Photo Caption: Dustin Hudema (left) and race-driver Alex Tagliani present the commemorative helmet ‘Tag’ will use to raise money for Humboldt Broncos families.
NASCAR Pinty’s Series driver Alex Tagliani and crew member Dustin Hudema have teamed up to honour the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.
Hudema designed and painted a special commemorative helmet that Tagliani, a veteran Canadian race driver who won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 in 2011, will wear in Sunday’s season-opening Pinty’s Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and in every series race until the NASCAR Canada tour reaches Saskatoon for a pair of races in July.
Sixteen members of the Broncos were killed in a crash April 6 when the team’s bus collided with a transport truck. Another 13 were injured. More than $15-million has been raised to support the families.
Tagliani wants to keep the financial ball rolling by selling a sponsorship with the helmet as the prize.
“I am reaching out to potential partners, people and companies in Alberta and Saskatchewan,” Tagliani said at CTMP Friday afternoon as the annual Victoria Day Speedfest was getting under way. “I hope to sell an associate sponsorship. For that money – $15,000, say – I will put a logo or sign on the car and then they will get the helmet when we get to Saskatoon.
“And any of the souvenir clothing I sell – tee shirts, caps – between now and then, I will donate to the Broncos fund. So I will donate the money from the associate sponsorship as well as the souvenir money to the Broncos when we get out west.”
Tagliani, one of Canada’s best-known racers, said he wanted the Broncos families to know that people are still thinking about them and care about them. “I have a daughter now,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your child.”
Tagliani isn’t the only Pinty’s Series driver to raise money for the Broncos. D.J. Kennington and Gaunt Bros. Racing auctioned off the hood of the Monster Energy Cup car the Canadian drove at Bristol earlier this year and donated the proceeds to the Humboldt fund.
Humboldt is a little more than 100 kilometres east of Saskatoon.
Tagliani and the rest of the NASCAR Pinty’s drivers will take to the CTMP circuit today for practice in advance of qualifying, which will get under way a little after 5 o’clock this afternoon. The Clarington 200 for the Pinty’s late-model cars will get the green flag Sunday at 1 in the afternoon.
Other racing this weekend will include the Pirelli World Challenge, the Nissan Micra Cup, the Canadian Touring Car Championship presented by Pirelli and the Radical Cup North America. In fact, the first of two Radical Cup races was run off Friday afternoon and Jeff Green of Chicago won.
Daniel Mancinelli of Italy, driving a TR3 Ferrari 488 GT3, set the fastest World Challenge GT class time of the day when he turned a 1:14:811 lap. Scott Hargrove, a Canadian from B.C., is leading the GT3 championship and he turned a lap of 1:15:251 in a Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Racing and practice get under way Saturday at 8 a.m. and goes almost until dusk – when there will be a rock band playing and a fireworks display. It is Victoria Day weekend, after all.
Meantime, at Charlotte, Matt Kenseth, making his first start since unretiring, won the pole for Saturday night’s NASCAR All-Star race. TV coverage gets under way on TSN at 5:30 Saturday afternoon. Johnny Sauter, meantime, won the Camping World Series truck race Friday night.
And speeds increased dramatically for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500 as 35 drivers and cars got in final practice before qualifying is held later today – Saturday – and tomorrow. Sportsnet360 will have two hours of coverage today and tomorrow, both days starting at 4 p.m.
Marco Andretti – and I have a feeling that this might very well be his year – had fastest time at Indy Friday with a lap of around 231 miles an hour while Robert (Robbie) Wickens of Guelph was second fastest.
Will Power was fastest without a tow while running in a pack. And Graham Rahal, who was fastest two days ago, would not have made the race if qualifying had been held Friday afternoon.
Here is what many of the drivers had to say about Friday’s final practice, starting with the three Canadians entered in the Memorial Day weekend spectacular:
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE of Oakville (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): “I think we learned a lot in the Arrow Electronics car today. Unfortunately, we learned that we were not as fast as we were hoping to be, but that’s the nature of the beast here. I think we have a really strong race car, and it’s less about being quick over 10 miles as it is being quick over 500. Tomorrow, we are going to do our best. Obviously, the guys put a lot of heart and soul into these cars for the 500… We want to go out there and do them proud, and put up good speed for four laps and see where it shakes out. But, at the end of the day, like I said, our big focus is obviously next Sunday, and hopefully, we are strong then.”
ROBERT WICKENS of Guelph (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): “We need to find a bit more speed in the Lucas Oil car. Until you can sit on top of the time sheets on merit here in Indianapolis, I don’t think you can ever relax. We have to work hard… Everyone is working hard, and we have to make sure we find that a little bit more than everyone else. At the moment, we are 10th or 11th with no tow, and our goal is to make the Fast Nine; we’ve been around there all day. I feel like we didn’t make enough progress today, so we have to have a hard think overnight and give it a shot at qualifying.”
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO of Montreal (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): “Today was a good day for the No. 19 Paysafe car. We accomplished what we needed to heading into tomorrow, so we’re happy with that. But it’s also hard to know what to expect going into qualifying because the weather is going to be a lot different. That said, I’m confident we can put in a good performance and come out with a decent qualifying result.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 13 GoDaddy Chevrolet): “We started off the day with a mechanical issue, so we got a little delayed taking off, but it wasn’t really the worst thing because the car was really good on the first run. We did a step of trim and it was a little bit loose the second run, but still pretty good and definitely fast. To go to the next step, we had to make some changes back in the garage anyway, so we went back, and in that point in time, the track had slowed down and we just decided to sit for a while. We ended up coming to the conclusion that the car was pretty good and there was no reason to go out there and get lost or angry or confused because the speed was not in the track anymore. We just decided to, as they say, put a cover on it, make a couple tweaks and put a cover on it and go out tomorrow.”
MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Fast Friday is done. It was a pretty good day for us. The car has been feeling pretty fast since the beginning. I believe that we have a pretty solid set up for qualifying for the race. Looking forward to tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day, for sure, but we have a great car. I’m excited to set fast laps, and hopefully, advance to the Fast Nine on Sunday.”
JAY HOWARD (No. 7 One Cure SPM Honda): “Today was another good day. The One Cure car feels good in qualifying trim. I think we are ready, feeling pretty happy and we have a good plan for tomorrow. Hopefully, we qualify comfortably and we don’t have any dramas (laughter).”
ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a long day and we went through a lot of changes in the NTT DATA car. The crew did a great job, especially today, working on the car and going back and forth to the garage with all the changes we made. I’m looking forward to qualifying tomorrow.”
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “I think the No. 12 Verizon Chevy is definitely in a good window. I think, obviously, we’re fast. I know there’s a lot of guys up there. I think it’s going to be very tight tomorrow, so we’ll know more when everyone goes. It’s always that you can feel fast on Friday, and suddenly go out, no traffic, or wind changes or anything, and the car’s not as good. But I felt I’ve been good all month, so we’ll see tomorrow.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a typical Fast Friday. We worked on the qualifying car, didn’t run a whole lot. We had five sets of Firestone tires so that means we only had 20 laps all day. We did five qualifying simulations. We’re getting ready for tomorrow, and we’ve got the information that we’ve got. We have to hope that it will be enough.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 United Rentals Honda): “It was a tough day for us. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We don’t seem to have the pace. We’re trying everything we can possibly but we’re just not quite there yet.”
CONOR DALY (No. 17 United States Air Force Honda): “We feel pretty good with how our practice went today. The balance was good, right where we ended it yesterday, and today was just about trimming, and each step we trimmed, the car was comfortable. Do we have the overall speed of our teammate Sebastien (Bourdais)? Probably not, but we’re not too bad. We’re really happy with the car. We went through all the trim steps we wanted to do, and that was good, and I think on the no-tow report, we’re pretty OK, depending on what no-tow report you look at. But realistically, I think we’re in the top 20, which is where you need to be, so we’ll go from there.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet): “Today was a good day. Fast Fridays have a way of being odd, so we just had to be smart. The team has done a really good job of getting us to this point. All three of us have good cars that we are happy with. The speeds are a little all over the place today, but I feel like all the ECR cars have a chance to be in the shootout come Sunday. The focus is getting it right for tomorrow and make all the right decisions so we have a chance at it on Sunday.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet): “Today was about being smart and methodical as we trimmed the car out to qualifying spec with the higher boost level for Fast Friday. The Carlin boys have done an incredible job preparing for this week and really the whole month. They haven’t put a foot wrong with the car and we’ve been able to make progress all week each and every time we go on track. I have a lot of confidence about where we are heading into this qualifying weekend. I’m excited for what tomorrow and Sunday are going to bring for the No. 23 Fiasp Chevrolet.”
STEFAN WILSON (No. 25 #Driven2SaveLives Honda): “Yesterday was a bit of a tough day, so it was great to come back today. We struggled a bit initially, but I think we really hit on something. I’m extremely thankful to the team for really pushing us forward and it’s really nice to have quick teammates that have been able to give me good setups to work off. Now we just have to focus on tomorrow and put our best foot forward and work to put it in the show.”
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Relay Group 1001 Honda): “Our practice week has come to a close with Fast Friday. I think we’re in a pretty good spot to see what speed we can show tomorrow. Our goal has been the same all week – just put a package together that can get us into the top nine. We’re looking inside there by a small bit right now. I think with the right changes overnight, it’s a possibility. We’ll see how the day unfolds and what the conditions are like tomorrow.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “Today was another improvement overall, I think. P2 on the no-tow, and second quickest Honda is kind of where we’ve been, but I think the car is definitely a step better. All we’re focusing on is qualifying and, I think, if we execute tomorrow we can be in the Fast Nine and that’s the goal right now. Hopefully there’s no curveballs that prevent that from happening. Hopefully the weather stays consistent so what we learned today is as useful tomorrow.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “All the speed in the car is not really where we were hoping to be – but we made some gains early in the day. We’re just trying to eek out as much as we can. We’ll see, tomorrow will be a different day and a different wind direction. We’ll put our best foot forward and hopefully qualify somewhere mid-pack. I think that’s the best we can hope for at the moment. On a positive note, we qualified 19th here in 2014 (when I won the Indy 500), so as long as we have a good race car – that’s what matters.”
CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 29 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda): “I think I’m really happy with the balance of the car right now. We just need to find a bit more speed compared to some of our teammates. But, this is Indy, I think… sometimes you just don’t understand why things happen. One day to another everything can change. The goal tomorrow is going to be as far to the front as possible. It is going to be hard to get into the Fast Nine, but we will see what we can do.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda): “Fast Friday is always exciting. You go five or six mph faster on average with higher boost, suddenly the corner you are looking at is suddenly tighter, but I love this kind of sensation of speed and trying to work specifically only for the speed. We used multiple sets of new tires, made short runs for qualifying and we’re still not satisfied with our speed relatively but we made good progress. We will see all the data tonight, and hopefully, it will all come together for qualifying.”
KYLE KAISER (No. 32 NFP / Juncos Racing Chevrolet): “Overall, we had another really solid day. We are making progress and slowly inching toward where we need to be for qualifying. We definitely had a speed bump in the middle of the day. I think we lulled ourselves into an area we shouldn’t have been, but we rebounded. We went out towards the end of the day and found a pretty solid setup that I feel really comfortable with. I think it will be good enough to get us into the field for the race. I am very happy with the team. They have been working hard to get the car ready and I am ready to go for tomorrow.”
JAMES DAVISON (No. 33 Jonathan Byrd’s 502 East Chevrolet): (About what he felt before the crash): “Absolutely nothing, then I was backwards, so that was definitely a new experience for me here around at Indy or driving on ovals, in general. I guess I became one of the drivers to slam the wall at Indianapolis, so I joined the club today. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we had to try some things. We’re 32nd quickest, right on the bubble and we are not going to go faster just standing there and looking at it, so no regrets there. I have been having a fantastic time with this AJ Foyt/Byrd/Hollinger/Belardi team. We’ll regroup, see what we can pull out of the bag tomorrow and give it everything again.” (About if he’s going to a back-up car): “It’s just too early for me to tell. From the damage that I saw, I didn’t see that the tub was hurt. I think the biggest thing that you always hope for is the gearbox isn’t, generally the back-up stuff is not going to be as good or fast, so we’ll just have to have a look and go from there.”
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): “It was an unusual day today for Fast Friday. We had predicted that the weather would make it a short day, so we got a lot of our running done earlier in the day. We didn’t run the last few hours of Fast Friday actually. We feel comfortable with the car balance, but we don’t know where we are performance-wise because the time of day when people ran made a big difference. I’m feeling confident about where we are and we didn’t want to take any silly risks today with big changes, because we want to make sure the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet is in the show tomorrow.”
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda): “With the number of laps we’ve done so far, we went into today well prepared. We got most of our qualifying sims done yesterday and today was really just fine tuning for qualifying. The guys have been doing a great job to give me a solid car. We are hoping to put everything we’ve learned in practice together for a good run tomorrow.”
PIPPA MANN (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “Today was definitely the toughest day we’ve had so far, and unfortunately, it’s the day right before qualifying for the Donate Life Dale Coyne Racing No. 63 car. The handling of the car feels OK, we’re just really struggling to get the speed that we need from the car in qualifying trim. Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully, with the heat on the racetrack, making it more difficult for everyone will play into our favor because we feel like we have a fairly good handle on the car in those conditions.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 64 Scuderia Corsa/Manitowoc Honda): “Fast Friday has come and gone. The day goes quicker than you want. We still had a couple things to try for tomorrow’s qualifying, but I am pretty pleased. We finished fourth fastest with a little bit of tow on that lap. So right now, I think if we make everything right, tomorrow we may have a shot at top nine. But again, we have to get everything perfect in the four laps. If not, we may be just missing that line. We still have a lot of data to look at overnight and try to make a good guess for tomorrow. The weather should be good enough for at least letting everyone try a couple attempts. So, hopefully, we get everything right and make that top nine for qualifying.”
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): “Fun day at the track for Fast Friday, one of the most fun days, as we get an increase in horsepower and a nice increase in speed. We got a lot of work done to make sure we’re competitive in qualifying, so I think we found a good place with our car. Tomorrow we should be pretty decent and competitive, so hopefully we can get some good weather that cooperates with us so we can get all of qualifying in and see where we stack up, where we’ll line up for the Indy 500.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “The No. 98 car is fast in a tow. I’m not sure how fast it is on its own. Right now, I think we’re right on the bubble of the Fast Nine and we’re going to have to absolutely nail it to get it in – but so is everyone, I suppose. Conditions tomorrow could vary. It always depends on weather and cloud cover and the cooler temps always help. We’re lining up later in the day, so we’ll see how it goes.”