FONTANA, Calif. (June 27, 2015) – An Indy car record 80 lead changes among 14 drivers culminated in a dramatic victory for American Graham Rahal in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The victory was the second of Rahal’s career and ended a 124-race winless drought dating to 2008 in St. Petersburg – the longest gap between race wins for a driver in Indy car history.
The 80 lead changes during the 250-lap event surpassed the previous Indy car record of 73 set at Auto Club Speedway in November 2001.
Rahal, driving the No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won under caution as the cars driven by Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay made contact battling for position coming to the white flag. The final restart was set up after a red flag was displayed on Lap 245 of 250 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval after contact between the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet driven by Will Power and the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda of Takuma Sato on the frontstretch.
All drivers were checked at the infield medical center and cleared.
“Our weakness has been these ovals and I told the guys this morning that the next three races will define our year,” said Rahal, who qualified 19th. “It’s been so long coming. It’s awesome. I think the combination of downforce and tires made for multiple lanes of racing that was nerve-racking but exciting. (With) the width of this place, the guys were able to stay in their lanes.”
Tony Kanaan finished second in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Marco Andretti placed third in the No. 27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth to extend his championship points lead to 46 over Power, and rookie Sage Karam earned his highest finish of fifth in his nine-race Verizon IndyCar Series career at the track where he wrapped up the 2013 Indy Lights championship.
The first yellow came out on Lap 136 when the cars driven by Helio Castroneves and Briscoe made light contact on the backstretch. Five other caution periods followed, including two for debris.
“The Verizon Chevy team did a great job today, despite how tough of a day it was,” said Power, who led a field-high 62 laps but finished 19th. “When you have a pack race like what we had today, you have to take a lot of risks to gain track position. As exciting as it is, it’s intense at the same time.”
Rahal was 19 years, 93 days old when he won at St. Petersburg and is still the youngest Indy car winner.
“It feels good, and is a big day for us. It shows that our rebound this season is legit,” said Rahal, who moved into fourth place in the season standings. “The team is why all of this has come together. Hopefully I can move on from here and not make it seven years until I win again.”
Jay Leno Receives Two-seater Ride from ‘Hero’ Mario Andretti
Mario Andretti had just the mode of transportation that Jay Leno was looking for. The comedian and former late-night talk show host received a ride the Honda “Fastest Seat in Sports” two-seat Indy car on the Auto Club Speedway oval with “my racing hero” at the wheel.
The segment – along with Andretti visiting Leno’s Big Dog Garage and taking a few automobiles out for a spin – will be included in an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” this autumn.
“Sometimes you don’t want to meet your hero, but in this case it was exciting,” said Leno, who drove a Chevrolet Monte Carlo as the honorary pace car driver for the 1999 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. “He’s one of the greatest guys and obviously one of the greatest race car drivers.”
Leno, whose Big Dog Garage houses one of America’s top private collections of cars and motorcycles, said the only thing to rival the G forces and sense of speed was a ride years ago with the Blue Angels.
“This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Mario is one of the legends of the sport and my hero,” Leno said. “It’s not so much the straight speed, but there’s no passenger car that can take those G forces. Being a ‘car guy,’ I’ve gone fast, but not around turns (at 14 degrees banking). That’s really the exciting part.
“I was just in the back seat screaming.”
Film Project Focusing on Indy 500 through Parnelli Jones’ Eyes
The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is heralded as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Seeing it through the eyes of a race legend provides an entirely new perspective and one that makers of the film “Behind the Indianapolis 500 with Parnelli Jones” believe will resonate with race fans everywhere.
The film delves into the enduring relationship Jones has enjoyed with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than five decades. Jones, along with executive producers Annie and Mike Walker and Travis Knox, held an exclusive screening of the film’s “first rough cut” Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Guests at the screening included a pair of Jones’ peers and friends, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford.
Never one to crave the spotlight, Jones thought “there was a little too much me” in the rough cut that intertwines his days as a driver and car owner with insights from his annual pilgrimage back to IMS each May. Jones’ saga with the Indy 500 began with his rookie season in 1961, included his dominant 1963 “500” victory, the near win in the 1967 Andy Granatelli turbine car and back-to-back triumphs as owner of Al Unser’s car in 1970-71.
“It brought back a lot of memories and stuff,” Jones said. “I think the whole picture is probably good for racing, anyway. I think people that see it could relate to where we come from. People don’t usually get to see how it all happens.”
Andretti, Bobby Unser and Rick Mears – all fellow Indy winners themselves – are among the many motorsports personalities who spoke to filmmakers about Jones’ legacy and the aura of the Indianapolis 500. Current plans call for a one-hour finished product that will be pitched to television networks for broadcast leading up to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next May.
“I’m hoping it will give a boost to the 100th and give people a little bit more awareness about how cool the speedway is and how cool the ‘500’ is and how much history is there,” Annie Walker said.
Before the race, Kanaan was inducted into Auto Club Speedway’s Walk of Fame. Kanaan installed a brass plaque with his likeness and signed his name in the concrete. “My championships I won here in ’97 (Indy Lights) and 2004 (Verizon IndyCar Series), so I have good memories of this place and I love this place,” said Kanaan, who won the 2014 MAVTV 500. … Dale Coyne Racing crewman Oren Trower was transported by ground to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center for further evaluation of lower extremity injuries sustained in a pit lane incident during the race. Trower is the inside-front tire changer on the No. 19 entry driven by Tristan Vautier.
MAVTV 500 POST-RACE QUOTES:
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda, race winner): “You don’t know how good this feels. It’s been so long coming; it’s awesome. Went we went back to 16th, I was definitely a little worried there. I knew my car was really good. It wasn’t the quickest up front. I struggled when I got to the front to be as fast as the Chevys, but those last couple of laps worked. I hung onto the bottom line. I’m just proud of these guys. The fans say, ‘Graham’s just driving different’ but it’s not me. It’s these guys right here that make things happen. I couldn’t be more honored and thankful to have a group like this. I feel like Steak ‘n Shake is kind of our good luck charm because they came on board and things turned around and D-A Lubricant as well. It’s great to bring them this result. I think I was going four wide and thinking, ‘Man I haven’t been four wide in six or seven years.’ It makes you nervous, for sure. You trust the guys. When you’re running up front, you’re hoping you’re with all the best guys. I was racing with (Tony) Kanaan and (Scott) Dixon and (Will) Power, and then (Ryan) Hunter-Reay a lot, so to trust those around you helps a lot. It was a hairy race. I feel like this year we have been knocking on the door a lot. We’ve been so close and I feel like we deserved it before but hadn’t gotten it yet, so to get this one feels unbelievable.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, second place):“That was one of the most nerve-racking races I’ve ever been a part of, but I can’t be too upset with a podium finish. We battled up front all day and the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet was really quick. I was actually in the middle of a pass when that last yellow came out, so who knows what could’ve happened if we would’ve stayed green until the end.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda, third place): “It’s definitely crazy; pack racing’s always like that. You’ve got guys that just don’t want to back off, guys going forward, guys going backward, inside, outside. I find it quite fun but it is extremely dangerous, but that’s what we sign up for. We put on a heck of a show for the fans, that’s for sure. We were pretty good but sort of shot ourselves in the foot there at the end. I shouldn’t have went low. I should’ve known Graham (Rahal) was going to do that. I had a full head of steam. If I would’ve went high, I think we could’ve won the race.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, fourth place): “Honestly, I was not a fan of the racing we put on today. What I told INDYCAR yesterday was that we shouldn’t be racing like this. This is full pack racing and, sooner or later, somebody is going to get hurt. We don’t need to be doing this. It was a hell of a show and we did what we needed to do. We had a good PPG Chevy. When Will (Power) crashed and Helio (Castroneves) crashed, for me the only goal was to finish ahead of (Scott) Dixon and we did that. So it’s all good and everybody did a great job again.”
SAGE KARAM (No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet, fifth place): “The first laps I have ever led in an Indy car today felt pretty good. It was pack racing, which is difficult. It’s a battle and you’re in survival mode. The team did awesome and we overcame some adversity and stuck with it. We took a chance to take tires at the end and it was a good call, as we picked up a few spots to finish fifth. I’m happy with the result and glad we got that result under our belt.”
WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Verizon Chevy team did a great job today, despite how tough of a day it was. When you have a pack race like what we had today, you have to take a lot of risks to gain track position. As exciting as it is, it’s intense at the same time. I’m just glad that no one got hurt out there and that everybody is OK. Now we move onto Milwaukee, which I’m really looking forward to after how well we ran there in our win last year.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet):“Unfortunately, (Graham) Rahal was coming up on me, and then kind of like, he really squeezed on me at the top. So as soon as I come into the position that I think I was going to, that I was about to push, I started lifting because I didn’t want to crash. I think we touched, and one lap before he was already squeezing me. And I’m like, ‘Dude, you don’t need to do that.’ So I’m kind of like lifting, and all of the sudden people are coming and start chopping, and (Ryan) Briscoe and Will (Power), all of the sudden, they just closed it up. Briscoe didn’t have to do that. He just turned into me and as soon as he turned into me I was like, ‘This is a tough one.’ I’ll tell you what, there was a long ride of sideways. The AAA Chevy was unbelievable. We had a fantastic car.”
STEFANO COLETTI (No. 4 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “I am very happy with my result today. It took a while to get comfortable with the car and we had to make some changes during our stops. I went down a couple of laps at the beginning, but thanks to the yellows, I was able to get those laps back. By the end of the race I was fast and I managed to move up to 11th. I am very happy with my oval best finish and thank all my crew and Chevy for giving me a great car.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda): “It was a really exciting race, to say the least. I had a really good car and was able to make the low line work. We passed a lot of guys down there so it was fun to be up front. Coming through the field a couple of times, it was awesome. I was really enjoying myself and I was able to be aggressive. With a lap to go, in our position, I had some momentum coming down the frontstretch. I was going to take that low line into (Turns) 1 and 2, and felt like we were going to come home with a top three, for sure. Unfortunately, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay got turned around, I had nowhere to go and she went flying. Thankfully, I’m all right and no big deal. Now we look forward to the next one.”
JAMES JAKES (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was just a fun day, really. We started at the back and improved to seventh. I think we could’ve had a podium there, but it just didn’t quite work our way with the two stops towards the end. Obviously it was an unlucky one for the No. 5 car. They were having a great run as well and just got involved in an incident there. I think he’s OK, so that’s good. A big thanks to the No. 7 MAVTV MediaTech Oculus crew on this one. My pit stops were awesome, every time I came in the pits we beat the guys in front of us. It’s just good to get some points. We have strong oval cars and we’re looking forward to the next few races.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Degree Chevrolet): “That was kind of a mess of a race. Everything depended on what kind of run you got. We had some front-end damage so we had to keep putting wing into it. We kept losing time on every stop, having to put wing into it. At the end we just had too much front understeer and couldn’t get the car drivable. I think the levels of downforce were too high and it needed to be spread out more. Could have been a different result for us in the Degree car if circumstances were different.”
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Mistic E-Cigs – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): “It was a very tough day for the Mistic KVSH Racing team. Every time we would begin to move up, we started to have overheating issues, so I had to come into the pits a few times to clean the radiators. The guys pulled a tear-off out once, but it kept happening. It was frustrating, for sure, but the Mistic boys hung tough. Everybody gave their best and I was trying hard behind the wheel and making some moves. Then we would have to give it all up because we were running too hot and had to pit. We will look at it and try and find some solutions. Maybe some blocking or screens. In the end, we managed to salvage some points, so that is a good thing.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “It was a big shame we couldn’t finish the race. The No. 14 car was really strong and really fast. We had some situations where we had to come from the back twice and we did. The last 25 laps was a crazy race, three wide and sometimes four wide, which I enjoyed it myself. We were competitive and it was good racing, very exciting. But at the very end, (Will) Power was outside and then (Scott) Dixon was inside and I was in the middle and then all I could see was the two cars coming together with me in the middle. It was impossible to avoid and both sides of the car got touched and we didn’t finish the race. The ABC crew did a good job. And the car was tremendously fast, so I am very appreciative and proud of the entire team. I wish we had finished the race because it would have been a super result.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It is nice to bring home a top 15 for the team and to earn my best career Indy car finish. I’m glad to get a good result for these guys. We were not the fastest car out there, but the team did a great job improving the car for me during the pit stops. The car was better and better as the race went on. We also had a really great car over the long stints, so those little short runs at the end were not our forte today. I’m super pleased for the top 15 and really happy for the Dale Coyne Racing team.”
TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “I’m very disappointed in myself. I made a stupid mistake coming into the pit box at the beginning of the race. I didn’t properly select first gear so when I caught neutral, it didn’t come in like it should. Under a certain speed, the rear wheels start pushing the car forward and when I grabbed the clutch, I was already into the pit box and hit one of my mechanics. We had a great car. In the first stint we went from P20 to P14 and the car felt really good. The mistake happened so early in the race, it just ruined our race. I’m just hoping the injured mechanic is all right and can recover quickly.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I don’t even remember who I was racing with, it was getting so jumbled up there. Went into the bottom and thought I was going to be able to go to the third lane, someone shoved me to the second lane and I got understeer and started going up the track. I was just letting it go up the track because my spotter was telling me, he wasn’t saying anything, so I assumed I was clear and it doesn’t get much worse than taking out your teammate and crashing both team cars. It’s stupid. I should have lifted and left more room up there, but I didn’t even know anyone was even coming. I didn’t have the info. So pretty bummed out about it. We had a good car, ran up front all day and I would have been there at the end.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet): “The car was fantastic. We had great Chevy power to help us on this big track. But I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of this kind of racing. We don’t need to run in a pack at over 220 mph. There is so much drafting in those cars, you get lucky if there is a hole. You slice through the hole and you push people out of the draft. It is just not safe racing. That is my personal opinion. The Penske Truck Rental car was good, but today you couldn’t tell who had the best car. It doesn’t matter when you race in a pack.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 AndrettiTV/Cinsay Honda): “Today was a really up-and-down race. The first half of the race we had a broken front wing, and then after we changed that, I was able to lead some laps. We got hit in the rear, and after that the car wasn’t the same. I struggled a lot the last two stints; it was a hard race, for sure. Now we’ll change our mindset and think about the short ovals.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “I wasn’t expecting (Juan Pablo) Montoya to come up; he had a lane on the inside, and I was sitting next to … I’m not sure who it was, just waiting to go through Turn 1 and Montoya came right up. It’s tough – it was pack racing, it was crazy out there. I didn’t have anywhere to go (after getting hit), I’m just glad Ryan’s (Briscoe) OK – that was a nasty hit and it could have been a lot worse. One lap to go, figures we couldn’t make it to the finish. It was looking like a good finish for the No. 28 DHL team. We turned some things around and hopefully we can do it again at Milwaukee.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): “We finally got another top 10 after what seems like a long, long time. But really a good job from the ABC guys. It’s been a difficult few races but at least we got some points on the board. The race itself was quite long, we seemed to be good on old tires at the end of the stint, but on new tires at the start we weren’t quite quick enough. Overall the car was pretty decent and we just kind of hung in there and ended up finishing 10th so not too bad.”
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet): “I just ran out of room. I think Ed (Carpenter) was hearing one thing from his spotter, he just washed up into Lane 4, and you know, we ran into the wall. It’s unfortunate because you don’t want to have both cars out of the race. If it was just one of us it would be better, but we just got together with probably a little bit of miscommunication on what was going on. Everyone was using four lanes. It’s a lot of tight quarters, it was dicey racing so we just got together and kind of got caught out.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir FlexTouch Chevrolet): “Overall a good day for Chip Ganassi Racing having all four cars in the top eight. I think the Levemir FlexTouch Chevy ran pretty well. We just never quite got inside the top five where there was cleaner air. We need to go back and look at the data from our teammates and see where we go from here. I don’t know that we’ll see this type of track until we come back here next year, but I’m looking forward to heading to the oval challenges at Milwaukee, Iowa and Pocono.”