X4I3001Sebastian Vettel was nearly half a second clear of the field in FP2 for the Monaco Grand Prix as Mercedes struggled for pace.

While Hamilton was fastest in FP1, the triple world champion could only manage eighth quickest in the second session, with teammate Valtteri Bottas two places further back in 10th. Mercedes even attempted to extra run on the ultrasoft tire in search of more pace but ended up over a second adrift of Vettel.

The championship leader set the pace with a new lap record around the current Monaco configuration as he posted a 1:12.720, leading Daniel Ricciardo by 0.487s. Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest with a 1:13.283, less than 0.05s clear of Daniil Kvyat as Toro Rosso impressed throughout the afternoon session. Carlos Sainz was fifth on a 1:13.400, with Max Verstappen in sixth and Sergio Perez seventh ahead of Hamilton.

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Mercedes has the longest wheelbase of all 10 teams, which could hurt its pace around the tight and twisty Monte Carlo circuit, but it has one saving grace in terms of the schedule allowing an extra day of preparations on Friday – when there is no F1 running – to try and close the gap before final practice and qualifying on Saturday.

The Toro Rossos were quick throughout the session, topping the times early on and ending up in the middle of a pack of five cars covered by 0.279s behind Vettel. The German is now the only driver to have gone under the 1m13s barrier in an F1 car around the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit in its current form.

After a largely incident-free opening session on Thursday, the afternoon resulted in more action as drivers ramped up the pace on the street circuit. Marcus Ericsson – who missed most of FP1 with a gearbox problem – lost the rear of his Sauber exiting Casino Square and hit the barrier with his left rear tire, but fortunately was able to return to the pits with the only noticeable damage being to the outer wall of the tire, resuming running shortly after.

Lance Stroll was less fortunate just one corner earlier, with the Canadian rookie sliding wide at Massenet and clouting the barrier, heavily damaging the right hand side of his car. A red flag period was required to remove the Williams and recover the debris with the front wing lying in the middle of the next corner.

While Ericsson and Stroll made errors, Jolyon Palmer suffered Renault's second reliability problem of the day when he stopped at Portier. Replays showed smoke coming from the back of his car as he approached Mirabeau and the Briton was told to pull over by his team after just eight laps. That problem followed an energy store issue for Nico Hulkenberg in FP1, with Renault's running limited on Thursday.

There was another encouraging performance from Jenson Button on his return to the McLaren, finishing the second session in 12th place, just 0.035s behind team–mate Stoffel Vandoorne and 0.1s off the Mercedes pair.

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03 yates 052417Three times in the last five years, Robert Yates barely missed the cut for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Wednesday, his name was the first one called by NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton for the 2018 class.

"When he said number one ..." Yates began before tearing up as he did when he heard his name, "wow."

After Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ken Squier and Ron Hornaday were announced to fill out the class, it was Yates who seemed to be the man of the hour. Upon rising from his seat, Yates couldn't escape handshakes and hugs from all those in attendance who made it a point to see him.

Yates, who celebrated his 74th birthday last month, was revealed to have liver cancer late last year and it's been a tough battle for him since. But Yates hasn't shied away from it and couldn't help but crack a smile when he met with the assembled media after the announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"Good to be here," Yates said. "Really good to be here when you win. It's all about winning, right?"

08 yates 052417Yates certainly won plenty during his illustrious career. The owner of Robert Yates Racing from 1989 to 2007, Yates' teams earned 48 poles and 57 wins, including three in the Daytona 500. The first came in 1992 with Davey Allison (pictured with Yates), who won 15 races for Yates.

In 1996, his operation grew to a two-car team with Dale Jarrett and Ernie Irvan, with Jarrett earning Yates' second Daytona 500 win that same season (and his third in 2000.) Jarrett also delivered Yates his first and only car owner title in 1999. In total, Yates won races with five different drivers (Allison, Jarrett, Irvan, Ricky Rudd and Elliott Sadler).

However, for as successful as many might remember him as a car owner, Yates started his career as an engine builder. In 1983, Yates earned a championship when he provided the power to Bobby Allison's season. In addition to NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, other drivers who drove a Yates-powered car were Hall of Famers Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

Yates also served as the engine builder for Richard Petty when he won his 199th and 200th NASCAR races. His skill continued even as he began a car owner with Roush Yates Engines, which today is run by his son, Doug.

"Thank you to for the sport because a guy that grew up in a family with all straight A kids (and) me, never thought about making anything like an A, B, C, or D," Yates said. "But I knew how to work on cars. I loved doing that."

Yates called coming to the Hall of Fame each year for the announcement a stressful deal.

"Sitting here today, I said, look, I'm struggling with some stuff, but if I don't get in, that's a reason to work real hard to be here next year to get in," Yates said. "That's the way I tried to look at it."

Yates has been on the ballot four times. He earned the sixth highest votes for the 2017 class; the seventh highest votes for the 2015 class; and the sixth highest votes for the 2013 class. This year was his fourth year on the ballot.

"Right now, I feel like I could take a jack and jump over the wall and I'd be on the right side (of the car) like I used to be," said Yates when asked how he was feeling. "I don't even know if I'll sleep tonight. I'm so honored."

The 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame class will officially be inducted next January.

foyt2RACER's Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett take you on the second of a three-part narrated tour of the incredible A.J. Foyt exhibit inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Click here to view Part 1


Eversley 6330 RSJIn the days when most pro drivers came up through the ranks of club racing, running their own car as crew chief/mechanic/parts washer, most had a pretty good understanding of the inner workings of their machinery, even after they moved on to a situation where others were handling that side of the racing equation for them. There are still a few pros who have been on the other side, working as a mechanic or other crew before they moved on to the starring role. Ryan Eversley, driver of the No. 43 RealTime Racing Acura NSX in Pirelli World Challenge GT, is one of those.

There's a theory that drivers who have been on the other side have a deeper understanding of the machine, know how to get the most out of it, and keep things together longer over the course of a race. Eversley will tell you that in the modern day of GT racing, that no longer applies.

"The NSX has so many assist systems like paddle shifting and auto-blip downshifts and stuff like that that stops you from hurting the car," he explains. "I'd say in the slower classes, where you're driving touring cars or sedans, sure. But in these current cars, everything is so foolproof to stop that exact kind of thing from happening. It takes any advantage like that away."

Eversley 0952 RSJAs Eversley notes, it's a different story when you have to do the shifting yourself and there aren't a lot of electronics to keep a driver from making a mistake.

"One of the big things about racing the Honda Civic the previous couple of years before I switched over to the the Acura program, is we had a definite brake deficit compared to some of the MX-5s and BMWs, so understanding how the brake system works and how heat can destroy not only the brake but the tire, I think that helped me save my equipment.

"Understanding the degradation and how it would evolve through the race was absolutely an advantage. I got pretty good at sustaining the brakes on the front-wheel-drive car, which was a pretty big deal, as well as the front tires. Having the mechanical background helped me with that," adds Eversely, whose other gigs include the popular "Dinner with Racers" podcast and raising money for awareness and research of neurofibromatosis.

The Civic in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was one tier in Eversley's experience. On the mechanical side, it began a few years prior, at Mike Johnson's Archangel Motorsports LMP675 team in ALMS. He went on to do some Grand-Am and IMSA racing, and even won a couple of World Challenge Touring Car races at Mid-Ohio in 2010. But as a mechanic, one of the first drivers he worked with left an impression on him.

"When I first started as a mechanic in 2001, Andy Lally was our driver and he was always the first guy to help us break down cardboard boxes after the new parts showed up or go get pizzas or clean a body panel. So I still try to do that to this day when my guys are swamped," Eversley says.

Despite the mechanical empathy – the ability to care for the car the way only one who knows the inner workings can – not being a big part of race driving anymore, Eversley says there are still some things from his past that make him if not a better driver, a better team member.

"I understand from being a mechanic on a race team, if you have an off, you need to be completely upfront about it and tell them exactly what happened. Never try to lie because it can affect you later. When you're a mechanic, you get told by a driver, "I had a small off," and the car comes in on the tow hook in two pieces. Or, "I've got a water leak." Well, it's because you ripped the front of the car off and the radiator is sitting in the grass in Turn 3. So I try to be as honest with these guys as I can be, and if I can lend a hand scrubbing bodywork or helping push the car on the trailer, I'm happy to do so," he says.

StCyr Eversley Dyer 5181 RSJAs the season moves on, scrubbing bodywork is the sort of routine thing that hopefully has to be done to Eversley's NSX, which he shares with Tom Dyer (pictured, right, with Eversley, middle, and HPD's Art St. Cyr) in the SprintX races. The NSX GT3 is new this year, replacing the TLX GT built to the old World Challenge GT rules that RealTime raced previously and won three races with. The NSX was well developed in private and public testing in 2016, but the racing environment isn't always the same. The team and the drivers, however, are getting a handle on the car and making progress up the timing sheets.

"The thing about our car is it doesn't have a predecessor like almost every car we're racing against," he explains. "We were able to learn a lot of things with the TLX, but it's a different motor, a different gearbox – two different cars completely. Now that we have a purpose-built racecar, the workload has become less, because these guys were just killing themselves keeping the car running at the front, and now we have a car that's just like everything else – it's got a great motor from the factory, it's got a great suspension from the factory and we're not trying to fit a square hole into a round peg.

"I didn't expect us to be super competitive right out of the box, just because that's not how a new car is going to be. I'm really happy about the reliability we've had. I think we've finally found a baseline we can use for a lot of tracks in North America, which is great because the tracks here are quite a bit different than Europe, where the cars were developed.

"We're moving right along. I told my bosses at Honda Performance Development the first half of the year was going to be a struggle, the second half we'd have a top-five competing car. Maybe that's optimistic, but that's where I felt our progress was going to lead. We're in the top 10, we're fighting against some really good cars. This may not be our year to win races, but this is definitely our year to solidify what the car can do," he adds.

DLY 5162 AThe conversation with IndyCar competition president Jay Frye started by asking whether the Verizon IndyCar Series would consider buying a Dallara DW12 chassis or two to use as "house cars" in future Indy 500s.

With the series facing an annual struggle to complete its field of 33 cars, the idea of having one or two cars to make available to a deserving driver or interested Mazda Road to Indy team seemed like a good way to reach and surpass 33 entries. But Frye has a different idea in mind to fix the shortfall, and it's a simple one: Help more teams to join the series. And if the series can attract a third engine supplier, the stress to reach 33 faced by Chevy and Honda will be eased.

"Part of the thing is when we have 21 full-time cars that run and you need 33 cars for our biggest event, and that's a big gap," Frye told RACER. "If we go back, if we recruit some new team owners, if we're able to get another manufacturer in, all these pieces of this puzzle will actually take care of that. It will make it better. That's part of this whole thing: if we had 26 or 28 full-time cars, and a couple of those teams ran extra cars, then it adds up to be 36 or 37 quickly. So it's going to be a process to get to that point and we're working on it with a plan."

pigotThe early results from Frye's plan would suggest it's working. IndyCar has welcomed three new teams to this year's 500 with Harding Racing, Juncos Racing (pictured) and Michael Shank Racing bringing a combined total of four cars to the race. Of the three entrants, Harding and Juncos have purchased Dallara DW12s and have all of the necessary equipment to continue after Indy; MSR has leased a car for the month from its partners at Andretti Autosport and will return it after the race.

Looking to the short-term priorities for Frye, helping MSR to transition into a regular competitor in IndyCar, assisting Harding and Juncos to expand their programs to full-time efforts is at the top of the list.

"Michael Shank and that group, we've worked hand in hand with them in a lot of ways, and we couldn't be more proud of what Ricardo Juncos and Mike Harding are doing," Frye said. "If you look at that even as a litmus test of what's happening and where we're going, I think that's a really encouraging sign. These three, they're coming in and performing right out of the box. They're doing well."

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Rather than invest in cars and equipment to loan or lease to pad the Indy 500 field, Frye believes the best course – the one that's more sustainable – to help new teams get off the ground and assist with the series' marketing and promotions resources to attract sponsors.

"We already try to do that with all the teams in the series," he said. "We support them in any way we can from a marketing or PR perspective or a sales perspective. It's very important for the series that the teams are properly funded. That's huge. We've gone on sales calls with teams before, we create sponsorship decks, we cross promote. That's standard operating procedure with any team.

"But with the new ones, you might have to help them a little more at the beginning because they're still getting up to speed on how we operate and what's available and how you do things. So there's maybe a little more of that to start so they know what we have available to offer them to help them."

With Shank's IMSA sports car team adding an Indy 500 program to its portfolio, and a thriving Mazda Road to Indy ownership base, Frye is confident there are more that have an interest in joining the big leagues.

"Oh, they're out there," he said.

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This feature originally appears in RACER's July 2017 issue (No.285) under the title "Close, but..."

"You cannot let this place get into your head," mused Tony Kanaan on a chilly morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year. "If you do, it will ruin you."

Kanaan knew of which he spoke: he had led the race for eight years in a row, headed the field for a combined total of more than 200 laps, started from pole (2005), and finished second, third (twice), fourth and fifth before finally earning a portrait on the Borg-Warner Trophy at his 12th try in a 2013 thriller.

The Brazilian ultimately squared his ledger with the Brickyard, but others who experienced similar disappointments are still waiting for broken hearts to fully heal. Or are they? Marco Andretti came within yards of winning at Indy as a rookie in 2006, and was instead left crossing the line choking on Sam Hornish Jr.'s exhaust fumes (ABOVE). Even for someone not carrying the most famous surname in racing, that sounds like the recipe for a tiny streak of entitlement.

"I look at the flipside of that coin," says Andretti. "I look at how fortunate I am to be unscathed. I look at four or five podiums there. I look at stuff like that.

"And I also look at the fact that, in a perfect world, I've got another 10 shots at winning there. So I'm not panicking. Year in, year out, no matter what team I'm driving for, I know we can make some amazing stuff happen there. And once we win there...Indianapolis is already a big place for me, but that will be huge."

JR Hildebrand can relate. Driving for the small Panther Racing team as a rookie in 2011, the Californian flew beneath the white flags waving from the Speedway's flag stand with a comfortable lead over Dan Wheldon. As he crossed the north chute and entered the final turn, he came across the slower car of Charlie Kimball running on the inside line.

lat levitt 500 33719Hildebrand moved to the outside as he came onto the final stretch, wandered onto the marbles, and pancaked the wall. Wheldon shot past for the win; Hildebrand – right-side flattened, and with sparks flying from the car's underside – skidded across the bricks in second place (RIGHT).

"I've had so many people tell me that Indy owes me something that it's really made me realize that, actually, it doesn't owe you s**t," he says. "When you think about it on your own, you can convince yourself that 'I'm going to go back there and everything is going to go my way because that's how things balance out,' but you listen to other people say that to you enough times and it really starts to sound crazy..."

Hildebrand alludes to another aspect to life as a member of the Indy 500's "almost" club. Coming to terms with the personal disappointment associated with a near-miss is one thing, but through the eyes of some on the outside, a crash like the one Hildebrand experienced in 2011 can define him for years. Instead of "JR Hildebrand, IndyCar Series driver", he becomes "JR Hildebrand, last-lap crash guy." Six years after the fact, fans continue to ask him about it.

"The way everything happened in 2011, I had to deal with it all immediately," he says. "There was no hiding from it. I was asked about it a million times, and I had to be at peace with it, just to not go bananas. I still have people walking up and asking if I go to sleep at night thinking about Turn 4. And to me that seems like such a crazy thing to ask.

"For one, I'd be going insane if I was going to sleep every night thinking about that. But I really don't. It just doesn't bother me. It's something that I have very much moved on from.

"I'm in a different place. The series is in a different place. The things that are required to win the race are different now. I've been very head-down over the last few years working on figuring that stuff out so I could get into the best possible position to get back out there and execute. And that, to me, is only what it's about at this point."

Realistically, is there any other way that Hildebrand, or Andretti – or even someone like Carlos Munoz, who was literally in tears after falling just short of reeling Alexander Rossi in last year – can keep their relationship with the "500" in perspective? It's often said that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway chooses the winner, and on that basis, the most any driver can do to control their fate is do whatever they can to put themselves in a position where they're not relying on a stroke of luck to get the job done.

Do that often enough, and maybe – maybe – the Brickyard will answer the call, just as it did for Kanaan in 2013.

"I always prepared myself for maybe not ever winning there," he said. "I trained myself not to feel too beaten up about whatever happened the next day. I always loved this place, regardless of what my result was. I was humble and just grateful to be part of the Indy 500.

"I call the Speedway a 'she,' because to me, it's a girl. And in 2013, she gave me back the respect I'd given her."

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IndyCar’s 2018 universal bodywork is "99 percent" finished according to competition president Jay Frye, and based on the detailed superspeedway and first-look road course/short oval renderings released on Wednesday, the product is stunning.

Notable changes from previous renderings include the removal of the "sponsor blocker" from the leading edge of the floor, and the addition of a small spine down the engine cover. The sculpted, three-element road course front wing package and triple-element rear wing offer a simplified solution compared to some of the configurations used during the 2015-’17 aero kit era.

Greater detail on the sidepods reveal the tight waist below the radiator inlets that reduce surface area and improve flow to the back of the car between the wheels and drivetrain. The large floor, with the removable plug to fill the speedway "hole," can also be seen with more clarity.

In superspeedway trim, clean front and rear wing designs help the DW12 to look sleek for the first time since its introduction. A light adjustment to the shock cover – shown in both packages – adds raised seams to divert some air from atop the tub around to the sides.

"Another thing with the car, too, there's less parts and pieces," Frye told RACER. "There's less opportunity for debris, which is good."

The 2018 bodywork is expected to start testing in July or August.

"There's lots of learning that could be done on the current car," Frye added. "We have taken a different approach and it's just a different aesthetically-looking car. It has a historical feel with a very forward look. We're excited about that."

The full set of updated images is available below. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.

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04CJ2468AEleventh, ninth, 14th, bang.

That last part was a bummer: during last year's race, Josef Newgarden checked up, Townsend Bell and Sage Karam went around him, Karam misjudged his line and found the wall. Just another entry on a 101-race-old list of reminders that the Speedway charges a heavy price for tiny misjudgements.

But on the whole, going part-time in 2013 hasn't stopped Dreyer & Reinbold Racing from performing pretty well against its full-time rivals when it rolls up at the Brickyard every May.

In an era defined by deep fields, smart teams and relative parity of equipment, conventional wisdom holds that the Speedway is a place that rewards experience. But if that's the case, how does a once-a-year team with only one car manage to compete with the regulars year after year?

reinbold"Doing Indy now is a little different [to when the team was full-time, between 2000 and 2012]," says co-owner Dennis Reinbold (pictured). "But we get up to speed pretty quickly, and get back into the groove pretty fast. We've had 36 cars in the Indy 500 over the years, so our familiarity is pretty good. We have basically all of our full-time guys that have been with us for quite a while still here, so that makes a difference. We don't show up with unproven people, so we know what to do.

"We're able to keep them pretty steady because we do Red Bull Global RallyCross, so we look at it as a full-time team, even though we're not doing a lot of the other [IndyCar] events."

It's difficult to overstate the value of that continuity, but the advantages of turning up at the Speedway with a well-drilled crew that knows how to work together are probably best illustrated by an insight into what it's like to try to compete without one. Larry Curry started recruiting for the Harding Racing program months ago, but last year, when he was running the hastily-assembled Lazier Partners entry, team personnel were changing on an almost day-to-day basis.

"That's very, very hard," he says. "Last year with the Lazier deal, I was the constant that was there every day; I had different guys working on the cars every couple of days. And that was challenging, to be polite."

For DRR though, continuity extends all the way into the cockpit, which has been occupied by Karam for three of the past four years. (Bell stepped in for the 2015 race, when Karam was with Ganassi).

"We have a lot of confidence in Sage, and he has a lot of familiarity with us," says Reinbold. "So we're not starting form scratch there. We're hopefully picking up where we left off. So we have trust in our driver, we have total trust in our crew because they've been there for such a long time. So we can get to the track and just start from where we were last year, and then work on improving further."

lepage 170519 indy 848Although DRR only competes at Indy, the team spends months preparing for those two weeks. In January, the team goes through the results of the component checks and crack checks from the previous year's race to work out what new parts are needed, gets started on body fitting, and begins general reassembly of its cars. The crew is kept IndyCar-sharp with the help of a pit stop coach.

"We take that very seriously," says Reinbold. "In the last five years we got to the finals of the pit stop competition twice, and we got to the semi-finals twice, so we stay at it. And we've gained some nice spots during races because of [pit stops]."

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Perhaps surprisingly, another area that poses relatively little concern is making the numbers add up. Reinbold makes the point that the Indy 500 forms the centerpiece of sponsorship proposals from many full-time teams, so in a sense, he's selling a similar promotional opportunity, but without having to absorb the expense of contesting the full schedule.

"Indy is the biggest sporting event in the world," he says. "I can't speak for others but we've been successful at selling sponsorship. We've got a lot of good sponsors – Mecum Auctions is obviously our primary sponsor, and several other people that have been with us for multiple years now. We'd like to try to make it like, if we do a good enough job and get them excited enough, we can make a call after this year's race and hopefully have them on board for next year.

"I think, due to the size of this event, it makes a lot of sense. I know full-time teams try to anchor their entire season – as I did before – as the bulk of the product that you're selling. It's a special place, and it's a big, big event that's so fun to be a part of that we've had good success in selling it."

Good success at selling, and a solid record of backing it up when things get real on Memorial Day weekend. In IndyCar terms, Dreyer & Reinbold is a part-time team – but it goes into the 500 with the same aim as the regulars.

"We're going there to win the race," says Reinbold. "That's the only reason we're showing up. We want to win that race.

"I'm not intimidated or scared or anything about what we have to do to go there and win. We just have to have everything fall our way to make it happen, and I think it's a very real possibility that a one-off team like us can go in there and take a win."

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