Archive for May 31, 2016

ROOKIE ALEXANDER ROSSI COASTS TO THRILLING VICTORY AT 100TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 MILE RACE

Alexander Rossi crosses the Yard of Bricks to win the 100th Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

Alexander Rossi crosses the Yard of Bricks to win the 100th Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Cars regularly race by fans in excess of 220 miles per hour during green flag laps of the Indianapolis 500. The historic 100th Running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was no exception as rookie Alexander Rossi turned in the fastest lap of the day on lap 106 at 225.288 mph. That is why it was such a shock when his last lap of the day came in at 179.784 mph – a lap that earned him the title of Indianapolis 500 champion.

Rossi took the white flag with fumes in the tank, and when he came out of turn four, he knew he was in trouble. But the American driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian had a large lead over the second place car of Carlos Munoz.

“I have no idea how we pulled that off,” said Rossi. “We ran out in turn four and we were clutching it and coasting down the back straight. Ryan (Hunter-Reay, a fellow Andretti teammate) was unbelievable in helping me get to the finish. He was giving me a tow at the end and it's an amazing result for Andretti Autosport. I am just so thankful to do this on the 100th Running.”

While NASCAR is known for having races come down to fuel strategy, the Andretti teams showed it knew how to use the calculator as well. Rocket Rossi took the Sunoco checkered flag on the 36th lap after his final pit stop – the Honda engine fuel window was 32 laps. How close was he to being empty? He needed a splash of fuel from the safety crew to get to Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway under his own power. He then enjoyed the customary drink of milk as he imagined his face becoming the 100th on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy.

Rossi, 24, is a California native who now calls Indianapolis home. Last year, he raced in Formula One before coming to the Verizon IndyCar Series this season. He is now the 10th rookie to win the Indy 500 and the first since Helio Castroneves in 2001. He's the first American rookie winner since Louis Meyer in 1928. Ray Harroun won the first Indy 500 in 1911 when everyone in the field was a rookie, Graham Hill won the 50th race in 1966 as a rookie and now the 100th Running belongs to a rookie.

"I don't even know where to begin," Rossi said. "In February, I wasn't even thinking about IndyCar, and now we've just won the Indy 500. Thanks to an amazing group of people who gave me an opportunity to come here this year."

Josef Newgarden finished third, 2013 Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan was fourth and Charlie Kimball was fifth in a race that treated the sold-out crowd to 54 lead changes, the second-most in "500" history behind the 2013 race, which had 68 lead changes.

Rossi’s car is co-owned by Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta. The win was Andretti's fourth as an owner in the Indy 500, moving him to fourth all-time behind Roger Penske (16 wins), Lou Moore (five) and Chip Ganassi (five). Herta scored his second win as an owner, the first coming in 2011 with the late Dan Wheldon. In Sunday's pre-race ceremonies for the 100th, Herta drove Wheldon's winning Dallara/Honda.

"This is unbelievable," Herta said. "Man, it was so close at the end. For a rookie to drive with the poise he did in such a tough situation (is something); I was telling him, 'don't let anyone pass you, but save fuel' - and he did it.”

Munoz finished second for the second time in four outings at the Speedway.

“I was really disappointed when it comes to fuel and you lose the race because of that," he said. "I was really disappointed to get second. Half a lap short, that's what it took.”

Kanaan led 19 laps in his fourth-place effort and moved to second all-time in Indy 500s led with 12, one behind A.J. Foyt. Three-time champion Helio Castroneves, who finished 11th, led 24 laps to move into a tie for third with leads in 11 different races. Four-time champion Al Unser and 1969 champion Mario Andretti have also led in 11 different years.

Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2015 champion, finished 33rd after a Lap 64 crash. He became the third winner to finish 33rd the following year, along with Jimmy Bryan in 1959 and Johnny Rutherford in 1977.

The next event at IMS is the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational from June 16-19, featuring classic Indy cars, stock cars, sports cars and more on the oval and 2.439-mile IMS road course.

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Simon Pagenaud 292, Scott Dixon 235, Helio Castroneves 224, Josef Newgarden 211, James Hinchcliffe 205, Alexander Rossi 203, Carlos Munoz 199, Tony Kanaan 192, Charlie Kimball 189, Juan Pablo Montoya 187.

KOKOMO GIRLS SWIM COACH DONITA WALTERS SEVERELY INJURED DURING BICYCLE RIDE

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BY DEAN HOCKNEY

Courtesy of the Kokomo Herald

KOKOMO, Ind. - Excitement turned to tragedy last night north of Kokomo.

McKinley Alternative School teacher and Kokomo High School girls swim coach Donita Walters has been preparing for months for an epic summer bicycle ride from the West Coast to the East Coast (see the Kokomo Herald online story “Coast-to-coast on two wheels”). But last night, as Walters was partaking in her bike ride home, she was struck by a car traveling at a high rate of speed near 450 North and Davis Road.

Walters was thrown from her bicycle, and despite wearing safety gear, she sustained serious injuries, although initial reports are she was awake at the scene. Medics first took her to St. Vincent Health Kokomo before flying her to an Indianapolis-area hospital for emergency treatment.

According to the official Facebook page for The Wandering Project, Walters, “was alert though medicated, can move all limbs, no numbness, possible broken thumb, has two breaks in her pelvis and has a broken neck. It will be determined sometime today if she will need to have neck surgery or not. Thank you so much for the continued prayers and support.”

Walters and childhood friend Kristy Massey were planning the 3,744-mile voyage from San Francisco to Nags Head, North Carolina. While Massey was already driving out to California, Walters was planning to travel west after classes ended for Kokomo Schools on Thursday. Unfortunately, her journey ended before it even began.

“OMG!” Massey posted on Facebook last night. “I'm in total shock! We need your immediate prayers for my dear friend, Donita.”

The biking duo planned the 67-day ride, dubbed “The Wandering Project: Two Girls, Two Bikes, One Cause,” to support Homes for our Troops, a group dedicated to building specially adapted homes for service members nation-wide who returned home with life-altering injuries.

“Our goal is to raise one dollar per mile, so that is about $3,800,” Walters said last month. “We hope we can raise more than that; to adapt one room is an average of $5,000. It would be cool to say we helped build a room for a wounded veteran.”

Follow The Wandering Project Facebook page for additional updates on Walters recovery.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE OVERCOMES NEAR-DEATH TO CLAIM INDY 500 POLE ONE YEAR LATER

James Hinchcliffe wins the pole for the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

James Hinchcliffe wins the pole for the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by William Gibson)

INDIANAPOLIS - James Hinchcliffe, the Canadian who missed the 99th Indianapolis 500 after a practice crash, will start the 100th Indy 500 on the pole after a four-lap average of 230.760 mph on Armed Forces Pole Day. Taking the last qualifying attempt of Sunday’s Fast Nine Shootout, the driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda edged Josef Newgarden’s No. 21 Preferred Freezer Chevrolet by less than four hundredths of a second over the 10 miles of qualifying, 2 minutes, 36.0063 seconds to 2:36.0407.

“I came into this month hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year, and I think we did it,” said Hinchcliffe after winning the Verizon P1 Award and $100,000, not to mention the first pole of his Verizon IndyCar Series career, in his 79th start.

“The Arrow Electronics car was an absolute smoke show out there. It was right on the edge. (Lead engineer) Allen McDonald and all my engineers did such a great job, everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson put me in the car and gave me the car to do it.”

Hinchcliffe won the pole for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil five years to the day after Schmidt Peterson Motorsports won the pole for the 2011 ‘500’ with driver Alex Tagliani. That was the last Indy pole for Honda; this one marks the first at the “500” since Honda and Chevrolet engines began competing in 2012.

Newgarden will make his first front row start and the third in four years for Ed Carpenter Racing, though he could only stand and watch as his blazing 230.700 mph four-lap average was nipped for the pole at 5:44 p.m. by Hinchcliffe.

“It was a tough pill to swallow,” said the native of Hendersonville, Tennessee. “I try to remind myself it’s not just about today’s battle, it’s about the war, and we’ve got to try and get that done next week in the ‘500.’ But it was still a lot of fun just to be up there and have this opportunity to compete.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion, rounds out the front row in the No. 28 DHL Honda for Andretti Autosport. Row 2 consists of Andretti Autosport’s Townsend Bell and Carlos Munoz in the fourth and fifth spots, with Team Penske’s Will Power on the outside in sixth.

All three Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Hondas will start the race in the top 10, as Mikhail Aleshin qualified seventh and Oriol Servia 10th as the rest of the grid was set earlier on Sunday.

Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 champion, qualified a remarkable 13th after a late engine swap in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Ganassi crewmen made the swap in 64 minutes and made it to technical inspection by three minutes.

Defending Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya will start 17th in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The final extended practice for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will be Monday. Gates open at noon and the Indy 500 field will practice from 12:30-4 p.m. After that, the cars will not be on track again until the traditional hour of practice on Miller Lite Carb Day on Friday, May 27.

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be Sunday, May 29. With a crowd traveling to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that has not been seen in recent years, longtime fans are encouraged to begin their Race Day routines at least two hours earlier than previous years.

Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway