There was a lot of finger-pointing Wednesday in a rainy Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The buzz of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock was the “bamboozlement” of Conor Daly’s hot tub, which was filled with Orbeez – water-absorbent beads that expand into soft, bouncy balls after being submerged in water.
Someone filled Daly’s inflatable hot tub Monday night in the driver motorcoach lot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He said he heard noises outside his motorcoach as he was going to bed and discovered it Tuesday after the first practice session of the month.
Daly said he estimates there could be nearly 400,000 tiny balls in his hot tub. His top list of people who he thinks committed the prank are Josef Newgarden, Callum Ilott, Tony Kanaan, Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood and Scott McLaughlin.
“There was a lot of guilty faces in the paddock this morning, and I can’t figure out which one is the culprit,” Daly said. “It’s a tough scene. I think the primary suspects are the dads of the INDYCAR community, too, because apparently children like to fill up these little fake guns with water balls and shoot them at people.”
Daly said Newgarden FaceTime-called him Tuesday night “in a very scared manner” to ensure Daly knew he was not guilty of the prank. Daly was also quick to point out that Ilott has been spending a lot of time with him as he looks to solve the mystery, wondering aloud if Ilott is keeping himself close to the situation to throw him off.
Ilott, who is making his Indy 500 debut this month in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, said he’s innocent because he wasn’t prepared for the shenanigans to ensue so quickly. He was told that as an Indy 500 rookie he would be a target for pranks, so he purchased items to use as retaliation.
“I’m not stupid enough to do it as early on as this to know that I could be got back on,” Ilott said. “I was saving anything that I was going to do to later on for anyone who did stuff to me. It’s a defense mechanism, not an attack mechanism.”
Ilott added that he thought it was a “genius” and “clever” prank to play because of how frustrating it is on the receiving end. He said he has no idea why Daly ranked him in his top five on Instagram and wondered why Alexander Rossi wasn’t being considered.
Kirkwood was quick to try to cross his name off the list, insisting that he wouldn’t have ruined the hot tub because he wanted to use it. In fact, he said he spent $40 on chlorine and test tubes to keep the hot tub running properly.
“It happened so quick,” said Kirkwood, who drives the No. 14 ROKiT / AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. “It happened on Day 1, so it’s clear as day that they thought about it really fast and needed to be the first one to do something to this hot tub. I just lock all my stuff as much as possible. I know I’m going to get messed with at some point in time. I just don’t know when it’s going to be.”
Marco Andretti, who is making his only NTT INDYCAR SERIES start of the year in No. 98 KULR Technology / Curb Honda in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, also wondered why nobody was considering 2016 Indy 500 winner Rossi, as well as NBC INDYCAR analyst James Hinchcliffe.
“I’m so busy worrying about my race car right now, but it is funny to look at on social media,” Andretti said. “Hinch has some time on his hands. Rossi is always a culprit, isn’t he?”
Daly, who drives the No. 20 BitNile Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing, insists he doesn’t have any payback in mind right now.
Last year, McLaughlin was the target of pranks as someone placed more than two dozen inflatable sheep around his area in the driver motorhome lot. In 2020, Rossi was the victim of a prank as the wheels of his golf cart were removed, the cart was put on blocks, and the wheels were found on top of his motorhome.
Palou Knows What Went Wrong in 2021
Alex Palou has been thinking about last year’s Indianapolis 500, where he finished second by .4928 of a second to Helio Castroneves, since the race ended, trying to understand what went wrong.
In last year’s race, Palou led 35 laps and exchanged the lead with Castroneves five times in the late stages, and he led the Indy 500 as late as Lap 198 of 200. He was passed for the final time by Castroneves entering Turn 1 on Lap 199.
Time has given the defending NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion perspective. He has come to understand that he was living too much in the moment during his second attempt in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” while Castroneves, who was competing in his 21st Indy 500, was thinking not about his next move, but the move after that.
“He was thinking ahead, and I was just thinking of the next corner,” Palou said. “I think he had experience in fighting with me and also looking ahead, while I was just like: ‘Oh, we’re fighting and that’s it. That’s what I’m doing.’
“Nowadays, I’m able to fight but also know what’s ahead of me.”
Palou said in the year since he competed in his first Indy 500 for Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda he’s not necessarily a different driver, but he’s certainly a more improved driver on the 2.5-mile oval.
On opening day of practice Tuesday, May 17, Palou noticed marked improvements in his performance. He ended the day sixth on the practice charts with a top speed of 226.973 mph.
“I have so much experience here compared to last year,” he said. “When I was here last year, I was struggling in getting close to cars up front, while (Tuesday) I had already got some overtakes and some traffic runs, and I feel comfortable.”
Odds and Ends:
- Indy 500 Rookie Christian Lundgaard has taken note he will be the first driver from Denmark to compete in the Indianapolis 500, a subject of pride for himself and his homeland. He said many people from back home ask him to buy gear, so he suspects he has many T-shirts and hats to buy this month.
- Marco Andretti said he thought there would be more of an adjustment to get up to speed Tuesday because the last time he was in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES car was last year’s Indy 500. But he got up to speed quickly, and he feels comfortable with his car already. He’s also excited for his father, Michael, to serve as his race strategist again this year.
- Former WNBA star Tamika Catchings was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday to visit with Chip Ganassi Racing and Angela Ashmore, who is the assistant engineer on No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Catchings was intended to be the honorary starter of Indy 500 practice on Wednesday, but rain prevented her from waving the green flag.