Race Report Indianapolis 500

Race Report: Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS May 27, 2012—“It’s heartbreaking,” said rookie Wade Cunningham after his Indianapolis 500 ended early after just 41 laps.

Teammate Mike Conway shared the pain. After giving the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda one of its best runs at Indy since the no. 14 last visited victory lane in 1999, Conway’s great run from 29th to fourth came to an abrupt halt after a pit incident on lap 74.

“It was my mistake coming into the pits, came in a bit too hard and collected some of my guys and that screwed up the front wing and we didn’t realize it till I got out,” Conway said. “Through turns 3 and 4 it felt a little wiggly and I thought it was just tire temperatures but down the front straight when I went down into turn 1, I could see one of the endplates sticking up in the air. I knew it wouldn’t be right turning in, so I tried to back out just going in but I knew Will was close behind me, so I didn’t want to back out too much. The car got very loose which I was able to correct it once but it broke loose again and I couldn’t catch it the second time and then I was just a passenger on board. I’m very sorry for my guys, I’m glad that they are okay. I’m sorry for our sponsor ABC Supply as the car was really good and we were moving up through the field.”

Conway, who started deep in the field, was slicing through traffic with textbook moves and in the early going was the fastest car on the track. By lap 20 he was 15th –in part due to a 7.2-second pit stop on lap 15 when he picked up four spots.

He pitted again on lap 46 for tires and fuel only and by lap 50 he was tenth. He radioed in that the car was getting a little loose by lap 74 when he was sixth, but Team Director Larry Foyt told him he’d be pitting in a couple of laps. The pit stop cycles had begun and Conway was fourth when he made what turned out to be his final stop on lap 77.

The ABC Supply crew recovered from the mishap, changed tires and fueled the car then sent him on his way not realizing with the melee of downed crew members that the front wing had been damaged. Conway radioed in on the front stretch that he might have an issue with the front wing moments before he entered turn 1.  The 200mph lap speed tore the wing to the point that it failed and Conway did his best to gain control but to no avail. He spun in front of Power who hit him, launching the no. 14 into the air and it turned on its side as it rode the wall between turns 1 and 2 before skidding to a stop.

Luckily, Conway and Power escaped without injury from the horrific looking accident and will be ready to test at the Milwaukee Mile this Tuesday.

“We had a great race car and Mike was doing an awesome job,” said Team Director Larry Foyt.  “He drove right up through the field which is hard to do here at Indianapolis. The crew did a great job in the pits, we picked up spots every time we stopped and everything was going well – we were in the top 10 and trying to get to the end. It’s a shame what happened in the pits. I’m just glad that no one was seriously hurt, a couple of the boys were bruised.  We couldn’t see any visible damage to the car when we sent Mike back out but the wing must have been weakened to the extent that it failed at speed. I hate to see that Will was taken out in our accident but really glad that both Mike and Will were able to walk away from it.”

Cunningham’s race ended in the pits with what was thought to be electrical issues on his No. 41 ECAT/ABC Supply Honda although the team is still analyzing possible causes. Cunningham placed 31st.

Cunningham had moved up to 24th at the start but then dropped back to 28th before the first pit stop on lap 15. He started working his way through the field and was running 23rd when he started experiencing a misfire so he pitted on lap 38 thinking he might be out of fuel --which he wasn’t. Several attempts were made to fix the problem but Cunningham returned to the pits each time and the car was finally retired to the garage.

“It’s heartbreaking. I’ve worked seven months to put this together to find the sponsorship to make a contract with Larry that would work for everyone- with our sponsor ECat and ABC,” Cunningham said afterwards. “We were going forward on the start, and on the one restart we had. The car was solid but we had a mechanical problem with the engine or an electrical issue and the engine wouldn’t go over 11000 rpm so rather than get in the way and potentially ruin someone else’s race, we pulled it back here to the garage.”

Dario Franchitti won his third Indianapolis 500 in a race that saw a record 35 lead changes. Teammate Scott Dixon finished second when Takuma Sato tried an unsuccessful pass on Franchitti and spun in turn 1, hitting the wall. He wasn’t injured. Third through fifth were Tony Kanaan, Oriol Servia and Ryan Briscoe.

The IZOD IndyCar Series heads to Michigan this week for Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle.

Notes & Quotes: Mike Conway
No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda

Mike Conway qualified on Sunday with a four lap average speed of 222.319 mph. He will start 29th in the 500.  His  best start to date here was 15th in 2010 and best finish was 18th in 2009.

o On race strategy: “We know it’s going to be a long day out there so you have to keep your nose clean on the first start. It’s going to be busy the first few laps but you don’t want to play it too safe because you can easily get overtaken; you just have to move forward and be smart.  I want to get up there—if we can work our way forward and get in mid-pack by 10-20 laps, I’ll be happy with that. Our ABC car felt pretty good in race trim the other day so I think we’ll be looking good. We got in a few packs of 3 or 4 cars and the car felt good so I’m pretty happy with it. We just have to finalize picking the right gears because once the race starts, it’s going to be different from running in 3-4 car packs versus a 12 car pack. Things will change because of the speeds you’d run in a bigger pack and when it’s three-wide you’re going to pick up crazy tows so you have to make sure you gear it for the right situation.”

o On single file restarts: “I suppose it’s a good thing but at the same time it makes it harder to pass. It’s safer, definitely around here, it’s safer.”

o On the predicted high temperatures on race day: “I remember in 2010 or 2009 that it was pretty warm, high 80s or low 90s. It does change how the car reacts with that amount of heat, it requires some different downforce levels, just something we have to keep in mind. But the engineers have their little cookbook back there so they’ll be able to figure it out. It should make it fun.”

o On how he prepares for the heat:  “Well I’m the fittest one out there, so it’ll be easy [chuckles]. No, I’m used to it, I think the road course stuff is more physical than the ovals so in terms of that, I’m pretty prepared. I do heat training anyway so I’m good to go. I’ll be sure to stay hydrated throughout the race.”

o On what surprised him the most about the month:  “Nothing really surprised me, you expect anything and everything here.  I would have liked to have had a little more speed come qualifying but it wasn’t to be- you just have to deal with it.”

o On his confidence in the cars’ (14 and 41) being competitive:  “Everyone gets new engines for the race so hopefully it will play in our favor maybe to having a fresh engine. In terms of the car, I’m happy with what I have underneath me so I feel good going into the race.”

o Conway has started in the top 10 in three of the first four races of the season and started 11th in St. Petersburg. His best finish of the season is seventh in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

o ABC Supply, which made its debut on the No. 14 car at Indy in 2005, has continued to sponsor the AJ Foyt Racing team continually in the IZOD IndyCar Series since that first race.  2012 is the eighth straight season for the country’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing and one of the nation’s largest distributors of siding, windows and other select exterior product. Over the past seven years they have entertained over 35,000 guests -- employees, contractors, vendors—at the races. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.

Notes & Quotes: Wade Cunningham
No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply Dallara/Honda

Rookie Wade Cunningham qualified Sunday at an average speed of 223.258 to start 26th. He is a three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race here at the Speedway. In 2011, he competed in races at Texas (qualified 8th), Kentucky (finished 7th) and Las Vegas (qualified 12th).

o On race strategy: “The first goal is just to finish which is easier said than done. It looks like it’s going to be superhot- mid to high 90s, you lose downforce, you lose tire and mechanical grip at those temperatures, so finishing’s got to be the goal. It’ll be a battle. First we have to keep our nose clean and stay out of trouble. If we can finish, with the resources we have here, the people, the latent speed we’ve had in the car at times, if we do the basics right, there’s no reason why we’re not going to move forward quickly and get a great result.”

o On preparation for Race Day’s high temperatures:  “I’ve been in Indianapolis since the second week of January and I train every day. We have a heat room at the gym which is part of the training. You have to watch your fluid intake, eat well, sleep well and just be prepared. I’ve been doing all those things so I’ll be prepared for Sunday.”

o On change to single file restarts: “I’m not glad about the change.  I don’t have some of the other concerns that some drivers have. I thought the double file restarts were great last year on the ovals. I think Indy is wide enough and long enough that if you spaced out the rows evenly, there’s no reason we couldn’t do a double file restart. I think they have to give the leader the opportunity to accelerate when he wants to so you’re not nose to tail getting into turn 1, so there’s some separation and you can find some clean air. We’re professionals so we should be able to organize ourselves side by side heading into turn 1 on a restart when we do three-wide on the initial start. I think we cheat the fans a little by not having double file restarts and if we have them at other tracks, it should be one rule for everything.”

o On the how the new cars will race:  “I think it will look like an Indy Lights race but with 33 cars -- I honestly do. I don’t think the leader’s going to be able to get away, I think the cars behind will have an advantage as long as they’re not in too much dirty air and I think the middle of the field is just going to be a battle, it’s going to look like a bar fight.”

o On the most surprising part of the month:  “The pressure, the media commitments, how busy we’ve been, the demands placed on the drivers to promote the event and that kind of stuff. Driving the race car is the easy part, it’s just the noise and the excitement of the event that you get wrapped up in-- that’s been the biggest surprise for me.”

o Ray Leto is the chief engineer on The No 41 ECat/ABC Supply Honda this month.  Leto worked with Don Halliday, chief engineer of the No. 14 car, from 1989 through 1993 (for Truesports and then Rahal) before moving on to Steve Horne’s team.  The last time the two men worked together was in 2007 with driver Jeff Simmons in an Indy only program when Simmons finished 11th.  To work Cunningham’s Indy-only program, Leto took time off from TotalSim, the company he and partner Nathan Eagles  founded in 2009 that does aerodynamic design work using computational fluid dynamics, specializing in motorsports and ground vehicles.

o ECat is a high performance electric bike company based in Indianapolis. ECat’s target market is the law enforcement community where ECat is  offering a high performance alternative to traditional gas-fueled vehicles.

o Alfe Heat Treating renews its sponsorship on the No. 41 car for the second straight year. The Ft. Wayne, IN company has a season-long presence on the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda.

Mike Conway and Wade Cunningham Qualify for Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, IN May 20, 2012—Both Mike Conway and Wade Cunningham qualified for the Indianapolis 500 with solid runs in their ABC Supply and ECat/ABC Supply Honda-powered cars Sunday afternoon at the 2.5 mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Conway went out shortly after noon and despite one lap in the 221 mph bracket due to a slight boost issue, he averaged 222.3 mph and will line up 29th, in the middle of the 10th row in the AJ Foyt Racing No. 14. Conway’s run of 223.1 mph yesterday was disallowed after the car was measured to be two lbs. underweight. That run would have put him 20th on the grid in the middle of row seven.

This race will be Conway’s third Indy 500 in four years. He finished 18th as a rookie in 2010 after starting 27th. The following year he qualified 15th and was en route to a top-10 finish but had a horrific accident on the 199th lap, and the leg and back injuries he sustained sidelined him for the rest of the season. Last year he was bumped out of the race in the final minutes of qualifying.

Rookie Cunningham, a three-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race here, qualified for his first Indy 500 with a four-lap average speed of 223.2 mph. He will start 26th, in the middle of the ninth row of the 11 row, three abreast grid. Cunningham’s run was the second fastest of today’s nine qualifiers with only four-time Champ Car titleholder  Sebastian Bourdais running a half mile an hour quicker in his Chevrolet-powered Dallara.

Conway, who is driving for Foyt this year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, said after his successful qualifying run, “I would have loved to have put it in the show yesterday. We would have been better off. We’re in the race. The car has been very similar all month in terms of handling, it’s been very good. We weren’t looking to blow the world away with speed today. It was a case of getting in (the race) comfortably and not doing anything stupid. Our second lap was slower. We had a slight boost issue, but it went away. We wanted to be sensible. We haven’t been working on race stuff much this month because we’ve been trying to find speed. We can go out and focus on getting the car in race trim and get it comfortable. I just want to thank A.J. Foyt Racing and ABC Supply for hanging in there all week.”

Cunningham waved off his first attempt yesterday as the car had too little downforce for the hot weather conditions. He did make another run later in the afternoon and was in the top 24 but was bumped in the final minute of qualifying.

“We ran quicker than we did this morning in practice so we found a little bit of speed,” Cunningham said. “If we ran that speed yesterday we would have been comfortably in the first day qualifiers. We I guess underestimated Indianapolis a little bit and we got ourselves caught out with circumstances- our own undoing but we did it in the end which is the most important thing. It’s not a reflection of our performance this month, we’ve been strong in the draft at times and strong by ourselves, so as long as we make good decisions, now through race day, there’s no reason we can’t be fighting for a top-10 in the race.”

Cunningham, an Auckland, New Zealand native, has made his home here in Indianapolis since 2004 and is a past champion of the Firestone Indy Lights Series. Although a rookie in Indy cars, this will be his fourth race having made his IndyCar debut at Texas Motor Speedway last year where he qualified eighth. Although he didn’t finish either race at Texas, he went on to finish seventh in his next race at Kentucky Speedway. He is a veteran of the Freedom 100 at Indy, not only winning the race three times, but also placing second and third in a total of six starts.

“It’s been a long road for me to Indianapolis,” Cunningham said. “I got to the states in 2004 -- eight years of hard work and commitment, a very proud day for me. I know my parents are proud as are all my sponsors and supporters who have helped me through the years to get here.”

After going through tech inspection, the team spent the next couple hours switching the car to race trim and the Honda engines were re-adjusted to settings that will be used in the race which means approximately 40-50 less horsepower. The cars spent the balance of the afternoon running in race trim. The teams will have one hour of final practice on “Carb Day” this Friday.

The 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC-TV Sunday, May 27th starting at 11 a.m. ET.

Indy 500 Track Report – Pole Day

Disappointment ran deep in the AJ Foyt Racing garages this evening as both cars were bumped out of the top 24 starters for the Indianapolis 500. The troubles began this morning when the No. 41 ECat/ABC Supply car did not pass pre-qualifying tech inspection (height discrepancy) and was sent to the back of the qualifying line which meant they had to qualify in the hotter part of the day. The team fixed the minor infraction and Cunningham went out to qualify after teammate Mike Conway put the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda solidly in the race with a 223.1 four lap average speed.

Cunningham waved off after not getting up to 220mph in the first two laps of his run despite running over 225 mph in the morning practice. After getting Cunningham’s feedback, they took the No. 41 car back to the garage to add more downforce and change gearing. Word then came back that the No. 14 failed the post-qualifying inspection (2 lbs. underweight).   Both teams made adjustments on the cars and re-qualified only to be bumped out in the closing minutes of Segment 1 which ended at 4 p.m.

Segment 2, or the final 90 minutes of qualifying  from 4:30 – 6 p.m., was reserved for those who had qualified in the top nine in Segment 1 (eight of which were Chevrolet-powered cars). Ryan Briscoe won the pole with James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay qualifying on the front row. Fourth through sixth were Marco Andretti, Will Power and Helio Castroneves.  Rookie Josef Newgarden qualified seventh (with Honda power) and was followed by Tony Kanaan and E.J. Viso.