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Author: Mark W. Theisen
May 27th 2016 -      INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA May 27, 2016:     The excitement continues to build at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and traditions continued to unfold this afternoon with a trio of on track activities culminating with a Journey concert that drew 10s of thousands of concert goers/music fans to the track.

     The annual “Carb” day practice session, the final practice before the 500, continues year after year despite the fact that carburetors haven’t been used on Indy cars for decades, yet the name has stuck and the “last chance to get it right” continues to draw race fans to the Speedway.

      2013 Indy 500 champion, Tony Kanaan, gave Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Racing bragging rights by putting a stellar lap of 226.280 miles per hour in a session that featured 1368 laps turned as drivers and mechanics fine-tuned their race cars one final time before the 500.

     “I think this track will pick the winner,” said Kanaan, “and I hope she picks me!”

     Kanaan, who will start on the outside of the 6th row in his NTT Data Ganassi Dallara, said “I’m very happy with my car.  Obviously I have to pass 17 cars to get to the front and then I’ll be really happy with my car.”

     The four Ganassi cars struggled in last weekend’s qualifications but after defending Verizon IndyCar champion Scott Dixon posted the third fastest lap of today’s session it looks as though the team has found their stride.

     “After the struggle in qualifying, we Scott (Dixon) and I focused on race setup and you can see both of us on top today.”

      Separating the two Ganassi Chevrolets was the Honda powered machine of Carlos Munoz with a best lap of 224.772 in his United Fiber & Data Dallara out of Andretti Autosport.

      Munoz, who qualified 5th, said, “Today was just a check of the car and it was running good.  It will be different Sunday but at least were ready for it.”  Munoz, who was at or near the top of each practice or qualifying session is looking for his first 500 win after finishing second to Kanaan in 2013.

      Will Power in his Team Penske Chevrolet was fourth at 224.384 and 2014 Indy 500 champion was fifth in his Andretti Honda at 224.327.

     Five Chevrolets and five Hondas encompassed the top 10 today and it really sets up a dramatic 500 come Sunday as, for the most part, the competition has been close and equal all month long.  This could be the closest 500 ever and the most exciting.

      Pole sitter for the 500, James Hinchcliffe, recorded the 12th fastest speed of the day at 223.925 in Schmidt Peterson Dallara and said it is now all about the race. “We been trying different things, today and Monday it was all about what the car can or cannot do and how to fix it.  We are moving in the right direction.”

      The only incident of the one-hour session was when Pippa Mann spun in the fourth turn and backed into the wall causing extensive damage to her Susan G. Koman backed Honda.  “I absolutely fine,” said Mann, “but I feel terrible for the crew.”

      Her crew is now faced with the problem of rebuilding the car for the race and without any forthcoming practice will be cautious those initial laps of the 500.

     Dean Stoneman won his second race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month when he captured the exciting Mazda Freedom 100 by edging Ed Jones by 24 thousandths of a second, resembling the four abreast finish of the 2013 Freedom 100 here.

     With qualifying for the Freedom 100 rained out yesterday today’s race was lined up by the current Indy Lights point standings that saw Jones start on the pole with Juan Piedrahita alongside of him.

     The 20 lap race was put under the caution on the first lap for debris and on lap 3 for Kyle Kaiser who spun and made contact with the wall in turn four.

     Jones led the first nine laps of the race before Stoneman made his way to the front from his 5th place starting berth.  The pair than raced nose to tail trailed by Dalton and Shelby Blackstock with the race put under caution for the third time on lap 30 for a spin by Santiago Urrutia.

     Jones took the lead on the restart but could only hold off Stoneman for one lap before he gave the lead up to the Andretti Autosport driver.

     Dalton Kellett, who started 14th, made his way to the top three on the restart and was in the quartet battling for the lead when Choi Heamin spun in the second turn setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish that saw Stoneman hold off Jones, Kellett and Blackstock to record his third win of the season, one of which came on the 2.439-mile road here at Indianapolis earlier this month during the Angie’s List Grand Prix weekend.

      Ironically it was Jones who won the other Indy Lights race during the Grand Prix weekend.

     “It was an amazing race,” said Stoneman.  “On that last lap it was close, but I had hit on the restart.  The other car behind me caught my left rear, but I knew in the race I was consistent and I could get to the line where I could position my car to finish the race in the lead.”

     “It may take me a few days to get over this,” said Jones, when questioned about the close finish, “but I had to look at the big picture, the season that remains.”

      “I saw two guys in the championship race (Kaiser and Urrutia) drop off and that changed things a bit, said Jones.  “Obviously I want to win but I didn’t want to take a big chance at the end.  I made a good run, good pace, but fell a little short.”

     Jones, driving for Carlin Racing, broke up the Andretti Autosport finish as Stoneman, Dalton and Blackstock all drive for the Indianapolis based team.

     Now two of the 14 Freedom 100’s have finished under a “blanket” and this is another reason that the crowds continue to increase year after year on this, the Friday, before the 500.

     Helio Castroneves and his crew gave Team Penske its ninth win in the last 11 Tag-Heuer pit stop competition to concluded the track activities today.

      Twelve teams battled in two car elimination matches that set the stage for the final which pitted Castroneves Penske Chevrolet against Mikhail Aleshin’s Schmidt Peterson Racing Honda with the much more experienced Penske team easily beating the second year Indy driver.

      Now all that is left is to run the 100th 500 and it is shaping up to be very exciting.