Road to Indy – Night Before The 500 Summary and Photos

Summary and Quotes

Saturday night, the Night Before the 500, saw the first visit to an oval for the US F2000 National Championship presented by Cooper Tires powered by Mazda and the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. Unlike the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race the next day which was brutally hot, the weather was perfect. We sat in the Turn 1 grass and enjoyed the mild temps and the gentle breeze as we watched the future of open-wheel racing do battle on the 5/8-mile paved oval at the O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Sage Karam who was so dominant at St. Pete, had a hard battle with Irishman Patrick McKenna for the first 29 laps. Eventually, the hard defending took a toll on Karam’s tires and the car began to understeer. Patrick took advantage of this and finally make a successful pass for the race lead as the two came out of T4. Once past, McKenna ran away from the field for an easy victory. It was a great drive from McKenna who had never even attended an oval race before.

“Winning my first race on an oval is brilliant! I have been staying in Indianapolis for about a month and I have a lot of friends here tonight, so it was great. I knew it was going to be a really close race, but Sage raced me fair, which I appreciate. After I got around Sage I was able to get a gap on him. When I was out in front it was a dream, really.” –Patrick McKenna, USF2000 Release

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The Star Mazda race was equally exciting with good battles for position through out the grid, except for the lead. Connor Daly absolutely dominated the field on Saturday running a mistake-free race. As the hometown kid, he had lots of fans in the stands and the noise proved it as he crossed the line a full three and a half seconds ahead of Mikael Grenier. Two drivers that were strong in practice but failed to start up front for the race were Tristan Vautier and Anders Krohn. Both were relegated to the back of the grid for the start of the race after running afoul of the technical regulations. It certainly made for some exciting racing as the two fought their way back up front. Anders made it up to P5 by race end followed closely by Tristan.

“It wasn’t as easy at it looked, but O’Reilly Raceway Park has done a lot for my career tonight. Anybody who thinks driving open wheel cars in an oval race has no idea what they are talking about. Its so easy to make a mistake, and so difficult not to make one. The Juncos Racing team has been doing a phenomenal job and giving me great cars. I love ovals and the next race on June 19 with the IndyCar series is Iowa Speedway. I qualified 8th there last year and finished 2nd after an epic battle with Peter Dempsey, who is now working with the Juncos team and helping me with my season. I’m fortunate, like Rick Mears said, to ‘be in the right place at the right time with the right people and equipment.’ I like this feeling of winning, and I’m going to do my very best to keep on doing it.” –Conor Daly, Star Mazda Release

I will say that the sound of those Mazda rotory engines was incredible! Openpaddock will be at Iowa Speedway for the next round of the USF2000 National Championship and the Star Mazda Championship, and I can’t wait to hear those Mazda engines again. We highly encourage you to check out the racing in these feeder series, the young men and women in these cars put on one heck of a show.

Photo Gallery from the Night Before the 500

Here is a sample of some of the pictures we took at the Night Before the 500. Enjoy.

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