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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Career Days For Chilton, Jones In 101st Indianapolis 500

Every so often the Indianapolis 500 produces a day to remember for one or more drivers who have yet to make an impact on the Verizon IndyCar Series trail.

In a race marred by ten caution flags and only 19 cars running at the conclusion, Dale Coyne Racing newcomer Ed Jones and Chip Ganassi sophomore Max Chilton were each within range at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of putting on the winner’s wreath and taking a sip of milk.

Jones’ Sunday output at the Brickyard was the continuation of a brilliant IndyCar Series debut year after earning a full-time ride following a championship-clinching effort in the Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires series a year ago. The Dubai-based pilot overcame early adversity to secure a third-place finish.

“It was a great race for us,” said Jones following the checkered flag. “The race was so up and down for us. Solid start. We were running in the top 10, 11, for most of the first half.”

Then came the potential roadblock. While trying to avoid Scott Dixon and Jay Howard’s massive accident on Lap 52, the Boy Scouts of America Honda pilot suffered damage, forcing his pit crew to replace the entire rear-wing assembly. Seemingly out of contention entering the second phase of the event, the DCR team used a clever strategy call to flip the order in their favor.

“We actually pitted right before (the eighth caution flag), so it put us near the front,” explained Jones. “I actually damaged my front wing (in the latter stages), had a big hole in it. My legs got pretty cold, to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy. Also created a lot of drag.”

The one thing that saved the effort despite the new personal demon was the Honda power behind him. Even with fellow runners suffering from reliability woes late on Sunday, the rookie was able to avoid the same maladies to secure the podium performance. The result represents the third top-ten in 2017 for Jones, vaulting him to ninth on the current IndyCar points table.

For Chilton, he took on the role of potential winner at CGR that before the battle began seem destined for his Indy 500-winning teammates Dixon and Tony Kanaan. With the Iceman wrecked and TK unable to take the lead at any point during the 200 laps, a similar plan B tact taken by his former Indy Lights co-pilot at Carlin Racing. The decision suddenly propelled the second-year Indy starter into the conversation.

Taking advantage of the same caution flag that Jones utilized, the Gallagher Investments Honda chauffeur turned an improbable 40-lap fuel stint; into a pathway to the finish without a late-race splash for gas.

Thrust into the number one position for the next 30 laps, Chiton’s stay on top of the scoring pylon finally came to a halt, just seven laps from the end when three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves overtook him. Losing out also to eventual race winner Takuma Sato and Jones, the ex-Midland F1 team member settled for fourth at the conclusion.

“You don’t win this race without luck,” admitted Chilton. “I led (several) laps today, once my car was in front I was so unstoppable. But you don’t want to be leading with five or six laps to go because they can draft past (as Castroneves) did.”

The outcome is the best outing in 22 efforts for the 26-year old, improving on a seventh-place score earlier this month in the IndyCar Grand Prix.

While most spectators may forget their achievements on this day, the showings by both Jones and Chilton prove the Indianapolis 500 has a become a race capable of putting an unknown name into the spotlight.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Dixon Takes Flight During Indy 500

Scott Dixon’s quest to win another Indianapolis 500 did not work out, as he instead was involved in a scary crash.

Ahead of him on Lap 56, Jay Howard had moved up to the second groove to try and let Ryan Hunter-Reay by cleanly. However, the No. 77 Honda got loose, making contact with the outside wall coming off turn two.

“I’m not happy,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, we ran out of fuel on our first stint when we were doing well, which was unfortunate. I was a few laps down and see (Ryan) Hunter-Reay coming. I just backed off, let him go by. He moves right over on me and puts me on all the gray and all the marbles, and that was it. It’s over.”

With damage, Howard immediately slowed, causing his competitors to swerve left and right to avoid. Dixon could not get his No. 9 Honda turned quick enough, using the back of Howard as a ramp to get up in the air. The Chip Ganassi driver flipped sideways, bouncing off the backstretch safer barrier before landing right side up. Fortunately, Dixon climbed from the car uninjured.

“I’m bummed for the team and Camping World,” Dixon said. “We got a little loose on the first stint there, but they dialed it in, and we started to make some progress. Overall, I think we were a little bit light on downforce but for later on in the race that would have been the right move to have. I’m just bummed for them, and glad everyone is OK. It was a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety of these cars. It’s tough.

“I was hoping Jay (Howard) would stay against the wall. I’d already picked a way to go, and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. It makes you believe in the safety of these cars and the progress they’ve made.”

With his first finish outside of the top-five this season, Dixon sits third in the series standings, 11 points behind Helio Castroneves. He will look to get back up front at Detroit this coming weekend, where he won in 2012.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

EMBURY: Indy 500 Silly Season Update

As previously rumored, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ entry with backing from Tony Stewart has confirmed Jay Howard as its driver. The Englishman, who has experience in both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Series and the Verizon IndyCar Series has had a checkered past at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Howard has appeared in one previous Indy 500 in 2011, but also suffered through multiple qualifying failures and the inability to secure funding for other opportunities. The Schmidt deal, however, could represent his most competitive ride at the Brickyard, as three cars from SPM qualified in the top ten for last year’s race.

Also in the rumor mill looking ahead to the 101st running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, is the revelation of the remaining assets from the now-defunct KV Racing team being up for auction later this month. Reportedly, Juncos Racing has acquired some of the assets in preparation for its attempt to compete at the Indy 500 for the first time. The auction could create an opportunity for yet another new team to join the IndyCar ranks in advance of the month of May.

With the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a scene for multiple Indy 500-only confirmations in years past, here’s a look at the possible scenarios to reach to fill the field of 33.

 

Team Penske: Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya

The Captain will enter five cars at the Speedway for the first time, and all drivers have been confirmed.

 

Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball

Four full-time runners on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit and nothing is expected to change that for the Indy 500.

 

Andretti Autosport: Takuma Sato, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, TBA

Andretti has yet to confirm its fifth driver for Indy at this point. While Townsend Bell remains the favorite for the seat, Alex Tagliani could also join the picture. Like Bell, Tagliani may have personal sponsorship to offer the team, something he has not had access to during his two Indy-only efforts for A.J. Foyt.

 

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, Jay Howard, TBA?

As mentioned above, the team has signed Jay Howard to drive its Tony Stewart-backed entry. While the team seems set to run just three entries, there is one scenario that could create a fourth car.

That possibility is Will Marotti’s God Bless America Racing group. Marotti paired up with Schmidt last year to field Oriol Servia in the Indy 500 and is interested in returning for a second year with Schmidt being his preferred partner. More funding is needed to secure a deal with Schmidt or another team at this point.

 

Dale Coyne Racing: Sebastien Bourdais, Ed Jones, Pippa Mann, TBA?

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winners are expected to run at least three cars for the Indy 500, with Pippa Mann likely to join full-time drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Jones. The team entered four cars in last year’s and could do so again if Jonathan Byrd’s Racing or another group comes forward.

 

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia

The Ohio-based runners are set for May with a two-car entry, as has often been the case since its return to the full IndyCar circuit in 2012.

 

Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter, J.R. Hildebrand, Spencer Pigot

Expect a confirmation on Pigot’s third entry for the Indy 500 to come soon. Beyond that, everything appears to be status quo for the 2013 and 2014 Indy 500 pole winners.

 

A.J. Foyt Racing: Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz

The Foyt operation is in an unusual formation of having one team based in its original home base of Texas and the other at its new base in Indianapolis. This re-organization is the likely reason a third car will not be made available this year.

 

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: Sage Karam

The Indianapolis car dealership magnate will once again participate in the Indy 500 with Sage Karam behind the wheel.

 

Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser?, TBA?

Ricardo Juncos recently announced his intention to enter the 101st Indy 500 in preparation for a possible full-time IndyCar Series effort in 2018. Juncos’ Indy Lights pilot Kyle Kaiser is expected to be one driver, and Zach Veach has been rumored as another possibility if the team elects to run two cars.

 

Lazier Partners Racing: Buddy Lazier

Bob Lazier says plans are to return in some form at Indy this May. His son, 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier is likely to handle the driving duties once again.

 

Carlin: ?

The Indy Lights regulars have shown an interest to move up to the IndyCar Series at some point eventually. That could come this May as the circuit needs more entries to ensure a full field.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News Open Wheel

Jay Howard to Run Indy 500 with SPM

British driver Jay Howard will compete in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 this year, re-teaming with owner Sam Schmidt at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Howard will drive for Team One Cure run by his friend and NASCAR great Tony Stewart, an Indiana native.

“I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to have this opportunity,” Howard said. “I’m not one to give up on a dream and I have every bit of determination to make this a successful effort for Tony, Team One Cure and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. I’m in the best condition both mentally and physically, and my race craft is on point. We will be more than ready when IMS opens for practice this May.”

Tony Stewart retired from NASCAR in 2016 and could not wait to bring a team to the race he grew up dreaming about. Also, he and Jay Howard share a love of caring as well as an abiding love of animals.

“I have every bit of confidence in the skills of Jay behind the wheel,” said Stewart, who formed Team One Cure in partnership with the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, to help educate people about comparative oncology and improve the lives of all cancer patients, whether pets or people. Growing up 45 minutes from the Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 is an important part of my racing history. Participating in this year’s race with Jay and Sam through Team One Cure, we will be making a difference in both the 500 and the race against cancer.”

Howard was the 2005 U.S. Formula Ford Champion in his United States racing debut, also taking Rookie of the Year honors. The next year he began his association with Schmidt, racing for Sam Schmidt Motorsports and winning the Indy Lights championship.  As has happened to many talented drivers who win championships in junior formulas, Howard did not bring sufficient sponsorship to translate that success into an IndyCar career. Instead, while running a dozen races in 2008 and then 2010 and 2011. Nonetheless, Jay Howard remains highly regarded in the racing community even after an absence of 6 years.

“We are pleased to have Jay competing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports once again,” said SPM co-owner Sam Schmidt. “Given our impressive winning record together in the past, we have high expectations for the 101st Indy 500. Jay is extremely talented in the car as well as being a great advocate for the Team One Cure initiative.”

Jay Howard has become a highly successful driver’s coach in the meantime. And, hopefully, with a little help from his friends Sam Schmidt and Tony Stewart, he can finally show what he’s made of at that speedway of dreams that is Indianapolis.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.