May 14, 2012 in Sports

Scramble on for Indy 500

 

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is an optimist when it comes to putting 33 cars in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

A.J. Foyt is a believer, too.

The trick, of course, will be making it happen. On Sunday, Bernard offered to help find sponsors, engines and any other assistance to assure the traditional starting field is full for the May 27 race.

“We haven’t had a race since 1947 that didn’t have that many cars (33) and we have to do everything we can to make sure we get 33,” Bernard told The Associated Press.

Of course it wouldn’t look good to break with tradition now, a season in which IndyCar officials have put a brand new car on the track and brought back turbocharged engines.

But it’s not the first time this debate has been waged around the historic 2.5-mile Brickyard oval. There were similar questions in 2003, the last time the series changed cars, and it was a consistent question in the early days of the IndyCar-CART split back in the 1990s.

“Have you ever seen, in your life, the Indianapolis 500 start 31 cars and not 33?” Foyt said. “What makes you think that’s going to happen now? I’m quite sure the field will be full.”

The difference this time is that there’s a smaller margin of error.

With only 33 car-driver combinations and the Chevrolets and Honda engines almost all divvied up, filling spots with new cars will be a challenge.

The key to making everything work could be Dragon Racing.

Through two days of rookie orientation and the first two days of full practice, neither of the two cars owned by Jay Penske has logged a lap. The team had used the struggling Lotus engines through the first four races this season. Now Penske has filed a $4.6 million lawsuit against Lotus, claiming the company had damaged Dragon’s reputation by spreading “especially outrageous” falsehoods, failing to deliver two chassis and hurting its ability to be competitive.

Penske has spent most of this week working on a resolution so his drivers, France’s Sebastien Bourdais and English rookie Katherine Legge, can start practicing.

Series officials met with Penske after the league adopted a new rule requiring IndyCar’s permission to change engines. The pending suit may force Penske to get either a court injunction or a release from Lotus to make a change.

The league’s vice president of technology, Will Phillips, said discussions are continuing.

“We’ll do what we can to help because we want them to be here,” Phillips said. “We want to make sure we follow through on the tradition and fill the field and to do that we have to work with all three (engine) manufacturers.”

Indy 500 practice

Colombia’s Sebastian Saavedra used a late tow to jump to the top of the Indianapolis 500 speed chart Sunday.

His fast lap of 221.526 mph was the fastest of the week in practice.

Bryan Clauson and Josef Newgarden, both rookies with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, were second and third. Clauson went 221.173 while Newgarden had a 221.158. Newgarden was the fastest driver in Saturday’s practice.

Two-time IndyCar champ and 2008 Indy winner Scott Dixon was fourth at 220.829.

Formula One

Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso to win the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, giving Williams its first Formula One victory in eight years. The celebration quickly gave way to concern when a fire in the team garage left 31 people injured.

Maldonado started from the pole and withstood the challenge by Alonso’s Ferrari to take the 66-lap race at the Catalunya Circuit by 3.1 seconds.

Maldonado, making his first visit to the podium, is the first Venezuelan winner in F1. This was Williams’ 114th triumph but first since the 2004 Brazilian GP.

Maldonado’s victory provided a flourish for Frank Williams as the team celebrated its longtime team principal’s 70th birthday this weekend. Williams’ celebration speech, however, was cut short. He was led from the garage when a fire broke out.

Governing body FIA said 31 people were treated by Catalunya Circuit medical staff, with seven of those flown out to a variety of hospitals to receive treatment. Catalonia’s regional government said in a statement that one of the persons was airlifted to Barcelona hospital with serious burn wounds, while the rest were being treated locally for smoke inhalation. Williams confirmed a fuel leak caused the problem, with four of its staff treated for injuries. Three of those remained in the hospital. The Caterham team said four of its members were among those injured as the fire spread to neighboring team boxes.

Kimi Raikkonen made up nearly 20 seconds over the final stretch to finish 3.8 seconds behind Maldonado in third, ahead of Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean. Lewis Hamilton, demoted from pole to last place in the 24-car field because of a rule breach, finished eighth for McLaren.

Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was fifth, ahead of two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who charged past Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes to take sixth after the Red Bull driver had to do a drive-thorugh penalty during the race.


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