Live! I’m on the scene for the MAVTV 500 this weekend. If you’re anywhere near SoCal or can hop a plane, get there and enjoy the speed! If you can’t, I’ll be here both days to bring you news from the track. Check back as the day goes on for more – I’m off for the first practice.
9:30 a.m. IndyCar practice – Fairly uneventful 45 minutes for the IndyCars. There were a couple yellows for cut tires, but otherwise the teams got 703 laps of practice in. First practices don’t always tip us off to who has the best speed for the weekend, but it was great to see Hondas at the top of the speed chart this morning. Ryan Briscoe was quickest at 217.451 mph, with Marco Andretti right behind him at 217.316. Tony Kanaan was strong all practice and Simon Pagenaud made a leap at the end to be third-fastest.
It was already around 80 degrees when the practice started – heading for the upper 90s today. Tomorrow’s race starts at 1:30 local time (4:30 ET) instead of the usual twilight start, so the 12:45 practice today will be the most applicable, conditions-wise, to race time.
I’ll be back with news from practice 2 later this afternoon.
12:45 pm practice – I was worried I’d miss some action when I raced back to my hotel for a wardrobe change. (Camera + big phone + scanner + cup of Diet Coke + quick stop in the ladies room = underwear full of syrupy ice cubes. My juggling skills need improving.) Never fear – right after practice started, there was a prolonged track inspection and I got back with dry pants in time for practice to resume. It seemed like the drivers spent more time sitting under umbrellas in the pits than on the track during this session. And an engine problem with James Jakes’ car added to the down time, as an extensive fluid cleanup was needed. Add to that temps in the mid 90s and it seemed like the practice would never end. Then it was extended 15 minutes, during which there was finally some great action on the track.
Practice 2 was a Chevy bow-tie party, with Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter topping the speed chart. Surprise of the practice was Will Power, who turned 54 laps and only managed 21st on the chart. He’s someone to keep an eye on for qualifying – will his team have sorted out the problem?
Speaking of qualies: it’s about go time, so back later with results
Qualifying – 4:45 pm. Well, it was clear after Will Power qualified today that practice 2 was all about race setup, which makes sense, given the conditions will be similar.
That out of the way, it was team mate Simon Pagenaud’s day to shine, as he grabbed his first pole of the year. Pagenaud is gaining strength on ovals and he team certainly knows how to win on them, so it’s a matter of time before he gets to the top step. Team Penske had its usual strong showing in the qualifying results, taking up half the top 8. Marco Andretti continued a strong season, earning the third spot on the starting grid, and Ed Carpenter surprised no one with his fourth place spot.
The disappointments of the day were Graham Rahal placing 19th on the grid, Pippa Mann struggling to find speed, the top 10 containing only 2 Hondas and James Jakes not making a run at all due to the engine failure during practice 2.
Will Simon get his first oval win this weekend? Stay tuned to find out! Meanwhile, here’s your pole sitter and other photos from Friday’s action.