Briscoe Gets Indianapolis 500 Call Up

Aussie Ryan Briscoe didn't think twice about accepting the short-notice request from Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner Sam Schmidt to drive in the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Briscoe, 33, was named today to fill in for the injured James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" on May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hinchcliffe underwent surgery May 18 for a pelvic and upper left thigh injury suffered in a crash during practice earlier that day.

Hinchcliffe is recovering and was transferred May 20 from the Intensive Care Unit at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Upon further evaluation, it was determined he will require no further procedures and is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries. Additional updates to Hinchcliffe's condition will be released when available.

"First and foremost, I feel absolutely terrible for Hinch," said Briscoe, who completed 21 laps in a one-hour "familiarization session" granted by INDYCAR to become acclimated to the car and aero kits that debuted this year. "I wish him the best and a speedy recovery."

Briscoe will join the rest of the 33-car field for the traditional one-hour practice May 22 on Coors Light Carb Day (11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) in his rush to play catch-up.

"You (usually) sort of prepare for this race a year out," he said. "You visualize how you're going to go through practice, all the prep you're going to do, and something like this comes up and you throw that all out the window. I feel with my experience and the experience the team has, the experience that Hinch has had with (race engineer) Allen McDonald putting this car in really good condition for the race, I feel really confident that even with a few laps I'll be able to find my groove again."

Briscoe will make his 10th Indianapolis 500 start and 130th overall in Indy car racing from the 32nd starting position (middle of Row 11). James Davison, who returned to the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda after Tristan Vautier qualified the car for him May 17, will start 33rd as determined by entrant points when a driver switch is made, per INDYCAR.

Briscoe was the 2012 pole sitter for the 500 Mile Race and that year tied his best finish of fifth from 2007. Last year, he started 30th in the NTT Data entry for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams and finished 18th.

"We explored quite a few options and felt confident in Briscoe," team co-owner Schmidt said. "We were glad he was available and willing to drive for us with such short notice. Obviously, this was not a situation we were expecting to be in for the biggest race of the year, but we're making the best of it. Our thoughts and prayers are with James and his family right now."

Indianapolis 500 Qualifying Postponed by Rain

Persistent afternoon rain canceled the remainder of scheduled track activity on the first day of qualifications for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, so the process begins anew May 17.

A revised schedule for Old National Armed Forces Pole Day calls for the 34 entries to make one four-lap qualifying attempt each on the 2.5-mile oval (10 a.m.-1 p.m. ET), followed by the "Fast Nine Shootout" (1:45-2:30 p.m.) in which the top nine cars return to determine the Verizon P1 Award for pole position and the first three rows for the May 24 race. Finally, positions 31-33 will be determined in a 45-minute session (3-3:45 p.m.).

Ryan Hunter-Reay (229.845 mph) and Carlos Huertas (228.235) were the only drivers to post four-lap qualifying runs before the rain today, but those will not count since not everyone was able to make an attempt. Two groups of cars will be accorded practice time from 8-8:20 a.m. and 8:20-8:40 a.m. (ET) May 17, prior to qualifying.

In today's morning practice, Helio Castroneves recorded a lap of 233.474 mph that, while unofficial, is the fastest lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the 1996 race when Eddie Cheever Jr., had the fastest race lap at 236.103 mph. That same year, Arie Luyendyk set the one- and four-lap qualifying records (237.498 mph and 236.986 mph, respectively).

"That 233 mph number was pretty cool, but it was with a little bit of help (with a tow from cars in front of him)," said Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet. "The guys have really done an amazing job over the last couple of days since the (May 13 crash). To lose a day and still be on top of the practice speeds is a testament to how hard they worked. The weather, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We'll just come back and see what's in store."

Castroneves seeks to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners, and he's in contention for pole history, too. Castroneves, with No. 1 qualifying efforts in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010, is tied with Foyt and Rex Mays. A fifth would put him second among all-time Indy 500 pole winners, one behind Team Penske consultant Mears. Castroneves also could give team owner Roger Penske a record-extending 18th pole position at the Indy 500.

Added Team Penske teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader: "It's a little bit of a disappointment that we didn't get to qualify today because the Team Penske cars were very strong in the practice sessions. I've been happy with the car even though we continue to struggle a bit with the balance. We are confident that we know what direction we need to go with the weather. It's going to be a fast, exciting qualifying session, I know that."

In 2014, Ed Carpenter earned the Verizon P1 Award in the Fast Nine Shootout with a four-lap average speed of 231.076 mph - the second consecutive year that Carpenter started from the pole. He'll seek to become the first to earn the pole in three consecutive years May 17. Twenty drivers have won the race from the pole - most recently Castroneves in 2009.

"Last year we were pretty solid, so I think we can get in (to the Fast Nine Shootout), but we've got to play our cards right and find a little bit (of speed)," said Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet. "The thing we've got to figure out is how to make the fourth lap still be good."

INDIANAPOLIS 500 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES

WILL POWER (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's raining, and I think INDYCAR has got a pretty good plan to run tomorrow and get everyone through the line and have a Fast Nine. If anything, it'll be even more exciting, having it all really compressed. Looking forward to it. It's really difficult to see where everyone stacks up, but I felt very comfortable and I wasn't so much yesterday. Yeah, we'll see what happens."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It's a little bit of a disappointment that we didn't get to qualify today because the Team Penske cars were very strong in the practice sessions. Hopefully tomorrow the forecast will break up a bit and we can see if the Verizon Chevy has the speed to win the pole position. I've been happy with the car even though we continue to struggle a bit with the balance. We are confident that we know what direction we need to go with the weather. It's going to be a fast, exciting qualifying session, I know that."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Team Penske Chevrolet): "That 233 mph number was pretty cool, but it was with a little bit of help (from a tow). The Shell V-Power Nitro+ guys have really done an amazing job over the last couple of days since the flip. To lose a day and still be on top of the practice speeds today is a testament to how hard they worked. The weather, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We'll just come back tomorrow and see what's in store."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 6 Preferred Freezer CFH Racing Chevrolet): "It was nice to post a big number in the morning even though it doesn't really mean very much. It was with a tow, but it was fun to see it pop up on the dash. I still don't really know where we stack up in terms of our four-lap speed, but we're pretty good. Tomorrow, hopefully we'll get into the top nine. If we don't, I think we'll be close. That should give us a pretty reasonable starting position for the race. It's going to be a scramble, but I feel better about it today than I did a few days ago."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Honda): "It's a shame we couldn't get qualifying in today, but it's the same for everybody. Our Steak 'n Shake car was pretty quick this morning and we'll be qualifying early in the day tomorrow at around 10:30 or so and I feel pretty good about our chances. We'll have to see how it plays out. Definitely the guys that will run two hours into the session will be facing a little bit warmer of a track, so hopefully that plays to our advantage. I would have liked to have got in today, but they would have only gotten a handful in today so we would have had to go again anyway and I would rather have to only hold my breath for four laps instead of eight."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka CFH Racing Chevrolet): "Days like today are hard. It stinks for all of the fans. I feel like the series is just in a funk as far as weather. It seems like it rains every important day or it's forecasted to be a bad weather day. I really hope this all moves out and it's a beautiful day tomorrow, where we can put on an awesome show for the fans. One thing about today being delayed is tomorrow's schedule and activities are going to be intense. There's going to be a lot of pressure. Everyone gets one shot to put it in the Fast Nine and that's it. You have to balance going fast and being aggressive to get into the Fast Nine, but knowing you only have that one opportunity. You can't be too aggressive and overshoot it and have a bad run because there's no second attempt. It will be a great day, it will be exciting. Hopefully a lot of people come watch us!"

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 21 Century 21 CFH Racing Chevrolet): "We'll get here tomorrow and try to do the whole program again. We didn't get it in today. The team looks good. We tried a couple of different things this morning in practice and JR (Hildebrand) looked really solid. We're really getting up to speed with our program. If we get all of our details right tomorrow, we should be in the hunt."

TOWNSEND BELL (No. 24 The Robert Graham Special Chevrolet): "We ran two qualifying stints this morning to get our balance squared away and the car felt good. To be honest, I'm not too disappointed we got rained out. Our car really works well when we have hotter conditions and Sunday is expected to be warmer than today. I just feel badly for the fans who came to see the qualifying. Hopefully everyone can make it out to see a run for the Fast Nine and the pole. I believe we are in the position for a spot in the Fast Nine. We were ninth today with the 'no tow' speeds. So we are on the edge. I'd love to have our little one-car Dreyer & Reinbold - Kingdom team slide into the Fast Nine and battle the big teams. So I'm anxious to get going for Sunday with the Robert Graham Special." 

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): (On dealing with rain delays): "You get used to them over time. In your earlier years, you have to think about things more. The pressure piles on a little bit, but it's part of it. You just have to wait for it, be patient and keep your thoughts cool and calm and collected and get on with the job. It's not a big deal. You want to just get on with it, though. Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes sometimes."

GABBY CHAVES (No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins / Curb Honda): "It's disappointing for us. With a late draw in the qualifying line, we had an excellent opportunity to do a true qualifying simulation in this morning's practice and watch what speeds everyone else posted on their qualifying runs. This would have given us a great opportunity to make the Bowers & Wilkins Honda even faster and secure us a spot in the Fast Nine Shootout. But we know we have a fast car and are ready to come back and do it again tomorrow."  

XFINITY Team Penalized For Rules Violation

The No. 4 team that competes in the NASCAR XFINITY Series has been penalized for a rules infraction committed during a May 16 practice at Iowa Speedway.

The infraction is a P3 level penalty and violates the following Sections in the 2015 NASCAR rule book:
12.1: Actions detrimental to stock car racing
20.17.2.1: Overall vehicle weight
B. Any and all ballast added to the vehicle must be bolted inside an added ballast container, inside the main frame rails, and/or inside the front sway bar mounting tube. Weight affixed improperly.

As a result of this violation, crew chief Gary Cogswell has been fined $15,000 and placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. Additionally, car chief Charles Kent has been placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31.

Le Mans, MotoGP Style

The French round is one of the most illustrious in the MotoGP calendar - here we look back at the history of the French GP.

Since the start of the World Championship in 1949, the Grand Prix of France has taken place 52 times, the first one on the 8895-meter Albi track in 1953.

Since then, the gala round of the World Championship was held on eight different track layouts, including Rouen, Reins, Clermont-Ferrand, Le Mans, Paul Ricard, Nogaro and Magny-Cours.

In the modern GP era, the Grand Prix has hosted some fantastic races, such as the battle in 1988 between Paul Ricard, Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Christian Sarron and Kevin Schwantz.

After a race full of overtaking, a few corners from the end the Australian was ahead and was almost in sight of the finish line, but the engine of his Honda NSR 500 suffered a threat of seizure and he lost all chance of victory, although he could cross the finish line in fourth position ahead of Wayne Rainey.

1991 was unique in that were two rounds of the World Championship in the same season on French soil; one GP at Paul Ricard in France and a second round, where Brazil was replaced by Le Mans with two races remaining, in which Rainey earned the second of his three world titles with Yamaha.

Grands Prix in France have often proved favourable for Spanish riders. Carlos Cardus (uncle of the current Moto2 ™ rider Ricky Cardus) achieved his first victory at Le Mans in 1989 in the 250cc class and the next year he would do the same after beating his main rival for the title, John Kocinski, who was pushing too hard to catch the Spaniard and crashed.

Alex Crivillé won the 1998 French GP at Paul Ricard to become the first Spanish rider to lead the provisional standings of the 500cc World Championship. The following year, he finally won the title.

In the French GP in 2001 Max Biaggi took his first victory in 500cc as a Yamaha rider and in the following year, in the MotoGP era, Le Mans was the setting for the first front row composed entirely of machines with four-stroke engines.

Later in 2003, Le Mans witnessed the first ‘triple’ domination from Spanish riders in the World Championship, with Dani Pedrosa achieving victory in 125cc, Toni Elias in 250 and Sete Gibernau in MotoGP™.

During the 2007 season, at the French GP at Le Mans Suzuki achieved their only win in the MotoGP class, beating Australian Chris Vermeulen in an epic race in the rain. That was also the first victory for Bridgestone tyres in the wet.

In 2009 Jorge Lorenzo achieved the second of his four victories in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, in a chaotic "Flag to Flag" race in which his teammate Valentino Rossi suffered a fall.

Since the arrival of MotoGP™ in 2002, the most successful riders in Le Mans have been Rossi (2002, 2005 and 2008) and Lorenzo (2009, 2010 and 2012) with three wins each. They are followed by Sete Gibernau with two wins in 2003 and 2004. Behind them, Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez have one victory each.

Who will be the next winner of the French GP? Will a Ducati finally win at Le Mans?

Charlotte All Stars race wrap footage now available

With a deft move with three laps left in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin delivered the first victory in the non-points showcase event to Joe Gibbs Racing and to Toyota.
 
As he drove into Turn 1 to start Lap 97, with Kevin Harvick glued to his bumper and ready to make a run at the $1 million first prize, Hamlin moved up a lane in the corner and took Harvick's line away, causing Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet to lose momentum.

Watch it at www.rubberdown.com.au

NISSAN Confirmed as naming rights sponsor for Winton

The all-new Nissan NP300 Navara will be the name behind Event four of the 2015 V8 Supercars Championship at Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria this weekend.

The event will be known as the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint to celebrate the upcoming launch of Nissan’s latest pick-up utility.

As well as event naming rights sponsorship, Michael Caruso’s #23 Nissan Altima V8 Supercar will race at Winton in a fresh NP300 Navara livery.

The striking red colour scheme of the #23 NP300 Navara Nissan Altima V8 Supercar is also a nod to the upcoming race debut of the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO LM P1 car at next month’s Le Mans 24 Hour, part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Fans attending the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint will get a chance to see the all-new Nissan NP300 Navara on display at the circuit this weekend.

The all-new Nissan NP300 Navara is ‘powerful made clever’, a tough, powerful and capable vehicle with premium ride, comfort and interior, smart technologies and sleek, modern styling.

NP300 Navara is built on Nissan’s 80 year history of building reliable and innovative pick-up utilities, or ‘utes’, with over 14 million Nissan pick-ups sold globally.

“Winton is a great fit with our all-new Nissan NP300 Navara,” said Nissan Motor Co. (Australia) Managing Director and CEO Richard Emery.

“This event is a favourite with dedicated motorsport fans, many of which will be driving to the event or camping at the circuit with their own Navara.

“The NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint comes at an opportune time for us as the NP300 Navara goes on sale in Nissan dealerships around Australia in the days following this weekend’s event.”

The NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint also marks the 30th anniversary of the first time the rural circuit hosted the Australian Touring Car Championship/V8 Supercars Championship in 1985.

Nissan has taken victory at Winton in 1989 (George Fury, Nissan Skyline), 1990 (Jim Richards, Nissan Skyline), 1991 (Jim Richards, Nissan GT-R) 1992 (Mark Skaife, Nissan GT-R) and 2013 (James Moffat, Nissan Altima).