By Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Carpenter fastest on Opening Day practice
- Rain stopped the action twice
- Dixon second followed by Hildebrand
Rain cuts short Indy Opening Day practice
The Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway met, and succumbed to, a familiar nemesis on Saturday as rainshowers brought practice for the 100th anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500 to an early close. Sarah Fisher Racing’s Ed Carpenter held onto the fastest lap of the day at 224.786 mph when the session was called on the second rain delay of the day at approximately 5:20 PM EDT.
Honestly, no one showed their hand today.
For Carpenter there was relief and satisfaction at the post-practice press conference celebrating the fastest driver of the day. “This is my 8th opportunity here (at Indianapolis Motor Speedway),” he said. “It goes by fast. I feel blessed to be here.”
“Today was a fun day, a day where everything went right for us. We’ll sleep easy even if we lose some time to weather this week because we have a leg up on things now. Honestly, no one showed their hand today. We just worked on general things, trying to get a good well-balanced car, and we’ll see what happens the rest of the month.”
“We’re an oval-based team and that’s where our strength is,” said team-owner Sarah Fisher. “Ed’s experience is helpful to get going quicker, to get the No. 67 car going into Turn 1 right away.”
No decision has been made about a possible second car with Fisher or another driver behind the wheel for the race this year.
Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, in his backup “T” car was second-fastest at 224.491 mph; followed by JR Hildebrand at 224.433 mph, also in the T-car for Panther Racing.
Dixon teammate and 2010 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was the last man over the 224 mark (224.107 mph). Andretti Autosports’ Marco Andretti rounded out the top 5 on a best lap speed of 223.927 mph.
Ryan Briscoe, Vitor Meira, Graham Rahal, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Justin Wilson took honors in positions six through ten atop the scoring pylon.
There were no major incidents during the almost-three hour practice which begin shortly after noon, was interrupted nearly three hours later, and was rejoined briefly at approximately 4:45 PM EDT for only a few moments.
The 12 Noon start of Opening Day practice was postponed for several minutes when an irrigation sprinkler from the adjoining Brickyard Crossng Golf Course errantly spewed water onto the backstretch about halfway down the back straightaway. The cleanup and drying took about ten minutes for Speedway crews to carry out.
In other news, John Andretti and Window Wall Racing announced a charitable fund raising project for St Jude’s Childrens Hospital involving solicitation of the signatures of nearly 200 living Indianapolis 500 drivers past and present. The drivers’ names are to be preserved on a special edition IndyCar show car dubbed “The Stinger” which bears the number 100 in reference to this the 100th anniversary of automotive competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Practice will resume on Sunday with a scheduled six-hour session beginning at Noon EDT, weather permitting. The weather forecast for Speedway, Indiana calls for 90% chance of rain showers and a high in the mid-fifties.