WEST ALLIS, Wis. (July 11, 2015) – CFH Racing driver Josef Newgarden was the quickest of 24 competitors in the initial practice session for the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers with a lap of 21.5415 seconds (169.626 mph). For Newgarden, it was a case of picking up where he left off on the historic 1.015-mile oval.
The fourth-year driver recorded the fastest lap in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series race at The Milwaukee Mile on his way to a fifth-place finish. Whether Newgarden’s pace holds up through a full day of practice, qualifying and the 250-lap race on July 12 remains to be seen, but the American is confident.
“The Direct Supply car has been fast. It was fast here last year, so I expected us to be on our game,” Newgarden said. “I think we have a great spot to start. It always helps when you roll off the truck good. I don’t know how many guys did (qualifying simulations), but we did one at the end. It’s pretty representative of a speed we can do. Hopefully, that’s going to be enough to stay ahead of everyone else.”
The top 14 cars were separated by less than a half-second.
Simon Pagenaud (169.408 mph) was second fastest in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet and Takuma Sato (168.777) was third in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda.
“It was just a new set of tires at the end to check the balance to see how it will be during the race when we put new tires on,” said Pagenaud, who earned the Verizon P1 Award for the pole position two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway. “It’s a strong baseline. We just need to keep working the details to get the pole. With the new aero kit, you want to be in clean air as much as you can.”
Graham Rahal, who won the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway on June 27, was fourth (168.095) on the speed chart in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda and Tony Kanaan, a two-time winner at Milwaukee, was fifth (167.702) in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
Juan Pablo Montoya takes a 46-point lead over Team Penske teammate and reigning series champion Will Power into the 113th Indy car race at The Mile.
Montoya, who turned a fast lap of 22.1818 seconds (164.730 mph) in the 75-minute practice in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, maintains a one-race-at-a-time outlook.
“The points lead can vanish in one week. You have one bad race, all the work for the year goes out of the window,” said Montoya, who won at Milwaukee a week after his Indianapolis 500 Mile Race victory in 2000. “I’ve led the points all year. If I can close the year (with the championship), I think it would be great. I think the most important thing is make sure we can keep the championship at Penske.”
DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:
Mending Hinchcliffe Ahead of Schedule in Recovery
James Hinchcliffe says he’s “ahead of schedule” in recuperation from injuries sustained in a serious crash during Indianapolis 500 practice in May, but told media today at The Milwaukee Mile that he still has hurdles to overcome. A final surgery at the end of July is tentatively scheduled, then Hinchcliffe will ease into more physical aspects of therapy.
“I’ve learned that doctors know what they’re talking about and I should listen to them,” said Hinchcliffe. “I have an excellent team of doctors and physical therapists looking after me and they have helped the recovery process go along as smoothly as possible.”
Hinchcliffe crashed May 18 in practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a suspension piece on his No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda failed. He underwent surgery the same day for pelvic and upper thigh injuries. Hinchcliffe said he remains about 15 pounds under his weight prior to the incident. Dietary restrictions have been minimal and walking has been his primary form of exercise.
“My energy level gets better every day. Strength gets better every day. Mobility gets better every day,” he said. “It feels slow to me, but the doctors say everything is going quickly.
“The big goal for the doctors was to make sure that I recovered as well as possible from not only the surgery that I had, but from the trauma that my body experienced to prepare for the next surgery to make sure I’m as healthy as I am the next time I go under the knife, so that way I can bounce back quickly from that one. So the physical side of it will take place more so after that is done.”
Ryan Briscoe is driving the No. 5 car for the remaining five races of the season in Hinchcliffe’s absence.
Celebrity Chef Delivers, Learns at Track
Celebrity chef Malcolm Mitchell created a special dish for Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud in May at Indianapolis, but the French driver won’t get to try the stuffed tomato, inspired by Pagenaud’s grandmother’s recipe, until this weekend at The Milwaukee Mile.
Mitchell was one of the headline chefs for Rev, a strolling food event for 2,000 that kicked off the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pagenaud was honorary chair for the fundraiser but didn’t get to sample the creation before party guests snatched up every last tomato.
“It ran out. It was such a hit,” said Mitchell. “(Pagenaud) was doing all this media stuff (at Rev), he didn’t get a chance to taste it. So, I’m going to make it for him tomorrow.”
The solution to the foodie problem came when Pagenaud and Team Penske chef Dave Ellis invited Mitchell, best known as a finalist on the eighth season of “Food Network Star,” to Milwaukee for this weekend’s ABC Supply Wisconsin 250. Besides making the special tomato dish for Pagenaud, Mitchell is learning about racing and cooking for a traveling racing team.
“I learned a lot because I’ve never cooked in a trailer before, so that was a great experience,” said Mitchell, who also owns Costa Brava in Washington, D.C., and Mint Gastropub in Richmond, Va. “I’ll be honest with you, this trailer (where Ellis prepares meals on a race weekend) is almost better than my kitchen in my restaurant. It’s actually bigger and they have more equipment.”
Once he makes Pagenaud’s stuffed tomato before the race Sunday, Mitchell will trade the pots and pans for a set of headphones in Pagenaud’s pit. That way, said Pagenaud, the chef will be able to “see what’s going on in my kitchen.”
Barnhart Gains New Perspective on Milwaukee Track
Brian Barnhart, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition and race director for the Verizon IndyCar Series, has a new perspective on The Milwaukee Mile after driving a replica of Parnelli Jones’ 1963 Indianapolis 500-winning Watson-Offy roadster, affectionately known as “Ol’ Calhoun,” as part of the Millers at Milwaukee vintage Indy car exhibition today.
“It’s a privilege to drive that car,” Barnhart said. “My retired family physician, Dr. Robert Dicks, owns the car and I was lucky enough to drive the car at Pocono last year and now here. It’s such a great experience.”
Team Penske Drivers Reminisce About Milwaukee Success
Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya have fond memories of success at The Milwaukee Mile. Castroneves earned the first podium finish of his Indy car career at Milwaukee in 1998 and won the pole for the 1999 race. Montoya was the 2000 race winner. Both know how difficult it is to get a car handling well on the demanding flat 1.015-mile oval.
“When you achieve a good result in a tough place like Milwaukee, it’s great,” Castroneves said. “… This place is great. I mean, obviously detail makes a huge difference. If something goes a little bit off, you better pack your bag and go home because it’s very difficult to turn around.
“Last year we had one of those scenarios,” Castroneves added. “Most of the years, we’ve been very strong here.”
Montoya said it will be easy to spot whose cars are running well and, conversely, those that aren’t in Sunday’s race.
“I think you will still have separation of the good cars and bad cars because handling is always an issue,” the current points leader said. “It would be more of an issue here than Fontana, for sure. But I think, you know, I never run here wide open. I think it’s insane to think you can run wide open around this joint.”
Drivers Support Racing for Kids at Events
Nearly 100 Milwaukee-area children spent an afternoon with Verizon IndyCar Series and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers Friday in a unique Racing for Kids event. An outdoor “Fun Fair” at the YMCA at Pabst Farms in nearby Oconomowoc, Wis., involved an informal softball game with the children and the drivers, driver autograph session and a picnic.
The outdoor event was a new one for Racing fFor Kids, which typically organizes children’s hospital visits in Verizon IndyCar Series race cities. Among the drivers attending Friday’s event were Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Gabby Chaves and Simon Pagenaud and Indy Lights drivers Shelby Blackstock, Ethan Ringel and Juan Piedrahita.
Pagenaud and fellow Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Josef Newgarden and Stefano Coletti also participated Friday evening in a bartender challenge fund-raising event for Racing For Kids. Held at Miller Time Pub in downtown Milwaukee, more than $1,000 in tips was raised, with Pagenaud and celebrity chef Malcolm Mitchell declared the winners for raising the most money.
BHA Concocts ‘Hair’-Brained Scheme for Luck
In an effort to change their luck, several members of the BHA with Curb-Agajanian team, including team owner Bryan Herta, have grown mustaches or beards for this weekend’s event. The list, however, does not include rookie driver Gabby Chaves, who celebrated his 22nd birthday earlier this week.
“I wish I could join them, but I physically can’t,” said Chaves, the 2014 Indy Lights champion who has been running at the finish of all 11 Verizon Indy Car Series races this season with a top finish of ninth in the second Belle Isle race. “I’ve never shaved a day in my life and never had a millimeter of facial hair. I’m just stuck with what I have.”
Karam Tries to Stay Perfect
Sage Karam hopes to maintain his perfect record at The Milwaukee Mile.
The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate claimed wins at Milwaukee in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (2011) and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires (2013). He’ll make his first Verizon IndyCar Series start at the 1.015-mile oval this weekend in the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.
“It’s an oval, but it’s more like a road course. You really have to attack it,” Karam said. “I’ve always liked a car that moves around and the car does that at Milwaukee. In Indy Lights and [Pro] Mazda, it played to my advantage because the other guys weren’t comfortable with a car that got looser and looser, and I would just get faster.
“This year’s race will be the hardest year of them all, but I’d love to stay perfect here.”
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Verizon Chevy had a good first practice today. We wanted to get as many laps in as possible since it will be a pretty busy day tomorrow. So, we’ll have a bit of work to do tonight to be sure of what we want. We’ll look to find a bit more speed and make it interesting for tomorrow. We feel positive about going into tomorrow’s qualifying and we’ll just focus on that.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I really took my time today at the beginning of practice because this place is so fast. We had an early issue with the aero balance on the Verizon Chevy so we just took our time throughout the day. The car felt pretty good. We have a little bit of work left to do, but we certainly have something we can work with. It was really good on old tires and that is important.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a pretty good day for the Hitachi Chevy. The guys did a great job. We were able to try the new aero package for most of the session. It’s fast. I think we will get down into the 20-second bracket in qualifying. Everyone seems to be learning right now. Tomorrow is another day. We are going to focus a bit more on qualifying in the morning session, but we will still work on the race setup. I’m extremely excited for tomorrow and hopefully that leads to a good result in the race.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “It was an interesting day, obviously first time for all of us to run a short oval with these aero kits. I think we’ve got a lot to think about tonight. I’m sure we can look through all the data we got today and try to make some improvements for tomorrow, but I’m fairly pleased with how practice went today and we’ve got a lot to build on.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Quite a positive start to the weekend for the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Honda. Feels good to be back here, obviously I haven’t been here for a year, took a few laps to get back into a rhythm. I think we’ve got a good car. We’re just trying to keep progressing. Tomorrow obviously is going to be very busy, just important to keep moving in the right direction and qualify well because it’s going to be a tough race. It’s going to be very busy for the whole duration of the race, but I think we can get another good result.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 COMFORT REVOLUTION / Big Machine Records Chevrolet):“Today was a success. We weren’t really looking for speed necessarily. The session was all about getting in the car and getting comfortable really. We laid a good foundation fortomorrow and that’s when the speed will come. We’ll work on qualifying trim and see how we stack up then. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and I think we have a great COMFORT REVOLUTION/Big Machine Records Chevy.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Cottonelle Chevrolet): “We actually only ran one set of tires for the practice session and then everyone else took tires at the end there, so that’s why we dropped back a little bit. We worked a lot on the balance of the Cottonelle car. The car seems to wash out a little bit and get loose in traffic as well, so that’s something we need to work on for tomorrow. Overall a good start for the No. 9 team today.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I’m really happy with where we are with the No. 10 NTT DATA Chevrolet after this practice session. This weekend’s schedule is going to be tough with only one practice today and everything else tomorrow, but I think we got a lot of good data. We were running up front for a good portion of the session, but once the rest of the field switched to a second set of tires we lost a few spots. We got our qual run in early, so we just made sure we worked on the race car for tomorrow and finished out the session in a good spot.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “Very good practice today. We knew we always loved Milwaukee, it was just a matter of getting the balance right with this new aero package which we haven’t tested on the short ovals yet. Initially we had to make quite a few changes. It was very easy to feel out the car. The car was very responsive so we could move on quite rapidly. In the end we were quite happy with the balance and it seems to be pretty strong.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “Right away the balance of the car was really good. I was definitely pleased with it. It was pretty comfortable so we were able to push forward and try some things with the setup and I think we made the race car a lot better. It’s definitely going to be interesting to follow a bunch of cars based on what some guys were saying that I talked to that seemed to struggle pretty bad so it’s going to be an interesting race. I didn’t really get a run there at the end of the session to get the most out of the car, but it’s definitely pretty good.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I definitely knew coming into this weekend that coming here in an Indy car for the first time was going to be a challenge, and man, this place is really tough. We have one more practice session before we go racing and there is definitely a lot of work left for me to do. We have a little to work on with the No. 18 car and we are just going to keep digging and keep working at it.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “There is a lot more grip with the new kits (compared to 2013). I think pole position will definitely be flat out all the way around. It was more difficult around other cars than I remember with the old car, perhaps the kit is the reason. It was a blast going so fast when I was by myself and being able to go so fast. The car was pretty good, I think. Old and new tires felt pretty good but we have a few things to try tonight and see how it is tomorrow.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “It was an OK day. It was great that Josef (Newgarden) showed some good speed in the Direct Supply car. I was pretty happy with the balance of the Fuzzy’s Vodka car on the long runs. We just need to get the car dialed in for qualifying. I think that once we look at the data all will be good.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “It was just a new set of tires at the end to check the balance to see how it will be during the race when we put new tires on. It was interesting. The car is actually very good. It’s a strong baseline. I’m happy. We just need to keep working the details to get the pole. With the new aero kit, you want to be in clean air as much as you can.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda): “It’s good to be back in the car. We just have the one session today to feel everything out, obviously lots to work on. We had a slight issue with getting telemetry on the car, so it limited the amount of track time we actually got. There’s lots to think about overnight and come back and hopefully be stronger tomorrow. I’m just pleased to be back.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV Cinsay Honda): “I think we have to work overnight a lot for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be a really packed day with qualifying, practice and race all in one day. We just have to try to work hard and improve a little bit. Everyone is really close (on the speed chart) on this kind of track so we have to work at it and see what kind of car we have tomorrow.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): “We had way too much understeer today, but the rear (of the car) is not good. We’re just battling too many things right now to be happy. We’ll work through it and hope to make advancements tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It was the first time on the short oval with the new aero kit, and we struggled with the balance. We just had to keep after the front grip – the front of the car is not loaded enough right now. So we’ll work on it tonight and hopefully come up with some solutions for tomorrow. We ended up in the top 10, we were seventh, and that’s a good start so far. Usually our first outing at The Milwaukee Mile we’re up front, so we’ve got some work to do.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “The Direct Supply car has been fast. It was fast here last year, so I expected us to be on our game. I think we have a great spot to start. We just need to keep it up. It always helps when you roll off the truck good. I don’t know how many guys did (qualifying) sims, but we did one at the end. It’s pretty representative of a speed we can do. Hopefully that’s going to be enough to stay ahead of everyone else.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet): “I’d say tonight’s practice session was a pretty good start to the weekend here in Milwaukee. We were just working on the race car for most of the session and then we changed to new tires there at the end and added some downforce to work on our qualifying setup. We have a little bit left to learn, but this is the type of situation where it really helps to have fast teammates that we can learn from. Hopefully we’ll be able to make all of Chip Ganassi Racing better overnight leading into tomorrow.”