Indianapolis 500 Media Day Edition
Helio Castroneves, the defending champion of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, delivered a strong message to his colleagues at Meyer Shank Racing during a dinner on Wednesday evening.
“We’re still the defending champions,” the Brazilian said Thursday during the ‘500’ media day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We have to run like this.”
Castroneves will ride the same #06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Radio Honda in which he won last year’s race, but there are many differences, starting with where the machine started this year. The position will be 27th rather than eighth, which requires a different pursuit.
Castroneves spent most of last year’s race running in the top five of 33 cars, a luxury that allowed his car to have better aero conditions than he will encounter in the second half of the season. peloton. It changes things, he said, and he needs to be more in tune with the competitors ahead of him to gain places as they slip.
The other difference from year to year is where Castroneves opposes. For the first time in 22 years at IMS, his box will be at the pit road entrance – the second pit from the entrance, to be precise. He knows this could be a problem as he will slow down and spin sooner than most.
“(The rear drivers) aren’t used to me being in the pits there, so we have to be careful,” he said.
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Several drivers admitted to studying Castroneves’ onboard footage from last year to see how he handled traffic, especially in the closing laps when he beat Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) . Alexander Rossi (#27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda of Andretti Autosport) was not one of them.
Rossi said it can be difficult to know what a driver is thinking about a move, hence the misleading information that can be derived from monitoring someone else’s driving. Plus there are surprises, like in the closing laps of the 2019 race when race leader Simon Pagenaud smashed his way down the straight as the train of challengers reflected.
“I didn’t know what to do with it,” Rossi said. “He got it by watching cycling.”
Pagenaud, a Frenchman who is a big fan of the Tour de France, held on for his first “500” victory.
We talk a lot about shenanigans
Media Day also featured its share of conversation about the shenanigans happening in the driver’s RV park at IMS. Already, an assortment of creative pranks have been played.
Romain Grosjean (Honda n°28 DHL of Andretti Autosport) was surprised by a phone call from IMS Security indicating that his scooter was on the roof of the Pagode.
“Yeah, that’s mine,” he told the caller. “I guess she had a good view (of the track).”
Rookie David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) said he heard ‘a ruckus’ outside his motorhome the night Alexander Rossi’s golf cart was placed over four trash cans, but he remained silent and remains vigilant in case he is the next to be stuffed.
“I keep my stuff locked up, triple checked,” he said.
Conor Daly (Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet), who had his portable swimming pool trapped last week with water-soaking balls, says there’s more the public isn’t hearing talk (so far). Including: Josef Newgarden forgetting to lock his RV to find loud (and fake) crickets chirping inside.
“I got a text at 1:47 a.m. asking me where the crickets are,” Daly said with a laugh.
Gentlemen, start your nerves
Arrow McLaren SP teammates Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist answered questions on Thursday about the comfort of starting next to each other on Row 3.
Rosenqvist said anxiety comes with it.
“The last guy you want to knock out of a race is your teammate,” he said. “I don’t want to get a call from Mr. Brown.”
Zak Brown is Team Principal of Arrow McLaren SP.
Boles: Sunday’s race almost sold out
IMS President J. Douglas Boles said about 10,000 reserved seats remain on sale for Sunday’s ‘500’ and he expects less than half that number to be available at the start. of the race.
No tickets stay on the front right away and very few are left in the corners of the track. The North Vista has the most tickets available. Boles said total turnout for race day figures was around 325,000.
Boles said he expects a crowd of 18,000 to 20,000 for Sunday’s Indy 500 Snake Pit concert presented by Coors Light, an event held at the field.
- Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Carvana Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) is one of the few rookies to have driven at IMS when a large crowd was present. This is something that can be intimidating at first sight. “I don’t know if it will give me an edge,” he said, “but I’ll be ready for it.”
- Ed Carpenter (#33 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet of Ed Carpenter Racing) finished second in the 2018 race to Will Power. But he said the 2014 race won by Ryan Hunter-Reay is the one that got away. Carpenter recovered in a lap 176 crash with James Hinchcliffe after leading 26 laps. “We were really strong that year,” he said.
- Carpenter said he’s proud his race team has delivered the most qualified Chevrolet in the past three years, and Carpenter qualified second to Pagenaud’s Chevrolet in 2019. Rinus VeeKay and Carpenter will start third and fourth Sunday with only two Hondas. in front of them.
- British rookie Callum Ilott, who previously raced mostly in Europe, was surprised by all the Indy lore. “At first I was asking why we were doing this,” he said. “I learned not to ask questions because it’s the same answer.” Ilott said he usually races against his friends and family in the junior categories. When he raced at Le Mans last year, COVID-19 restrictions were in place and the event’s annual parade was cancelled.
- Juan Pablo Montoya (#6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) has a son, Sebastian, who is a talented driver rising through the ranks. But Montoya said his daughter, Paulina, is also passionate about motorsport. “She watches all the races and practices,” he said.
- Montoya said riders can plan their strategy as much as they want, but the course can change on the first reaction. “I remember the start of a Formula 1 race where I was determined, with the standing start, to go left around a guy,” he said. “I dropped the clutch and went right, and I thought (to myself): ‘You’re such an idiot.'”
- Grosjean said the “500” surprised him in many ways. “I watched (past races) from Europe, but it’s bigger than I thought,” he said. He noted how many people were on the property during practice days, and he heard there were about 50,000 people in attendance for Sunday’s Armed Forces PPG Presents qualifier.
- Don’t be surprised if several teams try different strategies in Sunday’s race. Veteran driver JR Hildebrand (AJ Foyt Racing’s No. 11 Homes For Troops Chevrolet) said doing the expected “often doesn’t put you in a better place.” Hildebrand starts 17th.
- Rossi said Graham Rahal last year “made a plan” on how to move from back to front. Rahal saved fuel in the first stint and got the caution he needed to pass many drivers ahead of him. Rahal had the lead on lap 79 and was leading again when his rear tire came off after his third pit stop.
- Many rookies sleeping in their RVs are unaware of the Speedway’s tradition of setting off a cannon early in the morning, which means the spectator doors are open. Kyle Kirkwood (No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet) knows it, but he’s not worried. “I don’t hear much when I sleep,” he says.
- Doors open at 8 a.m. Friday for Miller Lite Carb Day. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES two-hour practice is scheduled for 11 a.m. with the Ruoff Mortgage Pit Stop Challenge at 2:30 p.m. Live coverage will be available on Peacock Premium, NBC Sports’ streaming service.