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IndyCar Open Wheel

FANTASY HOT TIP: Sonoma

The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma means one final decision is in the way of Firestone Fantasy Challenge players for 2017.

In the previous 16 events of the Verizon IndyCar Series, most of the drivers were on the same agenda to win outright. However, in the California Wine Country, the scenarios are mixed. The quartet from Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon are vying for a season championship. Others, such as J.R. Hildebrand and Carlos Munoz for instance, need a result to maintain employment for 2018. In the case of both, neither pilot has a ride in the cards for next year.

So while some in Sunday’s 22-car lineup may choose a more conservative tact, others will view the action as a nothing to lose offering and maybe take risks that one would otherwise opt against. With those matters at hand, picking a team capable of raking in a large sum of points to close out the fantasy year could be tough.

Yours truly has thrown caution to the wind for the 17th and final outing and features a quartet of participants who have each had their own moment in the sun during the current campaign. Heading the list is current championship leader Josef Newgarden, attempting to become the first American driver to win the title since Ryan Hunter-Reay did so in 2012. Although the Tennessean arrives at Sonoma Raceway off a bad race at Watkins Glen when he came home in 18th, his ability to top the speed charts in both sessions on Friday, shows to me that he is ready to fight all out for the required crown-earning result.

Also on a bit of a roll entering Northern California is home state native, Alexander Rossi. With a win in New York and four other top-six or better placements in the last five races, the NAPA Auto Parts Honda chauffeur has to be viewed as a legit challenger on Sunday. The second-year veteran finished fifth at Sonoma a season ago.

While he has yet to return to the form he presented before his horrific accident suffered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais is worth the risk of selecting this weekend, having finished sixth at this venue for the Windy City runners in 2011. Although the St. Petersburg, Florida street circuit he won upon to open this year, lacks the elevation changes present at Sonoma Raceway, the Frenchman’s talents on road courses are well documented in previous stints in both ChampCar and Formula One.

Rounding out my squad for race number seventeeen is Spencer Pigot for Ed Carpenter Racing. The 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion may have encountered the worst luck of any regular entrant in 2017. Mechanical failures have denied him chances at top-ten placements; however, the ECR group are in major need of a good result, in hopes of a significant boost in performance for 2018, when the American young gun will contest every event on the calendar.

Even though just one player in the hunt for a title is featured on Sunday’s lineup card, the group presented may take advantage of the overaggressive nature of others to close out 2017 with a better than expected climax.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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

Sebastien Bourdais To Return For Final Three Races

After spending the past 14 weeks on the sidelines, Sebastien Bourdais will be back behind the wheel of his familiar No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing entry for the final three races this season, beginning with Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Bourdais started off the season with a victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg, followed by a pair of top-eight finishes in the next four races before his accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he made substantial contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on the evening of the crash, before going through physical therapy.

“You have no idea how excited I am to be getting back in the car this weekend and for the remainder of the season,” Bourdais said. “It’s been a long 14 weeks, and I’ve worked very hard to get to this point. Following the crash, I had one goal in mind, and that was to be back for Sonoma, and here I am getting back in the car with three races to go. It’s a bit unbelievable, but I can’t wait to try out that new surface at Gateway this weekend!”

While team owner Dale Coyne says it is great to have Bourdais back, he expressed gratitude towards rookie Esteban Gutierrez for his job as a substitute for the past seven events.

“It wasn’t easy for him coming in and having never driven an Indy car, but he did a fantastic job especially on the ovals,” Coyne said. “For someone that had never driven on an oval track before Iowa in July, he impressed a lot of people including myself. Hopefully, we get to work with him again in the future.”

After James Davison ran the Indianapolis 500 for the organization, Gutierrez took over for the next seven events, with a best-finish of 13th at Iowa Speedway. 
 
“It’s been a very interesting (past) few months for me getting to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series on the street circuits, road courses and especially ovals,”  Gutierrez said. “I want to thank the team and Dale Coyne for giving me this opportunity to gain this experience in view of a full-time program in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year. My goal was to learn as much as possible in order to be ready for 2018 where a new car will be introduced. This experience with the team will pay dividends next season.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

Sebastien Bourdais Aiming for September Return

TORONTO, Ontario — Sebastien Bourdais admits that he is not a good spectator as it will be tough watching the Honda Indy Toronto from the sidelines, but he still made the trip north of the border to support his Dale Coyne Racing teammates.

“Craig (Hampton) wanted me to come, and I obviously wanted to see the guys and everything that I haven’t seen for awhile,” Bourdais told POPULAR SPEED. “I think the timing was good, and he’s right. It’s one of the places where little pointers can make a big difference for the drivers, and they’re both new to this track with this car.”

Bourdais started off the season with a victory in the season opener at St. Petersburg, followed by a pair of top-eight finishes in the next four races before his accident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he made substantial contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on the evening of the crash, before going through physical therapy.

Now two months removed from the accident, he says he is feeling great.

“It’s been a lot of a long process, but we knew that going in, and the good thing is things are headed in the right direction,” he said. “There’s no setbacks or surprises. It’s just a game of patience, and as I said, thankfully the bones are healing well. There’s no reason now to worry about it. It’s just going to follow its course, and let us do our thing soon.”

While Bourdais was initially focused on returning for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway, there is now a possibility that he will run the final two races on the schedule – Watkin’s Glen, along with Sonoma.

“They were looking at August 15 for me to get back into the car to see how it is feeling in testing,” he said. “Now, I think it’s more open, depending on how the schedule is going around and the rotation of the car with road courses and ovals. It could be as early as Mid-Ohio, but that’s going to be pending to IndyCar and whether they let us do it, and the team, and insurance, and everything around. There’s a lot of questions, which we’re not quite sure, so now unless that test goes not well or I’m uncomfortable, I should be able to make it back for the last two.”

While Bourdais has been on the sidelines, Esteban Gutierrez has been driving the No. 19 entry in his place for the past four races, with a career-best finish of 13th at Iowa Speedway last weekend. Before racing in IndyCar, he drove for Haas F1 last season after spending a year with Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver.

“It’s like throwing someone into the deep end of the pool,” Bourdais said of Gutierrez. “It’s tough when you’re a rookie in the series with the depth of this field and everything. I think he’s done well, because first of all, he hasn’t made any mistakes, and making steady progress. You can’t expect to throw a guy like that in the middle of the season with no oval experience, no experience in the car, and new tracks – partially, that first weekend in Detroit. People were starting to judge him and everything. Well, you people forget the density of the field and the fact that it’s one of the hardest tracks of the whole season. It was very unfair to him.

“But in the meantime, I think he’s enjoying the experience and learning and taking his time. I think he’s here to stay. He seems to be enjoying the series, the format, and the car, and the racing. So he did well at Iowa for the first race at an oval, and hopefully, he can keep making progress like that and do well.”

Although helping his teammates isn’t the ideal situation Bourdais would like to be in, he is thankful for how well things are going.

“It could’ve been a lot worse, and I could not be walking right now,” he said. “As I said from the beginning, it was my mistake, and I’m paying for it, so just got to suck it up and deal with it.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

Jones, Rahal Manage Top-Tens At Road America

While the two biggest teams controlled the roost during Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix at Road America, a couple of the smaller squads did steal some of the thunder.

A group that has overcome the underdog tag for decades has been the Chicago-based Dale Coyne Racing group. Honoring former Chicago Bears running back the late Walter Payton on Sunday, the team’s lead entry with Dubai’s Ed Jones at the controls improved four places from the green flag to finish seventh.

In addition to his exploits on the football field, Payton was a part of auto racing, spending several years as a driver in the rough and tumble SCCA Trans-Am Series. Also from 1994 to his passing in 1999, he was a co-owner of the Coyne Racing team.

As for Jones, Sunday’s output is the highest placing for the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie, since he placed third at the 101st Indianapolis 500 last month. In both the event at the Brickyard and on Sunday, Jones advanced from the 11th starting position. The result is also the former Indy Lights Presented By Cooper Tires champion’s third top-ten finish since his teammate Sebastien Bourdais was injured in a qualifying crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.

According to the newcomer, today’s race was far from a joyride.

“It was a really tough race, the car was really loose,” said Jones. “I was hanging on the whole race, but the team had some good pit stops, and we were able to move up.”

Another team/driver duo that has taken on that tag with much success over the past three seasons has been the D-A Lubricants Honda team for Ohio’s Graham Rahal. Although teams such as Andretti Autosport have the most potential among the Honda-powered rides on paper, it has been Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who have produced the strongest outputs.

With Andretti’s quartet non-existent in the first twelve places on Sunday, it was the popular No. 15 Honda chauffeur who made an appearance in the top half of the order in eighth-place at the checkered flag.

“Eighth is about as good as we could do today,” admitted Rahal. “We struggled with a very loose race car all weekend and just couldn’t put a dent in the problem.”

After making it into the Firestone Fast Six shootout in qualifying on Saturday, Rahal slid backwards at the start after being penalized for blocking by IndyCar officials. Falling back to 13th in the initial fuel stint, the Ohioan upped his pace in the remaining phases of the 55-lap event to capture his sixth top-ten result of 2017, including a two-race sweep of the Detroit event weekend.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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

Gutierrez To Finish Out Season with Dale Coyne Racing

After racing on the streets of Detroit, Esteban Gutierrez has been named the driver of the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing entry for the rest of the season, replacing the injured Sebastien Bourdais.

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Bourdais made heavy contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on Saturday evening, and is currently healing with hopes of returning for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

“I’m very happy to finally announce my racing program for the rest of the season,” expressed Gutierrez. “To represent Mexico in the Verizon IndyCar Series has a huge significance to all the fans that have been following the series through history and I’m very grateful to fill in this position.

“IndyCar has highly competitive teams and drivers and the challenge for me will be great, but I will use all my experience from Formula 1 with Sauber, HAAS F1 Team and Ferrari in order to adapt quickly to the car and the tracks. I look forward to continue working with Dale Coyne Racing and Honda, I put my trust in them to achieve great results together. I cannot wait to jump in my Unifin #18 car at Road America this weekend!”

In his debut at Detroit, he posted a 14th-place finish in the second event on Sunday. 

“We’re very pleased that Esteban can join us for the remainder of the season,” said Team Owner Dale Coyne. “Esteban did a very good job in Detroit despite having a lot to learn in a short amount of time. He fit in very well with the team and I look forward to our next races with him, starting with Road America this week.”

Prior to racing in IndyCar, he drove for Haas F1 last season after spending a year with Scuderia Ferrari as a test driver. He got the opportunity after placing third in the GP2 Championship in 2012 with seven podiums. 

He has previous experience at Road America, racing there in 2007 in the Formula BMW USA Series.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

Vautier Returns to IndyCar for Texas

Tristan Vautier will make his Verizon IndyCar Series return this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, driving the No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing as he fills in for Sebastien Bourdais.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back in an Indy car and race for Dale again,” said Vautier. “But before talking about me stepping in, let’s all keep sending our thoughts to Seb for a quick recovery. I was happy to see him at the track at Indy on race day. I have big shoes to fill!

“That being said, I really can’t wait to be in the car on Friday and see how it feels that first lap around. It’s not the easiest place to step back in and practice is going to be very limited, but the team has been competitive everywhere and I trust we’ll be good. It’s going to be cool working with the whole team again, and also with (engineer) Craig Hampson, who I met in Le Mans when I was 16 and just getting started in racing. I remember I was asking him about opportunities in the USA and he was telling me to come over.”

Vautier ran the final 11 races of the 2015 season with DCR, posting a best-finish of fourth in Detroit.  He has a pair of starts at Texas, in 2015 with Coyne and 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, with a best finish of 18th (2013). While not racing in IndyCar this season, he has been competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including a pole-winning effort in the GTD class with SunEnergy1 Racing at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

“We chose Tristan to fill the (No.) 18 seat at Texas because of his previous experience at Texas Motor Speedway,” team owner Dale Coyne said. “We think he can help the team and Ed, who has never raced or even tested there. Tristan has remained close with the team and he’s always done a good job for us. I expect much of the same going into this race weekend.”

During qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, Bourdais made heavy contact with the wall, suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on Saturday evening, and is currently healing with hopes of returning for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

Vautier becomes the third driver to race the No. 19 since Bourdais’ injury, following in the footsteps of James Davison and Esteban Gutierrez. The team has posted a best-finish of 14th in the three events. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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: Pace Predictions Exceeded On Wild Pole Day

In what will be the final month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Dallara DW12 chassis in its present form, Sunday’s Pole Day for the 101st Indianapolis 500 saw many unique moments.

From all-out pace to white-knuckle moments near the SAFER barriers, several notable occurrences were laid down in both the consolation phase and the Firestone Fast Nine that followed. Among them were bizarre speed postings.

In the battle for the tenth position, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay recovered from a discouraging effort on Saturday to post at the time, the fastest four-lap attempt since Helio Castroneves’ 231.725 MPH output in 2003. With no one showing the ability to reach the high 231 range, the 2014 Indy 500 champion displayed the potential to be the first fast qualifier not to win the pole since Kenny Brack did so in 2005.

Although the sight was outstanding, the nine finalists for the Verizon P1 Award had many aces yet to put down. Defending Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi bested his Andretti teammate with a run just under 231.5 MPH. While the NAPA Auto Parts Honda pilot was stout, even the second-year IndyCar star had to do at least a double take when Chip Ganassi Racing entrant Scott Dixon took to the 2.5-mile oval.

Despite facing ever-increasing track temperatures and wind gusts, the Iceman managed to break into realms that had not even been considered for two decades. The two-time Indy pole-sitter ripped off an opening stanza at an unbelievable 232.595 MPH, the fastest single pass since 1996. He even pulled off three encore laps to average 232.164 MPH, also unheard of numbers dating back two decades. With the New Zealander all but assured his third $100,000 pole-winning payout, Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato and owner-driver Ed Carpenter took their shots.

While both performers put up one 232 MPH lap, neither could maintain the close margins that the Kiwi did. Still, with 2017 time trials at the Brickyard concluded, here are some notable facts from this remarkable day.

-The front row of Scott Dixon, Ed Carpenter, and Alexander Rossi is the second-fastest front row in race history. Only the 1996 qualified top-three of Scott Brayton, Tony Stewart, and Davy Jones was faster (Brayton was tragically killed in a practice a week after Pole Day, and Stewart started from P1 on race day).

-Dixon’s 232.164 MPH pole time is the third-fastest top spot earning run in history. Only Roberto Guerrero in 1992 (232.482) and Scott Brayton in 1996 (233.718) were quicker.

-Six of the 33 starters for the 101st edition of this event posted a four-lap run over 231 MPH, that is the most since the edition mentioned above when nine drivers eclipsed this barrier.

-Fifteen qualifiers posted 230 MPH averages, while four others also ran at least one lap over 230 on Pole Day, both are month of May records.

-Dixon’s P1 effort also puts him second behind Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves among active Indy 500 drivers in total top starting spots claimed. The Brazilian has four, while Rick Mears leads the list all-time with six.

-With the tremendous speed explosion, the outer walls managed to snatch multiple drivers on Sunday. Despite the warning shot fired followed Sebastien Bourdais’ massive shunt in turn two during pre-qualifying, at least seven hit or brushed the barriers on Sunday, yet all were able to complete their attempts in full.

Following Sunday’s closest surge to Arie Luyendyk’s track record runs, the anticipation toward 2018 and the new car designs may be at an all-time summit.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury

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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James Davison To Replace Bourdais in Indy 500

With Sebastien Bourdais out of the seat due to injury, Dale Coyne Racing announced on Sunday morning that James Davison will drive the No. 18 GEICO Honda for the Indianapolis 500.

“My thoughts are with Sebastien and Claire Bourdais,” expressed Davison. “This is never the circumstance that a driver wants to secure an opportunity to drive in the Indianapolis 500. With that said, I’m extremely excited and ready to take on this challenge. The prime goal will be to secure a strong result for the team, Sebastien and all our sponsors. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Australian has previous experience with the team, racing in the 2015 edition of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, along with two other events in 2013. He has a best result of 16th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, coming in 2014. 

“It’s never easy when you have to replace an injured driver, but the important thing is that Sebastien is going to fully recover from his injuries and we’ll be waiting for him when he’s ready to come back,” shared Team Owner Dale Coyne. “We’ve worked with James in the past and he’s done a good job for us, he’s familiar with the team and knows how we work so it was an easy decision when came the time to find someone to fill the 18 seat.”

During Saturday’s qualifying session, Bourdais made heavy contact with the wall,  suffering multiple fractures to the pelvis and a broken right hip. He underwent successful surgery for his pelvic injuries on Saturday evening.

While Davison will not be out for time trials, he will get a chance to practice on Monday and Friday ahead of the Indianapolis 500 next Sunday.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

Bourdais Injured in Fiery Crash

French Verizon IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais was running his fastest laps of the month of May when he hit the SAFER barrier in Turn 2 during qualifying today.

His crash was dramatic and frightening to see. Fortunately, he did not lose consciousness and fast work by the Holmatro Safety team ensured his quick transport to nearby Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital.

Bourdais is underwent surgery on Saturday evening after having been diagnosed with multiple fractures to his pelvis and right hip.

His team owner Dale Coyne, said, “Sebastien is in good hands here at IU…with the staff and now we just wait for him to recover.”

Qualifications will resume Sunday. It is unknown if Coyne will name a substitute driver for the No. 18 GEICO car to compete in next week’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.

Update 5-21-2017 2:01 pm EST – IndyCar released a statement saying the surgery was successful for Bourdais, with INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows adding, “I’ve met with Sebastien this morning and he was doing even better than I expected.”  Additional updates on Bourdais’ condition will be released by the series once available.

Update 5-21-2017 7:16 pm EST – IndyCar released the following statement from Bourdais: “I want to thank everybody for the support and the messages, quite a few drivers have already dropped by. It’s going to take time, but I’m feeling pretty good since the surgery. I’ll be back at some point. Just don’t know when yet!”  

Updated 5-25-2017 821 pm EST – IndyCar announced on Thursday that Bourdais was discharged from IU Health Methodist Hospital on Wednesday and has been moved to a local rehabilitation facility.

“Sebastien is progressing amazingly fast for having pelvis and hip fractures, and considering the severity of the crash,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Scheid, an INDYCAR medical consultant. “He is walking with crutches, in good spirits and feeling good. “We expect the fractures to heal in around eight weeks and he should be able to start putting weight on the right leg then. Until that time, he can work on rehabilitating his upper body, core strength and range of motion in the hip.”

In a statement released by the sanctioning body, Bourdais said he was “really happy” to be up on his feet, walking around using crutches. 

“I’m really thankful to all the people at IU Health Methodist and the Holmatro Safety Team, everybody at INDYCAR and my team, Dale Coyne Racing, for helping me achieve that so early after the crash,” he added. “It’s going to be a bit of a long road ahead.  I still have six weeks before I can put weight on my right leg and put my foot on the ground, but after that it should be pretty smooth sailing. I’m really looking forward to the day I can get back in the car, and hopefully that will be before the end of the season. I look forward to seeing you guys at the track.”

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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Commentary Open Wheel

EMBURY: Indianapolis 500 Grid-a-tology, Final Edition

The purpose of Indianapolis 500 Grid-a-tology is to give an idea on who’s trending upward in the battle for being Firestone Fast Nine eligible. 

Fast Friday is now in the record books, and changes in the final field projection are rampant. Among those trending upward, Ed Carpenter Racing appears to be regaining the form shown during back-to-back pole position efforts in 2013 and 2014. Entering the opening week of practice, J.R. Hildebrand seemed to be the biggest threat; however, team boss Ed Carpenter was regularly the fastest in laps completed without a draft before the increase in speeds on Friday.

Another team that has unexpectedly made a jump into the conversation is Dale Coyne Racing – the same squad who claimed last month that they could not challenge for high finishes. Fast forward to Friday and out of nowhere, Sebastien Bourdais fired off a draft-aided run over 233 MPH and backed it up with an assist-free lap over 231 MPH. While making the Firestone Fast Nine is still a tall order, the Frenchman at least has flashed what it would take to get there.

As for the rest of the contenders, Penske and Ganassi are still well within range of position number one, while any of the six-member Andretti Autosport club can get there likewise. Meanwhile, the pole position title defense for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is entering long-shot status.

FRONT ROW

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing: Consistent pace from both the New Zealander and Tony Kanaan have solidified the Iceman’s spot on the top line. If the weather does limit action to a Sunday-only affair, it just makes the odds that much more favorable.

Helio Castroneves, Team Penske: Four Indy 500 poles are on his resume, but it has been seven years since Spider Man’s last hurrah. May represent the Captain’s best chance following Newgarden’s accident on Thursday.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport: Honda has the pace to give RHR an edge over most of the Chevrolet runners, but that may not be enough to catch Dixon for first.

ROW 2

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske: Getting used to the spare car was why the Tennessee-native did not make an impact on Fast Friday. Should still find himself somewhere on the first three rows on Sunday.

Will Power, Team Penske: The Aussie has been able to transfer strength in road course time trials to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Do not overlook that reality.

Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing: Qualifying in the first two rows was the standard form for TK early in his Indy 500 career, but not so much over past few editions. Second-fastest clean lap posting Friday entices me to say a return to the previous outputs is in order.

ROW 3

Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing: Two-time pole award earner has quickly climbed the grid based on high placing on draft-free speed charts before Fast Friday. Still, he needs to show more to be a real pole position challenger but should get to the shootout.

Alexander Rossi, Andretti Herta Autosport: If only he had gotten a second run in pre-qualifying last year. Year two should offer a friendlier result.

Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske: The 2016 series champion could face stiff opposition to make shootout if Honda continues to outperform GM-powered cars.

ROW 4

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Last year’s pole winner has suddenly gotten lost in the shuffle. Will be a battle to reach the final session this time around.

Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing: The comments previously made by Craig Hampson, seem like a smokescreen after what the former Champ Car World Series champion put on the board Friday. Will be hard pressed to back that up when it counts, however.

J.R. Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing: Can join his boss in the top-nine, but the number of real threats to get there is getting bigger too.

ROW 5:

Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport: Has quietly gone about his business this week and was in the 230 MPH club without a draft on Friday. If luck shines on him, he could maybe get into the shootout conversation.

Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport: Is starting to fall behind his teammates regarding getting to the Firestone Fast Nine. This list now includes Alonso.

Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: The Russian continues to stay in the top half of the speed list, but a big boost is necessary to get a realistic look at making the first three rows as he managed in 2016.

 

ROW 6:

Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport: After starting impressively at St. Petersburg, the near- 2012 Indy 500 upset winner returns to familiar territory from when he was with A.J. Foyt Racing. Does not appear able to take advantage of a good car for qualifications.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Team Penske: Time trials has been kryptonite for the Colombian, he has been worst among the Captain’s runners each of the past three years.

Oriol Servia, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Servia has been the better of the two RLLR entrants this past week. Nothing on Friday indicates a reversal is in prospect.

ROW 7

Charlie Kimball, Chip Ganassi Racing: Three top-ten finishes at the Indy 500, but has yet to make an impact in qualifying mode. Should top Chilton to be third in CGR stable, but not much more than that.

Sage Karam, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: DRR’s focus has been more on the race than time trials; 2017 should be no different.

Carlos Munoz, A.J. Foyt Racing: The aggressive veteran does not have the resources to threaten the top nine as he did with Andretti. Dramatic turnaround required before Munoz improves his placing.

ROW 8

Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing: Issues with car and weather prevented the Dubai-resident from testing out qualifying setup on Friday. He could still get near Bourdais at the close of Sunday action, but it will be a more difficult ask.

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Qualified seventh in his first try with the family-based organization, but has been nowhere near that zip code in the years since.

Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing: Interesting to see how the Englishman fares this month after a Pole Day crash last year derailed the effort. Could see a surprise jump.

ROW 9

Jay Howard, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports: Has shaken off some of the rust formed by six years of IndyCar inactivity; however, qualifying is a bigger pressure cooker than the run up to it.

Pippa Mann, Dale Coyne Racing: Made history by becoming the first woman to post a lap over 230 MPH at the Brickyard on Friday. Could surprise several this weekend.

Conor Daly, A.J. Foyt Racing: Topped Gateway speed chart, but may have only done so as pace may not have been the concern for most of his rivals.

ROW 10

Gabby Chaves, Harding Racing: The Colombian was third-fastest earlier this week, but has steadily dropped down the charts.

Zach Veach, A.J. Foyt Racing: Has been in step with both of his A.J. Foyt Racing teammates this week, but mainly because all three have lacked speed.

Jack Harvey, Andretti Autosport: English rookie has yet to show the pace of his five teammates. Challenge now is to avoid losing out to a majority of the other one-off entries.

ROW 11

Sebastian Saavedra, Juncos Racing: Pace for the Colombian has been lacking so far in practice. Not expected to make a significant impact in qualifications.

Spencer Pigot, Juncos Racing: Friday accident puts the sophomore behind the eight-ball looking ahead to this weekend. Avoiding the back row is now the chief concern.

Buddy Lazier, Lazier Partners Racing: Playing catch-up after taking his first laps this month on Friday. Avoiding 33rd on the starting grid would be a personal victory for the 1996 Indy 500 winner and the team.

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