abbott elkhart 0617 3460

abbott elkhart 0617 3460It's pretty heady stuff. He broke out of a tie with Bobby Unser and now he only trails Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt. And after Helio Castroneves snared the 50th pole position of his career on Saturday at Road America, he was understandably excited with his historical achievement.

"To be mentioned in the same sentence as Bobby, Mario and A.J., it's just so amazing," said Castroneves after pipping Will Power by six-hundredths of a second in a Team Penske show of strength that saw Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud grab the third and fourth spots.

Incredible.

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"To get 51 pole positions did I say 51? Sorry, it's a bad habit. Anyway, you guys know what I'm talking about. Just to show incredible team effort. I cannot take the credit by myself. If I didn't have Will, Josef, Simon onboard, I wouldn't be able to do it because, as we all talk about, I know sometimes you guys think, 'C'mon, you share information,' but you still have to lay down a lap.

"We learn so much from each other."

But what we've learned this season is that this 42-year-old veteran is driving as well, if not better, than ever. He's got three positions in 2017, three other front-row starts and is fourth in the Verizon point standings.

"The guy is amazing and he's driving so well, it seems like as long as I've been with Roger he keeps getting better," said Power, who likely lost the pole when he had a software glitch on his fastest lap that didn't allow a smooth shift form fourth to fifth gear. "I hope I'm as driven and competitive as he is when I'm that age, because he can still run as quick as anyone."

Castroneves hasn't won in 53 starts but it's not because of anything he's done. Some poor strategy cost him a couple good chances at victory and he lost the 101st Indianapolis 500 by an eyelash.

castroneves Elkhart"For sure, we definitely have the speed still," said the three-time Indy winner. "So I enjoy very much working with an amazing organization and I feel great physically."

He's also stalking that elusive first championship but his finishes of 2-4-4-5-6-7-9-9 out of nine starts has him right in the fight and he insists he's still learning.

"Sometimes some people don't accept to continue learning. I guess I prefer taking the different route, yes. I might not win my championship yet, but I'm still learning. Maybe with those results that we having, we might put ourselves in a situation that we're going to win.

"Today, we just kept cool, kept doing the same thing what we did, attacking instead of taking it easy. It paid off."

Andretti's 67 poles is likely out of reach but Castroneves is now only three behind Foyt and that's certainly attainable.

"Obviously those guys are legends and it's an honor to be in their company," he said after high-fiving everyone on his team. "Now let's go get a win."

17SON1nk02743The circumstances are different, but the statistic is still the same.

In 2015, Kyle Busch arrived at Sonoma Raceway just four races back from the serious leg injuries he had suffered in Daytona. Not completely healed, Busch was still hurting. He was also winless and hoping to pull off a miracle to make the playoffs.

Sunday afternoon Busch will again seek a much-needed victory at Sonoma. Through the season's first 15 races, Busch, like all of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, is disappointingly winless and a playoff spot, while not out of reach, is not a guarantee either.

kbusch sonoma"That weekend was certainly a good start to our championship run," Busch recalled of his 2015 Sonoma win. "To go out there and win the race after where we were after Michigan the previous week, it gave us all the confidence that we still had a shot to win the (playoffs). We thought getting the win would be the hardest part, but it was really not expected at Sonoma."

The victory was Busch's second at the 12-turn road course. In 12 starts, he has four top-10 finishes and 107 laps led.

Tire falloff and track position have been the big raceday topics already this weekend. Some drivers like Martin Truex Jr. felt the tires dropped off "very fast" during practice, most likely leading to quite a few pits stops for the race. The race will also be run in some of the hottest temperatures of the season, which could result in a slick course.

"Sonoma is a place where you can't necessarily run 100 percent every lap," Busch said of handling the conditions. "You've got to hold yourself back a little because the tires just won't withstand running on it as hard as you can every single lap with the falloff. The better you can take care of those tires, and the more you take care of yourself, then the more you take care of your car.

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"I'm sure there will be some hot tempers there when it's hot, too, like there typically is at a short track. And this, to me, is like a road course, short–track race where there's going to be some beating and banging and moving some people out of the way, for sure."

Busch qualified fourth for the Toyota Save / Mart 350, admitting afterward he expected to be a little bit faster. However, Busch is confident his car is fast enough for the race, as he has often been this year with nearly 800 laps led and four top-three finishes.
Something not expected to change just because the field will be going left and right this week.

"We've had times at Sonoma where we've been up front and haven't been able to hold onto it, and other times when we had the right strategy, and we were in the right place at the right time," Busch said. "We've had some bad luck recently, so we're hoping we can get a good run with our M&M's Caramel Camry and maybe finally get that win we've been looking for."

Fong win at RA 2017Adderly Fong captured his first Pirelli World Challenge GT Sprint race Saturday at the Road America as he fought off a late challenge from veteran Patrick Long in the 50-minute Round 4 Sprint race.

Fong, 27, of Hong Kong, learned the Road America circuit as a teenager while playing the video game on PlayStation and makes it special to win his first PWC GT race at the historic four-mile road circuit Saturday. Driving the No. 88 Absolute Racing Bentley Continental GT3 sports car, Fong defeated Californian Long in the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R by .0685 seconds in the 24-lap contest.

At the start, Fong and fellow front row starter Johnny O'Connell made contact in Turn 5 on the first lap and the Cadillac driver spun his machine but returned to competition. Meanwhile, Fong opened his margin to two seconds over Long in the middle of the race and held off the factory Porsche driver's late charge to put Bentley back in the PWC victory lane. The last Bentley win in PWC was in 2015 at Road America with Chris Dyson driving.

"Johnny had a good run out of Turn 3, I messed up the braking on Turn 3 in that first lap, so ultimately he had a good run and we managed to get side-by-side into Turn 5," said Fong. "He had the racing line so he was able to brake a little bit later and I thought we would have a bit more room into Turn 5 but it's quite tight in the corner and unfortunately I spun Johnny around so apologies to him for that."

"I was trying to open up a gap, and I thought I was doing that, but Patrick (Long) was playing a really good strategy with tires  he saw that there wasn't so much pressure from third place so he could slow down a bit. I settled into a pace and he saw where I was weak and mounted up an attack. It was a lot of pressure and a sprint to the end. I thought he would take it a bit easier on the last lap but he pushed all the way through. I first started off in PlayStation. I never did go-karting, I started with a controller and a TV screen. I liked the high-speed tracks and Road America was one of them. (The first time here) I thought to myself, 'I know this track.' It's amazing  I never thought I would be driving here."

"Johnny had a good jump at the start and I went with him," said Long. "Then going into Turn 5, it was six into one and somebody had to give. From my perspective, it's pretty hard to go side-by-side in Turn Five and I think Adderly had the line so I stuck behind him and again the inside line paid off. After that it was a pretty straight forward, qualifying attack for the whole race. That's about as physically and mentally tough as it gets; no yellow flags and absolute sheer pace. The Pirelli tires are consistent enough that you can push them all the way through."

"Six auto makes in the top six is not manufactured; that's sheer competition. There are a lot of two-car teams, factory teams, small independent teams such as Wright Motorsports who I'm driving for. In the end we all want to race as drivers and race for victory and know that you're going to come in and have a fighting chance."

Rounding out the GT podium Saturday was current GT overall point leader Michael Cooper in the No. 8 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. after an impressive drive from seventh on the first lap. Cooper had to avoid his spinning teammate O'Connell and lost two positions on the first lap.

"Unfortunately, Johnny got turned around and when I saw a red Cadillac in front of me, all I could think of was (team manager) Steve Cole's face and 'Cadillacs don't hit Cadillacs,'"said Cooper. "So I had to check up and make sure that I got through there cleanly. I lost two positions but I was able to fight back from seventh back to third. Then I tried to chase (Long and Fong) down and was making some time up for a little bit but I took too much out of the tires fighting guys and pushing too hard to catch them. We had good points today and that's what we're focused on at Cadillac Racing, going for the overall championship, so I was just accumulating points."

Fourth in the GT division at Road America was Daniel Mancinelli in the No. 31 TR3 Racing/The Collection Ferrari 488 GT3 followed by veteran Peter Kox in the No. 93 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 and defending GT champion Alvaro Parente of Portugal in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Parente fell back to 15th in the first lap incident but drove a spectacular race to sixth in Round 4 race.

Rounding out the top 10 were Alec Udell, in the No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 R, O'Connell, the four-time PWC GT champion in the No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R., Bryan Sellers in the No. 6 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S and last year's Road America double winner Ryan Eversley in the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3.

Taking top honors in the GTA division Saturday was veteran James Sofronas, who drove his GMG Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to a wire-to-wire win over John Potter, in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi RS8 LMS and Tim Pappas in the No. 54 Black Swan Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.

"It was good to mix it up front with the top 10," said Sofronas. "We're running a good pace and staying with the lead pack and then it started to get a little dicey. I realized that there's no advantage to sticking my nose in here and holding true with those guys so I thought I would just back off, take a win and get the points and let the car rest. We were running really good lap times, it was consistent the whole way. The GMG Racing guys performed flawlessly and I'm really proud of them and all the guys and look forward to (tomorrow's race.)"

In GT Cup, Yuki Harata of Japan won the category over Marco Radisic of Serbia with his No. 55 Dream Racing Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo.

Sunday's GT race will be same-day broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 3:00 p.m. ET with an encore presentation at 6:30 p.m. ET.

RESULTS:

Pos,PIC,Class,Name,Hometown,Car,Laps,Status,Fastest Lap Time,Fastest Lap Avg. Speed

1,1, Pro,Adderly FONG,Hong Kong,Bentley Continental GT3,8,Not Running,2:04.223,117.3

2,2, Pro,Johnny O'CONNELL,Flowery Branch, GA,Cadillac ATS-V.R,8,Not Running,2:04.252,117.2

3,3, Pro,Jon FOGARTY,Bend, Oregon,Porsche 911 GT3 R,5,Not Running,2:04.471,117.0

4,4, Pro,Patrick LONG,Manhattan Beach, CA,Porsche 911 GT3 R,5,Not Running,2:04.663,116.8

5,5, Pro,Daniel MANCINELLI,Italy,Ferrari 488 GT3,9,Not Running,2:04.756,116.8

6,6, Pro,Michael COOPER,Syosset, NY,Cadillac ATS-V.R,4,Not Running,2:04.992,116.5

7,7, Pro,Peter KOX,Eindhoven, Netherlands,Acura NSX GT3,7,Not Running,2:05.166,116.4

8,8, Pro,Alvaro PARENTE,Porto, Portugal,McLaren 650S GT3,6,Not Running,2:05.191,116.4

9,9, Pro,Ryan EVERSLEY,Atlanta, GA,Acura NSX GT3,9,Not Running,2:05.331,116.2

10,10, Pro,Ryan DALZIEL,Windermere, FL,Mercedes AMG GT3,10,Not Running,2:05.365,116.2

11,11, Pro,Alec UDELL,The Woodlands, TX,Porsche 911 GT3 R,11,Not Running,2:05.446,116.1

12,12, Pro,Bryan SELLERS,Braselton, GA,McLaren 650S GT3,6,Not Running,2:05.640,115.9

13,13, Pro,Alexandre NEGRAO,Campinas, Brazil,Mercedes AMG GT3,7,Not Running,2:06.389,115.3

14,1, Am,James SOFRONAS,Villa Park, CA,Porsche 911 GT3 R,6,Not Running,2:06.722,114.9

15,14, Pro,Pierre KAFFER,Germany,Audi RS 8 LMS,7,Not Running,2:07.011,114.7

16,2, Am,Tim PAPPAS,Boston, MA,Mercedes AMG GT3,9,Not Running,2:07.286,114.4

17,3, Am,John POTTER,Salt Lake City, UT,Audi RS 8 LMS,6,Not Running,2:07.301,114.4

18,4, Am,Mike MCCANN,North Canton, OH,Audi RS 8 LMS,10,Not Running,2:08.250,113.6

19,5, Am,Preston CALVERT,Potomac, MD,Porsche 911 GT3 R,9,Not Running,2:08.350,113.5

20,6, Am,Mike HEDLUND,Redwood City, CA,McLaren 650S GT3,4,Not Running,2:09.410,112.6

21,7, Am,Marc MUZZO,Toronto, ON/ Hialeah, FL,Ferrari 458 GT3,12,Not Running,2:09.431,112.5

22,1, GT Cup,Yuki HARATA,Japan,Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo,4,Not Running,2:14.247,108.5

23,8, Am,Jorge DE LA TORRE,McAllen. TX,Aston Martin Vantage GT3,2,Not Running,2:22.325,102.3

24,2, GT Cup,Marko RADISIC,Belgrade, Serbia,Ferrari Challenge Evo,4,Not Running,,

Image93RACER's Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett report from Road America after qualifying for Verizon IndyCar Series' Kohler Grand Prix.

 

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JGS 0190 1Ask a simple question, get a simple answer.

Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi went from being fastest in opening practice at Road America to a surprise 15th in qualifying; presented with a query of "what was your car missing that it needed," Rossi told RACER, "more speed."

The 2016 Indy 500 winner was genuinely perplexed at where the speed went, and he wasn't the only Andretti driver searching for answers after qualifying.

"I'm not really sure what happened in qualifying," he said. "We were suffering from some issues this morning and I'm not sure if those were resolved or if our [qualifying] result was effected by those issues. It's a bummer. We had a really good car yesterday and I think we had it in us to earn a higher starting position today. We'll just have to push the NAPA car to the limit tomorrow and get the result we need."

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Ryan Hunter-Reay made it into the Firestone Fast 12, but was unable to improve beyond 12th.

"Not really sure what happened there in the second round," he said, echoing Rossi. "We were really strong in the first round of qualifying – especially on the alternate red set [of Firestone tires]. We were really strong in the first round. Then the second round we went out on the alternate red set and don't know what happened. We just had no front grip at all. Our main problem this whole weekend has been rear grip, and then that session it was front grip. Just missed it big time – not exactly sure why, but hopefully we can have a good race from 12th for the DHL team."

Reigning Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato will start near the bottom of the field in 20th and is hoping to lean on his teammates for setup improvements ahead of Sunday's 55-lap Kohler Grand Prix.

"We had to change the car setup from practice before qualifying," he said. "We needed to change a few things out and the lap wasn't really clean. It was a big step back and unfortunately, we couldn't make it into the [Firestone] Fast Six. The [teammates'] cars were somewhat competitive, so I think we will follow and then see what happens tomorrow in warm-up."

IndyCarRoadAmericaPruettSat62417 0638The lone bright spot for the team belonged to Marco Andretti (pictured, above) who qualified an impressive eighth third best among the Honda-powered entries.

"Today, we were coming off a good test," he said. "We sort of just kept it going. I'm actually disappointed we didn't make the [Firestone] Fast Six, but that's a good thing. I think we've just been chipping away at it, that's what we have to do at this point. We sort of made the wrong change there, it would've been better if we didn't touch the car, but it is what it is. It's still only eighth, but I think here the Penske cars are in a league of their own. We need to do it when it counts more."

Image98Scott Dixon was fastest among the Honda drivers in qualifying at Road America, but more than one second slower than Chevy-powered polesitter Helio Castroneves. He tells RACER about the odd tire discrepancies that left him fifth on the grid.

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Helio RA pole levittAfter throwing down the gauntlet in just one lap in Segment 2, Helio Castroneves went even faster in the Firestone Fast Six to earn his 50th career Verizon IndyCar Series pole. His 1m41.3007s final lap earned him his sixth front-row start and third pole this season.

Team Penske again locked out the top four spots, with 2016 pole and race winner Will Power (+0.0604s), Josef Newgarden (+0.3601s) and Simon Pagenaud (+0.7378s) not far behind. But it was clear early on that Castroneves, who ran a 1m41.826s lap in the second segment, was the class of the field.

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"The car was fantastic," Castroneves told IMS Radio. "I knew towards the end it was going to be between us [Penskes], especially when I saw Will and Simon with the new tires, I'm like, wow, they're just going to go for it. And I went for it. First lap was a little bit OK, but the second, I said I had nothing to lose, and one of the corners, especially the Carousel, I said, 'If this thing's gonna go off, it's gonna go off big.' But thank god everything sticks and we've got number 50 now."

Castroneves admitted it would be special to earn a win at Road America.

"It's something that I don't have," he said. "This pole position actually shows that you can continue learning. There is no BS about old dog, new tricks ... you're always learning and today's proof that all these things I learn I put out there, execute, and man, can't wait until tomorrow."

Further behind were Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (+1.6301s) in fifth and Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal (+3.7457s) in sixth.

"It's gonna be difficult at this place," Dixon told IMS Radio. "We've run the other manufacturer kit before and we know exactly where we stand, and we're down a ton on downforce here if you try to run about the same amount of drag. We know why; those guys are fast. Tomorrow we'll just have to get the most out of it and hopefully a couple of them have a problem."

Rahal chose to go out on blacks, saving a set of sticker reds for the race. He admitted there wasn't much point to challenging the Penskes in the Fast Six.

"Obviously Penske's on a different planet," Rahal said. "I feel like the reds are much better for me. The prime compound this weekend is fairly different than last year. The reds are the same compound as last year. Or so I'm told. So for me, the reds were really strong last year in the race so I wanted to keep them. I think they'll be consistent.

Max Chilton will start seventh, followed by Marco Andretti with a season-best start in eighth, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe in ninth and Charlie Kimball in 10th. 

Team Penske was not only the dominant team by far, but also the quickest Chevy. The next-highest Chevy is Carlos Munoz in 13th. The Ed Carpenter Racing duo of Spencer Pigot and JR Hildebrand will roll off 14th and 18th, respectively, and Munoz's AJ Foyt Racing teammate Conor Daly will start 21st.

Mikhail Aleshin, who was able to make it to Road America in time for the morning practice after being delayed in France by immigration issues, will start 19th.

“It was not so difficult [to get back in the car],” Aleshin told IMS Radio. “I know this team, I know this track. Obviously it’s nice to sleep well, but just didn’t have enough time for that today. I’m just happy to be here.”

Road America qualifying

IndyCarRoadAmericaPruettSat62417 0695Max Chilton qualified an impressive seventh for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Road America, and tells RACER about the heightened expectations for his sophomore season.

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