While there was a curious lack of rally cars on the show floor of the 2019 New York International Auto Show, there were still a few race cars to drool over.
After the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, five drivers had solid chances for the 2018 championship: four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champions Scott Dixon leading in points with Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, and Ryan Hunter-Reay in chase. Before the tenth lap of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, a shocking shunt on Turn 2 sent rookie Robert Wickens flying into the fence with only the car’s tub landing back on the track, bringing out the red flag and ending the race for the five drivers involved, including Hunter-Reay. Wickens was airlifted to hospital after Takuma Sato, Pietro Fittipaldi, Hunter-Reay, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsport team mate James Hinchcliffe were evaluated by medical staff and cleared.
How to even write about the race after that? Its importance pales in comparison to the health of the 29 year old driver hanging in the balance. At the time of publishing, Wickens has undergone spinal surgery, placing titanium rods and screws to stabilize a thoracic spinal fracture. Other injuries include a pulmonary contusion and fractures to his lower legs and right arm.
Pennsylvania has been getting a lot of rain. So much rain, in fact, there have been destructive floods in the Pocono region. The rain didn’t spare INDYCAR the weekend; a light drizzle started at the end of afternoon qualifications. Verizon Team Penske Chevy driver Will Power’s qualifying run averaged 219.511 mph winning him his 53rd career INDYCAR pole, tying with A.J. Foyt for second and picking up a bonus point for being the fastest on the track. Then came a downpour, and the last practice was cancelled. Crucial in hindsight, perhaps, as Pocono isn’t called the Tricky Triangle for nothing; the 2.5 mile track’s three turns are modeled after turns at other famous tracks paired with long straightaways. Turn 2’s 9 degree banking after Indianapolis Motor Speedway is said to be the fastest. INDYCAR has been back at the family-friendly Pocono Raceway since 2013 after a 23-year absence, and at the start of the ABC Supply 500 weekend the series announced they will be back for 2019.
More overnight showers left the track wet and the paddocks plagued with puddles. The morning of race day, all that could be heard was the track blowers drying the track, but the tarmac finally dried and was approved for racing. All of Team Penske took the front row – Will Power had pole with Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi, Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Wickens rounding out the first three rows on the starting grid. Prior to driver introductions, spectators were treated to a parade of classic race cars. Country singer Lee Greenwood took the stage to sing the national anthem, the grid was cleared, and everyone waited for the drivers to start their engines.
As the safety car peeled off into the pits for the green flag, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot in the 21 car and Graham Rahal’s #15 RLL Racing turned each other around at the back of the pack – and the first yellow flag of the day. After racing resumed, Alexander Rossi passed Will Power to take the lead.
Under Lap 8’s red flag, the cars headed to the pits, and drivers were allowed to leave the cars. There was an instant pall over the Tricky Triangle, punctuated by the occasional roar of an engine revving to keep the cars ready to race. The track crew removed debris and repaired an entire section of the catch fence, while other drivers on the ground were interviewed and the crowd was updated when more news was released on the driver’s conditions. After nearly two hours, the track was once again ready for racing, though unapproved work on their cars during the red flag got drivers Graham Rahal and Spencer Pigot each a two-lap penalty.
For the remaining 192 laps, there seemed to be a concerted effort by all drivers to keep the rest of the race free of further incident. Will Power passed Rossi and briefly took the lead in leap 137, but Rossi passed him again and maintained the lead for the rest of the race. Power took the second spot on the podium, and Scott Dixon worked his way up to third from 13th on the grid.
Going into Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, Missouri, there are now only 29 points between leader Scott Dixon and ABC Supply 500 winner Alexander Rossi. Newgarden is 36 points behind Rossi with 464 season points, and Power is in fourth with 449 points.
On Sunday May 27, 2018, the Indy 500 will be raced for the 102nd time. When the dust settled on Bump Day, the 33 drivers that qualified wasn’t a surprise but the two that didn’t make it was definitely a disappointing shock. Pippa Mann in the #63 Dayle Coyne Racing kept losing speed, and James Hinchcliffe had issues as well and neither made the cut. Ultimately Hinchcliffe announced Thursday that all options were exhausted, ending all chances to race on Sunday – and will no doubt affect his current #5 position in championship points. Danica Patrick, in her final race before retirement, rounded out the top nine at 9th on the starting grid.
In the week leading up to the 2018 Indy 500, drivers traveled to different cities to publicize the race. Reigning champion Takuma Sato visited New York City where he was toasted by the Japanese Ambassador and talked with the media. I was able to chat with Sato, an all-around nice guy and consummate sportsman, for a couple minutes and ask him about the exciting last five laps of his win, what winning the race means to him, and what the competition in this year’s race looks like.
PCG: In last year’s Indy 500, I couldn’t breathe in those last five laps before you took the checkered flag. Can you speak to how important it was to you to win and take the [Borg-Warner] trophy to Japan?
Sato: Well, as I said on the stage here it was just an unbelievable experience and was really the significant moment in my life and it just feels amazing really and every single aspect was a huge experience for me. And like you said, yes, bringing the trophy to Japan is one of amazing story because not only my ambition but also for the entire Indycar and all winners in 83 years of history they’ve never done it in our strategy. So I think a lot of people’s commitment showing a lot of people’s appreciation is really truly showing that it is happening and I don’t know how to say, but it is just a dream come true.
So the last five laps was very touch-go move because for me… So 10 laps to go and Max Chilton, another driver leading the race and he by himself is really fast, so… I mean could overtake him but it was really risky because he was so fast. And I was just trying to figure out how I can overtake him as well as how I could protect him as well. So I was learning on quite a few laps. And Helio Castroneves charging me and he overtook me, impressive move in turn 3 on outside. When I saw it I knew that Helio is doing the same thing to Max. So instead of chasing Helio I basically let him do it. And in fact, he overtook him two laps later and then he lost momentum – so Max lost momentum – that’s the time I could overtake him. Now it’s between Helio and I, right. So I could wait until last lap to overtake Helio, however if I do so, what if there is a yellow comes in, right? And that means I will be finishing in second before I challenge, and I didn’t want to make that happen. However, if I overtook with three laps to go he will re-overtake me and that would be the end of the story. So I was thinking, how do we do it? And five laps to me is the magic number. Because I overtake him, see how many laps he can take to come back and attempt, whether it was first lap or second lap, or third lap. And the only thing I didn’t know was whether he couldn’t or didn’t. If he didn’t that would be a problem because that means he could be out of sequence. However when I saw him make an attempt three laps later I overtook him which is two laps to and by that time I realized if I could hold the pace I could win because by the time I pull away he takes another two laps to come back which is checkered flag. So to me either way the five laps to go when I lead I can do very… how to you say in English?
Sato: Noooo… Flexible! Can be very flexible in any circumstance. So that’s the way I saw it. And it became as I saw it. And obviously this is a rare case because usually the reality doesn’t go to the way you planned it. But – that was the day I got so much luck, so much environment, physically I have a very fast car, and mentally I was so relaxed and strong and I was able to compete on the highest level with the guy I could trust one hundred percent because Helio Castroneves is the guy to beat for Indy 500 so I was very happy in that moment.
PCG: In this Indy 500, you will be racing with five previous winners. Are you looking forward to a really competitive race?
Sato: Yes! I’m really looking forward to it, in fact it’s going to be a really tough challenge, honestly speaking, of course, nothing is impossible so I will try my best but looking at the circumstances it will be extremely tough to do the race but I think it will be great. Obviously, Alexander Rossi, and Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon and myself… who else, I don’t know, but it can be anybody else. So I think it’s going to be a great show for sure and any of the result I think I will accept, however, hopefully I wish we can have a big smile after the race, yes.
PCG: After some of the issues in practice, are you feeling more confident going into Friday’s practice?
Sato: I think the honest answer is yes and no. Physically and mentally myself I am ready to take action, of course. The car, unfortunately we had some issues, we have some struggles, but I think the engineers work so hard and squeeze out the last one percent of speed for Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2 showing a huge step forward so I believe we can build a car as competitive as possible to check the things on the fly on Carb Day and if that’s the case, I think a 16 spread has no meaning. I can move up and I can compete for the win and that’s what I want to do.
PCG: Thank you for your time and good luck!
In progress now until Sunday April 3, the New York International Auto Show is chock full of current models, recently launched prototypes, supercars, classic cars, and the latest in alternative fuel and transportation. Plus – race cars: the striped and halo-ed eye candy that is the object of the admiring glances of many attendees. There were several new reveals in racing at NYIAS. The first to be revealed was Honda’s Civic to be driven in Red Bull Global Rallycross by OMSE teammates Joni Wiman and Sebastian Eriksson. While it was on the show floor for the media days, it sadly disappeared before the show opened to the public. Honda does have the 2015 Rahal Dallara Honda IndyCar on view.
Perhaps the most stunning, however, was the Acura NSX GT3 twin-turbo V6. We should hopefully start seeing it in the wild in 2017 racing in Pirelli World Challenge and Blancpain Endurance Series. The NSX is on the show floor for the entire show, as is the Acura TLX GT race car.
Ryan Millen’s RAV4 rally car was also on the floor with the trucks during media days, but Toyota pulled a bait & switch. There is a RAV4 with Millen’s livery, but it’s clearly a factory model, sans roll cage, SPARCO seats, and all of the other gear of the real deal. Still, if you go on the public days, you can squint and pretend. Toyota is the host with the most, though, with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Camrys on the main show floor, and the pace car for Watkin’s Glen.
Mazda, Mitsubishi, Audi, and more have race cars in their displays – here’s a full gallery.
By all accounts, last weekend’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway was a barn burner. Some are calling it the best Indycar race of all time. Except for some of the drivers, who are whining, but the whiners are the guys who are typically, well, whiners.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch it live and forgot to set the PVR, but that doesn’t matter, because the gang at Indycar and MAVTV freaking rock!
Behold fifteen minutes of the best open wheel racing coverage that you have ever seen.
Related gallery: 2015 Honda Indy Toronto
The guy who might just be the most Canadian man in all of sports, James Hinchcliffe, has been named as the Grand Marshall of the Honda Indy Toronto, happening this weekend on the city’s waterfront. As most readers will know, Hinchcliffe was seriously injured in a crash during practice for the Indy 500. While his rehab has been going faster than expected, the driver from Oakville, Ontario has been dodging the question “will you be in Toronto?” until today.
Actually, while down at the track today, a couple of people said that Hinch was seen at the track this morning. I was excited to hear the news that he has been chosen as the grand PooBah!
Earlier this week, James sat down with our mutual friend Todd Lewis from Sportsnet to talk about his rehab.
Honda Indy Toronto press release
TORONTO,ON, June 11, 2015 – Organizers of the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto are pleased to announce that local Canadian race car driver and mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the marquee Verizon IndyCar Series race taking place Sunday, June 14. Hinchcliffe was recently medically cleared to travel to Toronto.
Hinchcliffe will perform the standard Grand Marshal duties that include giving the famous “drivers, start your engines” command to start the afternoon Verizon IndyCar Series race on Sunday.
“We are very excited to have James as Grand Marshal,” said Charlie Johnstone, President of the Honda Indy Toronto. “Although he is unable to race, it is important to us, and to him, that he is involved in the race in some capacity, being as this is his home town event.”
Hinchcliffe will not be racing in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series race in Toronto due to injuries sustained during an accident that happened on May 18 during a practice round for the Indy 500. This will be the first time that he will not be racing since he joined the series in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to being back home in Canada and attending the Honda Indy Toronto with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend,” said Hinchcliffe. “It will be a strange feeling for me not lining up on the grid this year, but being the Grand Marshal is a role I’m honoured to fulfil and I’m excited that I’ll play a role in the proceedings on Sunday.”
Hinchcliffe is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries and is highly anticipating his return to racing.
Honda Canada press release
TORONTO, ON (June 9, 2015) – For the sixth straight year, the sights, sounds and speed of the Honda Indy Toronto will be free for fans to enjoy on Friday, June 12, 2015. Fan Friday is made possible through the generous support of the Ontario Honda Dealers Association (OHDA) and Toronto race fans. In exchange for a voluntary donation to Make-A-Wish® Canada, Fan Friday promises a jam-packed schedule of on-track action, and off-track stunt shows, contests, autograph sessions and other entertainment from gate open to close across the event site, providing something for everyone.
“Our ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish for Fan Friday is a big part of the Honda Indy Toronto,” said Kevin Pearson, president of the OHDA. “This is all about putting fans in the middle of the action in support of a great cause. We hope fans give generously to help make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions across the country.”
Honda Canada is a proud supporter of James Hinchcliffe, the only Canadian driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Given James’ recent injuries and the outpouring of support for the ‘Mayor of Hinchtown’ leading up to his hometown race, race fans will have the opportunity to sign a giant ‘Get Well Hinch’ card throughout the weekend for a minimum $2 donation to Make-A-Wish.
Fan Friday gets bigger and better at Honda World every year with track-side fun and games for the whole family including free popcorn, snow cones and candy floss, golf practice swing and hockey slap shot zone, face painting, racing simulators and an opportunity to have your photo taken in a real Indy car. With no reserved seating on Fan Friday, attendees will have access to all grandstand sections on a first-come/first-served basis.
Honda to match fan donations
I hate to admit it, but I rarely get the chance to sit down and watch a race on television, even though motorsports is my lifelong passion. The reality is that I spend so much of my week immersed in auto racing news and happenings, that when I am not actually at the track, I’m not likely to sit down to watch. I don’t even PVR most races now, because I just won’t watch them. It would really suck for me when cool stuff happens, but there is the internet and I don’t miss any of the cool stuff my friends do.
Long time friend of The Garage Blog, James Hinchcliffe, is one of the coolest guys on the IndyCar circuit, but he also has the worst racer’s luck of just about anyone. I have my fingers crossed that this epic march through traffic at this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio is the beginning of some great luck.
The Mayor of Hinchtown stayed calm and had some wicked good luck on his side during this one.
Last Friday night on social media, Canadian Indycar vet Paul Tracy said: “Giving mayor rob ford a thrill ride tomorrow , think I can make him squeal?”
During Saturday morning’s photo meeting, I kept waiting to hear details about the media stunt but for whatever reason, it wasn’t mentioned, so I kept quiet. I chased down someone in the know and learned that it was due to happen while I was shooting the GT3 Cup podium, so I enlisted the help of fellow contributor to The Garage, John Walker to see if he could make it over. I’m glad I did, because it turns out that Walker was the ONLY shooter on hand for ROFO’s thrill ride with the thrill from West Hill.
Walker tells me that when they got out of the Civic SI, Toronto’s most infamous crack addict said “that was one of the best rides I have ever been on, call me if you need anything” to which PT replied “anything???”
Photo courtesy of John Walker