That’s a wrap folks. The Verizon IndyCar Series cars have left the track and they won’t return until the pageantry of the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Oil is in it’s kickoff phases, less than 48 hours from now.
There was only one caution during the last practice, for a track inspection. The only drama was for the No. 13 GoDaddy crew. Danica Patrick, running for Ed Carpenter Racing this weekend, had an electrical issue. The crew took the bright green Chevrolet back into the garages early on in the session, wheeling it back out to pits with about 10 minutes remaining. Patrick commented to NBCSN after the checkered flag that she was thankful the issue showed itself now instead of on Sunday, because in that case they would have been done before they even had the chance to compete in the race.
Even after all of that, Patrick still finished P8. Look out folks, she’s not just here to close a chapter, she’s here to win.
Carb Day practice yielded a fast lap of 227.791 clocked by Indy 500 winner, Tony Kanaan. The driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing, will start from P10 on Sunday at the cathedral of speed. He will be joined by 32 drivers for 200 laps under what is expected to be the hottest race day in history with a currently forecasted high of 93, and the expectation to exceed it during the event. When you take into account the heat index and the track temp itself, it’s easy to understand why Doug Boles was so adamant about fans protecting themselves from the conditions on Sunday.
Boles stressed a few key items continually – arriving early, dressing to protect yourself from the sun without overheating and staying hydrated. The best places for information are on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway app, as well as ims.com/planahead. You know who else is planning ahead? Tony Kanaan.
While the Indianapolis 500 isn’t the first or last race of the IndyCar season, it is the pinnacle. Drivers, teams, fans, and pretty much anyone else you can think of associated with the sport, plans for this weekend. We all do it. Travel plans, engineering plans, outfit plans for Fashion Fridays… there are numerous lists of preparation depending on your involvement in the event, but it’s all thought of ahead of time.
For Kanaan, it’s no different. He has been preparing for this race for 17 years now. He’s been in the Top 3 for Carb Day practice for the past 4 years, finished P5 in 2017 and P4 in 2016. He started from the pole back in 2005 and won the whole thing with KV Racing in 2013. So far this season, he’s run mid-pack with this being his third Top 10 start, and sitting around 11th on the championship points scale. Kanaan’s best finishes were at Phoenix and Long Beach, both a P8 result. Kanaan is looking to bring home a solid result to the No. 14 ABC Supply crew and the legend himself, A.J. Foyt.
Running the fastest today is not a stat to be taken lightly.
Last year’s winner Takuma Sato, ran second fastest in the final practice last year and went on to win the race in stunning fashion, battling 3-time winner Helio Castroneves and becoming the first Japanese driver to find victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The defending winner is racing with a different team this year, having moved from Andretti Autosport last year to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2018, creating a full-time two-car team with Graham Rahal, for the first time since 2013 when Rahal was paired with James Jakes.
Juncos Racing and Harding Racing are the only teams in this year’s event fielding a single entry. Kyle Kaiser and Gabby Chaves are the respective drivers for those teams. They both put up impressive qualifying efforts last weekend, with Kaiser starting P17 in the middle of Row 6 and Chaves on the inside of Row 8 from P22. The last single-entry team to win the Indianapolis 500 was Bryan Herta Autosport, with Dan Wheldon in 2011. Wheldon was a two-time ‘500’ victor, and would likely have added to his resume had his life not been cut short at the end of that season in the tragic Las Vegas season finale race.
The Wheldon legacy lives on through his wife Susie and their children, Sebastian and Oliver. Yesterday, Sebastian was kissing the bricks, interviewing drivers during Indy 500 Media Day, and repping his sponsor as a Hot Wheels athlete at K1 Speed. If you haven’t checked out his Instagram yet, but sure that you do. Follow him and don’t miss a single story – they are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. Dan might not physically be with us anymore, but he is absolute present in the hearts and souls of both of his boys.
That spirit within the series is what makes IndyCar, and this weekend in particular, so magical and so addictive. A friend of mine sent me a link yesterday, further reminding me of those exact things and then some. It’s the introduction to the ‘500’ we most recently discussed – 2011. It is by far my favorite introduction and I am sure many of you feel the same. And when it won an Emmy later that year… well, that made it even more special. Seeing “outsiders” recognize the significance of the story-telling and the editing technology further immortalized it in the history of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
I hope you take a moment to watch this and enjoy it. Let it get you hyped. Let it give you goosebumps. Let it well your eyes up. Let it build the adrenaline. Let it add to the undeniable buzz around this series, this sport, and this event. Let the reality wash over you – our best kept secret, the amazingness that IS IndyCar… is out. The world knows, they care, and by the looks of the grandstands for today’s practice… they’re showing up in huge numbers.