual experience – it will still contain many of the highlights that have made it a mainstay of Indianapolis 500 race week. 

Fans from across the country may sign up for free to virtually attend the event individually and there is an option to host a watch party as well. VIP virtual cocktail party packages are available that include bottles of Pianetta Special Label wine, CPN 20th anniversary wine glasses and Bloomin’ Brands gift cards for two ($150 for the VIP package), six ($450) or 12 people ($900), but they are limited in quantity and must be secured by Monday, Aug. 3. A variety of event sponsorship levels remain available as well.

Celebrity guests from the motorsports world will be on hand during the virtual event, live and silent auctions featuring unique prizes will be available to bidders along with “live” music. CPN is asking the community to #StandWithSam and support this year’s milestone event.

“I wouldn’t be here today, period, without the support of the motorsports community,” Schmidt says. “The community has always provided an incredible amount of encouragement and motivation, in addition to tremendous financial support, which has always kept our foundation going. It really is a family.

“This being the 20th anniversary of the Gala, I never certainly thought I’d live this long, let alone be able to continue my pursuit of winning on the racetrack. To also be able to make an impact in the lives of so many individuals with disabilities these past 20 years is just a blessing.”

Schmidt will host the #StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala. Dave Calabro, Indianapolis TV personality and Indianapolis Motor Speedway track announcer, and veteran motorsports pit reporter Jamie Little will emcee the event from a private club inside the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dignitaries scheduled to attend virtually include new track owner and legendary racing magnate Roger Penske, racing great Mario Andretti, two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, reigning Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud and more.

“The more I’m getting into this virtual event production, it’s pretty cool,” Schmidt says. “The ability to bring in the guest appearances from a number of people that could not have participated live is fantastic, and to be able to tell our story in an organized fashion and what we have accomplished over the last 20 years. To have the Gala combined with watch parties around the country, it literally opens it up to so many more supporters who have wanted to attend past Galas but could never physically attend. I’m pretty excited about it. Hopefully, it reaches an even bigger market than we did with our in-person events in the past.”

For more information about how to participate in the #StandWithSam online virtual experience, visit www.storybook.link/standwithsam. Sponsors of the #StandWithSam 20th Anniversary Gala are Arrow, BraunAbility, Amish Country Gazebos and Firestone.

Schmidt started CPN in 2000, shortly after his IndyCar driving career ended when a testing accident left him a quadriplegic. His dogged determination has helped CPN raise nearly $18 million for spinal cord injury research and treatment. It also funded the DRIVEN NeuroRecovery Center, an accessible fitness facility that opened in Schmidt’s hometown of Las Vegas in 2018 and allows individuals with disabilities to improve their physical, mental and emotional health.

Butch Welsch Reflects on Changing Memorial Day Traditions after 72 Straight Indy 500’s

Some thoughts by Butch Welsch prior to Memorial Day 2020.

Traditions Lost: Figuring out what I am going to be doing on Memorial Day weekend for the first time after 72 straight years attending the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the Wednesday before Memorial Day Weekend. I text my son and grandson in California to say: “I’ll see you guys at the St. Louis Airport at 1:00 PM tomorrow.” My son texts back to remind me, “Don’t forget the ham sandwiches for the ride to Indy and of course remember the tickets and badges.” Then we simultaneously text: “Whoops, not this year.” And so the end of traditions begins.

Wednesday night and I am supposed to be putting the finishing touches on my article for TrackSideOnline.com presented by HondaRacing/HPD, providing my predictions for the upcoming race. Instead I am making 27 trips from the dining room to the basement with things such as Aunt Martha’s Wedgewood dishes which we haven’t used in 40 years. However, I have to be careful with them because they are worth a fortune – and by the way no one wants to buy them. We are having a bunch of new carpet installed and it is necessary to remove all of the glass and china from the cabinets. I said I didn’t want to spend my Memorial Day weekend moving all of the dining room stuff so my wife had it ready to move to the basement on Wednesday. This weekend is not starting off well.

Thursday is reserved for some time at the office and then pick up the kids for a nice leisurely drive to the Hoosier state. We actually won’t be missing the boring drive through Illinois.

On Friday, it is up early and to the track. The first stop is at the booth of the number one Indy Car Racing artist, Randy Owens, who I have gotten to know over about 20 years. I proudly own about 30-40 of Randy’s pieces and would have more if I had more wall space and less wife. Then it is off to the garage area to check out the final liveries on the cars in this year’s race. This is followed by a brisk walk under the main straight tunnel to head for the Penthouse of grandstand “B”. This is a good vantage point for “Carb Day” as it is right at pit exit and the cars tend to come in and go out frequently. I am already missing it as I write this. Then comes the Freedom 100. This Indy Lights race has become one of the racing highlights of the weekend. Frequent passing, sometimes at least two wide into turn one, are the norm. And then we will never forget the sight of four cars wide coming across the yard of bricks, unable to tell who was ahead from our vantage point.

By then it’s time for a track dog or two to get us through the rest of the afternoon. We hit the concession stand on our way north to take up seats in the Paddock for the pit stop contest. This is always a light hearted fun event with low key competition and typically some interesting oddities during the pitting processes.

By now we are pretty tired out and following a walk back to the car in the infield it is back to the hotel. There a quick shower and change of clothes is required. Bryant Heating and Cooling Co. has been sponsoring at car at the Speedway since 1958. Every year since then, they have held a large dealer rally in conjunction with the 500. For about 40 of those years and counting, they have utilized the Marriott East Indianapolis Hotel as their headquarters. Since we are a heating and air conditioning company in St. Louis which utilizes Bryant equipment, we are invited to their large Friday night dinner. The highlight of the dinner is an appearance of the driver of the Bryant Heating and Cooling Special. For the last 13  years that driver has been Tony Kanaan. Because Bryant is Tony’s longest tenured personal sponsor, he always has a lot of nice things to say and in addition he always conducts some fun banter with the emcee. Did I mention there is a fabulous dinner as well?

Back to the hotel for an early turn in because tomorrow is going to be another fun filled day. Again, its early to the track for some tours around Gasoline Alley. Since we know there is going to be a driver autograph session, placing ourselves in the proper position allows for some good photos as the drivers arrive on their scooters. We pass on the monstrous lines of fans seeking autographs and head for the Tower Terrace seats in front of the new press box to claim our seats for the drivers meeting.

While it is still an hour before the drivers meeting starts, the time passes quickly as there is a procession of old time Indy race cars making laps around the track. The highlight of this portion is Donald Davidson, sitting on the pit wall, with only a microphone giving every detail of the years the cars ran, their start and finishing places and more information than one can imagine. And he does it all from his memory.

Now it’s time for the Driver’s Meeting itself. While the announced time is 10:30, there ae always some drivers who straggle in and a 10:40 starting time is more usual. There are always some awards to last year’s winner and the polesitter. Then finally, the part we are there to see. Each driver is introduced and comes forward to receive a ring acknowledging that he is an Indy 500 starter. Can you imagine what AJ Foyt has done with 35 of those?

For the traditions to continue, the timing now is critical. The 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indy starts at 12:00 noon. Therefore, we rush, when I was younger it was more of a run, now a fast walk has to suffice, to our car. Then it is out the south tunnel where you can’t turn east like we want, so a 1 block ride west, followed by a U turn gets us heading downtown. There is a quick stop at a Subway on 16th street at Tibbs to pick up a sandwich to eat during the parade. Once downtown we have to take the highway across town because our reserved parade tickets are on Pennsylvania which is the eastern street where the parade begins.

Another 5 or 6 block brisk walk takes us to our seats near New York street. If timing is right, and it usually is, we make our seats just as the Indianapolis 500 Police Motorcycle patrol with their guy who stands on the seat of his motorcycle is passing by signalling the start of the parade. Of course, for us, the highlight of the parade are the drivers and their families. Our grandson can usually grab a high five with Tony Kanaan which makes a great family photograph.

Following the parade, it is back to the track to spend some time going through the museum, getting some pictures and soaking in the atmosphere. After our legs are fully expended, it is back to the hotel. There we catch up with our St. Louis daughter, son-in-law and our two other grandchildren. These days they can’t make it to Indy before Saturday because our daughter is a teacher with year end duties on Friday.

There is just enough time for the kids to take a swim in the pool and then it’s time to prepare for dinner. For that a new tradition has been initiated the last few years. That is dinner reservations at Rick’s Boatyard Café for dinner with an old friend, Jim Michaelian, who is the man in charge of the Long Beach Grand Prix Indy Car Race, and Don Figler, a photographer friend from St. Louis who for dozens of years stationed himself inside of Turn 3 for the 500. Even a college friend who lives in Indy, Ted Popowchak joins us. A lot of racing talk takes place in addition to a nice dinner in a beautiful location.

Following dinner, the family piles in the mini-van for a drive up 16th street from Tibbs and then out Crawfordsville Road just to see the mass pandemonium which is taking place. Actually it used to be much more exciting, but since they have made the Coke lot at the north end of the track the main parking area and have closed off Georgetown Road to cars, there is not quite as much to see. However, there is still enough for us to get “the flavor” of the weekend. Then its back to the hotel for a good, although short, night’s rest.

These are an awful lot of traditions I am going to miss and I haven’t even gotten to race day.

Race day morning, following a quick breakfast, by 6:30 we are in the cars off to the track. For many years our parking spot has been the Speedway United Methodist Church on 16th street about 5 blocks west of the Speedway. We figure we might as well give to a church and besides there is a back way out that avoids exiting onto 16th street.

The walk to the track includes a stop to buy some ear plugs from an enterprising young man who has been selling them in front of his home since he was a small toddler of around 4. He is probably a college graduate now thanks to all of the ear plugs sold.

At the track, one more major tradition is for the whole family in attendance to have our picture taken in front of the main entrance. This tradition began back in the 1950’s.

Butch with Family and Friends at Indy (Butch Welsch Collection)

Once we enter the track, we start taking in the traditions which everyone in attendance has grown to know and love. The parade of bands; the playing of “On the Banks of the Wabash” which signals the cars are to be placed on the track; the parade of celebrities in attendance; the introduction of the drivers.

Then the REAL traditions. The playing of the National Anthem; a single trumpeter playing taps (I get chills just writing that) followed by “Back Home Again in Indiana”, the release of the balloons and the announcement of “Drivers start your Engines”. By this time were ready for the traditions to end and to get on with the race.

I have never felt sorry for Roger Penske on race day. I have been envious of him and consider his methods to be second to none. Don’t tell him, but I preach many of his philosophies of running a business to my employees. Sometimes on race day I have even hoped that maybe a Penske car WOULDN’T win the 500. That hasn’t worked very well as he has visited victory lane 18 times.

However, come this Sunday I am going to feel sorry for Roger Penske. He did a wonderful thing for us race fans by buying the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR. We all know he is going to do wonderful things with both. And yet this race day, his Holy Ground is all dressed up with no place to go. For me, this is going to be a Memorial Day weekend unlike any other.

However, as much as I am going to miss all of these traditions, I feel very confident knowing that Roger Penske treasures these traditions as much as I do. Therefore, I feel comfortable that as soon as it is humanly possible, Roger Penske is going to bring back these wonderful Indianapolis traditions for us. Remember, it is pretty safe to assume that Roger is very anxious to get that win number 19 and I’ll bet he is also thinking that number 20 sounds like a really good round number.

The traditions will continue.    

Butch Welsch

St. Louis, MO

Indy 500 Entry – Butch Welsch Collection

TSO Feature – More detail on ripKurrent, Charlie Kimball and Carlin. It will be the first time in 138 races that Kimball will have a different primary sponsor

By Steve Wittich

After a 138 straight NTT IndyCar Series races with a very familiar partner, Charlie Kimball will take to the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway At Gateway oval with a new partner and a different look for the No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet.

Kimball and Carlin are introducing a new company, ripKurrent, to the NTT IndyCar Series.

“It’s neat because you get to introduce people to IndyCar racing with a fresh perspective,” said Kimball about the new partnership. “They come in, and maybe they’ve been fans, or maybe they’ve worked in the industry. Coming as a partner with a team like Carlin is such a different experience. They get excited about it, and you can share that with them.”

Jason Clark, ripKurrent Director of Strategic Accounts, worked with Kimball to put the one race program together. Clark’s previous role was as Senior Manager of Partner Strategy for the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A role that made him keenly aware of the value that Kimball and Carlin bring to their partners.

“They (ripKurrent) are really excited for the weekend,” explained Kimball. “They’ve got 20 or 25 guests coming, from clients to business partners. We’ll have associates that they work with on the car. I think they are really excited. They are doing a reception on Friday night and coming out to the race on Saturday.”

Led by a pair of Hoosiers and long-time race fans, the company offers disruptive, climate-conscience, innovative technologies aimed at saving their customers in high energy consumption environments between 30% and 50% on energy costs.

The Boca Raton, Fla. based company is a one-stop-shop for companies looking to lower their energy costs; from energy audits and modeling to the design of mechanical, electrical and plumbing solutions, to the manufacture and installation of thermal technologies.

“The Bommarito Auto Group 500 marks ripKurrent’s first foray into motorsports. Both Justin Dye (ripKurrent CEO) and I have been passionate about INDYCAR for many years, dating back to our childhood in southern Indiana,” stated Jade Culbertson, ripKurrent President. “We grew up watching open-wheel racing on small dirt tracks and, of course, the Indianapolis 500. To have ripKurrent partnered with an NTT IndyCar Series team is special to us. Also, being associated with Carlin and Charlie Kimball is extremely exciting. Charlie is a very accomplished and well-respected driver – he’s the first licensed driver with diabetes in the history of Indy car racing, which is significant to me, having lost my mother due to complications with diabetes two years ago. Speed, innovation, technology and efficiency have always been synonymous with INDYCAR and that aligns perfectly with our brand and energy services business at ripKurrent. We’re serious about reducing energy consumption for our clients, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint, a healthier planet and significant cost savings.”

More and more companies like ripKurrent are starting to understand that potential business-to-business benefit of being involved in the NTT IndyCar Series. There are dozens of companies partnered with the series and other teams who ripKurrent could help save money. What better way to meet them, then at the race track.

“More and more, partners understand that it’s about the relationships that they build, not just with teams and drivers, but with other partners involved,” explained Kimball when asked if sponsor prospects understand the possible business to business potential in the NTT IndyCar Series. “That networking is something that is only going to get stronger and stronger within IndyCar partnerships.”

Kimball will look to build on the momentum from a top ten finish at Pocono Raceway last week. The Camarillo, Calif. native will be in a race car for two consecutive races for the first time since the final two races of the 2018 season.

You can watch the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 Presented by Valvoline on the NBC Sports Network at 8 pm Eastern.

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ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway – Sunday – More on the biggest question of the weekend

By Steve Wittich

Will the NTT IndyCar Series return to Pocono Raceway next year is the most common question being asked by the fanbase as the series prepares to take on the “Tricky Triangle” for the 26th time.

“Recently? No,” said Pocono Raceway President Ben May, when asked about negotiations between the track and INDYCAR this morning, adding, “Our status remains the same as we reported last week with our CEO Nick Igdalsky. We want the event back, and the hope the decision INDYCAR makes is favorable for our facility.”

ADDENDUM – INDYCAR and Pocono Raceway did have a conversation after I talked to May this morning.

The 2.5-mile oval located in Long Pond, Pa. is 90 miles from the largest and fourth-largest television markets in the United States https://mediatracks.com/resources/nielsen-dma-rankings-2019. The combined television numbers of New York and Philadelphia include 9,917,150 homes, which is 8.97% of the entire television audience in the United States.

TSO talked to a pair of team owners, who both said they would ‘hate’ to see this track drop off the calendar.

It’s a very unique race track,” said Andretti Autosport principal Michael Andretti, who grew up just south of the track in Nazareth. “It’s one that has a lot history. We’re up here in the North East, which is important. I would hate losing it.”

Larry Foyt, President of A.J. Foyt Enterprises, echoed Andretti. With the son of four-time Pocono Raceway winner A.J. Foyt telling TSO:

“There is a lot of history here. It is a great race track. It’s a shame it is a little overshadowed by the last few years, having some bad things happen. But, that is a part of racing. It’s a beautiful facility and a place Indy cars can stretch their legs.

“I like this track. I like big race tracks. I think having a good mix of tracks like we have is good. Having a couple of superspeedways, not just the (Indianapolis) 500, is important. This is a fun and challenging race track. I would hate to see it go.”

Both owners also mentioned the importance of having a race in the Northeastern United States for their sponsors and potential sponsors.

Over 20%, 106 companies, in the Fortune 500 are located in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts

“It’s similar to what I said regarding different types of tracks,” said Foyt to TSO. “Covering the Continental U.S. is important, and hitting all of the markets is great.”

Andretti agreed with Foyt regarding the commercial considerations for current sponsors, adding “It’s always nice saying that we race in the North East,” in regards to potential sponsors.

We also had a chance to talk to several drivers.

Tony Kanaan told us:

“I love this track. I think every driver that comes here, we look at each other and go “oh my God” you have to be careful here. It’s a track that intimidates a lot of us. I don’t get intimidated too often anymore. I like it. Look at how many fans we had here today. They are here and they keep asking for autographs. I think a lot is the nature of the track. I know we’ve been trying extremely hard with the track and IndyCar to promote this race more. In my opinion, it should be back.”

Pocono Raceway winner Alexander Rossi said:

“Yeah, no, I think you’re proud of any race win in this series just because of how hard they are to come by. This track is no exception. It’s obviously the second 500-mile race we do. Those are very hard to win with all the different variables that come with that, that length of race. Yeah, it’s definitely one you’ll cherish.

“Fingers crossed we can work something out and we’re all back here next year.”

Pocono Raceway winner Scott Dixon agreed with the others, saying:

“I love this track. We haven’t probably had the best runs in the last couple years, but that’s what makes it so good when you do get it right. It’s very difficult to get the combination with one and three correct, feel comfortable around the circuit.

“I hope we do come back. We just have to wait and see, I guess.”

Double Pocono Raceway Will Power is also a fan of the “Tricky Triangle” saying:

“I love the track. I love it. Obviously, it’s always a proud moment when you win a race. If you win back-to-back 500-milers, it’s a big deal.

“It’s a cool track. I feel like the more ovals, the better for me. I really enjoy them. It would kind of be disappointing if it went away. Obviously, I had nothing to do with that. It’s obviously INDYCAR negotiating.”

Are there team owners, drivers, and others in the paddock that would be happy if the NTT IndyCar Series never came back to Pocono Raceway, absolutely, but they were not willing to go on the record.

Steve’s opinion. Not returning would be a shame. It’s a track that wants the NTT IndyCar Series. A large portion of the fan base wants to be here. It’s an important market for the series and team’s sponsors. Superspeedways are the foundation of the NTT IndyCar Series. More ovals are better than fewer ovals. I could go on, but you get the point.

I’ll echo the others. I would hate to lose this race.

TSO Feature – Just the facts version of the Lap 18 pack-up / non pack up issue with INDYCAR’s response

On Lap 13, with just over 50-minutes remaining in the 75-minute race, Marco Andretti was the first driver to come to pit road to put on slick Firestone Firehawk Primary (Blacks) racing tires.

The third-generation driver had an adventurous out-lap with multiple ‘crazy hands’ moments, but was able to keep it off the concrete walls.

The Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco and Curb Agajanian driver’s first lap at speed was 107 seconds; his second hot lap dropped to 104 seconds and his third at 101 seconds. That was the same pace as the leaders, and much quicker than the drivers Andretti was chasing.

Five other drivers, Santino Ferrucci, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach, and Josef Newgarden, came to pit road for slicks before the caution flag came out for Ed Jones on Lap 18.

Pit road opened and the 16 drivers that had yet to pit headed to pit road.

The running order after everybody had cycled through was: Newgarden, Rossi, Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Rosenqvist, Sato, Pagenaud, Hinchcliffe, Pigot, Herta, Veach, Bourdais, O’Ward, Ferrucci, Ericcson, Kanaan, Chilton, Leist, Andretti, Power, and Jones.

The pits opened before the field was fully able to pack-up, negating an advantage for the five drivers who pitted, who ended up:

  • Newgarden -1st
  • Hunter-Reay – 4th
  • Pigot -9th
  • Veach 11th,
  • Ferrucci -14th
  • Andretti – 20th

The pit road delta on The Raceway at Belle Isle is shortest of the season at around 22 seconds, but if the pack-up had occurred as is standard, the above drivers would have still restarted first through sixth.

The response from those surrounding the No. 98 entry came quickly after the first Chevrolet Dual I ended.

Mega thanks to Jim Ayello from the IndyStar for getting Michael and Marco on the record after the race.

Post-race quote from Michael Andretti to Jim Ayello:

Link to tweet


Post race quote from Marco Andretti to Jim Ayello:

Link to tweet


Marco Andretti tweet:


Link to tweet

Link to tweet

Bryan Herta also said in a later tweet that the call to pit for slicks was Marco’s himself.


Those affiliated with Andretti wern’t the only ones that were upset. So far, we’ve heard from Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci who said:

“We had an OK start, you can’t really pass in the rain at the start because you can’t see, so we weren’t really able to move up. Then, we pit early for dry tires and we thought that we’d be able to move up the field when the yellow came out, but the cars in front of me didn’t pack up and that set us back in the field. Nothing really went our way today, there’s nothing we could really do other than now prepare for Race 2 tomorrow and hope for a better result aboard our #19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda.”

and Zach Veach, who said:

“It was a rollercoaster day. Qualifying was good – we lined up eighth, but then I made a mistake on the pace lap and spun with the wet conditions. We went back to 22nd for the start and worked our way up. Great strategy from the team to get me back towards the top 10 and then I passed cars one by one on restarts. [Colton] Herta and I, I think, put on a good show together for three corners – it was hairy. I think we could have been higher; we kind of got hurt by conditions. We should have restarted third or fourth, but they didn’t pack the field up, so we got hurt there. But, all-in-all to come away with a top 10 after starting 22nd – I’m pretty happy with it.”

If we hear from the other drivers or teams, we’ll update this story.


The response from INDYCAR

Race control was reviewing data and closing rates and based off the information the pack-up was developing. The goal was to get the pits open as quickly as possible for the competitors and fans, but given the circumstances that included cars on different tires and a cold track it did not occur as expediently as was envisioned.

Denise Titus honored with 7th Annual ‘Lone Star J. R.’ Johnny Rutherford Award

From our friends at the IndyCar Ministy

The winner of the 2019 “‘Lone Star J.R.’ Johnny Rutherford Award” is Denise Titus. She is the RN, Medical Liaison/ co Ordinator for officials, team members and drivers at Indy Car.

Denise was one of 4 finalists selected by the IndyCar community and voted as the winner. Anyone who holds a ‘hard-card’ in IndyCar is eligible. Including teams, drivers, IndyCar, and safety crew.

This award was created by the IndyCar Ministry to honor the IndyCar participant who best exemplifies outstanding character, integrity and leadership in the home, at the track and in the community.  The Award is named after Johnny Rutherford who has won the Indianapolis 500 three times.  In 1987 he was inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and in 1998 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame in America.  J.R. is an individual of great character who has served his family and community faithfully through the years and is a role model for drivers and business people alike.

The award is on permanent display in the IMS Museum and Denise also received a $1,000 check.

TSO Feature (no sub. required) — INDYCAR partners with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to push driver safety forward with the next generation of cockpit protection

INDYCAR partners with Red Bull Advanced Technologies to push driver safety forward with the next generation of cockpit protection   By Steve Wittich For over a century the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has led the way in safety innovations in racing. From today’s announcement about the next evolution in driver cockpit protection, through the I-PAS goggles…

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TSO Feature – Long time TSO Subcriber, who started coming to the Indianapolis 500 in 1948, previews this years 103rd Indianapolis 500

Note from Steve: Once again, we welcome Butch Welsch to TSO. Butch is our favorite guest writer during the “Month of May,” and his yearly previews are a must read. Butch has been to every Indianapolis 500 since 1948 – this year will be his 72nd in a row.. He has been sitting in the front row of the Paddock Penthouse near the start/finish line since those seats were added in 1961. Butch is in the heating and cooling business and Welsch Heating & Cooling has sponsored Robby McGehee in the past and also owns a 1937 midget. 

By Butch Welcsh

It appears that every year it becomes more difficult to handicap the field for the Indy “500”. The reason is that every year IT IS more difficult because the quality and the closeness of the field means that there is a possibility of 20 or so different drivers taking the checkered flag first. Compare that to Formula 1. I’ll pick two and give you the other 18 and take my chances. Not in Indy Car. That said I am committed to pass along my thoughts regarding this year’s field of 33.

First a few general comments. We have no pre-500 oval races to provide us with information on how the teams will react to an oval. This year I am not really taking into account whether a driver is powered by a Honda or a Chevy. This really seems to be a non-issue. They both seem to be very close in speed and reliability issues have not surfaced either. It appears that the key to this year’s race has to do with the team’s ability to get the right balance in the handling of the car. We’ve heard multiple statements in interviews about how different the four turns are to drive, with the emphasis on the difficulty in turn 2. For us old timers, it seemed like turn 3 was always the trickiest one, but that has seemed to have changed to turn two.

In fact, the accidents which have occurred, except for Alonzo’s where he just drifted high in turn 3 and pancaked the wall, have all occurred in turn 2, and starting at about the same position on the track. I will now share a real concern I have about this year’s race. The cars which have spun in turn 2 did do with apparently very little or no warning to the driver. I am concerned that if cars are running in the 10 to 15 car packs which we have seen in recent years, if someone loses control like that, with many cars behind him or her, it could be a very serious situation. I hate to be an alarmist but I do think it is something that we will have to watch for.

To summarize, the team which has the ability to make the right changes and improvements to the car’s handling is going to be the one which can pass anywhere and therefore has the best chance to be in front at the end.

So on to my thoughts about this year’s field. I have split them into 3 groups again. Group 1 The most likely; Group 2 the group that if luck falls their way they might do it and finally Group 3, the group that is not going to be drinking the milk on race day.

Starting with the front row. Simon Pagenaud, who a month ago seemed to be in a tenuous position in his job, now is coming off a win in the Indy Grand Prix and his first pole win at the Speedway. Momentum and confidence are an important motivating factor in any sport and that includes auto racing. With his new found confidence, not to mention his Penske team there to make adjustments, certainly puts the Frenchman near the top of the favorites.

Ed Carpenter has shown year in and year out to have speed at the Speedway. Since he grew up at the place, I have wondered if he sneaks out at night and practices racing around the track – he is that good at the Speedway. He is coming off of a close second place finish last year and would love to finish that one place higher. I’m not sure that his team can produce the lightening like pits stops of a Penske, but am sure that an Ed Carpenter win would produce a crowd reaction rivaling that we heard when Tony Kanaan won in 2013.

For my next top group pick, I have gone to fifth starter, Will Power. Will obviously got a big weight off of his shoulders by winning last year. There is no reason to assume that he has slowed down any, and he still has the Penske team making those important pit stops. The only asterisk for Will is that it is very uncommon for there to be back to back winners at the Speedway. Helio Castro Neves was the last in 2001 and 2002 while the previous one before that was Al Unser, Sr. in 1970 and 1971. The odds are not with Will this year.

Keeping with the Penske theme is last year’s Series Champion, Josef Newgarden. This youngster is fast and has obviously shown his consistency by winning the Championship. His luck has not been great at the Speedway with an 8th, 19th, and 3rd the last three years. I truly believe he eventually will be a multi-time winner as he matures. Again, he has the Penske knowledge to help keep up with the car’s handling. Being almost a local boy, since he is from Nashville, a win would be extremely popular.

The 2016 winner. Alexander Rossi, is the highest starting driver from the Michael Andretti stable. After some of the outside passes which Alexander pulled off in 2018, in order to wind up fourth, and since he is in the same car from the same team he definitely has to be high on the favorites list. A first, seventh and fourth in his 3 starts is also impressive. A win would not be surprising.

Marco Andretti has compiled an excellent record at the Speedway, but has just never had that little bit of luck needed to be the winner. Will we ever forget in 2006 when Marco was trailed by his dad at the head of the straightaway coming to the checkered flag and then they both got passed by Sam Hornish as they came to the line. Since he is usually near the front, if Marco can shed the Andretti jinx, a win would be possible.

The Penske driver starting the furthest back is surprisingly Helio Castro Neves. His credentials need no explanation. He is a 3-time winner who would love no more than to join that small club of 4 timers. His concentration is now on sports cars and I wonder if the same intensity and drive are still there? It would, however, be really neat to see him climb the fence for the fourth time.

Tony Kanaan carries the AJ Foyt racing colors from the inside of row 6. Tony is still probably the most popular of Indy Car drivers and the fans would love to see him drink the milk again. The question here is not skill or motivation but whether or not the team can make the changes necessary to stay up with an ever-changing track to keep the car handling to Tony’s satisfaction.

Last but certainly not least in the top group is none other than 18th starting Scott Dixon. It is a real shock to have Scott starting that far back. However, Scott didn’t become a five-time series champion without possessing the ability to overcome adversity. After all, this is a 500-mile race, with around 8 pit stops, and plenty of time for his excellent Chip Ganassi team to make the necessary handling adjustments to put Scott up near the front.

So this completes my group 1. You will note it has only 9. It was extremely difficult separating some of the Group 2 drivers from Group 1 and I could have just added 2 from Group 2 into Group 1. However, I have to go with what I feel are the realistic chances keeping in mind not only the driver but the ability of each team to perform flawlessly. So, on to Group 2.

It may not seem right to put the drivers who are starting 3rd and 4th into Group 2. However, Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones are both out of the Ed Carpenter team. While they have shown good speed at the Speedway, there is still the question of whether or not the team can deliver the pit stops and handling changes necessary to send either one of them to victory lane. It’s true that Jones should have been Rookie of the Year in 2017 when he finished 3rd in a Dale Coyne car, only to be out politicked by Fernando Alonzo. However his performance in a Ganassi car last year was less than stellar. Pigot’s record of an 18th and 19th in the last two “500” are not representative of a challenger. It would be fun to see a car from Ed Carpenter’s team take the checkered flag first, but the boss has the best chance.

The surprise of 2019 has been the performance of Colton Herta and the Harding Steinbrenner team. They have outperformed far and above expectations. That said, however, Colton is a young rookie and the Harding Team is still really in its early stages. While they have a win at The Circuit of the America’s, this is a 500-mile oval track race, and a top ten finish would be an excellent day for this driver and team.

Sebastien Bourdais has an excellent third-row starting position and his Championships in the CART Series are certainly testimonies to his ability. However, I don’t feel that the Dale Coyne Team, even with Vasser and Sullivan, have all of the ingredients to avoid the mistakes which can’t happen for a driver to win over this closely bunched field.

It was with a considerable amount of thought that I have put Takuma Sato and his Teammate Bobby Rahal in Group 2. For Sato, when it all came together under the Andretti Autosports banner in 2017, there was Tako in Victory Lane. However, the Rahal Team is not the same team as Andretti and while they have made steps to improve, they haven’t shown the ability to consistently be a winner in a race as long as the 500. Graham has experienced a mediocre record at the Speedway and the fact that he qualified all the way back in 17th position, makes one wonder if the team has the track figured out this year. An All-American boy from a great pedigree would make a good story but I don’t feel that they are in that position at this time.

Oriol Servia comes to the Speedway each year and typically shows speed. He is a driver who, if everything fell his way could be a surprise. This year he is with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team and this is a “one-off” race for him. If Oriol had a full-time ride with one of the top teams I believe he might be challenging for the season’s championship. In his current role, a top 10 finish would be a good day for him.

I am delighted to see Dreyer and Reinbold back at the Speedway again this year. Every year they step up to the plate and bring one or two cars. Since they only run at the Speedway, experience has shown that their odds of a top finish are not very good. In Group 2 we have J. R. Hildebrand. I feel J.R. deserves to be in Group 2 because he has shown an ability to be competitive at the Speedway. If anyone should feel the Speedway owes him one – especially the fourth turn – it’s J.R. Hildebrand. While I’m not sure the one-off team can carry him to the win if everything fell into place he is a driver who could definitely race his way home and you can be sure he would make sure he made it through the 4th turn without incident. We’ll get to the D&R second car in group 3.

Next up is a guy who is probably one of the 3 most popular guys at the Speedway, with Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter. He is James Hinchcliffe. Hinch had to battle his way into the field through the last row shootout because of his Saturday morning crash. This is a guy who is the type that is the heart and soul of the Speedway. If a guy could be
“willed” into the winner’s circle it would be the Mayor of Hinchtown. Unfortunately, a 31st starting spot is not conducive to a win, so hopefully next year all of the pieces will fall the right way for him to take home the big prize.

The nest Andretti Autosport’s driver was one of the biggest surprises and disappointments of qualifying this year. Ryan Hunter-Reay and his team just never seemed to get their arms around the handling of the car this May. As a result, he is mired all of the way back in the 22nd starting position. While it isn’t impossible to win from that far back in the pack, with the quality of contenders ahead of him, coupled with their inability to get an understanding of their car’s handling, I’m sorry to say that I think this previous winner is in for a long day on Sunday.

Starting way back in 25th position, Jack Harvey has been one of the real pleasant surprises of this young 2019 season. The driver of the Meyer Shank with SPM Racing entry has been very consistent and competitive. We also can’t forget that Jack was running second last year a few laps from the end when he had to make a “splash of fuel” pit stop. My note: I thought either he or the front runner Oriol Servia would take a gamble and go as far as their fuel would take them. A yellow flag around that time might have put one of them into the winner’s circle. But I digress. The point is, that while it is unlikely there is always a possibility of Jack Harvey being the surprise of the day.

That takes us to Group 3. One of the disadvantages of having 33 cars in the field when only 22 are running on a regular basis is that you have several cars and drivers that have only limited experience working together. It appears that today, more than ever, it is a team sport where the driver needs to be able to communicate with the crew and the crew needs to be able to translate those communications into the proper adjustments to the car. It just isn’t as easy when you are only working together for one race.

Conor Daly happily got a ride this year as part of the Andretti Autosports team. He is a great young kid with talent as his 11th starting spot would attest. Unfortunately, his past experiences at the Speedway have been less than stellar and this is essentially his deal for the year. Given a full year with one of the top three teams it would be interesting to see how Conor would fair. However, this year, given the circumstances, he is another for whom a top ten would be a very successful day.

Another Schmidt Peterson car has former Formula 1 chauffeur, Rookie Marcus Erickson, behind the wheel. Hopefully, he will get some laps in and we will get a chance to see what this road course racer can do on an oval. Charlie Kimball is another runner who is in a one-off ride with Carlin Racing. Charlie campaigned with Carlin previously and also had a stint with Chip Ganassi Racing. He has been a competent mid-pack racer but has seldom shown an ability to run up front.

For another year James Davison has managed to get a ride out of the Dale Coyne stable. This year there is additional support from Byrd Racing and Belardi. Byrd is a continuation of Jonathan Byrd Racing whose participation at the Speedway goes back many years. Their initial contact with racing was through midgets and they are to be commended for bringing several of those open wheel young Americans to the Speedway. Belardi meanwhile has been a very strong supporter of the Indy Car Road to Indy program. It is nice to see them get their feet wet by participating in the “big show” as well. They have limited on-track experience together, but it would be nice to see Davison complete the 500 miles somewhere in the top 15.

Rookie Santino Ferrucci is here compliments of Dale Coyne Racing and is running the full season with DCR. He is another driver with very limited experience on an oval and will hopefully stay in the race long enough to get some laps and experience under his belt.

The second car in the A.J. Foyt team is handled by Marcus Leist. This is Marcus’ second year in the Series with the Foyt team. Last year he recorded a 13th place finish at the Brickyard. A.J. is working to help this young man gain the experience to feel comfortable on ovals.

Jordan King is in the 3rd car on track from Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan. Jordan is another driver with very limited Speedway experience. He like several of these young drivers needs to run a bunch of laps at the Speedway to get a full feel of the 2 ½ mile oval.

Ben Hanley is a new driver with a completely new-to-Indycar team named DragonSpeed. Hanley did an excellent job of working himself up to speed on the oval.
The first couple of practice days he was the slowest on the speed charts. As that first week of the practice continued, he got a little faster each day to the point where on Saturday he was able to qualify in the top 30. That was one of the biggest, unheralded accomplishments of qualifying. Unfortunately, a rookie driver with a brand new team is not likely to challenge for the lead, but he is another one who, with some experience under his belt may be one to keep an eye on.

Zach Veach is in one of the other Andretti Autosport’s entries. Zach has worked extremely hard to get to this position in racing and deserves some success. So far, however, despite being with the strong Andretti team he has not produced the high finishes one would expect. Perhaps this will be the race he will stand out and his star will shine. I believe a top 10 finish would be just what the doctor ordered.

Another one of the big disappointments of the earlier part of May was the plight of Felix Rosenquist. Felix had shown good speed at previous tracks and was sometimes quicker than his Ganassi teammate, Scott Dixon. Unfortunately, he got a little low in turn 2 during practice resulting in a hair raising ride and significant contact with the outside and inside walls. While his team was able to put a car back together for him, in the limited amount of practice remaining before qualifying, he didn’t show the spark of speed he had shown earlier. This resulted in a 29th starting place following qualifying. Hopefully, with the Monday practice and Carb day, he will regain his confidence and be able to move up to a position closer to where he was expected to run.

One of the feel good stories of this and any year at the Speedway is the fact that Pippa Mann successfully qualified in the top 30 and thus avoided the Sunday 6 car shootout. The emotion and tears she showed at the conclusion of Saturday qualifying is a beautiful testament as to how much just being in the 500 means to this young lady. No one helps promote the sport more than Pippa. She is continuously on social media doing or saying something that is positive about the sport of auto racing and the Indy 500 in particular. The other thing that makes this accomplishment special is that the team for whom Pippa is driving is owned by Clausen Marshall racing. For those not aware, Tim Clausen is the father of open wheel champion and previous Indy 500 starter, Brian Clausen, who unfortunately was killed in a midget race at Belleville, Kansas. Since then, Tim Clausen and the Clausen’s close friend Richard Marshall have campaigned midgets in the USAC National Midget series providing excellent drives and equipment for up and coming drivers. They wanted to take it a step further and move onto the Indianapolis Speedway and chose Pippa, I believe for her dedication to the sport which coincides with theirs. It is of note that Clausen and Marshall were also part of the very successful BC39 midget race held inside the third turn at IMS last September. The BC39 is for Brian Clausen and his favored number 39. While my heart would love to see Pippa do well, my head says I hope she has a good safe race and completes the entire 500 miles. By the way, her car number is 39.

Starting on the inside of row 11 and one of the successful drivers at the shootout is Dryer and Reinbold driver Sage Karem. Sage is driving as a teammate to J.R. Hildebrand. Sage is from the Nazareth PA area, the home of the Andrettis, and is another driver who has paid his dues to get into the 500. Unfortunately, this too is a one time ride, but hopefully Sage will be able to show off his talent sufficiently enough that it will lead to other opportunities.

The 33rd driver on the list is another one of the exceptional feel good stories from this year’s Indy 500. The driver is Kyle Kaiser and his team is Juncos Racing. Juncos has been a supporter of the “Road to Indy” who is also working to break into the big show.
They are not a well-funded team and, in fact, were running their Speedway car with a blank white paint job – not a sponsor name in sight. Unfortunately, Kyle was a victim of the turn 2 issues which have been a problem and substantially tore apart his blank white car. Fortunately, Kyle was uninjured in the accident, but there was concern following the accident as to whether or not Juncos had the resources to put a replacement car back together for Kyle.

Ricardo Juncos was not to be denied. Under his direction, the team worked 48 hours in a row putting together pieces from spare cars to make a competitive speedway machine. They even avoided the brief Sunday morning practice session in order to make sure everything was as safely and properly put together on the car as possible. When the track had been dried and prepared for the 6 car shootout for the last three positions, there was the car number 32 in its proper place in line. A little editorializing here. I saw the car and got some pictures of the car going through tech, just prior to them pushing it out into the qualifying line. I’ll be polite and say it didn’t look like a Penske masterpiece. It was clear that pieces had been gathered from different cars and the mix of various paint schemes was obvious. It did appear that they had been very careful in the areas of safety and aerodynamics.

Now it is time. The other 5 cars have made their qualifying attempts and posted their speeds. Who is on the bubble but none other than two-time world champion Fernando Alonzo. Kaiser took to the track and a short 4 minutes later returned with a qualifying speed that was, in fact, quicker than Alonzo’s. The cheers from the crowd and the tears from the team were overwhelming. If there was ever a case of a little team proving that it could succeed at the Speedway this was it. I’m not sure where Kyle will end up after 500 miles, but in my eyes, he is already a champion. I just hope he has a safe race.

There you have it. One person’s thoughts regarding what I believe is going to be an exciting 500-mile race.

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